The Universalism (“All Saved”) Issue

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

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

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

Bible “proofs” for universalism

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

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

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

Jesus’ weighty testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A theological twist on Revelation 22:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such will not be the case with the wicked!

God’s desire His “wish”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A “lifesaver” analogy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about: “All Israel will be saved?”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Did Judas and Peter have “no choice?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson to learn

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
210819

What’s All the Fuss About “Aion?”

Sometime ago I received a post on my e-mail that challenged my understanding of the Bible’s teaching about “forever” and “everlasting” with regard to the fate of the righteous and the unrighteous human beings. Like many, I have accepted the belief that God’s reward for the righteous in Jesus Christ [those who believe in Him] is “everlasting life”— life without end. God promises this in the famous and well-loved Bible verse John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV).

The challenge went on to say that there’s actually “no forever” in the Bible! And the supposed proof of this is the “proper” understanding of the meaning of the original Greek word for “everlasting” – the word aion [pronounced, according to an online Bible Concordance, as a-hee-ohn’]. It simply means “age” or an indefinite period of time. That, actually, is where the similar-sounding English word “eon” is derived from. Evolutionists and paleontologists have used the word “eon” or “eons” to denote the supposed long period of time or “ages” – numbering in the thousands, even millions and billions, of years — it took for various life forms on earth to have “evolved.” Who hasn’t heard about the “Jurassic Age?”

The issue of evolution is another matter that we will not concern ourselves with here. But for those who wish to know the stand of most Christians on evolution versus creation, see this link: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklets titled, “A Theory for the Birds” and “A Whale of a Tale.”]

The word aion is rendered by most Bible concordances and dictionaries as “ever,” “always,” “perpetual. ” The original Hebrew equivalent, olam, is similarly rendered. Thus, “aion” or olam can both be used either as the noun “age”[“eon”] nor the adverb “ever,” “always,” etc.

But adherents to this alternative understanding of “everlasting” propose that the word simply means “age-lasting.” Thus, the implication is that there is nothing permanent or perpetual about it; it lasts only for an age, and when it’s over, another — a different — age will take over.

Such adherents may concede that there is “everlasting” life as a reward for the righteous in Christ, but they submit that the punishment for the wicked in the “lake of fire” or the “second death” (Revelation 21:8) will last only for an aion or an age – not in perpetuity or for all eternity.

The case for everlasting life as endless or immortal

There is no Bible basis for the assertion that the “everlasting life” that God promises the true believer in Christ is not “forever” or for all time or for all eternity. Several Scripture passages assure us that the reward of the saved is life without end – forever!

  • Philippians 3:20-21 — “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself.”
  • 1 John 3:2 – “Beloved, we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed [at Christ’s return], we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as He is.” As the heavenly High Priest Melchizedek, Jesus has “neither beginning of life nor end of days” and has “the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:3, 16). [ see: The Mystery of Melchizedek Unlocked!]
  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 — “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [remain dead], but we[those in Christ] shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [at Christ’s return]. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead [in Christ, see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18] will be raised incorruptible [Greek, aphthartos, meaning “undecaying”], and this mortal must put on immortality [Greek, athanasia, meaning “deathlessness”], then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
  • Revelation 22:14 – “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life [compare with Genesis 3:22] and enter through the gates into the city [the “New Jerusalem” (21:2]). [See: The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

 

The rationale for such a belief in the punishment of the wicked being only temporary and not final is the understanding that several Bible passages declare that God wills and desires all men (and women) to be saved. For example:

  • “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:3-4).
  • “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
  • “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).

At first glance the above and other Bible verses appear to substantiate the belief of some in the salvation of all – that is, every single individual human being, no one ever excluded. But when we consider the testimony and The Whole Counsel of God in the Bible, however, we will find that there will be some who will not be saved but will be destroyed in the “lake of fire” or the “second death” (Revelation 21:8, etc.). I will discuss more on the issue in a separate article. [Watch for: The Universalism (“All Saved”) Issue.]

Punishment for the wicked not ultimate or final?

The argument for the proposition that the fate of the wicked is not final or ultimate rests on the above quoted and other Scripture passages. However, let us examine what other Bible passages declare about God’s judgment on the wicked – especially after God will have given each individual human being his or her fair chance to be saved. [See: This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]

  • Psalm 9:5 – “You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked, You have blotted their name forever and ever [Hebrew, olam]. The reference to “blotting their name” cannot but mean removal from The Book of Life. As the just referenced article explains, that Book of Life records both the physical life and the everlasting life granted to a person. One’s name being removed or blotted out from that book will leave no memory or trace whatsoever of the person. It’s as if he or she had never been born. They will have no hope of being made alive again, ever!
  • Romans 9:28 — “For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality” (NIV). This verse is quoted from Isaiah 10:22-23, “…the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For The Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of the land” (KJV). The key words are “decreed” and “determined.” They imply great intent and determined enforcement.

How long will it take to destroy the wicked?

To say that the punishment of the wicked in the “lake of fire” will take an “aion” or an “age” – lasting for thousands or more years – is to underestimate the speed with which God will punish the wicked.

When He returns to judge the earth, Jesus will pour out plagues upon Satan’s main “agent” on earth today – spiritual “Babylon”( Revelation 18:1-8). Verse 10 declares: “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.” Verse 19 echoes this — “For in one hour she is made desolate .”

The judgment on Babylon will be short and final, as Verse 21 declares: “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.’” Psalm 9:6  resonates this when it says that the cities of God’s enemy [such as Babylon is] will be overtaken with “ruin,” will be “uprooted,”  and the memory of them will perish.

2 Peter 3:7 declares – “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word [of God, Verse 5], are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Verses 10-12 go on to describe such intense fire (“fervent heat”) as will melt or dissolve all the elements of both the heavens and the earth .

That fervent heat will destroy all the wicked in a matter of hours or days at most! It certainly won’t take an “aion!”  The fiery heat will not last forever — only as long as there is something combustible to burn. What will be for “aion” – in the sense of “forever,” “always” and “for perpetuity” or “for eternity” — is the effect of such destruction.  The wicked will be destroyed forever.  My aforementioned article on The Universalism (“All Saved”) Issue will explain more about this.

What, rather, to fuss about

If there’s something of more value to fuss about than a skewed understanding of “aion,” it should be how we, as Christians, are to prepare ourselves to “meet” the Lord at His return (Amos 4:12). As Jesus exhorts: “Therefore you also be ready, for the son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).

The apostle Peter also exhorts: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, being on fire, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God….to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11-12, 14). Also instructive is his exhortation, in 2 Peter 1:5-15, about making “our election sure.”. [See: “I Never Knew You!” Being and Doing, Saved for Good Works, and “Be Holy for I Am Holy.”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
200719

What Is This Thing Called “Will?”

When I was in college in the late 1950s, I became a member of a prestigious (so I was told) choral group then, The “Campus Choristers.”  And one of the songs in the group’s repertoire was the not-so-popular song (sung by Frank Sinatra, among others) titled “What Is This Thing Called Love?”

As I recall it, the song was a “blues” song [a.k.a. a “broken-heart” song, with the motif “He/She done lef’ me fer anuther!”]. It went:

What is this thing called “love?”–
This funny thing called “love?”
Just who can solve its mystery?
Why should it make a fool of me?
I saw you there one wonderful day,
You took my heart, and threw it away!
That’s why I ask the Lord in heaven above,
“What is this thing called ‘love?’”

In this article I ask the question “What is this thing called “will”—particularly human will. It is not a funny thing, but it certainly is a fuzzy thing in the minds of a lot of people. A “mystery?” Definitely! And some people who have tried to explain the mystery without real help and guidance from the Lord in heaven above, as it turns out, have, in my view, made a fool of themselves!

The crux of the issue

The main issue raised by some is whether mankind really has a “free will” or freedom of choice. Especially is this made an issue in the face of God’s will being sovereign and irresistible.  As the apostle Paul asked: “Who has resisted His will” (Romans 9:19)?  [In context, Paul was speaking here of God’s irresistible will  or prerogative to show or not show mercy to a person in God’s own time.  See: The Divine Prerogatives.]  And the specific area where this has been made an issue is the matter of it being God’s desire that all men should be saved.

Paul described God our Savior as One “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3). The apostle Peter also wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us , not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In addition, Ezekiel 33 :11 quotes God as saying: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”

Concerning Christ, Paul also wrote: “Therefore God also 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 of those under the earth, and that every tongue  should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). Furthermore, Paul wrote: “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

1 Corinthians 15:26 declares, “The last enemy that will be destroyed [by Christ] is death.” Thus, as Revelation 21: 4 amplifies, “…there shall be no more death.”  Revelation 20:13 says, Death and Hades [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire.” The conclusion? Not a single human being will ever have to die anymore when death is destroyed.

There you have it — ample Bible proof! — say those who propose and believe the doctrine of “universal” salvation: that ALL [including every single human being who has ever been born] will eventually be saved, not a single one excluded from God’s kingdom and having everlasting life, which is what salvation brings.  Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord, and therefore all will have to be subject to God so He can be in everyone, so the reasoning goes.

Mankind to be shorn of free will?

According to this view of salvation, in order for God’s sovereign and irresistible will to be fulfilled, God has to remove mankind’s “free will” so that only God’s will can and will prevail. All men, supposedly, will be saved, not because they choose to, but because God wills it.

Some quote Ephesians 1:4-14 as proof that those whom God has “elected” for salvation have been “sealed” by God’s Spirit, before the foundation of the world, as a guarantee of their sure salvation, according to  “the good pleasure of His will.” Therefore, such an elect person cannot break that “seal” by choosing to sin, thereby missing out on salvation and depriving God of His pleasure.

Some go as far as to say that salvation is such a free gift from God that He will give it even to those who don’t reach out their hands to Him – that is, seek or ask Him — for it!  To not reach out one’s hand would be to exercise one’s will or volition. And, supposedly, God cannot and will not allow this so that only His supreme and sovereign will or desire will prevail – that ALL will be saved, regardless.

Whether they know it or not, proponents of universal salvation, are denying God’s assertion, “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6), and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). [See: What Does God Mean – “I Do not Change?”]

Has God now changed what He says in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near?” Or what Jesus said:  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8)?  Paul also said of God: “And He has made of one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has predetermined their appointed times [including their time for salvation] and the bounds of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

Paul also wrote: “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent [by God]” (Romans 10:13-15)?

A person will not call on God – will not choose to call on God – if he does not understand and accept his need to be saved!  Psalm 14:4 asks rhetorically:  “Have all the workers of iniquity [the wicked] no knowledge who…call not upon the LORD?” When Peter began to sink in the water after having walked on it a few steps, he  realized his dangerous condition and reached out his hand and cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” And save him Jesus did (Matthew 14:22-33)!

Jesus’ half-brother James was inspired by God’s Spirit to write: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).

As for God’s command to the Israelites [and to all mankind, for that matter], “I have set before you today life and good, death and evil…. blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19), has God now removed this choice from us?  What about Joshua’s charge to the children of Israel to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”—the gods of the pagans or the LORD (Joshua 24:15)?  Is this no longer relevant to us today, when we are faced with choices between good or righteousness and increasing evil or unrighteousness?

Will God change the “rules” of His “game” just so man can and will be saved – whether man likes it or not, whether he chooses or not to be saved?  And so, supposedly, God’s “pleasure” to save all mankind will be satisfied?

Will God somehow force us to choose to do what is right or Godly?  And will He forcibly prevent us – strive or struggle though we might – from doing the evil thing we desire or want to choose?  God did not do that with our first parents, Adam and Eve. God gave them the choice to eat or not eat the fruit He forbade them to. But, as the well-known story goes, they chose, they used their human will, to disobey God, and they died. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The “Stupidity” of God .]

Forcing a man to obey, simply, is not the way God’s Spirit works! [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]

In contrast to God’s way, Satan forces his will upon his captive mankind. As Paul testifies about those whom Satan has “snared”  as “having been taken captive by him to do his will” |(2 Timothy 2:26).

Satan sets up strongholds in the hearts and minds of sinners (2 Corinthians 10:4) in such a way that they are so trapped and bound as to be unable to escape, but for God’s intervention. Satan’s way is the way of bondage, whereas God’s way is the way of freedom and liberty (Romans 6:18, 22; 8:2).  The apostle Paul affirms:  “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  [See: Freed From Bondage.]

Satan’s way is the way of oppression and cruelty — with the intent to murder and destroy (John 8:44). Jesus came to heal and liberate His chosen ones who in the past were “oppressed by the Devil” (Acts 10:38).

Paul says that “The spirits [which enable the mind] of the prophets are subject to the prophets”(1 Corinthians 14:32). Paul also lists, as one of the facets of the fruit of God’s Spirit,  “self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The human brain is not on “auto-pilot,” not needing conscious and voluntary control by a human “driver.” God has not “programmed” our brains and minds to automatically fulfill His every will, without us “maneuvering” some “control stick” or steering wheel to direct where we are going.  [See: “My Brain Made Me Do it!”]

God desires willing and “cheerful” obedience to Him, even as in the matter of giving. “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Obeying God cheerfully is a person’s willing choice, in the same manner that obeying God grudgingly is also a person’s willing choice! But God has no delight in a person who obeys Him grudgingly – “dragging his feet,” as we’d say.

Jesus said repeatedly: “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). He, in fact, began His earthly ministry by preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

To “repent” is to turn from going the way of sin [disobedience to God’s law and commandments (1 John 3:4, KJV), to obeying them. To “turn” is matter of personal choice, an exercise of the person’s will. And that after God makes one realize His goodness (Romans 23:4). In walking, as in driving a vehicle, it is the person’s choice whether to turn left or right, forward or backward. God commanded His sinful people Israel: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:8). God will not repent or turn for us; we have to do it by and for ourselves! What would be the sense of God commanding us to “Turn!” and then He turns us around without us willingly doing it by and for ourselves?  God is not a fool!

The “once saved, always saved” fallacy

This is a doctrine espoused by a number of evangelicals, notably the “Calvinists.” followers of the theologian John Calvin. The belief is that, once God has saved a sinner by grace, he cannot be “unsaved” by anything He does or may do. To “do” anything would, according to this belief, be to add to Christ’s already finished work at Calvary. “We are saved by grace through faith, not by works,” they would quickly quote Ephesians 2:8. But they fail to consider what the latter part of that passage says:  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Verse 10). [See: Saved for Good Works and Being and Doing.]  And in the final Day of Judgment, we will be judged and rewarded according to our works – whether good or evil (Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12; John 5:27-29).

That “walk” – again a choice of which path to take – requires a Christian’s exercise of his or her will!  Jesus Himself presents us with the choices: the wide and easy path that leads to destruction, or the “strait and narrow” way that leads to everlasting life (Matthew 7:14).  The latter path would entail “striving against sin.”  Jesus, in fact, tells us: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).

To “strive” or to “seek” entails the exercise of one’s will!  Even as Christ Himself, although the Son of God, set us an example of striving against sin! (Hebrews 12:4; 1 Peter 2:21-25).

While in His human frame Jesus strove against temptation by the Devil, and His desire as a human Being. He strove victoriously with Satan, as Matthew 4:1-11 attests.  While agonizing in prayer at Gethsemane before His crucifixion, Jesus asked His Father if it were possible for Him not to drink the “cup”[symbolizing His excruciating death by the vilest of Roman tortures], but He sought not to follow His human will [which would have been a sin] but  His Father’s will (Luke 22:41-42).

Several times Christ tells us that “he who overcomes” the pulls of our sinful human flesh, the evil society in which we must live, and the strong temptations of the Devil, will be saved or have everlasting life (Revelation 2:7, 11, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).  Overcoming entails the exercise of one’s will!  And also Jesus said that a man, even a Christian, can commit a sin [as a matter of choice or exercise of the will] that will not be forgiven in this present age, and in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32).  [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]  This belies the doctrine of “once saved, always saved!”

Paul says, echoing Matthew 7:14: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The path back into the Paradise of God entails going through some “baptism by fire.” This calls for us to exercise our human will to “resist the devil” (James 4:7). On the other hand, we can also use our human will to resist the truth and God’s Spirit (2 Timothy 3:8; Acts 7:51).   [See: The Flaming Sword East of Eden.] The fact that one’s name, already written in God’s “Book of Life,” can be removed if one fails to overcome (Revelation 3:5) , shows the fallacy of the “once saved, always saved” doctrine!

Not altogether by sheer “willpower”

The Godly exercise of the human will is not altogether the product of human “willpower,” however. There is, after all, an extreme view of the human will that the Bible calls “will worship”[translated from the Greek ethelothreskeia, meaning voluntary piety or sanctimony that is arbitrary and unwarranted] (Colossians 2:23, KJV). Paul says that such self-imposed religion, manifested in “false humility, and neglect of the body,” [as taught by asceticism, which practices fasting and other acts of penance] “but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Same Verse, NKJV).

The human will, by itself, does not have the power to obey God’s commandments. One needs the Holy Spirit of Christ and of God to truly keep God’s law and not indulge the flesh, for “the carnal [natural,born] mind [of man] is enmity [antagonistic, contrary to] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). Man’s natural will is against God’s will.

So, how can one obey God’s will?  With the help of His Spirit, God “works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit and God’s Spirit and Obedience.]  God works in a Christian in such a way that he embraces God’s will as his own will. This takes a conscious decision or volition [will!] to agree with God that His will is good and for His pleasure. God is a God who makes covenants with men.

And for God and man to covenant and walk together, both must be agreed (Amos 3:3). Agreement takes one’s will to consent or agree to the terms of the covenant. In the “new covenant,” God does not make man walk in His law by some one-sided divine fiat (Hebrews 8:10-12). Man must be willing to open his heart and mind to enable God to write His law on man’s heart.  Proverbs 3:3, in fact, tells us to  willingly write mercy and truth [NIV, “love and faithfulness”] on the tablet  of our heart. We do this by constantly meditating on and thinking often about God’s law. Man must agree to follow God’s law. On His part, God renews a man’s heart, in such a way that the man inclines himself [exercises his will] to obey God’s laws (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

True, with Satan and his demons put away in some dark prison (Revelation 20:1-4; Jude 6), overcoming by the people of God during Christ’s reign on earth will be much easier. But they would still have their human nature to contend with, and they would still have to  exercise their will to strive against sin, just as everyone else must in their lifetime in this present evil age.

Sugar-coating the truth

The “meta-narrative,” as some have called the story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, concludes with the destruction of all  who have not repented of their wickedness and have chosen to remain in it, after they will have been given their fair chance to be saved (Revelation 20:5,  11-21:8).  [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation and Predestination.] If we look at the whole Bible as a “drama,” the “script” ends at Revelation 22:21. To add to or to subtract from the words of this book of prophecy has God’s stern warning of dire consequences (Verses 18-19).

The apostle Paul also warns concerning thoughts and teachings about the “mysteries of God,” to “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the heart,” and to learn [in Paul and Apollos] “not to think beyond what is written, [so] that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:1-6).

Some, eager to judge the fate of all men – that all must be saved as God desires regardless of the person’s choice – have so gone “beyond what is written” – particularly about the wicked being destroyed forever in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8).  Contrary to their belief, the promise that “There will be no more death” belongs to those who are righteous,  saved and given everlasting life on the Day of Judgment — not to those who refuse to repent of sin, who remain unrighteous.

Thus they invent the “story” [fable?] that the “second death” which the unrepentant wicked will suffer is not final and ultimate.  That somehow, these wicked have to be revived by God so He can save them according to His will. In that revived state, supposedly, they will have no human will to resist God’s will. And so they, deprived of their will or power to choose, will supposedly be saved, according to God’s irresistible will and pleasure.

That may sound like a very “sweet” proposal, for indeed it sounds more pleasant to the ear to hear that God will not destroy everyone but that all will ultimately be saved. But, when we come right down to it, this is sheer and downright flattery! An untruth – a lie!

The very idea of a person being saved regardless of his choice or will promotes the spirit of licentiousness! One could think, “Why would I strive to be good and righteous, if I don’t have to choose, or exercise my will, to do so? Jude warned that there are people who teach such falsehood: “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

The word “lewdness” is rendered [in the NKJV] from the Greek aselgeian, meaning lasciviousness or licentiousness [disregard for accepted rules or laws—lawlessness!]. Jude 8 – 19 describes further the attitudes and the fate of such “teachers.” [See: “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie” and “I Never Knew You”!]

To say that there is really no such thing as human free will, is to deny the plain testimony of Scripture! If there is no such thing as “free will,” why did God command the people of Israel to give “freewill offerings” (Leviticus 22:18-23, 38, etc.)? God doesn’t deal in double-talk. He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18)! As Paul said, “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3: 4)!

God’s destroying forever all the unrepentant wicked is a show of God’s justice and judgment, which is one of the dimensions of Christ’s love, as paradoxical as that might seem.  [See: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]

May we all come to a right understanding of God’s will, what God expects of man [the role of man in in exercising his will], and what the full dimensions of Christ’s love are, and so we can be filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19)—and be saved!

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
170419/130519

Looking to Men

Is it ever wrong to look to some men for guidance, inspiration, or instruction in Godliness, righteousness and truth? Should we only look to God –and God alone — for such purpose?

Here is an example of a situation where we can focus on some particular Scripture passage and build a whole doctrine that thus disregards the testimony of other Bible passages.

For example, we can take hold of what Psalm 60:11 (NKJV) declares [“The help of man is useless” (KJV, “vain”)], and conclude that we should never, ever look to or use the help of any man. Add to that what Psalm 39:5 (NKJV) says [“Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor”(KJV, “vanity”), and one can get the sense that indeed the help of man is useless and vain.

Presumably from such a perspective an accusation has been made of me as looking to men instead of God. And this was occasioned by my mentioning the late pastor-general of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) as having ordained me, in 1984, as “a minister of the Gospel of Christ” [see: Just What Do You Mean – Christ-centered?], and my often referring to his writings and teachings in my own writings and preaching. Thus the validity of my ministry is being questioned.

What can we learn from “The Whole Counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) in this — and other spiritual matters or issues, for that matter?

On ordination or “laying on of hands”

First, let’s take the matter of ordination. Why should we make a big thing about this? Simply because ordination or the “laying on of hands” is one of the “elementary principles” of Christ and the Christian faith (Hebrews 6:1-2, NKJV). The venerable King James Version (KJV) renders this as the “first principles.” It’s like saying these are “Grade-1” stuff! Or, for adults, “Bible 101.”

Ordination is something very basic in the Christian faith. Yet many still don’t have a clear and ready understanding of what it means and what its importance is to a Christian believer. The apostle Paul, who decidedly wrote this letter to the Hebrew Christians [see: Who Wrote the Letter to the Hebrews?], said that those who needed to have the matter rehashed or explained again had not moved on to higher spiritual principles. He compared them to spiritual “babes” [immature] needing spiritual “milk” and still unable to handle spiritual “solid food” or “meat” [for adults or mature people], and therefore not yet qualified to become teachers of God’s word (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Nevertheless, it is not wrong to need or even desire “spiritual “milk.”  The apostle Peter admonishes: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word [of God], that you may grow  thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” ( 1 Peter 2:1-3).

With this in view, just the same let me explain further here about the Biblical principle of the “laying on of hands,” in hopes that those who read this will grow in spiritual understanding and thus attain to a better, more mature stature as a Christian – better qualified to teach others, whenever called to do so.

The Bible shows at least three instances where God commands the laying on of hands:

1.  Sacrificial animals offered for a person’s or a community’s sins had hands laid on them by the sinner and/or a priest, as a symbol of transferring the sin on to the sacrifice, thereby atoning for the sin  (Leviticus 1-4; 8; 16). [See: Forgiveness in the Bible  and Two Goats Together.]

2.  To impart particular blessings like inheritance and healing of diseases. Some examples:

  •     Isaac blessing Jacob (Genesis 27).
  •     Jesus healing the sick (Matthew 20:33-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43).
  •     Jesus’ apostles/elders commissioned to lay their hands on the sick to make them well (Mark 16:18; James 5:14-15).

3.  To ordain people to an office of authority or service:

  •     Moses ordaining Joshua as his successor (Deuteronomy 34:9).
  •     Aaron and his sons consecrated as priests (Exodus 29:1-19; 28:41).
  •     Kings anointed by prophet (1 Samuel 9:22-10:12; 16:1-12;1 Kings 19:16).
  •     Ministers appointed to various services in the new Testament Church (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:22; 3:6; Titus 1:5-9).

Ordination in our times

The late founder and pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) Herbert W. Armstrong came to understand the basic Bible principle of the laying on of hands. As he diligently searched the Scriptures, and received understanding of many Bible precepts not understood properly by other preachers, Herbert Armstrong felt a definite sense of Christ calling him into His ministry.

At the same time, he had been studying the true history of the true Church of God founded by Christ in 31 A.D. He believed that such a church has survived through the centuries as Jesus promised. His studies led him to finding a remnant of that church in the Church of God Seventh Day. He later came to understand this church to be a part of what he saw as the “Sardis era” of the Church (Revelation 3:1-6). It was in this church that Mr. Armstrong was ordained by the elders to the office of an elder and “apostle.” He recalls this in his autobiography, which may be accessed through this link: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets, and scroll down to the booklet titled “The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong.”  While on this link, you may also scroll down to the booklet titled “A True History of the True Church.”

Through this ordination Mr. Armstrong claimed to have been given, by Christ, the authority to teach Christ’s gospel as handed down from the original apostles. While he consulted Bible helps like commentaries, concordances, dictionaries and literature of other church denominations, Mr. Armstrong maintained that he had asked for direct guidance and understanding through God’s Spirit and that he did not depend on this literature to shape his understanding and formation of Christ’s doctrines.  Thus he wrote and spoke (through radio and TV) with such authority and conviction that many considered him a modern-day “prophet.” However, some who disagree with Mr. Armstrong’s views of Scripture, have labeled him a “false prophet.” Many, even in the leadership of the former Worldwide Church of God (WCG)  — now “transformed” into an “evangelical” denomination and renamed Grace Communion International (GCI) – have so judged him, too. [See: Where Is God’s Church Today?   and About the Author.]

As I relate in my brief above-mentioned biography, I took up Mr. Armstrong’s challenge to his readers and listeners/viewers to “prove all things” from the Bible and not merely believe what people say, but rather to see what the Bible really says, and believe what one finds written there. I believe I was led by God’s Spirit as I did my searching and studying of Scripture, while checking Mr. Armstrong’s claims, against or vis-à-vis the Bible. I believe that I did not simply and blindly follow Herbert Armstrong, as a former WCG evangelist accused WCG members of having done.

I also submit that this position of mine can be demonstrated in how I have reconsidered Mr, Armstrong’s long-standing teaching about the “azazel” goat of Leviticus 16 picturing Satan the Devil.  [See: Two Goats Together, especially the box titled “Reexamining the roots of our beliefs.”]

The apostolic teaching on regard for church leaders

We come now to Scripture verses which many church leaders love! Let’s see what the apostles Paul and Peter had to say about how we are to regard church leaders.

Paul , the author of the letter to the Hebrews [see: Who Wrote the Letter to the Hebrews?], wrote: “ Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct… Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:7-17).

Paul also instructed:   “We urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Church brethren who fail to follow Paul’s admonition here often run into conflicts and disagreements – have no peace at all among themselves! Jesus Christ – who is ever alive and is managing His Church even to this very minute! – has ordained the various offices of His ministry in order to edify church brethren so “we can come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature and fullness of Christ, that we should no longer be children [spiritually immature], tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Peter also exhorted church elders to serve the brethren “not as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1-3). He also exhorted: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ [quoted from Proverbs 3:34]. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (Verses 5-7).

Thus we can see that there is, after all, God’s instruction for us to look to or regard highly those church leaders whom Jesus has placed over His church. While we are not to “idolize” these leaders, we are to look to and follow their Godly examples and Biblically true and sound teachings. Even in our everyday, mundane life, are we not being encouraged to read or study and learn from the biographies of noble men and women who are worthy of emulation?

Paul also wrote to the evangelist Titus, concerning the qualities to look for in a candidate for ordination as a “bishop” or overseer in Church that he should be “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:5-9).

Paul also told his protege Timothy: “Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7). Furthermore: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them…” (2 Timothy 3:14).

In the case of Titus and Timothy – and other church leaders at the time, for that matter – Paul told them to teach as they had been taught by, and had learned God’s word from, the one who had taught them, Paul himself, who was personally taught by Christ and who received an abundance of revelations from Him (Galatians 1:11-12, 15-16; Acts 26:16; 2 Corinthians 12:7).

It’s not a matter of following whatever we “have been taught” by just any person. The teacher must be evaluated or “tested” [“proved”] using the standard for truth, God’s word (Isaiah 8:20). For, even in the early days of the New Testament Church of God, many false teachers had wormed their way into the church and misled some brethren, even wrecking their faith (2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1; Acts 20:29-31; 2 Corinthians 11:12-15). [See: Leanings.]

Many who feel they have been “sent” by God to teach on His behalf today are actually self-appointed, and have not really been sent by God. Jeremiah 14:14-16 and Ezekiel 13:3-9 show that this has happened to Israel, just as it is happening to God’s church today!  And what a dire end God pronounces on such deceivers! May they heed God’s warning and repent before it is too late! [See: “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie.”]

How to know what is “truth”

God has not left it entirely to our human device or intellect to determine what is truth and what is falsehood. Our natural minds simply cannot know or understand “the things of God…the deep things of God” unless we have received the Spirit of God, and “have the mind of Christ,”  for these things “are spiritually discerned” – not understood or accepted by the merely natural or unaided knowledge and understanding of man (1 Corinthians 2:2-16).

The one same Spirit that inspires the teacher or preacher of Christ’s gospel (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28, 29; Romans 10:14-15) also inspires the hearers to understand God’s message and truth, come to repentance, be baptized, and have God’s Spirit beget them as children of God and  as brethren (brothers and sisters) of Christ. And that depends on God to call such persons to understand the truth in this present age, or at a later age.  [See: The Divine Prerogatives, Predestination, This Is not the Only Day of Salvation and Are We All God’s Children?]

God’s Holy Spirit is a “gift” – something God gives to people who have come to believe the gospel of Christ, have repented of their sins, have been baptized for the remission of their sins, and have had the hands of Christ’s ordained minister laid on them for the receipt of God’s free gift of His Spirit. As Acts 2:38-39 puts it:   “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized for the remission of 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 our God shall call.”

As His brethren, true Christians are led by the Spirit of Christ in them “into all truth” (John 16:13). As “sheep” of His pasture, they will listen to and hear only the voice of Jesus as their “Shepherd” (John 10:2-5, 14, 27).  They will turn away from the voice of “strangers.” Jesus told Pilate:  “I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).

As the ever-living Head of the Church of God, Jesus has personally set in place the different offices of His ministry in order that  His people, the church brethren, will come to and have “the unity of the  faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the stature of the fullness  of Christ, that we should no longer be children [spiritually immature], tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body [the church], joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

This way, all the brethren will have the same mind of Christ in them, they will speak the same things [be “on the same page,” as we’d say today] (Philippians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 1:10), and grow as mature Christians.

This is all a part of the “elementary principle” of “the laying on of hands,” as mentioned above. It is a serious matter that shouldn’t be despised, made fun of or belittled! The Bible teaches that all authority comes from God and should neither be despised, nor usurped. [See: The Sin of Rebellion.]

In New Testament times, as in the Old Testament there were those who took it upon themselves to teach things [they usurped the authority to teach] contrary to what God’s called and chosen servants had taught (2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:1-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Jude 4; 1 John 4:1-6; ). Paul warned church leaders that, after his departure, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves [the church leaders!] men will rise up, speaking perverse things [errors and unScriptural teachings] to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30).

In addition, Paul warned Timothy:  “For the time will come when they [some in the Church of God] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they [those brethren] will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables [falsehoods]. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:3-5).

Those who accuse me of looking to Herbert Armstrong and other servants of God should look themselves in the mirror. If you are not looking to Mr. Armstrong and company, WHO are you looking to? WHO are you “itching” to hear, instead?  Are you so original in your thinking that you have not borrowed from other teachers?  What are all those website articles that promote contrary doctrines, and of which you boast? As Jesus said, “Judge [condemn] not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, It will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

Let’s get it straight!  I did not start the judging about looking to men.  I was just “fulfilling my ministry” as I know well how, when I had this “brickbat” thrown at me.

In defense of his ministry

The apostle Paul had his share of afflictions from those who questioned his authority to preach the gospel of Christ as he did. 2 Corinthians 10-12 is his articulate defense of his ministry and authority to teach.

In the final analysis, all teachers [or “prophets”] will be judged by their “fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20). Without evidencing those “fruits,” false prophets will be shown for what they are:  “ravenous wolves” in “sheep’s clothing!”

What “fruits” is God looking for in those who claim to serve Him?

For one, there should be the nine-faceted “fruit of the [Holy] Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-26). For another, there should be the “fruit of righteousness sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). Psalm 119:172 says, “For all your commandments are righteousness.” Those who teach that God’s commandments are no longer to be obeyed obviously do not have the “fruit of righteousness” and disturb the peace of God’s people.  For Psalm 119:164 declares:  “Great  peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.”

The “work of God”

Let’s get it straight from Jesus’ mouth:  “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). Jesus here referred to Himself as the One sent by God. If we believe this, we would also believe that Jesus “sends” whomever He wills, to preach what He preached and do whatever He commands them (John 20:21; Mark 16:15-18). [See: About Pool of Siloam, Where is God’s Church Today?  and Leanings.]

While God sends human beings to fulfill whatever His purpose may be, He clearly declares: “Most assuredly I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20).

To regard and even accept or receive one sent by Christ to teach His word, is not to look to mere men.  To fail to do the former may actually be to fail to look to God as well!

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
100419/202419

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“Be Holy, for I Am Holy”

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in  all your conduct, because it is written,Be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1: 13-15, quoting Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7)

This call to “holiness” is by the apostle Peter, who declared it  to the readers of his first epistle –  to “the pilgrims of the dispersion [Greek, diaspora] in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1).

This is the first thing to notice in the matter of “holiness”:  there has to be a call [some call it a “vocation”]  — an invitation by a holy God for a person to become holy as He is holy.  As Peter continued to describe the “pilgrims,” they were “elect” {Greek, eklektos, the derivative of the word “eclectic” – meaning “chosen,” “picked out,” “elected”], according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (Verse 2).

It is God the Father who chooses when and who among the millions of human beings on this earth are to be brought near to His Son, Jesus Christ, who is also called “the Holy One [Greek, hagios] of God” (Acts 2:27; 3:14). [See: Peter Knew “the Holy One.”] As John 6:44 quotes Jesus as saying, “No one  can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Verse 65 repeats, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” [See: The Divine Prerogatives.]

The concept of “holiness”

“Holiness” [from the Greek eusebeia] is also compared with “godliness” (1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 3:5;Titus 12:1; 23 Peter 1:3, 6, 7; 3:11) – the state of being “Godly” or like God.

“Holy” is translated from the Hebrew qadosh, meaning “sacred” – as contrasted with profane or ungodly, evil.  In the New Testament “holy” is translated from the Greek hagios, meaning morally pure – sinless, consecrated.

Holiness, therefore, is equal to moral purity or sinlessness. As such, God stands alone as the Perfect One. Jesus said, “No one is good but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17). In contrast, all human beings – whom God created with free moral choice – have chosen to sin, and have sinned and fallen short of the glory [perfection] of God (Romans 3:23).  [See: “My Brain Made Me Do it!  and Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe — But Man!]

Sin entered our human community early, soon after God created our first parents, Adam and Eve.  [For a detailed explanation, see: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]

So, how can sinful man ever become “holy” as God is holy?

First, God has to choose a sinner, to set him or her apart [“sanctify”] from the rest of sinful humanity.  For what purpose?  In order to save the sinner from the consequence of his or her sin – death, “For the wages [consequence] of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).

It is the prerogative of God to show mercy to whomever He will (Romans 9:14) – and when.  To such persons God applies His mercy – and thus removes the death penalty which every sinner deserves. [See: The Divine Prerogatives, and This Is not the Only Day of Salovation.]

How is this possible? God, assures John 3:16, “so loved the world [humankind] that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus was the LORD  God of the Old testament who, by some divine miracle, became a human being so He could die as the only worthy sacrifice in payment (and thus forgiveness] for all the sins of mankind, so that all who believe in Him will not perish [die] but have everlasting life. [See: The Ransomed of the LORD, The True Christ, and Transgressions Under the First Covenant.]

Not only does a believer in Christ receive forgiveness for his or her sin. They also receive the gift of God’s Spirit, after they have repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38). It is that Holy Spirit of God in such persons that makes them “holy” or “sanctified.” They thus become “saints” [Greek hagioi  or Latin sancta; Spanish santos or santas].

Revelation 14:12 describes or defines who God’s “saints” are: “here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

Romans 8:7 affirms that the “carnal” or the natural, fleshly mind of man “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”

The only way by which carnal persons can be subject to [or obey] God’s law is for them to have the “Spirit of Christ,” which thus makes them belong to Christ (Verses 13, 9) who is the”Holy One of God.” [See: Peter Knew “the Holy One.”]

It is that Holy Spirit of Christ in true Christians that enables or empowers them to obey God’s law or commandments.  [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the SpiritBreaking Down Our “Walls of Jericho, and Saved For Good Works.]  It is that Spirit [which is “holy”] that makes true Christians also “holy.”

The command [for so it is] to “Be holy,” is not in the same category as “Be healed,” which is solely by divine act of healing the sick. “Be holy” is more in a sense similar to Christ’s command, “Be perfect, as your heavenly  Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, KJV). Perfection involves man’s participation in the process by using his power of choice as, for instance, in resisting the Devil (James 4:7), abstaining from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11), etc.

To understand more about the pursuit and attainment of “holiness,” see, besides the aforementioned links: The Flaming Sword East of Eden, Are We All God’s Children? and “I Never Knew You!”

Thus we can fulfill what God commands us, through the apostle Peter: “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1: 3-15).

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
300119/180319

Just What Do You Mean — “Christ-centered?”

Most evangelical denominations claim to be “Christ-centered” and preach the “gospel of Jesus Christ.”  In contrast, other denominations — such as the original Worldwide Church of God (WCG) — believe that a true Christian should rather focus on God the Father and honor Him more than they should Christ. That is, that the focus or center of the church’s worship and preaching should be God the Father and the “kingdom of God” – not Jesus Christ and the “gospel of Christ.”

Some Scriptural support for being “God-centered”

Among the Scripture passages used to support the case for being “God- or Father-centered” versus being “Christ-centered are the following:

•    John 14:28   — “…My Father is greater than I.” The “Sender” (God the Father) is greater than the One “Sent (Christ).” [NKJV throughout] Jesus often said that He could do or say nothing except what the Father had sent Him to do (John 6:38; 7:16; 8:26, 28-29; 12:49-50; 14:31).

•    Matthew 6:9    — “In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (See also Matthew 6:6; Jesus Himself prayed to His Father, Matthew 26:53; John 14:16; 16:27; 17:1-26; Luke 22:42; 23:34, 46.)

•    1 Corinthians 15:27-28 – “For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says, ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He [the Father] who put all things under Him [Jesus] is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

•    John 17:11, 6   – “…Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are… They were Yours.” That’s why the WCG was named, based on 12 New Testament scriptures, “Church of God” – not “Church of Christ.” [For more understanding of the true, Biblical name of God’s Church, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “A True History of the True Church.”]

Because of this emphasis, the WCG had been accused of putting more weight on the Old Testament, and the Old Covenant, and thus minimizing the honor due Jesus and the New Covenant.

On the other hand, some have asked: Do we thus lay aside or make “inferior” God the Father when we make Christ the center of our worship and our gospel?

Considering the “whole counsel of God”

Following the example of the apostle Paul, who said: “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), let us consider The “Whole Counsel of God” – through His word, the Bible, on the matter.

1. Without Christ we cannot know the Father.

In John 14:6  Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

•    John 1:51 – “…I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Like the ladder to heaven and angels ascending and descending on it in Jacob’s dream at Luz or Bethel (Genesis 28:12), Jesus is the true “Stairway to Heaven” – our one and only access to the Father in heaven.

•    1 Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” “Mama Mary” – or other dead “saints”– cannot be such, in addition to Christ! [See: Mary Worship.]

•    Luke 10:22 – “…no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Without Christ, we cannot even know God the Father, let alone worship Him.

•    John 14:9 – “…He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” There is so much unity and oneness between the Father and the Son that seeing the Son is like seeing the Father also. Jesus is the faithful and true image of the Father (Colossians 1:15 – “He is the image of the invisible God…”).  This doesn’t mean, however, that God the Father and Jesus His Son are one and the same Person, as Unitarians wrongly believe and preach. [See:  The Trinity Doctrine Reconsidered.]

•    John 5:37 – “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”

•    John 1:18 – “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Unless Christ had declared or revealed who God the Father is, we wouldn’t know nor worship Him rightly.  [See:  True Worship.]

2.  The Father Himself tells us to hear His Son.

Because the Father Himself has not personally spoken to men, He has appointed or sent Jesus to be His “Spokesman” (Greek, Logos) to declare who He is, and what His will is for us.

•    Matthew 17:5 – “…This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (see also Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). This wasn’t the Father’s actual voice, however; otherwise it would be a contradiction to what Jesus said in John 5:37. It seems more likely that the “voice” heard was that of an angel speaking on behalf of the Father. “…Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him’” (John 12:27-28).

•    Hebrews 1:1-2 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…”

•    Mark 9:37 – “…whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” (See also Luke 9:48.) To receive Jesus is to hear and obey Him – accept His Words and do them – and thereby also receive the Father.

•    John 10:27 – “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” As those whom God the Father has chosen to draw to His Son (John 6:44, 65)  and as His “elect” now, God’s true people hear Jesus’ voice and follow or obey Him only.

3.  God the Father has given all power and authority to Jesus Christ.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). We might compare this to the relationship between the Chairman of the Board and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a company or corporation. Like, for example, company owner Henry Ford “making” cars (not personally) but through his executive officer or manager.

•    Hebrews 1:2 – “…through whom [Jesus] also He [the Father] made the worlds.” Jesus is the Creator God who made the visible and invisible heavens and the earth. [See also John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16.] John 1:1 calls Jesus “the Word” (Greek logos), because — as also God Himself — He created the worlds through His word or command. “When He commanded, they were created,” as Psalm 148:5 affirms.

•    Hebrews 1:3 – “…upholding all things by the word of His power…” Colossians 1:17 says, “…in Him [Jesus] all things consist.” Jesus has both the power to create and sustain the creation through the power of His word. Even as God incarnate [God in the form of human flesh], Jesus had full powers over the material universe and the spirits. He could walk on water, calm stormy waters, heal the sick, raise the dead back to life, read people’s thoughts, cast out demons; He had the authority to call legions of angels to His aid if necessary, etc. He was the YHVH of the Old Testament who dealt with mankind, from Adam to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses and all the prophets of old. He struck a covenant with the children of Israel, according to His unconditional promise to the fathers, and gave them His law at Mt. Sinai.  [See: Peter Knew “The Holy One” and The True Christ.]

•    John 5:22   – “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” – that is, at Jesus’ return. At His first coming, Jesus did not condemn or judge the world (John 3:17). While Jesus hasn’t returned, His words (both the Old and the New Testaments) will judge mankind – especially those called to salvation now, in this present age (John 12:48; 1 Peter 4:17).

•    Acts 4:12 – “…for there is no other name [than Jesus] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And, as our risen Lord, He is our “High Priest” at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us (Hebrews 4:15-16; 7:25). We are to look to Jesus for help in our time of need (Hebrews 12:1-2) – physical or spiritual.

•    John 17:6-7   – “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.” While the church is kept in the Father’s (God’s) name, the church also belongs to Jesus Christ. That is why Paul mentions “the churches of Christ,” in Romans 16:16.

4.  Jesus is worthy of worship.

The angels, “living creatures” and spirit-elders in heaven worship Jesus: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12, 14).

•    Acts 3:14-15 – “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” Jesus was the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 45:11-12, etc., etc.) whom the Israelites worshiped (or should have!).

•    Matthew 28:9, 17 – “…So they came and held Him [the resurrected Jesus] by the feet and worshiped Him.” See also Luke 24:52 and John 9:38.

•    Philippians 2:9-11 – “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him [Jesus] 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 of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

5.  We honor the Father when we honor Jesus.

“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22-23). We honor Jesus best by imitating Him! Paul’s goal for the church was that Christ be formed in the brethren (Galatians 4:19).

•    John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.”  [See also John 17:22.] Jesus and the Father are so close and harmonious in their relationship that they are “one” in much the same way that in a healthy relationship a husband and his wife become “one” although they are two distinct persons |(Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). For this reason, when we honor Jesus, we automatically honor the Father as well.

•    Luke 6:46 —   “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” We honor and love Jesus as our Lord when we keep His commandments and words: “If you love Me, keep My commandments…He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…” (John 14:15, 21). Jesus’ commandments are found not only in the New Testament, but also in the Old, because it was He (before His mysterious human birth) who gave Israel the commandments to live by. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them [Israel in the wilderness], and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). [See: Is Jesus Your Lord — Really? The Law of Christ, and The True Christ.]

•    Acts 7:59-60 – “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin’…” While Jesus taught that our prayers should, in general, be addressed to the Father (Matthew 6: 6,9), we have the example of Stephen to show that it is not wrong to address Jesus directly in our prayers when the occasion calls for it. It’s like Peter, who while sinking in the water, called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).

From these scriptural testimonies, I trust that it is clear and inevitable that our focus of worship and obedience should be Jesus. We do not thus disregard God the Father, nor do we make Him inferior to Jesus Christ.  We need to look to Jesus as “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). God the Father has so appointed Him, that Jesus tells us: “…without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

That is why the apostle Paul has declared, in Colossians 1:18 – “And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church…that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Jesus should be preeminent and central in the life of the church!

That is why we are to preach “the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” My certificate of ordination to the rank of “preaching elder” on Feb. 5, 1982 done by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong when he was in Manila designates me as a qualified “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We preach not only Jesus’ person, but also – and more importantly – what He taught [the “gospel or “good news”] through His Holy Word (the Bible) about the way to salvation from sin and to living a life that is pleasing to Him and the Father and leading to everlasting life. “More than Thy name, Thy Word is enlarged,” (as Psalm 138:2 has been paraphrased).

Those in the evangelical circles who claim to be “Christ-centered” and are preaching “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and call Him “Lord, Lord” but do not do what He says (Luke 6:46) are not centered on the true and real Jesus! Instead, they worship someone they “know not what or who”(John 4:22) – a false Christ! Jesus prophesied that, in these our end times, many “false Christs” and “false prophets” would proliferate (Matthew 24:24), deceiving many – even, if  it were possible, the “elect” – the true people of God! [See: Fake News , Beware of False Prophets  and Is Jesus Your Lord — Really?]

False worship

Claiming to be “Christ-centered,” these evangelicals observe “Christmas” – supposedly in honor of Christ. But since the Bible definitely shows that Jesus could not have been born anywhere near December, these evangelicals (among them, sadly, brethren in the WCG, now renamed “Grace Communion International” or GCI) are observing a lie!

Jesus said that the Father seeks those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Celebrating a lie honors neither Jesus nor the Father! Nor does celebrating the Lord’s memorial of His death (Passover) on the wrong date honor Jesus. [Evangelicals, following the dictum of Pope Gregory centuries ago, observe “Maundy Thursday” (Maundy means “commanded” – by the pope!) and “Good Friday.” Those who have studied the Hebrew or Jewish calendar know very well that Jesus wasn’t crucified on a Friday, nor was He resurrected on a Sunday, which most observe as “Easter.”) [For more understanding concerning these issues, see this link: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org., click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklets titled “The Plain Truth About Christmas,” “Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which?””How Often Should We Partake of the ‘Lord’s Supper?’” The Plain Truth About  Easter,” and“The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday!]

As a result of this deception, these evangelicals have turned against the Holy Days of God as some kind of “bondage” – even, as one church leader suggests, a stumbling block to Gentiles accepting the Gospel of Jesus. Nothing could be more wrong! God’s festivals are actually all about Christ and His saving work! [See: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed? and True Worship.]

To evangelicals, the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” tells about such love of God for sinners that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our forgiveness from sin and our ransom from death (as John 3:16 famously declares). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.]  All Christians should believe this, too – absolutely!  Evangelicals glory in the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary – and rightly so, as true Christians should also. But evangelicals stop short at that. They refuse to see that the grace and forgiveness of God given us through Christ empowers us, through Christ’s Spirit, to obey God’s laws and do good works. [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit and God’s Spirit and Obedience.]

Paul wrote to Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14). Paul also wrote: “For we are His workmanship, created in  Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  [See: Saved for Good Works  and “I Never Knew You!”]

Evangelicals, through their lopsided gospel of grace, have blinded themselves (and others) to Jesus’ reply to the young ruler who asked Him the way to eternal life: “…if you want to enter into life [everlasting], keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17). Jesus also reveals: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city [the New Jerusalem]” (Revelation 22:14).

In reality, the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” is not only about His person, but also about the Kingdom of God, and how one may enter it. The apostle Paul preached about both Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Acts 28: 23, 31).

We are heading in the right direction when we become Christ-centered and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom.

Why should we be Christ-centered and preach the real Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Jesus gives us a good reason: “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor (John 12:26). The Father will not honor us if we worship Jesus in a way He has commanded us not to – by applying pagan holidays and practices and “claiming” them for Christ – to use these to worship Jesus (Deuteronomy 12:30). To them, Jesus would say: “‘In vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:7-8).

When we love and honor Jesus by keeping His commandments, He and the Father will love us in a special way: “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 love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

Is it any wonder that The True Christ has not really revealed Himself to these evangelicals? Instead, they have preached a false “Christ” and a false “gospel.”

The greatest honor we can hope to receive from the Father is to be called His very own children in the fullest sense! To become truly a part of His glorious household, His divine family, His everlasting kingdom – and to enjoy “at [His] right hand…pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11)! Pleasures now unimaginable! [See: Are We All God’s Children?]

In order to receive that honor, let’s be truly Christ-centered — as I have explained –and be 100% behind the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez Jr.
26 02 2011/090320019

“Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie”

“But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (Revelation 22:15).

Excluded, along with other unrepentant sinners, from having the right to eat of the “tree of life”  (and to thus have everlasting life) and to enter through the gates into the eternal city of God – the “New Jerusalem” – is “whoever loves and practices a lie.”

Earlier, in Revelation 21:8, all such sinners and “all liars” will “[have had] their part” [will have burned to ashes] in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Malachi 4:1, 3 describes that coming day as one “burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble, and the day which is coming shall burn them up…. for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.”  The “you” addressed here are those “who fear My [God’s] name “ (Verse 2). [See: Can We Love and Fear God at the Same Time?]

That punishment will be  so final and ultimate that it will leave the wicked “neither root nor branch” (Verse 1, last part) – with no prospect of ever being brought back to life again. [See: Why is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]

On the list of “seven abominations” [things which God hates or detests thoroughly (Proverbs 6:16-19|)],  the sin of “lying” is mentioned twice! – as “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who speaks lies.” That shows how serious God considers the sin of lying is!
It is quite significant that the first-ever sin of mankind came as a result of our first parents [Adam and Eve] believing the lies foisted on them by God’s arch-enemy Satan the Devil, in the guise of a serpent. The famous story is found in Genesis 2 and 3. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”] That’s how we all became “children” of the Devil instead of, originally, the “children of God.”  [See: Are We All God’s Children?]

Lying and flattery

A close “brother” or “ally” to lying is flattery. To “flatter” is to make rough or tough things smoother and less undesirable than they really and truly are. Speaking about an enemy, the psalmist David said of him that “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Psalm 55:21). We have the expression “to butter up a person” to mean to flatter him. The whole concept of flattery is to distort the truth [particularly when it’s bad or evil]  in  order to make it look good, even attractive.

Satan, whom Jesus called the “father of liars” (John 8:44), deceived Mother Eve into partaking of the fruit God forbade, by flattering her with lies. He subtly insinuated that Eve deserved more than what God was offering her. That, if she ate the forbidden fruit, she wouldn’t really die, but she would, instead, become “like God” – having the “knowledge of good and evil,” meaning having the right and power to decide for herself what is good and what is evil. Thus Eve was led to believe that the forbidden fruit would make her “wise.” [See  “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]

Thus Satan has taken not just a “foothold” in the minds and hearts of Eve’s descendants – all of us human beings who have ever been born since [except Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:21-22)] – but a “stronghold”  (2 Corinthians 10:4)!  So strong is that hold that the apostle Paul compared it to being taken in “the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). That is why man is unable to do God’s will instead of Satan’s will — unless God imtervenes to help man break away from that hold.

Is it any wonder that many, presently under the powerful sway of the Devil, have passed off lies for the truth? [See:  Fake News, Beware of False Prophets!  Switching Positive and Negative,  and Leanings.]  Jesus said that in the “last days,” before “the end of the age” – our time today – there would be many false prophets and teachers (Matthew 24:3, 11, 24), deceiving the majority of people, not just a few.

The Devil’s deception is aggravated by the tendency of man to think of himself more highly than he ought (Romans 12:3).  Psalm 56:2 also mentions our human tendency to “flatter” ourselves in our own eyes. [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man?]

Satan has used a powerful “instrument” to deceive the “whole world” (Revelation 12:9). And that instrument  is a spiritual “Babylon.”  Revelation 17:5  labels her “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” As a “harlot” or prostitute, Babylon has in her hands “a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication” (Verse 4). All nations have drunk of that cup and have become drunk with its “wine.” [See: Drunk With Strange Wine.]

Proverbs 2:16; 7:8, 21; and 26:28 warn about being taken in by a “strange woman,” such as that which“Babylon” embodies, as she will bring ruin to all who succumb to her flatteries and lies.

In contrast, the apostle Paul never used flattery in his writings and dealings with church brethren (1 Thessalonians 2:3). He wrote and spoke only the truth (2 Corinthians 7:14; 11:10; 12:6; Galatians 4:16; 1 Timothy 2:7). He might well have condemned false teachers, as Isaiah 30:10 does those who “do not prophesy right things” but speak “smooth things” and “prophesy deceits.”

God promises to “cut off the flattering tongue” (Psalm 12:2-3). God may not literally cut off such tongue. But a worse fate awaits those who will not forsake lies. instead of embracing the truth. As Revelation 22:15 and 21:8 clearly tell us, all liars and those who love and practice lies will suffer the “second death” in the “lake of fire,” in the ultimate judgment.

Today many who preach and teach lies, and those who believe and follow them, are deluded into believing lies to be truth when, in fact, they are not (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). Thus Paul warns: “Let him who thinks he stands [thinks he is believing truths and not lies], take heed lest he falls” (1 Corinthians 10:12) — he is proven to be false, in the final judgment. Jesus, who is the embodiment of truth, said “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 14:6; 212:48).

God condemned Job’s “friends” who spoke lies about Job and why God was dealing with him the way He did.  So God will also condemn those  preachers who “have not spoken of Me [God] what is right as My servant Job [or God’s true servant today] has” (Job 42:7-8).

Coming out of the snare of lies

It is simply impossible for a man to come out of the satanic grip of lies, on his own strength. Man has to be yanked out and freed from that bondage and servitude through the power and Spirit of Jesus Christ, who alone is our Savior, and no One else (Isaiah 43:11; Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13). [See:   Freed From BondageAre We All God’s Children? About “Pool-of-Siloam,” The Higher Law of the Spirit, and Where Is God’s Church Today?]

With Christ’s Spirit we can understand God’s truth (John 16:13), love it, and practice it. It is the “love of the truth” that will ultimately save us (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Jesus said that His words are spirit, life and truth (John 6:63; 18:37).

Will you strive to know God’s truth by proving things with His word and stick to it (1 Thessalonians 5:21|), love and practice God’s truth now, instead of loving and practicing lies? I certainly hope and pray so!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
281218/230119

Devising Evil by Law

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood” (Psalm 94:17-21).

What does it mean for a human being, particularly one in a position of authority, to “devise evil by law?”

First of all, what is “evil?”  As understood by most, evil is the opposite of “good.” But, as we also know, individuals and peoples have their own idea of what is evil and what is good. What some may consider good may be bad to others, and vice-versa.

Although many may not like it, it is actually God’s sole prerogative to decide and dictate what is good and what is evil. [See: The Divine Prerogatives.] Satan, in the guise of a serpent, got our first mother (Eve), to choose to disobey God regarding His prohibition to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree [the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”] by making her believe that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would become like God – knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:1-22). [See:  “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and  The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

When we come right down to it, any act or conduct conceived of and enacted by anyone – regardless of status in life – that is directly contrary to the law of God is evil! For, as the “sweet psalmist” and a man after God’s own heart, Israel’s great King David (2 Samuel 23:1;1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) , affirmed:  “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).

God’s “law,” of course,  refers to God’s “code of conduct,” put into a formal code of laws as recorded in the books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – known as the “Pentateuch” or the “first five books” of the Old Testament.  Jews refer to these books as comprising their torah or “book of the law” or “the law of Moses.”

In a larger sense, however, the “law” of God includes the entire writings of the Bible!

In one of His confrontations with the Jews, Jesus was accused by them of blasphemy “because You, being a man, make Yourself God.” To which Jesus replied, “Is it not written in your law [Greek, nomos], ‘I said, “You are gods”’ (John 10:33-34). This particular quotation from the Jews’ “law” was actually taken from Psalm 94:20. Here the Psalms, which are a part of what Bible scholars call the “writings,” are actually referred to by Christ as the “law.”

In John 15:25, Jesus tells His disciples about those (especially the Jews) who hated Him and His Father, that “…this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.”  This passage is also quoted from another psalm, Psalm 69:4, also referred to as a part of the Jews’ “law.”

Psalm 119:142 declares, “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.”  Jesus also said to His heavenly Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). God’s word or truth, in a manner of speaking, thus becomes His law, and His righteousness (Psalm 119:172). As Psalm 119: 96 also asserts:  “I have seen the consummation of all perfection, but Your commandment is exceedingly broad.” God’s law is so broad that it can encompass all aspects of life!

The apostle Paul referred to the narrative about Abraham and his dealings with his wife Sarah and their Egyptian servant Hagar as having been written in “the law” (Galatians 4:21-31; Genesis 16). Paul also referred to fulfilling Christ’s instructions and commandments, especially regarding loving one another as He has loved us, as fulfilling “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2; John  13:34). Such would be the case when Christians “bear one another’s burdens,” as Paul exhorts.  [See:  The Law of Christ.]

The writings of the “prophets” who testified for God, which they have left with us, are God’s written testimony as inspired by Christ or His Spirit(Revelation 19:10; 2 Peter 1:21; 12 Corinthians 3:17). God’s prophets invariably refer to God’s law when they reprove or rebuke people for their sins, which are transgressions of God’s law (1 John 3:4, especially KJV). Thus, to commit sin is also to commit evil!

Evil laws passed by leaders

Because they are in a position of authority, leaders and rulers who espouse evil concepts of conduct for people can impose or enforce those concepts on others, the dire judgment of God for evil will fall on themselves and their followers (Romans 6:23).

Under inspiration by the “god of this age,” Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4), some leaders have devised and implemented laws that worked evil for God’s people and others.   As mentioned earlier, Satan started the ball rolling when he got our first parents, Adam and Eve, to devise their own concepts of good and evil – setting up standards or norms of conduct contrary to God’s law.  [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Sin of Rebellion.]

Since the earliest days of human “civilization,” men have devised laws that promote worship of gods other than the true God and Creator of all things.  This is idolatry, which is forbidden by the first two of God’s “Ten Commandments” (Exodus 20:1-17). Archeological evidence dug from the remains of early and later civilizations reveals the widespread worship of idols, gods and goddesses.

One of the earliest human patriarchs, Lamech, proclaimed a “law” which greatly multiplied the vengeance God had allowed to be taken for the death of Cain (“sevenfold”) – by as much as “seventy-seven fold” (Genesis 4:15, 24). Is it any wonder that many generations later, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and…every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually;” “all flesh [humanity] had corrupted their way on the earth,” and “the earth [was] filled with violence through them” (Genesis 6:8, 12, 13)?

As a result, God sent a worldwide flood to destroy all mankind and other air-breathing creatures, except Noah and his family, and the animals sheltered in the ark (Genesis 6-8).  [See:  The Battles of the Almighty.] That’s how mankind and today’s animals (fauna) have survived and thrived again.

Before long, after that flood a band of human beings devised a plan, and as it were bound it as a law among themselves: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). This was contrary to God’s will and command for them to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1, 7).

God caused the people’s one common language to be confounded or broken up into different languages, so that the people would become scattered through all the earth (Genesis 11:7-9), and so fulfill His purpose. The remains of the “tower of Babel” stand as an eloquent testimony of God’s judgment on this evil.

Among the early post-flood civilizations of man was that of Egypt. It was when the children of Israel had taken refuge in Egypt—thanks to their countryman hero Joseph, who provided food, shelter, and livelihood for them during the seven years of famine in the Middle East area—that Egypt’s ruler, Pharoah, later proclaimed laws harmful to the Israelites. The story is told in Genesis 37, 39-50; Exodus 1 and onward.

Because the Israelites reproduced rapidly, the Pharaoh feared that they would become mightier than the Egyptians and would perhaps join forces with the enemies . He thus commanded that the Israelites would serve the Egyptians with rigor and hard bondage (Exodus 1:7-14). He also ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill every male child born among the Israelites (Verses 15-22).

However, this law of Pharoah became the way of God to get His future servant Moses into Pharoah’s court and prepare him to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, in Canaan (Exodus 2-3, etc.). The rest of the Old Testament details how God worked out His plans for Israel despite the people’s rebellion. [See:  God’s Kingdom and Israel.]

Evil laws imposed by and upon Israel

From the start, Israel had been a rebellious, stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:6, 13; Exodus 32:9; 33:3, 15; 34:9; Isaiah 30:9; Ezekiel 12:2). They asked for a human king like the nations among them had, thereby rejecting God as their King. The fourth king they had, [Rehoboam, who succeeded Solomon], passed a taxation law that exceeded God’s law demanding a mere 10%  of the people’s income as basic tax. [See: The New testament Teaching on Giving.]

As a result the people, led by Solomon’s military captain Jeroboam, revolted and formed a separate kingdom comprised of most of the ten tribes of Israel (the story is recorded in 1 Kings 11 and onward).

Jeroboam did evil also in requiring his followers to worship the golden calves he made as the people’s new “gods,” made priests from other tribes than the God-ordained children of Levi, and ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in place of God’s commanded Feast on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (1 Kings 12:28-32; Exodus 20:1-4; Leviticus 1:5, etc.; 23:33). God roundly condemned Jeroboam for the evils he did (1 Kings 13:1-33). Eventually, because of their evil deeds, the 10-tribed northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians and brought to other places.  [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.]

The southern kingdom of Judah did not fare better than their brethren in the north.  The Jews were also led into sin or disobedience to God’s laws by a succession of evil kings, who ordained evil ordinances (1 Kings 14:21-24; 2 Kings 17:13-20; 21:1-25; 23:31-37; 24:13-20).

When the Jews were carried away captive by the Babylonians to Babylon, they became subject to evil laws devised against them. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon erected a huge golden image, and required the captive Jews to bow down and pay homage to the image, or else suffer the penalty of death by being burned in a furnace – a law contrary to God’s command against worshiping images or idols. A dramatic story about this event and God’s miraculous intervention on behalf of His faithful servants is recorded in Daniel 3.

After the Medes and Persians took over the empire from the Babylonians, King Darius was prevailed upon by his officials, jealous of Daniel’s high status, to decree a law forbidding any subject from praying to anyone – human or divine – but the king, under penalty of death for those who disobeyed, by being fed alive to lions. Daniel disobeyed the king’s decree, still prayed to His God, as his custom was, and was thrown into the lion’s den. But God delivered him from the lions, and those who devised the evil law were fed to the lions instead.  This other dramatic story is told in Daniel 6.

During the reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus a petty official, Haman, felt disrespected by the Jew Mordecai, who refused to pay homage to him. Because of this, Haman prevailed on the king to issue an irrevocable decree to destroy all Jews in the empire on a certain date. Because of the faith of Mordecai in His God, and the intervention of his cousin Esther, Ahasuerus’ queen, this evil extermination law was neutralized, and the Jews were delivered from destruction. This heroic story is recorded in Esther 2-9, and is deservedly celebrated by the Jews to this day as a special national holiday and festival, the Festival of Purim.

After the birth of Jesus, King Herod issued an evil law requiring that all male children two years and below in all Judea be killed.  The infant Jesus was safely taken to Egypt for refuge, until Herod died. The narrative is preserved in Matthew 2.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus had several confrontations with the Jewish leaders of His day. At one point certain scribes and Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples for not following the traditions of the Jewish elders about ritual washing of the hands before eating. Jesus concluded His discussion with them by saying that, by holding this and their other man-made traditions, they had laid aside God’s commandment (Mark 7:1-13). [See: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?]

Future evil laws prophesied

The prophet Daniel prophesied about a religious leader who would arise after his day, who would “speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law” (Daniel 7:25).

The apostle Paul also warned about such a “man of sin” and a “lawless one” who would oppose God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12), such as by overturning God’s laws, as Daniel had prophesied. Revelation 13:11-18 prophesies about such a leader who would impose a “mark” on all, or else they would not be allowed to buy or sell.

That “mark” has something to do with the observance of days of worship other than God’s commanded Sabbath and festivals. For more on this, see this link: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklets titled “What Is the “Mark of the beast?’” and “Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?”

These booklets reveal how, during the “dark age” of our civilization a religious leader, backed by a political leader or dictator, persecuted those who kept God’s Sabbath as “Judaizers.” It is very likely that this part of our history will repeat itself in the near future!

Another instance of devising evil by law occurred in the Worldwide Church of God in the mid-1990s. After the death of WCG founder and pastor-general Herbert W. Armstrong, his successor Joseph Tkach made changes in doctrine and policy and ordered ministers and members to comply, on threat of disfellowshipment [or excommunication]. [See: Where Is God’s Church Today?]

Our guarantee of salvation

We are living in these latter times that Jesus prophesied would see an increase and proliferation of lawlessness (Matthew 24:11). Indeed, humanity has not been as eager to do away with God’s perfect laws and commandments as today!

Many nations have done away with God’s judgment prescribing capital punishment (death) for capital sin or crime. [See: Of Dungeons and Prisons.] Many are also in a race to approve same-sex marriages and condone same-sex relations. [See: The Rainbow Connection.]

In the face of the challenge of unjust legislation by this world’s authorities – legislation meant to benefit some while oppressing others, as Psalm 94:18-23 condemns – a man or woman of God is commanded to remain “…faithful unto death” and promised, “…and I will give you the crown of life,” and “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:10-11) – will be saved and have everlasting life in God’s kingdom.  Jesus also told His disciples, and tells all today who would follow Him faithfully, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Christ, as the “Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17) repeatedly tells members of His Church that His promise of salvation and rewards is for those who overcome in this present evil world or age (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).

Overcoming, however, is not a matter of mere human effort or endurance. As Jesus said, “…without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) – and that especially about bearing much spiritual fruit, by which God is glorified (Verse 8).  That is possible only when we “abide” in Christ – when we make Him the center of our lives.  [See:  What Do You Mean – “Christ-centered?”]

To understand better how we can overcome, see:  God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the SpiritBreaking Down Our “Walls of Jericho,” and Being and Doing.

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
122317/190119

 

 

The Rainbow Connection

The LGBT [“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender”] community has chosen the rainbow colors for their banner.  In my elementary school days, we remembered those colors through the acronym  “VIBGYOR” – violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red.

Why, of all things, has the community chosen the rainbow colors to represent their cause?

LGBT websites generally take the rainbow as a symbol for pride, and peace. See. for example, this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag_(LGBT_movement).

In at least two Bible passages, we see reference to the rainbow in connection with God’s perpetual covenant with mankind and all of creation, and God’s heavenly dwelling place.

Genesis 9:8-17 shows how God created the rainbow as a sign of His irreversible, unconditional promise never to send again a worldwide flood as He did in Noah’s day.  God had used the flood to destroy mankind for its rank evil or wickedness, corruption and violence.  By using the rainbow connection, the LGBT community would seem to believe that, in His mercy and what they perceive to be His “unconditional love,” God will not punish them for their sexual orientation or preference and conduct.  That God has, supposedly, declared peace with them despite everything.

Revelation 4:3 shows God’s heavenly throne to have a rainbow around it.  The LGBT community thus connects their cause with the rainbow to clothe it with glory, beauty, acceptance, and empowerment.

Selective perception

The LGBT community’s perception of God’s attitude toward their sexual choices and actions, however, turns a blind eye and a deaf ear on God’s clear commands regarding these acts.

•    “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination [a hateful thing]” (Leviticus 18:22).

•    “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.  They shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13)

•    “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22:8).

Because God considers homosexual acts and cross-dressing [and the ultimate abomination of “sex change” or “transgender” alterations] as all abominable and worthy of capital punishment [death], people who engage in them will be excluded from God’s kingdom.

Were David and Jonathan Practicing Homosexuals?
Some LGBTs justify their sexual lifestyle by citing the Biblical example of the close relationship between Israel’s King David and Jonathan, the son of Israel’s previous king, Saul.  The story is found in 1 Samuel 17-21.

After David killed the Philistine giant Goliath through God’s intervention, and was praised for it by King Saul, 1 Samuel 18:1 says that “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Verses 3-4 continue:  “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.”

1 Samuel 20:1-17 describes how David and Jonathan made a covenant before God, that David would show kindness to Jonathan’s family or descendants when David would have ascended to the throne.

Then, after king Saul learned how Jonathan  covered up for David’s absence at the king’s table, Saul angrily told his son: “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!  Did I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse [David] to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?  For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you [as Saul’s heir to the throne] shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die (Verses 30-31).

As they agreed on the sign to let David know that it was unsafe for him to come near Saul, David knew how much Jonathan cared for him. Verse 41 says,” And they kissed one another, and they wept together, but David more so.”

After Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle with the Philistines, David made a lamentation, where he mentioned about Jonathan:  “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan.  You have been very pleasant to me.  Your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.”

There, say LGBTs, is proof that God approves of homosexual relations!  But, from a Biblical perspective, how do we understand this seeming discrepancy with God’s law against same-sex relationships?

As David himself described it, he looked at Jonathan as a dear and beloved brother.  In this day and age where a close relationship between two men is called “bromance,” many people do not appreciate the close emotional bond that can appropriately exist between two men.  There is nothing sexual about it!

This was the kind of love which Joseph had for his brothers. In their highly emotional reunion in Egypt, Joseph revealed who he really was to them [their long-lost brother, as they thought, after which he] “…kissed all his brothers and wept over them [for joy, gratitude, and relief]” (Genesis 45:14-15).

David’s friendship with Jonathan arose from Jonathan’s humility and respect for David and God’s decision to choose him as Israel’s king in place of his father, Saul. Saul himself admitted this. He told David: “And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Therefore swear now to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s house” (1 Samuel 24:29-21).  And David did swear to that.

Jonathan knew that God was with David in helping him to slay Goliath, reason why Jonathan loved David as his own soul.  They were truly “soul-brothers.”   Jonathan knew that David would be king of Israel in place of his father. He knew that he would therefore not accede to the throne himself. This deep and selfless admiration and respect Jonathan had for him was, to David, a love that surpassed the love of women (2 Samuel 1:27) – a rare and higher level of love that is not sexual but friendly, and noble.  As Proverbs 18:24 says, “…there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jonathan stuck with David, and trusted that David would not destroy his family, thus he entered into a covenant with him.

True to his promise, David later sought Jonathan’s descendants to whom he could show kindness (2 Samuel 9:1-13).

God said that He found David a “man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14).  As such, David could not have engaged in homosexual acts with Jonathan, as LGBTs make the two to appear as doing. That would have been contrary to God’s will.  True, in a moment of weakness David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba – and also had her husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11).  But David deeply repented of his double sin after God confronted him with it (2 Samuel 12:1-15).  Psalm 51 expresses David’s heartfelt repentance over this sin.

LGBTs should, rather, follow David’s example of true repentance for their sin towards God our Creator, and against fellowman.  As Jesus warned twice, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).

The apostle Paul warns: ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor [extortionists] will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:7-10).

Paul also wrote that rejecting God’s divine authority leads to idolatry. Result?  “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen.  For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  [This shows that Lesbian or woman-to-woman sex relationship is also condemned by God!] Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful [homosexual acts], and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due [perhaps the penalty of imprisonment, or worse – death —  by capital punishment, or as a result of fatal “sexually transmitted diseases” (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS, and, ultimately, destruction in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8).

Hope for LGBTs

Many in the LGBT community find it hard to get out of the trap of their sexual condition.  The sense of condemnation [by self or by society], and often experience of discrimination, bullying, physical and psychological violence, are challenges many in that community face.  Some who sincerely desire to change their sexual orientation and addictive lifestyle often find the uphill climb formidable and frustrating.  An increasing number – unable to overcome the challenge with success — have resorted to suicide.

Indeed, without Christ to help, failure is sure. He said: “…without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:7) – nothing good, that is;  for without Christ anyone can do quite well enough all manner of evil!  Jesus said:  “For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries; fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Christ can help not just LGBTs but all sinners of every shape or form. Firstly, He grants a person repentance (Acts 11 :18) – a  thorough understanding and acceptance that  LGBT acts, and whatever other sinful acts, are totally against the will and law of God – and, feeling convicted, the person has a deep-down desire to turn from sin and to obey God.  This He does by making the sinner realize the goodness of God – His mercy and love – thereby leading him to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Then, Christ cleanses the sinner of his sins, and gives him His Spirit to empower him to obey.  [See:  The Higher Law of the Spirit , God’s Spirit and Obedience , Transgressions Under the First CovenantBreaking Down our “Walls of Jericho”  and “My Brain Made Me Do It!” ]

Paul testifies that some Christians in Corinth with LGBT backgrounds will, in fact, make it to God’s kingdom:  “And such were some of you. But you were cleansed, but you were sanctified [made holy], but you were justified [forgiven and made righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Jesus encourages people with LGBT backgrounds, like those in Sodom and Gomorrah, that — in the final Day of Judgment —  it would be easier for them to repent of their sin than many religious people (Matthew 11:23-24; Genesis 19:1-25).  People who are sick and acknowledge it and their need for healing by a physician, are more likely to receive healing and wellness (Luke 5:31) than those who think they are well  and don’t need to change or be forgiven and healed or made whole. Concerning that Judgment Day, see: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.

Support of society

LGBTs who sincerely desire to change their lifestyle need the support of the general community – especially the Church of God.  Those who are otherwise “normal” in their sexual orientation need to be aware of the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of those striving to come out of their dilemma.  [That is to say that the homosexual orientation and act are “abnormal”—not as a statistical fact, for many LGBTs would like more people to line up with their cause so it can become the “new normal.” “Normal” is to be taken in the same sense as “natural” –  lining up with God’s purpose in creating mankind male and female, as Romans 1:26-27 declares.]

Does this mean, then, that for an LGBT – particularly a homosexual male [“gay”] or female [“lesbian”] –  to do what is “natural,” as God defines it, he or she has to become a “heterosexual” person – capable of having a relationship with one of the opposite sex?  For many homosexuals, this may be a possible ultimate goal that some, with God’s help, have achieved. But for others, the homosexual or same-sex attraction may be so ingrained – like some kind of addiction – that, as Paul put it, it has become a kind of “law” in one’s mental and emotional makeup. In this case, God may simply require the person to keep himself or herself from actualizing their sexual desires — or to suppress such desires (see the principle in Matthew 56:27-30). That, in itself, would be a giant step to change, and all that may be expected of the person. [See:  Switching Positive and Negative.]

These LGBTs who want to turn away from their “unnatural” way may be compared to little toddlers taking “baby steps” on the road to righteous living.   Jesus particularly singled out such ones for others to be careful not to cause them to stumble.   “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:6-7)!

We could offend or cause to stumble or to sin an LGBT person who’s struggling to live a righteous, holy life.  We could do this by seducing the person to go back to his former problem, and by making discouraging comments and gestures to suggest that the person cannot come out of his dilemma.  Instead, we should show the same grace and kindness that God has for the person in loving and forgiving him, and giving him the strength and power to change through His Spirit.

A positive, encouraging atmosphere would go a long way to help LGBTs “in recovery.”  Setting a good example of Godly manhood or womanhood, and a healthy, happy marriage and family life is something that can support LGBTs in their quest for righteousness and perfection.  [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “True Womanhood.”]

At the same time the LGBT person should strive to keep himself or herself away from company of people, material and places that could influence him or her to revert to his or her former sinful acts.  Paul instructs: “Flee sexual immorality [KJV, “fornication,” from the Greek porneia, the same root of the word “pornography”].  Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).  Paul also tells us:  “Flee also youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Israel’s King David, a “man after God’s own heart,” resolved:  “I will set nothing wicked [KJV, “vile”] before my eyes;  I hate the work of those who fall away;  it shall not cling to me.  A perverse heart shall depart from me:  I will not know wickedness” (Psalm 101:3; Acts 13:22).  Paul also counsels us “…not to company with fornicators” (1 Corinthians 5:9).  “Be not deceived: evil communications [KJV, “company”) corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Instead, an LGBT  person should seek the company of people who are seeking to live righteously, to obey God’s commandments and laws, such as the Church of God [see:  Where is God’s Church Today?]

No looking back

Once an LGBT person has decided to change to a lifestyle that is in accord with God’s will and purpose for creating mankind male and female  (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:24), he or she should resolve not to look back longingly to his or her past life in sin.  Jesus warns: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

The LORD  had warned Lot and his family—as they  were fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah, on which God would shortly pour out fire and brimstone because of their wickedness and sexual perversions – not to look back to those cities (Genesis 19:1-25).  However, Lot’s wife looked back behind them, “…and she became a pillar of salt” (verse 26) – a grim warning for us not to do the same with our sinful past.  Jesus used the example of Lot’s wife when we are to flee from dangerous situations (Luke 7:32).

The apostle Peter gave graphic examples of what looking back to our sinful past is like. He wrote:  “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit, and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:21-22).  Willful sinning could lead to the unpardonable sin (Hebrews 6:4-8).  [See:  Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]

Born this way?

Some LGBTs claim that they cannot possibly change themselves because they were “born this way.” While we cannot fully understand how or why some children turn out to be an LGBT, we need to understand one thing well:  God did not make a mistake in creating mankind “male and female” (Genesis 1:27).  God did not create an “in-between” sex.

Because mankind has sinned over the last millennia of our existence on this planet, many aberrations in the human body and psyche have occurred.  It could be mixture of wrong diet [hormones in food could change a person’s hormonal balance resulting in sexual aberrations], environmental degradation, unhealthy socialization process in the family [such as failure of a father to exert the proper masculine influence on the son, and vice-versa with the mother lacking the feminine influence on the daughter, or a too close bond between mother and son or father and daughter], early experience with homosexual acts, etc.

Whatever the situation may be, we can be sure that it is not God’s express will that anyone should become an LGBT.  God’s will clearly is that none should have an LGBT attitude or engage in LGBT acts. God certainly did not intend that anyone should be born an LGBT!

God’s judgment on sin unchanging

God’s everlasting mercy does not mean that God will condone sinful acts. His mercy goes to a sinner who truly wants to repent and obey God’s law.  In such a case, God will not punish the sinner with the ultimate punishment of death.  Mercy is to not give us the penalty we deserve when we truly repent.  Grace, on the other hand, is God granting us something we don’t deserve – forgiveness of sin and everlasting life in His kingdom.  Revelation 21:8 shows that God will punish with destruction in a “lake of fire” those unrepentant sinners, including the “sexually immoral” and “idolaters” and “Whoever loves and Practices a Lie” – certainly including LGBTs, who don’t believe in God’s law, which is truth and righteousness (Psalm 119:142, 172).

God pronounces “Woe” to LGBTs who shamelessly flaunt their condition [euphemistically called “outing” – an ordinary term that used to mean merely going out on a picnic or tour]:  “The [defiant] look on their countenance witnesses against them.  And they declare their sin as Sodom.  They do not hide it [they have “come out of the closet”]. LGBTs have declared the month of June “Gay Pride” month.  All over the world LGBTs hold parades then, bannering the rainbow colors to express pride in, instead of shame for, their sexual choice.  God declares to them: “Woe to their soul! They have brought evil upon themselves” (Isaiah 3:9).  The harmless word “gay” [to merely mean happy and bright] is now so colored that one can’t anymore sing the old Spanish song “The Gay Ranchero” without drawing snickers from the hearers.  [See: Switching Positive and Negative ] and What Does God Mean– “I Do Not Change?”]

Same-sex marriage — Okay in God’s eyes?

It seems like countries all over the world are in a race to pass legislation that would legalize same-sex marriages.  This is an agenda LGBTs are pushing hard on legislators to approve.  Reject God’s verdict on the matter as they might, LGBTs need to understand God’s plain and clear design for the sexes.

From the beginning God says that He created mankind after His own image or likeness, as “male and female” –not “male and male,” nor “female and female” (Genesis 1:27).  And He charged Adam and Eve:  “Be fruitful and multiply [reproduce through their God-given sexual capacity to beget and bear children – something not possible in same-sex unions, short of adoption or surrogate pregnancy or artificial insemination], fill the earth…” (Verse 28).

After He had created and given the woman to Adam, she became his wife (Genesis 2:18-24). When Adam and Eve engaged in marital sex, she conceived and bore their first son, Cain (Genesis 4:1) and eventually many sons and daughters (Genesis 5:1-8).

Some have used the argument that heterosexual marriages that are not blessed with children are like same-sex marriages that cannot naturally produce children.  The sexual bond between a man and woman is what holds the marriage together.  In the same manner, the argument goes, the sexual bond between two same-sex couples is supposed to bind their relationship.  But that ignores the premise that same-sex marriages are not acceptable in God’s eyes and law, to begin with.

Clearly, God intended marriage to be between an Adam and Eve – not between an “Adam and Steve,” as someone has humorously put it, nor between a “Madam and Eve.”  People who promote same-sex marriage do so in rank defiance of our Creator’s purpose and design. This is rebellion and blatant idolatry – making an “idol” of one’s idea of marriage as against God’s idea.  [See:  The Sin of Rebellion.]

LGBTs justify their lifestyle as valid or acceptable as long as there is “love” and caring between consenting same-sex couples and whatever family they may have.  But here is God’s standard or “touchstone” to test genuine love for family:  “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3).

Those who do not obey God’s commandments don’t really love their family and others, in God’s eyes.  To one who hates God’s command regarding prohibited sexual acts, God’s commandments are burdensome or restrictive.  Not so to one who delights in and loves God’s law (Psalm 119:47-48, 97-104, 140-144).

LGBTs and their supporters also claim that they are Okay as long as they are not doing others harm.  Yes, many of the LGBT community may actually be contributing to society and culture through their creativity and charity.  But their advocacy for the LGBT lifestyle is actually harmful to society, because people will earn God’s wrath if they are influenced to follow or even condone their ways (Romans 1:31).

Solution to overpopulation?

Some have suggested that same-sex marriages could help solve the present world’s “population explosion.”  God, in fact, has a sure-fire “plan” to address that population crisis.  Isaiah 66:14-16 reveals about the Lord Jesus’ return to judge His enemies – those who oppose His holy and righteous way:   “The hand of the LORD shall be made known to His servants, and His indignation to His enemies.  For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh. [And] the slain of the LORD shall be many.”

Revelation 9:13-18 shows that, after the “sixth trumpet” is sounded, a third of mankind will be killed.  When the seventh and last trumpet is sounded, the “seven last plagues” that will be unleashed will kill millions more of God’s enemies (Revelation 11:15-18, 16:1-19:21).  Those who, in this age, have not been given their fair chance to be saved will have their chance at a future time.  [See:  This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation and Predestination.]

This being the case, it behooves those who want to escape the dire plagues of God to repent, fear God and worship only Him.  This is the “everlasting gospel” that an angel of God will proclaim to all of mankind at the end of this present age (Revelation 14:6-7).  [See: True Worship.]

LGBTs – as well as all other sinners – are called to repent or else perish (Luke 13:3, 5).  Only as we do can we have a connection to God’s heavenly throne, around which is a rainbow (Revelation 4:3).  It is to that rainbow, and what it represents [God’s rule] – not the LGBT rainbow– that we all should be connected, and that only by obeying God’s commandments.   [See:  “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
080118/280618

 

The Battles of the Almighty

 

Take a look at a typical history book of any nation. In most cases you will find that the nation’s history is often defined by wars which a nation’s military forces fought in order to “liberate” the nation from the rule of an adversary power.

Such is the history of this world’s empires. First, King Nebuchadnezzar went conquering nations to establish what historians recognize as the Babylonian Empire. After this, the Medes and Persians subdued the nations under the Babylonian rule, to establish the Medo-Persian Empire. Before long, Alexander the Great went conquering, and defeated the Medes and Persians, to establish the Greek Empire. In time, a more powerful force arose that took over the Greek or Macedonian Empire to form the Roman Empire.

This succession of power is described in the prophetic book of Daniel, chapters 7 through 12. Secular history corroborates this sequence of events.

In recent times, our world’s history has been defined by World Wars I and II, and the ensuing “Cold War” between the communist world and the democratic nations. Many other wars have been fought in various corners of the world – and will continue to be fought until the end of this present age.

God’s battles

In a similar manner, we may also look at the history of our universe and the heavenly realm, in terms of the battles which the Almighty God has waged with His adversaries or enemies. Revelation 12, which we could well take as a “look-back” at events that took place way, way back in the past but are couched in prophetic language – as though they are yet to happen at some future time.

Verses 1 through 6 of this chapter describe the birth of the Christ-child—a past, historic fact recorded in the “gospel” accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and corroborated by honest secular history. Historians place this event at 4 B.C.

Verses 7 through 9 of this same chapter describe a “war” that “broke out in heaven, between the angels of God,” led by the archangel Michael, and Satan’s angels, comprising a third of all angels. Many Bible students connect this war with the “coup” that the angel Lucifer staged to try to unseat God from His heavenly throne, as recorded in Isaiah 14, eons ago. [See: Where Did the Devil Come From? The Sin of Rebellion and The Comings of Christ.]

We might consider this war as the first which God fought against any power that opposes His rule or government. God has since fought many wars to subdue His adversaries. And God has used various “weapons” in His “arsenal!”

Water, and some, for war

Because of mankind’s gross evil and corruption, God sent a worldwide flood that destroyed all creatures that drew breath, except for Noah and his family and the animals protected in the ark. The story is recorded in Genesis 6 through 10. We may consider  this as God’s first “war” against evil mankind.

What we might consider God’s next war versus rebellious mankind, took place soon after that flood, when men built the “Tower of Babel” in defiance of God’s command for them to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). They decided to remain together in one place (Babel) so they would not “be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).

In those days humankind spoke one language, so that it was easy for them to work together to achieve their aim or purpose, contrary to God’s will (Verse 1). In order to frustrate their plans, God caused their language to be “confused” [or “confounded,” KJV], so that they could no longer understand each other and were thus forced to separate and be scattered all over the earth (Verses 8-9). That’s how today’s many different languages originated. We speak about different languages as a “Babel” of tongues.

The next “war” God waged with defiant mankind was against the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose sin was “very grave” (Genesis 18:20). The “depravity” of the people of Sodom is described in Genesis 19. Here we find that just about all the men of Sodom wanted to commit perverse sexual acts with the angels, in the guise of men, who were guests of the righteous man Lot. This is where the word “sodomy” is derived from. 2 Peter 2:8 tells about how the “filthy conduct of the wicked [people of Sodom] tormented [Lot’s] soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” For their wickedness, which God considers an “abomination” [a detestable or hateful thing to God (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13-14); and see: The Rainbow Connection], God rained down fire and brimstone, which completely destroyed their cities (Verse 6; Genesis 12:24-25, 27-29), to serve as a warning and example for others not to commit the same error and ungodly conduct (2 Peter 2:6).

The next battle God waged was that against the power of Egypt, which placed God’s people Israel, in cruel bondage for some 400 years (Exodus 1). To free them from that bondage, God sent His servant Moses, who was His instrument to cause ten plagues to fall upon Egypt (Exodus 2-11). After the last of these plagues, Egypt’s king Pharoah finally let the children of Israel go to serve their God in the place He had promised to bring them to.

Interestingly, although God has promised never to send again a worldwide flood as in Noah’s day, He has hail and snow – forms of water – as a part of His arsenal (Job 38:22-23). In fact, one of the plagues which God poured out on Egypt in His act to free His people Israel from Pharoah’s cruel oppression, was hail from heaven (Exodus 9:13-33).  After Pharoah had let the Israelites go, he wanted to bring them back to Egypt. Thus he sent all his armies to run after the Israelites, who merely traveled on foot.

Exodus 13-14 describes how God saved His people by letting them cross dry-shod over the Red Sea. While Pharoah’s armies chased the people, who had just safely crossed to the other shore, God caused the parted waters of the sea to clap back and drown all of Egypt’s armies. Exodus 15, as well as Psalm 106 and 136, celebrates this miraculous event as an act of God as “a man of war” (Exodus 15:3).

God’s wars to prepare Israel’s way to the Promised Land

Despite the Israelites’ rebellious, complaining ways which God dealt with by a show of His power, in His mercy God enabled them to vanquish the nations (whose lands God promised to give to the Israelites as His divine prerogative). Numbers 10 through 14, 16-17, 21, 31 detail God’s interventions.

God used Israel’s men of war to conquer nations along their way. God had promised that, if the Israelites obeyed God, He would cause their enemies to be defeated, to fall by the sword before them; five of them would chase a hundred of their enemies, and a hundred of them would put ten thousand of their enemies to flight (Leviticus 26:7-8; Deuteronomy 28:7).

In some instances, God used hornets to drive away the heathen in order to give place to the Israelites in the former’s lands (Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 34:12).

Joshua 6 describes God’s miraculous act to destroy the formidable walled city of Jericho. Joshua 8 is about the conquest of Ai by the armies of Israel. Joshua 10 describes how God used large hailstones to conquer Jerusalem for His people. Joshua 11 through 19 lists the other conquests of heathen lands by Israel’s sword.

The book of Judges describes the continuing conquest of the rest of Canaan by the armies of Israel led by deliverers or judges whom God raised up. Judges 7-8 describes the spectacular defeat of the Midianites by God’s intervention through Gideon.

God’s battles against Israel’s enemies

After the tribes of Israel had settled in their respective designated places, and the original confederacy had split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel, God allowed them to be besieged now and again by surrounding hostile nations. Every time this happened, and the people cried out to their God for help, God intervened in various ways to save them.

The lad David at first singly defeated the Philistine giant and champion Goliath through his faith in God to guide him as he used a sling to slay the giant. The famous story is recorded in 1 Samuel 17.

When he eventually became Israel’s king, David fought many victorious wars against his and the nation’s enemies, with God’s divine help. [See 1 Samuel 30; 2 Samuel 5, 8, 10, 12-18, 20-22; 1 Chronicles 18-21.] God helped kings who succeeded David in their turn, as they sought God and trusted in Him for deliverance.

One notable example was that in the case of Judah’s King Jehoshaphat. He didn’t have to fight his enemies – the armies of Ammon, Moab and Mt. Seir. God Himself fought the war for Judah. God discomfited the enemies while the temple choir sang praises to the LORD. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 20.

God’s battle against sin and death

No less dramatic and spectacular is God’s continuing war against sin and death. This began to take place when God sent the second Person in the Godhead, Whom John 1:1 calls “the Word,” to be born of a virgin as the God-man Jesus Christ. God prepared Him as the “Lamb of God” who would take away the sin of all humanity and give everlasting life to those who would believe in Him (John 3:16; 1:29, 14), in His own time. Through His sacrifice of Himself upon the cross at Calvary, Jesus has ransomed all who believe in Him from sin and its penalty, death (Romans 6:23). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD, Mary Worship, The True Christ, Freed From Bondage, and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]

God’s last “Great Battle”

Revelation 16:14 speaks about “the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” to which He will gather the kings of the whole world and their armies. Verses 7-21 tell about how God will pour out the seventh and last plague of His wrath – an ultimate earthquake and hail stones – on these armies. Revelation 17-19 describes how God will destroy Babylon, Satan’s instrument of deceit, and people swayed by him, and how Christ will take-over rule of all the earth.

Revelation 20 speaks about God imprisoning Satan and his demonic angels in an abyss, thereby disabling them from influencing mankind to sin, until he is released for a short time after Christ’s 1000-year rule. [See: Two Goats Together.]

Early in Christ’s reign and towards the end of that reign, rebellious nations led by Gog and Magog will be quickly destroyed by fire from God (Ezekiel 38-39; Revelation 20:7-10).

The last enemy destroyed

After God will have eliminated Satan and all of rebellious, unrepentant, incorrigibly wicked men – all of whom will have been given their fair chance to believe and obey the gospel (Revelation 21-22), there is yet one last enemy to be dealt with by God [see: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? and Predestination]. The apostle Paul names that “last enemy” — death (1 Corinthians 15:26). God will give His saints or elect everlasting life at Christ’s return (Verses 50-57). They will then no longer be subject to death.

To them, and not to unrepentant sinners, pertains God’s promise and reward: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4).

And final of all finality, God will destroy even the “second death” in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). That means that, after all unrepentant sinners will have been destroyed in the lake of fire, God will do away with that lake of fire, and no one will ever be subject to the “second death” anymore – for all who are saved will have everlasting life for all eternity.

Then, and only then will God have no more enemies to fight. Thus all wars will cease. God, who alone is worthy to command total obedience of His creation, will reign supreme and victorious for all eternity. As Isaiah 45:2 quotes God as saying, “…There is no other God besides Me, a just God and Savior;There is  none besides Me.” He will not tolerate any one who would claim to be another “god” — who would thus be His enemy.

May we be counted worthy to see that victorious day!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
021018/271018