The Hope of the “Unsaved” Dead

 

In a few days from this writing, September 10 this year will be celebrated by some remnants and former members of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) as their seventh annual festival called the “Last Great Day” (LGD). This day – which this year also happens to be both a weekly and an annual Sabbath – is equivalent, in the Hebrew calendar, to the 23rd day of their seventh month, Tishri. Jews call this day their Shemini Atzeret, meaning “Eighth-day assembly.” [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews – Part 3, especially the section titled “The Last Great Day and the Jews.”]

The former WCG had believed that, at Christ’s return, only the “elect” of God – the “saints” [those “sanctified” by God’s Holy Spirit] or those who are “in Christ” will be saved while all others will perish when He comes to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18) – which will include most of the earth’s population (Isaiah 24:6). Those who have died “in Christ” will rise [be resurrected] to receive immortality ahead of those still alive “in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2, and turn to the section on “The Feast of Trumpets and the Jews.”]

The key Scripture passage that supports the belief that there is yet hope for all those who have died without the saving knowledge of Christ is Revelation 20:5, 6, 11-12 –

“But the rest of the dead [who are not blessed to be among the “elect” who have part in the “first resurrection”] did not live again until the thousand years [of Christ’s reign on earth with His saints] are finished….Then I saw a great white throne and Him [Christ] who sat in it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books [from the Greek biblia] were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

 That vast number includes all  who are yet “unsaved”of mankind since Adam and Eve, and perhaps even those after Christ sets up God’s kingdom here. [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation, The Book of Life, God’s “Book of Remembrance,”  and  Two Goats Together, the section on “A possible scenario.”]

So that I won’t be repeating myself here, I would like to share with my dear readers some words of hope for the dead – words which I have shared with bereaved folks during funeral services at chapels or gravesides. The following, then, are excerpts from such messages or “homilies,” with insertions of relevant website links, for the benefit of my present readers. I trust that this message brings comfort and consolation to you as it did to several who came to me after the service to express their appreciation for such an effect on them.

Why flowers at funerals?

It has been the custom or practice in the Philippines, as it is in other countries, to bring flowers to the casket of a dead family member or friend at funeral chapels and gravesides. Flowers express our love and tender feelings to those dear to us, as a young man offers flowers to a maiden he fancies. With their colors, shapes and fragrance, flowers somehow help blunt the pain, sorrow, and ugliness of the death of a loved one.

But perhaps one benefit to our souls that such flowers bring, which we should ponder with sobriety and hope, is that flowers should remind us of our fleeting status as mortals in God’s eyes. Quoting Isaiah 40:6-8, the apostle Peter declared in his epistle (1 Peter1:24) —

“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

Like grass or a flower, all of us human beings die sooner or later – we “dry up” and our “glory fades away.” Whatever glory or beauty, strength, position, place or possession – all these we will leave behind; we cannot carry them to our grave. Like dried grass or flowers, we end up as ashes burned in the fire, or soil (“humus,” from which we derive the word “human”) in a compost pile. The wise King Solomon observed: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. And they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]

In stark contrast to grass and flowers, the passage from Peter’s letter (latter part) declares: But “the word of the LORD endures forever.” Of that word, Jesus said: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Speaking of life, we all understand that we mortal creatures remain alive as long is as we have proper food to eat. But what most of us don’t realize is that there is food (“bread”) more important for our permanent survival. Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Many fail to partake of that “bread” (Word), and so find themselves spiritually “malnourished,” dying, if not already dead!

That is why God invites everyone: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your heart delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:1-3).

The “waters” that God speaks of represent His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), which He will give to all who will repent of their sin, believe in Christ as their Savior, and are baptized in His name (Acts 2:39). These believers also constitute God’s and Christ’s spiritual “flock of sheep,” whom He, as their “Good Shepherd,” will feed with spiritual food from God’s word to sustain them to everlasting life (John 10:11; Isaiah 40:11). Jesus established His church and His ministry to help Him in this feeding (1 Peter 5:1-4).

The sad reality, however, is that today there are many churches and many preachers that claim to be Christ’s own, but are actually fakes (Matthew 24:23-24)! [See: Beware of False Prophets and Fake News.] It behooves every serious seeker to find the Biblical answer to the question Where Is God’s Church Today?– and be properly spiritually fed there with God’s enduring word through Christ’s faithful ministers. As 1 John 5:12 promises: “He who has the Son [Christ] has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

As we have Christ in us through His Spirit, we are assured that at His return we will receive everlasting life. [See: “I Never Knew You!” and God’s Spirit and Obedience.] We will no longer be like grass and flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow.

We will become true children of God, and brothers and sisters of His Son Jesus, enjoying everlasting life and joy as He does, in the coming “new heavens and new earth,” where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away … Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5). [See: Are we All God’s Children?]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
07102020

When He Rules the World

 

As I recall, it was in the 1980s when I first knew about the song “If I Ruled the World,” composed by Larry Secombe and sung by Tony Bennett [see: https://www.google.com/search?q=if+i+ruled+the+world+lyrics+tony+bennett]. The rather lilting and sweet melody melded well with the sunny lyrics, which went:

If I ruled the world
Every day would be the first day of spring.
Every heart would have a new song to sing,
And we’d sing of the joy every morning would bring.

If I ruled the world
Every man would be as free as a bird,
Every voice would be a voice to be heard,
Take my word, we would treasure each day that occurred.

My world would be a beautiful place,
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams;
My world would wear a smile on its face,
Like the man on the moon has when the moon beams.

If I ruled the world
Every man would say the world was his friend,
There’d be happiness that no man could end,
No, my friend, not if I ruled the world.
Every head would be held up high,
There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky,
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world.

The lyrics ooze with high optimism, if with a tinge of braggadocio. Knowing mankind’s failed attempts to bring about a bright, new world which the song eloquently waxes about, we may look at it as an expression of the deep longing and wishes of men – the kind of stuff that many a Miss Universe contestant offer as the hope they want to pursue if given the chance to wear the crown.

Actually, I got to know about the song in a rather round-about way.

In the 1980s, as in previous and later times, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) headquarters at Pasadena, Calif., U.S.A. would help the choirs of WCG local churches acquire appropriate choral music material to provide special music during their weekly Sabbath worship services and, especially, during the “festivals” or “holydays” which the churches observed locally or as combined congregations.

The highlight of these festivals has been the sixth and the seventh – the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles [often shortened as FOT] and the “Last Great Day” [LGD] — the very season we are in right now. [See: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed?]

These festivals particularly look forward to the establishing of God’s kingdom here on earth after Jesus Christ returns in glory to take over the reins of government of the earth’s nations. Powerful and positive sermons usually detail the “Wonderful World Tomorrow” when Christ transforms the world – as only He can – into a utopia that has eluded humanity these past millennia.

Along this vein, the WCG headquarters’ music department provided music scores of a choral arrangement of Secombe’s song, but with modified lyrics [to fit the church’s theology], in order to enhance festival worship. That’s how, as choirmaster of the WCG’s Manila congregation for several years, I got acquainted with the song. This is how the WCG revised the song and re-titled it “When He Rules the World” –

When He rules the world
Every day will be the first day of Spring,
Every heart will have a new song to sing,
And we’ll sing of the joy every morning will bring.

When He rules the world
Every man will be as free as a bird,
Every voice will be a voice to be heard,
Take my word, we will treasure each day that occurs.

His world will be a beautiful place
Where we will weave such wonderful dreams;
His world will wear a smile on its face,
Like the man on the moon when the moon beams.

When He rules the world
Every man will say the world is his friend,
There’ll be happiness that no man can end,
No, my friend, not when He rules the world.
Every head will be held up high.
There’ll be sunshine in everyone’s sky,
As the day surely dawns when He rules the world.

There are no “ifs” and “woulds” in the WCG version of the song, befitting Christ’s title as the “Amen” [“So be it”] (Revelation 3:14). Christ will surely right every wrong there is in the world today when He rules the world for an initial one thousand years – referred to by Bible students as “the Millennium” [Latin for 1,000 years] (Revelation 20:4) — and beyond (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 11:15).

Non-transformed mankind not able to rule

On our own accounts and resources, we human beings are incapable of truly ruling ourselves, let alone the world! Jeremiah 10:23, under God’s divine inspiration, affirms: “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps!” Even more seriously, Jeremiah 17:9 declares: “The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Isaiah 59:8 adds: “The way of peace they have not known, and there is no judgment in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths.”

Only as each person submits himself or herself to the transforming power of Christ will they be able to really rule themselves and, others as well.  [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man?  A Law-abiding Universe – But Man! “The Next Chapter of  History,” God’s Spirit and Obedience, and “When He Cometh to Make up His Jewels.”]

When, finally, Christ makes mankind fit to rule with Him in His kingdom, then will Secombe’s boast – and more – come true! [See: World Peace – At Last! and https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “The Wonderful World Tomorrow –What it Will Be Like” or the book titled Tomorrow, What it Will Be Like.]

May God hasten that wonderful day!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
03102020

 

“That They May Be One”

 

 

These words of Jesus Christ (taken from John 17:22) have served as a supreme goal of many an individual or group to see all Christians, and all human beings as well, come to perfect unity. For the patent state of affairs of humanity today has been one of division, conflict, violence, and war!

Never has the world been disunited and divided since the founding of the United Nations on October 24, 1945 [see: https://www.un.org/un70/en/content/history/index.html]. According to UN statistics [see: https://www.britannica/topics/list-of-wars-2031197] over 200 major and minor wars have been recorded since October 1945 till year 2000! As the world’s resources become increasingly scarce or depleted, nations have engaged in “trade wars” that inevitably lead to military warfare! [See: “The Next Chapter of History.”]

Some have pinned their hopes on religion or moral philosophy to somehow help mankind to avoid conflicts among men and nations. But in more cases than not, religion is the very thing that has divided mankind! Extremists and radicals among religious groups rarely think twice to go to war for their religion. Notable is the I.S.I.S. (Islamic State), which could likely draw a backlash among radical and extremist “Christians” that could well bring us back to the murderous age of the Crusaders and the Saracens! [See: The Children of Abraham.]

Ironically, Jesus declared the He had not come to bring peace and unity among men, but rather “a sword and division” (Matthew 10:34). And that is because those who do not believe in Jesus naturally oppose those who do.

But in His heart of hearts Jesus desires that all of mankind come to unity in and through Him. Referring to those whom His Father had given Him (John 17:11), Jesus prayed that “they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (Verses 20-23).

How can Jesus be in us?

If the key to unity is Jesus being in us, how then can this happen? Another way in which Jesus put it is that He (and God the Father) can and will “abide” or make their “abode” – their home – in human beings who will love Him and whom the Father will love also. Jesus explained that “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will manifest Myself to him” (Verse 21). He said further: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (Verse 23).

How love Jesus and the Father?

If the key to having Jesus and the Father make Their home in or with us by keeping their commandments and words, how can we do this, when the natural (“carnal”) bent of man is that of hostility to God’s law and commandments (Romans 8:7)? The apostle Paul explained that the way to “be subject to [or obey] the law of God” is to be “spiritually-minded” – to have the Spirit of Christ in us (Verses 9-10).

How receive Christ’s Spirit?

The apostle Peter showed the “steps”: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and Predestination.]

What Christ’s Spirit does

In Romans 8:14 Paul declares that “…as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” James 1:18 says that “Of His own will” God the Father “brought us forth [KJV, “begat us”] by the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” To this the Peter adds that we are “born [or begotten] not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). In John 6:63 Jesus affirms that the words He spoke “are spirit, and they are life.”

God’s word and Spirit “sanctify” or set us apart as “holy”, as Jesus prayed (John 17:17-19; Romans 15:16). “Holy” means sinless, having been cleansed of sin through word and through Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross (Hebrews 10:10).

In this there is unity among the children of God: we all started as sinners condemned to the death penalty as God has declared (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But we have been cleansed of sin, not on our own merits but by Christ’s gracious sacrifice. Thus no one person can elevate himself over another, because we are all “in the same boat!”

And we have all – as many as have true faith in Jesus – been promised the same gift of everlasting life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets”, and scroll down to the booklet titled “What Kind of Faith Is Required for Salvation?”]

God’s promise of salvation is now for those who are His “firstfruits” (James 1:18), and eventually for other human beings, in their own “season of grace.” [See:  PredestinationThe Divine Prerogatives, and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]

When Christ returns to earth to set up God’s kingdom here, there will be endless peace and goodwill among men. Isaiah 9:7 promises: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, and even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 11:9 adds: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

Then will take place mankind’s greatest hope, even as the United Nations hopes: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

Then also will Christ purify mankind’s language in order to rid it of falsehoods, vileness, and idolatry. “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, [so] that they may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).

As Joel 2:28 promises:  “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…”  As such, God’s people will be able tokeep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). As God pours out His Spirit on mankind, people will be able to understand God’s word and truth (1 Corinthians 2:11-12).  With the help of Christ’s appointed ministry to teach them God’s word, they will all eventually  “come to the  unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God [Christ]” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Even before Christ’s return, God’s “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:3-12), will preach the truth of God that will unite a sorely divided Church of God and those who will be called by God to this church.  [See:  Where Is God’s Church Today?  and Leanings.]

After Satan is put away by Christ at His return (Revelation 20:1-3), Satan and his demons will not be allowed to deceive mankind with their lies.  Only God’s truth will be taught and followed during Christ’s reign.  [See:  Two Goats Together.]

Finally, all liars among men will be removed from this earth along with Satan and his demons.  They will have their part in the “lake of fire,” which is “the second death” (Revelation 21:8).  All of surviving mankind will follow only God’s truth and thus come to full unity. [See: “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie.”]

May God hasten that day of mankind’s total unity!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
18092020

“When He Cometh to Make up His Jewels”

I well remember having sung, in Sunday school, a song with that title: “When He cometh, when He cometh to make up His jewels – precious jewels, precious jewels…”

Our young minds may not have much comprehended what the song really meant.  But what we may have taken away from it, though, was that to God we were precious, “Like the stars in the sky that look down from the heavens,” as the song went on. And also that we were loved and appreciated, even as Christ said: “Unless you are converted and become as little children you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Now that I’ve grown older – and hopefully wiser – I understand better the profound meaning of the Bible passage, Malachi 3:16-18, from which the song was taken:

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day that I make My jewels, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’ Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.”

As we approach the “Feast of Trumpets” [to be observed by God’s people on September 19, the equivalent in the Roman calendar of the Hebrew calendar’s Tishri 1, the first day of the seventh month], I want to share some thoughts about the return of Jesus Christ (often called His “second coming”), which this feast pictures or signifies. [See: The Comings of Christ and God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2.]

What are jewels for?

This may be a no-brainer, but there are obvious, and less obvious, purposes of jewels. First, of course, is for adornment. Just about all cultures and societies have one form or another of personal bodily adornment or ornamentation: rings, necklaces, bracelets, tiaras, diadems, crowns, etc. Jewels are especially valued to signify the person’s status in society. Because it takes some means to obtain jewels, they are associated with wealth, prestige or social rank.

Jesus Christ is coming again soon as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). As such He will surely have not just one crown on His head, but several. Revelation 4:1-11 describes a vision which the apostle John saw of Christ on His heavenly throne, where He is surrounded by 24 spiritual elders [probably His angelic counselors] who are seated on 24 thrones and each having a crown on his head. Verse 10 describes how these elders fall down before Christ and cast their crowns before His throne – signifying their subservience to Him by submitting their crowns to Him.

Revelation 19:12 shows Christ judging and making war and having “many crowns” on His head. I think this shows that there is not a “department” in our individual and collective lives that can be exempt from Christ’s rule or “lordship.” Echoing Isaiah 45:23, the apostle Paul declared that “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). In 2 Corinthians 10:15 Paul urges that we bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

What it takes to become Christ’s jewel

Malachi 3:16 lists first “Those who fear the LORD,” and adds, “and who meditate on His name.”

The essence of the fear of the LORD is to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:16; 8:13). Jesus considers it precious that we fear Him by departing from evil. Why? Because He is holy and perfect – without sin or moral blemish whatsoever – and commands that we be holy and perfect like Him and His heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). [See: “Be Holy for I Am Holy”.]

As the perfect Judge of all (Romans 2:16; John 5:22), Christ has the power and authority to destroy all the wicked in the fire of the “second death” (Revelation 21:8), and commands that we fear Him (Matthew 10:23). [See:  Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]

Meditating on Christ’s name

This will take a whole separate article to explain or expound fully. But suffice it here to say that there’s more to Christ’s names than the mere sound of them. Every name has a meaning, and herein lies its power – especially God’s or Jesus’ name.

The apostle Peter declared to the Jews: “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – no other than the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 4:9-12).

The apostle Paul adds: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Here are some of the many names of Jesus that we should meditate on, for our salvation:

Son of God/ Son of Man (Matthew 4:3; 9:6; 12:8; Luke 1:38; etc.) – As the Son of God, Christ “made the worlds, upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2-3). Paul told the people of Athens about God: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As the Son of Man, Jesus was made mortal so that He could die as a sacrifice for purging the sin of all mankind, and ransoming men from death. [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.]
Lamb of God (John 1:29) –“who takes away the sin of the world.” Paul explained that “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats [sacrificial animals offered by the children of Israel] could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). But we have, instead, “been sanctified [cleansed, purged, made holy] through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Verse 10). Peter adds: “…You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from, your aimless conduct, received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
“King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16) – “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)! He will rule all nations for an initial 1,000 years and then on to eternity (Isaiah 9:7).
Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42) – Christ will judge those who will remain alive at His return: those who are His faithful followers will receive everlasting life, while those who are wicked will be destroyed and given their real chance to be saved, together with all those who have died without knowing Christ, after His 1000-year reign (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]

Christ to rule with His saints

Revelation 5:10 says of the “saints” (Verse 8), that Christ has made them “kings and priests to God and [they] shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 20:6 adds that “they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign [with Him] a thousand years.”

What God is looking for in those who will serve as priests to Him is that they should be able to teach God’s law to others? Malachi 2:7 describes the priest’s role: “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.”  [See: Moses and Jesus — Are They Contraries? and The Law of Christ.]

Hebrews 5:12-14 shows that those who are qualified to teach others should be so spiritually mature as to “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” – just as Malachi 3:18 says.

Malachi 3:16 also describes those whom Christ will make His jewels as those who “spoke to one another” – and a book was written to record this. [See: God’s “Book of Remembrance.”]

Healthy conversation among a group of people presupposes a healthy, loving relationship. For when two or more people are at loggerheads, they often stop talking – or talk nastily — to each other. We say, “They are not in speaking terms.”

A healthy, robust relationship is based on Godly love, which is gracious and merciful to others. 1 Corinthians 13 is Paul’s sublime description of Godly love. Notice also Colossians 3:12-15 — “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”  Furthermore: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6). To God this is most precious! [See: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]

“They shall be Mine”

Jesus claims as His own people — His precious possession (Malachi  4:17) — those who have His Spirit.  Romans 8:9 declares:  “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” It is through that Spirit that Christ would “know” us at His return.  [See: “I Never Knew You!”]

As Christ’s return hastens on, are you preparing yourself so you can become one of Christ’s own precious jewels? I hope and pray that you are!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
24082020/07092020

Can it Be Wrong When it Feels so Right?

 

In the 1980s a song titled “You Light up My Life” became popularized by Debbie Boone, daughter of the American actor-singer Pat Boone. Debbie having come from a religious family, the waltz-tempo song, as I recall, was originally meant to be in praise of God or Christ as the “Light of the World” (John 9:5) who lights up our lives, especially in the darkness of life’s sorrows and sore trials, such as we are experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic. [See: Pandemic Pandemonium!]

One of the strongest lines of the song proclaims: “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.” Because music speaks directly to the human heart, this line can so influence our thinking and values without our really examining it in light of God’s word, the Holy Bible, as I will be doing in this present article.

Can a thing be wrong when it feels so right?

A basic knowledge of Scripture should arouse one to react on the basis of Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 – repeated for emphasis and to show its importance to our proper judgment – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

This tells us that we cannot judge the rightness of a thing simply on the basis of whether it “feels” or “seems” right. We might add the other human senses: “looks,” “appears,” “sounds,” “tastes,” or “smells” right.

Our mere human feelings and other sensations can easily deceive us unto thinking that what we do or are thinking to do must be right just because it feels so right. Here’s where the Bible talks about The Deceitfulness of Sin (Hebrews 3:13). And that is because sinful acts often bring immediate pleasure. Hebrews 11:25 testifies that the man of God Moses chose rather to suffer affliction than to “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” – for but a brief time.

For example, illicit sexual acts [adultery, fornication, homosexuality, masturbation, etc.] may bring immediate pleasure. But it is pleasure that, sooner or later, will exact a ‘kickback” or a dire consequence on one’s mind, body and emotions  and on personal relationships. [Concerning homosexuality, see: The Rainbow Connection. As for masturbation, 1 Corinthians 7:4 tells us that “the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” God thus decrees that sex is to be engaged in only within the bounds of marriage between a man and his wife. ]

God’s laws the true basis for all morality

After all is said and done, the laws of God – as preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures or the Bible – are the absolute authority to tell us what is right [lawful, acceptable to God, moral], and what is wrong [sinful, unlawful, unacceptable, immoral]. Only God has the right to define or determine what is right and what is wrong. [See:  “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Divine Prerogatives.]

Because we human beings are “carnal” [made of flesh and blood], unlike God, who is Spirit and eternal (John 4:24), we are naturally hostile to God and cannot be subject to His law (Romans 8:7), all have thus sinned, and deserve the penalty of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). [See:  Is There Ever Any God in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe – But Man!]

We need the Spirit of God given to us in order that we can understand and appreciate the things of God (1 Corinthians 3:11-14). Otherwise, we would confuse good for evil, and evil for good (Isaiah 5:20). We could just easily judge something as “right” simply because it seems or feels right although in God’s judgment it is wrong or evil. [See: Switching Positive and Negative and Devising Evil by Law.]

We also need the Spirit of God to empower us to obey His law (Romans 8:6-10). [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit.] In the Day of Judgment, God as our perfect and righteous Judge will judge us according to our works – whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). [See:  Saved for Good Works and Being and Doing.]

Will doing what is right feel right?

Many have the mistaken notion that to obey God or to keep His laws is no fun but to simply become restricted and fettered. Some think of God as the supreme “Kill-joy!” [See: Freed From Bondage.] But not so to one imbued with His Spirit. Such a person will have the same attitude as that of the writer of Psalm 119, who delighted and had pleasure in God’s law. He will find great rewards in obeying that law (Psalm 19:7-11; 58:11). He will take God at His word that He has reserved for His faithful people “pleasures forevermore” at His right hand, and “fullness of joy” in His presence (Psalm 16:11).

The ultimate reward for righteousness is not merely the absence of pain and sorrow (Revelation 21:4), but the abundance of “everlasting joy” (Isaiah 35:10).

We are assured of that reward, when we fully understand, in light of God’s word, that a thing can be wrong even when it feels so right!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
25072020/20082020

 

Prophetic Timeline Mix-up!

[My sincere apologies to our readers for my failure to publish any article on this website in the past month of July. I had some problem of malfunction in both our laptop and desktop; because of the ongoing COVID 19 Quarantine restrictions on movement and services, I was unable to have my computers fixed in time. I will make it up to you, readers, by publishing an extra article this month of August. Thank you for your understanding and continued interest.]

When it comes to predicting the dates of the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, we can expect a whole gamut of opinions – and plenty of arguments! Especially controversial are the predictions as to the exact date of Christ’s return to earth, or what many have called Christ’s “second coming.” [See: The Comings of Christ.]

A good number of people or groups have put forward certain dates for such a climactic event as Christ’s bodily return to earth. As it turns out these predictions didn’t happen on the date predicted. Some have chronicled such failed predictions. [See, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictions_and_claims_for_the_Second_Coming_of Christ.]

Among such failed predictions is the supposed prediction by the late founder and pastor-general of the Worldwide Church of God [WCG], Herbert W. Armstrong [HWA]. HWA had written, in 1956, a booklet titled”1975 in Prophecy.” [You may access this booklet through this link: https://www.hwalibrary.com/cgi-bin/get/hwa.cgi?action=getbklet&InfoID=1375346358.] Those who read this booklet – many of them WCG members – believed that HWA thus predicted that Christ would return in the year 1975 – some 45 years ago!

I have also read the same booklet, but I had not come away with the same conclusion most had. Actually HWA did not set 1975 as a specific date or year of Christ’s return. It was, instead, a group of scientists and technologists that predicted that by year 1975 the world would see such advances in science and technology that mankind would achieve a kind of man-made utopia of gadgetry that would make life here on earth more comfortable, more pleasurable, and would improve human health and longevity by year 1975.

HWA took issue with this sunny prediction and countered by saying that, no, Bible prophecies, instead, predict a far different – a grim — scenario in the years then ahead. He based this on Christ’s prophecies in Matthew 24 (and related gospel accounts) and the Book of Revelation, plus Old Testament prophecies about “the Lord’s Day.”

When 1975 came and Christ had not returned, many WCG members became disillusioned and left the church. Some WCG ministers tried to justify the supposed failed 1975 prediction by saying that there would be some period of worldwide tribulation, and they reset the date of Christ’s return to 1982, and onward to 1992 or 1995.

Still others have since put forward other dates or years – all apparently failed predictions. Because of this, some religious commentators have dubbed WCG’s tendencies as “prediction addiction!”

Addiction still alive!

Like some addiction that is difficult to unload, some predictions have surfaced lately among “remnants” of the former WCG. [See: Where Is God’s Church Today?] One such group is the so-called “Church of God’s Faithful” [COGF]. This church has a website, where it has published its view on end-time prophecy: www.setapartbytruth.org.

I might summarize the COGF’s pronouncements about our “end times” and Christ’s return as follows:

1.) That the fulfillment of the opening of the “first seal” (Revelation 6:1-2) happened just in recent years when Joseph W. Tkach [JWT], whom HWA had appointed, before his death in early 1986, as his successor, rode the “white horse” of that “first seal,” and caused the WCG to go into apostasy and unscriptural beliefs. [See: Where Is God’s Church Today?]

2.) That JWT fulfilled the apostle Paul’s prophecy (in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-11) about a “man of sin” and “the lawless one” who would come into God’s temple [the WCG] and set himself up as “God” by reversing all that HWA had taught as God’s truths and replacing them with lies and falsehoods.

3.) That we are now in “the day of the Lord,” and that HWA had sounded the “midnight cry” (Matthew 25:6) before his death in 1986.

4.) That HWA had fully preached the true gospel to all the world in his lifetime, and anyone today who presumes to preach the gospel of Christ is engaging in a futile exercise.

Now, let me explain each of these points in light of God’s word, the Holy Bible.

The “White Horse” prophecy

It ironic that the COGF, which claims to teach as HWA had taught, has in effect disregarded what he had taught about the first horseman of Revelation 6 – the rider of the “white horse.”

In his booklet titled “The Book of Revelation – Unveiled at Last!” HWA taught that the rider of the “white horse” refers to the false teachers and false prophets that Jesus prophesied as first among the signs of the “end times” (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 24). [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click  ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet with that title.]

HWA also taught that the four horsemen of Revelation were to come about in the same order as Jesus had prophesied about our end-time: the second horseman, riding the red horse, pictures the wars that came about especially as the chief among the false prophets went “conquering” and putting to death those who opposed him. In the wake of wars came famines [pictured by the rider on the black horse]. After these came death [pictured by the rider on the pale horse].

In effect HWA taught that the first five of the seven “seals” of Revelation 6 have already been opened since centuries ago, and with them have come the prophesied troubles. The fifth seal brought about the horrible persecution and death of God’s saints in the hands of the political-religious leader who continued to ride the first or white horse, during what is known as the “dark age.”

HWA also taught that those four horsemen would continue to ride and wreak havoc on the earth until they are checked by Christ. In fact, the ill-effects of these horsemen and the events of the “fifth seal” have increased or intensified over the past centuries, and will continue to do so in the coming years.

To teach, as the COGF does, that only with the emergence of JWT has the prophecy about the “white horse” and its rider been fulfilled is to “flip-flop” in the historical timeline. This is a case of forcing one’s idea or understanding upon the clearly established prophetic timeline!

What JWT has done is a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy about end-time false prophets (Matthew 24 4-5, etc.). We might also add the apostle Paul’s warning, in Acts 20:29-30, that after his departure many false teachers would arise and mislead church members. The apostle Peter also warned about false teachers arising within God’s church (2 Peter 2:1-3). A similar thing has happened to the WCG after HWA’s death.

In addition, Ezekiel 34:1-21 prophesies about “irresponsible shepherds” [NKJV] who would oppress God’s flock in the latter days. Jeremiah 16:21 also talks about “dull-hearted” shepherds who would cause God’s flock to become scattered — just like what has happened to the former WCG! [See: Beware of False Prophets and Fake News.]

The “man of sin” or the “lawless one”

Paul wrote about a “man of sin” and the “lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 8-9) who would sit in God’s temple and claim to be God Himself. The COGF claims that this has been fulfilled, in our time, by JWT. However, this claim fails to consider that in Paul’s time, the “mystery of lawlessness” which the “man of sin” would promote, was already at work (2 Thessalonians 2:7) – not many centuries later, with JWT’s takeover of the WCG!

HWA taught that the first 200 years of New Testament church history were shrouded in a “curtain” behind which Satan was working out his design of deception through false prophets in such a way that when that “curtain” was finally lifted, lo and behold, a totally different church appeared that claimed to be Christ’s church, but was actually the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “A True History of the True Church;” see also  Where Is God’s Church Today?]

JWT merely continued the work of that impostor church by aligning the former WCG with the “evangelicals” or Protestants – whom HWA labeled as the “wayward daughters” of the “great harlot” of Revelation 17:1 –- “Babylon the Great” (Verse 5), which HWA identified with the Roman Catholic Church. [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org (as above), and scroll down to the booklets title  “Who Is the Beast?” and “Mark of the Beast.”] The transformed WCG is now called GCI – Grace Communion International, and now a member of the WEF [World Evangelical Fellowship].

Is it any wonder that the GCI now follows the traditions and teachings of the evangelicals? Among these are worshipping on Sunday instead of God’s commanded seventh day Sabbath [see: What if the Sabbath Is Still Holy?], observing holidays like Christmas and Easter instead of God’s ordained festivals [see: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts : Mere Time-markers – or to Be Observed? and True Worship], and non-observance of God’s food law of clean and unclean meats [see: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?].

We might look at JWT’s proclaiming “liberty” from God’s food law as some kind of typical fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy about the “abomination of desolation”(Matthew 24:15). Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 11:31; 12:11), referred to by Christ here, was first fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes IV set up an image of Jupiter or Zeus and offered swine in God’s temple in Jerusalem, thereby desecrating it and causing the temple sacrifices to cease. [See:  https://en.wikipedi.org/wiki/Abomination_of_desolation.] The priestly clan of the Maccabees revolted against the Roman authorities and restored temple worship in Jerusalem.

Later, in 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus invaded Jerusalem and sacked  the temple. This time the temple became desolate and has remained so to this day.

By JWT allowing church members to eat heretofore forbidden pork and other unclean meats, the WCG has been devastated. This is not to say that the church has been destroyed totally, for Jesus promised that the church He built would never die out but would prevail for all time (Matthew 16:18), although it might become spiritually “sickly” or weak.  {See: Where Is God’s Church Today?]

It was the doctrinal “structure” of the WCG – much like the physical temple in Jerusalem – that became demolished. JWT and other GCI leaders had judged that the body of teachings which HWA left behind “cannot be fixed” and has to be “dismantled brick by brick” – “demolished.” The so-called “new covenant” teachings so disoriented the minds of the former WCG brethren, much like Adam and Eve took on a different attitude towards their Creator after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]  Suddenly many WCG members became hostile to God’s law. [See: Freed From Bondage and Barking up the Wrong Tree.]

We might also consider what JWT has done to the WCG as a type of what Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar did when he conquered the House of Judah, destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, and carried away the Jews captive to Babylon. While there, the Jews became subject to the Babylonian culture, although they remained a distinct people (Esther 3:8). Well might we say that the former WCG, now the GCI, is presently held captive in a spiritual “Babylon.” To them Christ gives this command: “Come out of her [Babylon], My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18: 4-5). [See: Drunk With Strange Wine.]

The “antitype” or actual fulfillment of the “abomination of desolation” will yet occur in some “holy place” [not necessarily a full temple] in Jerusalem in the years or months ahead! A prominent religious leader will there set himself up as God Himself, and place an idolatrous image there, maybe even offering swine at the altar! [As to how this could happen, see: The Children of Abraham  (especially the sections on “Who are the children of Ismael today?” and “A future replay!”)  and The Temple of Ezekiel 40-48.]

The “Day of the Lord”

The apostle Paul especially warned: “Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word, or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Let us not be deceived into thinking that the “Day of the Lord” has already come, as the COGF claims – when, in truth, the events prophesied before Christ’s actual appearance or manifestation have not yet occurred! More about this later.

Jesus also said about some saying “‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand (Matthew 24:23-25).

Has the ‘Day of the Lord” indeed come upon us, as the COGF claims?

The main basis for their claim is John’s testimony in Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and heard behind me a voice, as a trumpet,” etc. COGF is right in saying that “the Lord’s Day” here does not refer to Sunday, which the Roman Catholic Church calls “the Lord’s Day.” Rather, this day refers to the “Day of the LORD” mentioned in several Old Testament prophecies. The COGF went awry when it thus claims that such“Lord’s Day” had already come, in the early days of the first century A.D., when John found himself carried away by God’s Spirit on or to that day.

Again, this is a twist on the prophetic timeline! What John saw was a vision of what “The Lord’s Day” would be like in its future fulfillment – NOT an actual reality then and there! We might compare this with the vision which three  leading apostles of Christ were privileged to see, concerning Christ as the Son of Man “coming in His kingdom” before they died (Matthew 16:28-17:9). Jesus’ kingdom had not then come to earth, but the apostles saw a vision of Christ “transfigured” – transformed in vision into what He would look like when He establishes God’s kingdom on earth – a yet future event!

A similar thing can be said about “The Lord’s Day,” in which John found himself. It is a yet future event – although it may be hastening on! Let us be careful in proclaiming what we believe to be a new “truth” from God, as COGF claims. We need to seek The Whole Counsel of God in order to establish the truth of any matter in God’s Word. Otherwise, we could easily fall prey to heresy, and be found liars!

Old Testament prophecies definitely describe that day as a “day of gloom” and “darkness” (Joel 2:30-31; Zephaniah 1:15). That day has not yet come upon us as of date! Let us not be deceived about this!

Revelation 6:12-17 describes the rumblings of the Day of the Lord, as the Old Testament prophets had declared. Have these taken place? If we are honest observers of our times, we know that the things or events mentioned in this apocalyptic prophecy have not yet occurred! But we are at the threshold of the opening of the “sixth seal.” Christ’s appearing is “at the doors” (Matthew 24:33), and they are about to open!

We have yet to see “every mountain and island, moved out of its place (Revelation 6:14). If this has happened, why haven’t we seen bold headlines trumpeting this extraordinary occurrence? So astounding would the removal, for example, of Mount Everest from Nepal or Tibet to the Pacific Ocean that the news headlines would surely shout out the event and all the world would know it– but we haven’t heard of such news yet! Neither have we heard any news about islands, like Taiwan or the Philippines for example, moving from where they are now to somewhere else in the Pacific Ocean! Earlier on, Verse 12 mentions a “great earthquake” and the sun “becoming black as sackcloth of hair,” and the moon becoming like blood. These extraordinary events have not yet taken place, although several small earthquakes have occurred in various places and times lately, and people are warned about a yet coming “big one.” Some have talked about Blood Moon, and solar eclipses have been observed.

It is when these extraordinary events take place that “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man” will hide “themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains” and will say “to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb [Jesus]! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand’” (Verses 15-17)? Where are the news headlines that would surely detail this calamitous event? We haven’t seen or heard of any as yet!

As the “sixth seal” is opened, everyone will see the heavens rolled back (Verse 14), to reveal Christ on His glorious throne as His full appearance would shortly be revealed with the opening of the “seventh seal” (the last), which is comprised of the “seven trumpets” (Revelation 8-11). As the sign of Christ “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” appears, “all the tribes of the earth will mourn as they see Christ visibly (Matthew 24:30), to vent His wrath on all the wicked of the earth, and to gather His “elect” into His kingdom (Verse 31).

Clearly, the, the “Day of the Lord” has not come about yet, although we are getting closer and closer to it with each passing month and year. We just cannot be absolutely sure how close, exactly. All we can do is watch world news in light of Bible prophecy – and pray and be ready (Matthew 24:42, 44; Luke 21:36). [See:  “I Never Knew You!”]

Herbert Armstrong’s legacy

Many WCG members and leaders alike have looked at HWA as an end-time “Elijah” (Malachi 4:5) sent by God to” prepare the way” before Christ’s return or the “Day of the LORD” – much like the mission of John the Baptist [or the Baptizer] in announcing Christ’s earthly ministry (Matthew 3:3; John 1:22-23).

It is interesting that Jesus said of John: “But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished” (Matthew 17:12). John was both received by many as a true prophet of God (Matthew 21:26) and despised by others, like the Jewish religious leaders, whom he described as “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7-9). King Herod disliked John for rebuking him of his adultery and had him beheaded (Matthew 14:1-2).

In a similar manner, people have either placed HWA on some pedestal or condemned him as a “false prophet.” Contrary to his opinion of himself, some have placed all the writings and messages of HWA on the same level as Scripture and insist that they be taught as handed down and not modified or changed in any way. Others believe that HWA’s teachings are theologically flawed and must be junked totally.

The COGF believes and teaches that HWA had fully preached the gospel of Christ and of God’s kingdom to all the world, and that no other person could add anything to that work. Because of this, the COGF teaches that we must now be at the “end,” as Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Based on my personal experience with HWA, however, I can say that he was a humbler person than what most people believe about him – whether as a “faultless” preacher or an “autocratic,” authoritarian one. [See: Two Goats Together, especially the box titled “Reexamining the Roots of our Beliefs.”]

The belief that God has completed the worldwide preaching of the gospel of Christ through HWA, and him alone, flies against the plain testimony of Revelation 11 — regarding God’s “two witnesses, who will yet preach that gospel to all the world for some three and a half years, before they are killed and later resurrected at Christ’s visible return. For a time, some in the WCG believed that HWA and his son Garner Ted [GTA] would be the two witnesses. But both Armstrongs have died, and not in the way described in Revelation 11.

So, the Bible plainly teaches that the preaching of Christ’s gospel to all the world did not stop with the death of HWA, but will yet continue through the “two witnesses” until Christ’s actual appearance. [See: Looking to Men and Leanings.]

Let us bear in mind the apostle Peter’s teaching that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). We must seek The Whole Counsel of God, in order to understand properly the interpretation of Bible prophecy, and the true sequence of its fulfillment. Let’s not mix up the prophetic timeline!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
07082020

 

Does the Power of Our Imagination Make Us Infinite?

Since 09 May this year I have received ten texts on my i-phone bearing the same identical message: “The power of imagination makes us infinite.” The message was sent through different numbers, but it seems that only one person or group of persons sent it on different days.

I don’t know what motivated the sender/senders to send me the same message repeatedly. Perhaps this was the telephone company’s way to inspire their subscribers. At any rate, this has moved me to react to the message from the standpoint of God’s word, the Holy Bible.

Does the Bible teach, or suggest, that the power of our human imagination makes us infinite?

At the outset two things need to be clarified: 1.) What is this “power of imagination?” and, 2.) what is meant by our being “infinite?”

Power of imagination

A unique power that we human beings have been equipped with is that of “imagination” – the ability to “imagine,” “conceptualize,” or visualize” a thought, an object, design, or purpose. As far as we know, no other creature on earth has the same power. Animals do the things they do through some built-in mechanisms, such as “instincts.” For example, most birds build their nests according to the same consistent pattern by instinct – that is, without anyone “teaching” or prompting them to build their nests in the same exact way. Each species sticks to the same pattern, without any “thought” to devise their nest in some other pattern or design.

Not so, we human beings!

For example, how did we come to have cellular phones, after we had invented the wind-up or dial-up telephone or “talking machine”? Someone or some group of people obviously thought out – imagined – inventing an electronic device that can transmit sounds, pictures, texts or scripts, music and video footages from one person to another. It took a lot of imagination to design and construct that device, plus the means to transmit the “information” [also called “data”] through some transmitting device, including cellular sites or towers through some feat of engineering and technology.

Now, then, does this example of man’s “power of imagination” thus make us “infinite?”

Becoming”infinite” — what?

Just what does becoming “infinite” mean? My copy of Webster’s New World Dictionary (New York: Prentice Hall, 1994) defines “infinite” as: “1.) lacking limit or bounds; extending beyond measure or comprehension; without beginning or end, endless.”

From my math class, I recall knowing about “infinity” through such numbers as the quotient of the fraction 100/60 = 1.666666 and so on to infinity – “endless” 6’s.

I am not sure what the author of the text message had in mind with the word “infinite.” Does the power of our imagination make us limitless or without bounds? Beyond measure or comprehension? Without beginning or end, endless?

Be that as it may, the Bible does use the phrase “without beginning or end of days” in referring to one Melchizedek, the High Priest of God (Hebrews 7:1-3). [See: The Mystery of Melchizedek Unlocked!] As this website article explains, Melchizedek is the same Person as the glorified Jesus Christ, who is forever God’s High Priest, by the fact that He is ever-living, immortal.

The apostle Paul gave this benediction: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).

In his famous “Resurrection Chapter” (1 Corinthians 15) Paul explains the difference between Christ and us human beings: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood [as we human beings all are] cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption [decay resulting from death] inherit incorruption” (Verse 50).

In this present age, all of us human beings are mortal, subject to death. We are not immortal. Paul also wrote: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Paul summarized our hope as humans: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly [KJV, ‘vile’ or corruptible] body that it may be conformed to His glorious [immortal] body, according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21). Right now, of all who have taken the form of humanity, only Jesus enjoys immortality. [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]

Further Paul wrote: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound [Revelation 11:15, etc.], and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

No amount of our imagining has the power to bring about our immortality or make us “infinite.” It has to be granted to us by God alone!

God has shown us the way: “For God so loved the world that r gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish [die forever] but have everlasting life [immortality]” (John 3:16). [See: Power to Become the Sons of God  and  Christian Formation.]

The human potential

In the meantime, while awaiting our transformation to immortality [“infinity?”], God has given mankind a wealth of potential for creativity and imagination. Even early in the history of mankind, God had declared: Now nothing that they propose to do [imagine!] will be withheld from them” (Genesis 11:6). Is this perhaps what some have called the “divine spark” in man – that power [on a smaller scale] to imagine and create all kinds of things like our Creator God has?

Indeed, since conceiving and building the infamous “tower of Babel” (Genesis 11), mankind has gone a long, long way in imagining all the wonders that man has conceived of and achieved. To mention just a few: skyscrapers, space ships, computers, and, yes, smart phones. What an exciting, marvelous new world we can look forward to when God’s kingdom through Christ transforms mankind’s heart and mind. Then men can use their imagination to devise only good things. They might cause even God Himself to marvel. [See:  “He Marveled.”]

Because of man’s moral failings and wickedness, men in our present age have used their imagination and devices to hurt others instead of helping them. Some such things are today’s rampant on-line scams, sex-for-sale, pornography, etc. [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man? A Law-abiding Universe – But Man! And Being and Doing.] But when God transforms the hearts and minds of men, they will use their imagination only for good and righteous purposes.

My prayer for all of us is that we may come to truly know Christ and God, be known by Him, and that we can truly become the children of God, to enjoy the endless pleasures He has reserved for us forever (Psalm 16:11). [See: Are We All God’s Children? and “I Never Knew You!”]

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
23032020

“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