Category: Thy Word


Radically Improved

Radically Improved – Greg Laurie – www.harvest.org
 
We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing
— 2 Corinthians 5:2
 
This may come as a revelation to some, but our bodies were not meant to last forever. They are a temporary place to house our souls. The Bible tells us, "For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands" (2 Corinthians 5: 2).
 
Our new bodies will, in some ways, be like our old bodies, but in other ways they will be different—and without question, radically improved. Our minds will be redeemed from the limitations that sin has placed upon them. As we get older, we tend to forget more and more things, like the names of certain people and where we parked the car. But in heaven, our minds will be operating at maximum capacity. We will know more in heaven than we know on Earth. As 1 Corinthians 15:43 says, "Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength." There will be no effects of aging. There will be no disabilities.
 
Our resurrection bodies will resemble that of Jesus, because 1 John 3:2 tells us, "Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is."
 
It is great to think about heaven, because we have so much to look forward to. But while we are looking forward to it, let’s also pray that God will help us to make a difference on Earth.
 
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BIBLE FACTS ABOUT JERUSALEM

Jerusalem Day is a national holiday in Israel celebrating the reunification of the city in June 1967. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a religious holiday to thank God for the victory in the  6-Day War and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of "Next Year in Jerusalem".

BIBLE FACTS ABOUT JERUSALEM
Psalm 122:1-9

Its PROMINENCE in the Bible

  • Mentioned 811 times – not once in the Qur’an;
  • The word "Zion" refers to Jerusalem 152 times;
  • Called the "holy city" 10 times and the "city of God" twice;
  • called the "city of truth" and "the city of the great King" and "the city of Judah" and also the "city of David."

Its PRIORITY above all cities – Psalm 48:2 – "the joy of the whole earth, the city of the great King." Psalm 137:5 refers to it as "my chief joy." Psalm 87:2 says "The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob."

Its PRAISE in the earth – Isaiah 62:7 – "give Him no rest, till He establish,and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."

Its PLACE in Jewish history

  • The place where Abraham was blessed by a king and priest named Melchizedec over 4000 years ago – Genesis 14:18-19
  • The place where Adonizedek was king when Joshua entered the land – Joshua 10:1
  • The place which was given to the tribe of Judah by Joshua – Joshua 15:1,8
  • The place which Judah and Benjamin could not conquer from the Jebusites – Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:21
  • The place which King David took from the Jebusites 3000 years ago – II Samuel 5:4-9
  • The place where King David purchased the site of the Temple Mount from Aravnah the Jebusite and built an altar there – II Samuel 24:18-25
  • The place where King David ruled for 33 years
  • The place where King Solomon built the temple – II Chronicles. 3:1
  • The place where King Solomon ruled for 40 years – I Kings 11:42
  •  The place where the kings of Judah ruled for over 400 years and the place where they were buried.
  •  The place where Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and its temple in 586 BC – II Kings 24:10, 14; 25:9-10
  •  The place to which Jewish captives returned through the kindness of Cyrus, King of Persia
  • The place where Jewish refugees came under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest and rebuilt the city and its walls
  •  The place where Antiochus Epiphanes of the Seleucid dynasty defiled the rebuilt temple, and a great Jewish revolt took place under Judas Maccabeus and cleansed the temple, giving us the celebration of Hanukkah – in the middle of the 2nd century BC

Its PREEMINENCE as the city where the LORD God of Israel would put His Name forever – II Chronicles 6:6; Psalm 76:1-2; 99:2; 132:13-14

Its PICTURE of God’s protection is well known – Psalm 46:6; 125:2

Its PROPHECIES about the Messiah

  • His coming as a humble King – Zechariah 9:9
  • His consecration as a child – Luke 2:25-32
  • His concern for its people – Matthew 23:37 cf. Psalm 36:7
  • His cutting off – Daniel 9:24-26- Yeshua crucified by Romans (Gentiles) – Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-33
  • His conquest of all nations who come against Jerusalem – Zechariah 12:9; 14:3-4

Its PUNISHMENT by Roman armies – 70 AD – predicted by Yeshua – Luke 21:20-24

Its PROBLEM for all nations – Zechariah 12:1-3

Its PROMISES of salvation and future glory Joel 2:32; Zechariah 12:10; 13:1; 14:16 Isaiah 2:2-3; 62:1-5; 65:18-19

What does the Parable of the Dragnet tell us about the order of events during the Second Coming? – Dr. Renald Showers and Dr. John Ankerberg – www.ankerberg.org
 
Dr. Renald Showers: Let me call your attention to Matthew 13:47, "Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind, which, when it was full they drew to shore and sat down and gathered the good in the vessels but cast the bad away." Here Jesus gives the application of that parable to His second coming. "So shall it be at the end of the age. The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just." The angels are going to in essence cut off the wicked, remove them, from among the just, the righteous, "and shall cast them into the furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Notice the same order, for His glorious second coming immediately after the seven year Tribulation period, His holy angels will remove all the unbelievers who are alive on the earth at that time from the earth in judgment and put them into a horrible place of judgment characterized by fire where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the good fish, representing the believers, are left here to go into the Kingdom.
 
He’s teaching that the order of things at His second coming will be just the reverse of the order at the Rapture. At the Rapture it’s all the believers who are removed from the earth to meet Christ in the air to return with Him to His Father’s house in Heaven; and it’s the unbelievers who will be left here on the face of the earth. Now, you have identically that same order again for the second coming after the Tribulation period taught by Jesus in Matthew 24.
 
Beginning with verse 37, Jesus says, "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered into the ark and knew not until the Flood came and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." What Jesus is saying here is this: the order at my glorious second coming immediately after the seven year Tribulation period will be identically the same as the order of things in Noah’s day in conjunction with the Flood.
 
One of the ways in which the order would be the same is this: the Flood came and took them all away. Which group of people did the Flood take away from planet Earth, the believers or the unbelievers? The Flood removed all the unbelievers of Noah’s day from the earth in judgment. And the believers in Noah’s day, namely, Noah and his family, were left here on the earth in the ark to go into the next period of world history after the Flood. After pointing that out, Jesus says at the end of verse 39, "So shall also the coming of the Son of man be." It’ll be the same order of things then as it was in the days of Noah with the Flood.
 
And then to illustrate that, He goes on in verses 40 and 41, "then in the day that the Son of man comes [after the Tribulation period], then shall two be in the field, the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken and the other left." Now the question is, "Who is the one taken from the field and the one taken from the mill?" If it’s the same order of things as in Noah’s day with the Flood and the Flood took all the unsaved away and Jesus says it’ll be the same order at His second coming, then it seems to me you’re forced to conclude that the one who is taken from the field and the one who is taken from the mill are not believers taken by Rapture but unbelievers who are alive on the earth at Jesus’ second coming. They are taken by Christ’s holy angels from the earth in judgment just as we saw with the parable of the tares and the parable of the dragnet in Matthew Chapter 13, and therefore the one that’s left in the field and the one that’s left at the mill is the believer who is left here on the earth, the believer who is alive at the second coming of Christ after the Tribulation period left here on the earth to go into the next period of history, namely, the Kingdom. Just as in Noah’s day, it was the unbelievers who were removed in judgment, Noah and his family were left here on the earth to go into the next period of world history.
 
Who are taken, and who are left behind indicate two separate events
 
· Rapture: believers are taken from earth to Heaven, while unbelievers are left on the earth
 
· Second Coming: unbelievers are taken from the earth to judgment, and those who are left on the earth are the saints
 
Dr. John Ankerberg: The third difference that indicates God in His Word is teaching that the Rapture must be a separate event from Christ’s Second Coming has to do with those who are taken from the earth and those who are left behind. At the Rapture, believers are taken from earth to Heaven, while unbelievers are left on the earth (1 Thess. 4:17). But at the Second Coming, it is the unbelievers are taken from the earth to judgment, and those who are left on the earth are the saints who will go into the Millennial Kingdom
 
But in spite of all this, some Christians still object to this line of reasoning and say there are a few verses in Matthew 24 which do refer to the Rapture and what’s more, these verses place the Rapture at Christ’s coming at the end of the Tribulation. I do not think they are correct, but let’s look at the verses. Matthew 24:31 reads: "And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet. They will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." As a result of these words, some reason as follows: The Bible states Jesus sends forth the angels to gather the elect. The elect must be Christians, and since in Matthew 24 the Tribulation takes place before Christ comes, the Rapture takes place after the Tribulation. Again, I do not believe this is correct.
 

The Seventh Day: Our Cycle of Rest

The Seventh Day: Our Cycle of Rest – Joseph R. Chambers – jrc@pawcreek.org     
 
The Creator Himself ordained and established our world with a seventh day and tailored His World to fit that pattern. We are designed by this cycle and cripple our own bodies by neglecting the fact. From the moment of our conception inside our mother’s womb, we are developed by this design of seven. In Genesis, the book of God’s creative ingenuity, He rested on the Seventh Day and enjoyed the labor of the previous six days. He made us to enjoy Him and His appointed rest on our Seventh Day. To ignore this is to defy Him. Every Sabbath you steal from Him will have to be repaid.
 
Even our longevity of life is established with a seven, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70 years)” (Psalm 90:10a). The Book of Revelation is a masterpiece of literature. It does not have any competition as the most beautiful of all written eloquences. The structure of this book is composed of sevens. The Spirit of Revelation is described as “Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne” (Revelation 4:5b). The entire church dispensation is prefigured in seven churches called “seven candlesticks.” The Great Tribulation period is complete in seven years. The judgments to cleanse and renew our earth are seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials. We wait for the one thousand years of His Millennium of peace as we complete six thousand years of human failure. The seventh thousand year period will be a rest for this universe.
 
Understanding the beauty of both a Bible and a world established by sevens, do we dare disregard our seventh day of rest and worship? The Bible plainly warns us of this responsibility. The Fourth Commandment states, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). In this passage “holy” is a very unique word that means “to be observed or appointed; to hallow and consecrate.” The language used to instruct us about our Seventh Day presents this to us as a privilege and a day to come apart and enjoy ourselves with Him. The Son of God was quick to challenge any idea of keeping the Sabbath Day legalistically or as a rigid bondage. His disciples plucked corn and ate as they passed by a cornfield on this day. He rebuked those that condemned them.
 
By no means did that suggest a disregard of the proper respect for this holy day. In His great lesson in Matthew He said, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day” (Matthew 24:20). His life was so planned by His Father that His three days and nights in the heart of the earth would end at the close of the Jewish Sabbath. By His very resurrection He would establish a New Beginning. John the Revelator called it the “Lord’s Day.” (Revelation 1:10). Order our booklet entitled, “The Lord’s Day and the Feast of Firstfruits,” for information.
 
Every Born Again believer desperately needs this day of worship and rest. The deep meaning of holy as reflected in the Fourth Commandment means an appointment with Him. Our Holy Day or New Testament Sabbath will never mean what He intended until we see it as our appointment with Him. Worship is the deepest passion in a person’s heart. We will either worship Him or find something or someone else to passionately love and worship. In fact, that is what worship is. It is passionate love poured out on either God or some chosen idol.
 
In the New Testament the Lord’s Day was prophetically visible in the third feast that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament. The Feast of Passover was to be observed on Nisan 14th, which often varies as to the day of the week. The next day after the Feast of Passover began the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It lasted for seven days with the first and seventh day of the seven being special Sabbaths. Within those seven days came a regular Sabbath. On the next day after the regular Sabbath was the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast was always celebrated on the 8th day or the next day following the Sabbath (7th day). Coming in the spring of the year (March/April) as these feasts did and still do, this included a rejoicing of the firstfruits of their fields as God had blessed them. Remember, these feasts were not just for Israel, but were a rehearsal of the prophetic future in the Messiah’s life and kingdom. In this feast event God was establishing the day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and our Lord’s Day to be set apart to Him.
 
We are blessed to set this day (24 hours) apart and give it wholly to Him. To do otherwise is certainly unwise. The Ten Commandments are not suggestions. If we love Him passionately, we will live by them. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:4). When His people, who are called by His name, turn back to Him and forsake their disobedience and careless living, we will have a New Testament revival in our land.
 

OSAS: Demystifying Hebrews 6 & 10

OSAS: Demystifying Hebrews 6 & 10 – by Paul K.- www.raptureready.com
 
The whole Christian theology of salvation is both easy and simple, and yet hard and complex. One of the central things sincere Christians disagree on is the topic of once-saved-always-saved (OSAS). In other words, once you have received God’s salvation, can you lose it?
 
A foundation already laid for every Christian is the truth that the Bible is God’s Word. He oversaw the authors who wrote the various letters and books, such that what they wrote was divinely inspired to be error-free and only truth. Because of this, every book in the Bible has the same Author: God. This is important to note in the area of searching out whether OSAS is true. We need to look at Scripture, confident that the same God who wrote, through His inspiration, the book of Romans, also wrote James and Hebrews–indeed, every book of the Bible.
 
God will not contradict Himself. If a passage in Romans says one thing, the same Divine Author is expressing truth by what is contained in Hebrews.
 
However, we need to do as Paul wrote:
 
"be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) NASB
 
The King James Version says it this way: "…rightly dividing…." While all Scripture is written FOR us, not all Scripture is written TO us. For instance, when God ordered Joshua and the children of Israel to attack a town and kill every living thing in it, we can learn from it that God hates sin and judges it, but that is not an instruction for us today to obey. Here are three good rules of studying the Bible in context: Discern to whom a Scripture is speaking, what subject it is addressing, and what do the surrounding verses say?
 
Scripture teaches us things about what we were like–what was true about us–before we came to faith in Christ. We were:
 
– helpless and ungodly (Romans 5:6)
 
– spiritually dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13)
 
– separate from Christ, excluded from Israel, strangers to God’s promises, having no hope, and without God (Ephesians 2:12)
 
– sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6)
 
– in spiritual darkness (Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13)
 
– cursed by the Law (Galatians 3:13)
 
– condemned in our works (Galatians 2:16)
 
– sinners (Romans 3:23)
 
– deserving of death (Romans 1:29-32)
 
– straying sheep (1 Peter 2:25)
 
On and on the list goes.
 
Then, we came to faith in Christ. Scripture also teaches us things about what we are like–what is true about us–now that we believe. We are now:
 
+ justified and at peace with God (Romans 6:1)
 
+ spiritually alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
 
+ brought near to God (Ephesians 2:13)
 
+ children of God (Ephesians 5:1; 1 John 3:1-2)
 
+ children of Light (Ephesians 5:8)
 
+ saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9)
 
+ freed from the Law (Romans 6:14)
 
+ forgiven for our sins (Ephesians 1:7)
 
+ have eternal life (John 3:16; 6:47)
 
+ His sheep (John 10:27)
 
This list, too, goes on and on.
 
We who believe are born-again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:22-23); our salvation is protected by the power of God (1 Peter 1:4-5); we will never perish (John 1:27-28); we are joined to the Lord and one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17); we are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); God abides in us and we abide in Him (1 John 4:15); we are already seated in heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6).
 
The evidence that once we believe, we are in an incredible place of eternal blessing, is overwhelming. Jesus said of His sheep (i.e., believers in Him), "…no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand." (John 10:29) Mark it well: He said "no one." That includes you and me.
 
So, then, it is wise to research passages in Scripture that seem to say you can lose your salvation. I emphasize the word "seem." Remember our three rules of Context? "Discern to whom a Scripture is speaking, what subject it is addressing, and what do the surrounding verses say? When so many other passages paint a picture of glory guaranteed, we will do well to resolve what other seemingly contrary passages are really discussing.
 
Two such passages occur in Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10. To help clarify these, let’s understand that a common mistake believers make in understanding the Bible is that they confuse how a believer gets saved, with what a believer is to do once they are already saved. None of us, when we first are saved, jump to instant spiritual maturity. By way of illustration, consider the growth stages of a human being. When we are physically born, we at first just lay there and wiggle our toes; then we crawl; then we toddle; then we walk, then we run. Also, physically, we know next to nothing. As we grow, we go through stages of physical, emotional and mental growth. The born-again experience is similar. Someone who is newly saved knows next to nothing, and has to go through stages of spiritual growth. We do this by learning from and feeding upon the Word of God:
 
"like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." (1 Peter 2:2)
 
When we are first saved, we begin spiritually as little children, even if we are physically 100 years of age!
 
The Apostle John wrote about three stages of spiritual growth: little children, young men, and fathers.
 
Spiritually, about all we know when we are first born-again is that our sins are forgiven.
 
"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven." (1 John 2:12)
 
In our spiritual infancy, we also do know that God is our Father:
 
"I have written to you, children, because you know the Father." (1 John 2:13c)
 
As we grow into spiritual teenagers, we learn the Word of God, and are able to use it to battle the devil and his temptations to sin:
 
"I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:2:13b)
 
"I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:14b)
 
As we grow to spiritual adulthood, we get beyond merely knowing thing "about" God, to knowing God Himself:
 
"I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning." (1 John 2:2:14a)
 
Sometimes those who think you can lose your salvation, are thinking that people who are sinning "too much" must have lost their salvation, when in reality they are spiritually immature and have not yet grown to be "strong" and haven’t yet learned to "overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:14b)
 
Sometimes believers get so much grief and trouble for being a Christian that they get tempted to back-off from being demonstrably a Christian. This was the trouble with the Christian Hebrews to whom the writer (we don’t know who the human author was) was sending the letter to the Hebrews. They were suffering so much for being Christians that they were turning away from following Christ to going back to Moses, the Law and the temple sacrifices. This clearly was what Hebrews was written to address.
 
"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it." (Hebrews 2:1)
 
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)
 
"But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward." (Hebrews 10:32-36)
 
The letter to Hebrews addresses why the Hebrew Christians should not turn away from Christ, for Christ is superior in every way. To turn back to Moses and the Law would be to abandon the superior for the inferior. Hebrews demonstrates that Christ is superior to angels (Hebrews 1:4-14); superior to Moses (Hebrews 3:1-19); that Christ is our rest from works (Hebrews 4:1-9); and that Christ has a higher order priesthood, a priesthood of the order of Melchizedek.
 
It is here in reference to Melchizedek that the writer gets down to the business of concern about the spiritual growth of the Christians who were wavering, being tempted to go back to Moses and the Law:
 
"Concerning him (i.e., Melchizedek) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing." (Hebrews 5:11)
 
The Hebrew Christian recipients of the letter apparently were not grasping deeper spiritual truth. He says that they ought to have grown into spiritual maturity; instead of being babies needing to be fed, they ought to have been the ones teaching the spiritual babies. Yet, they were needing spiritual food fit for spiritual babies (i.e., elementary principles=milk) instead of spiritual food fit for spiritual adults (i.e., teachings about Melchizedek = solid food).
 
"For by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their sense trained to discern good and evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)
 
So, starting Hebrews chapter 6, the writer to the Hebrews urges them to leave behind "baby food" (i.e., elementary teaching) and press on to maturity, and lists several "basic" (i.e., baby) Christian teachings.
 
"Therefore leaving behind the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment." (Hebrews 6:1-2)
 
Now, since the writer urged them to press on to maturity (verse 1), he brings up a possible problem.
 
"And this we will do, if God permits." (Hebrews 6:3)
 
"If God permits." What on earth can he mean? Is there a situation where God would NOT permit someone to "press on to maturity," and if so, what could that situation be? The writer then gives a list of certain conditions to explain what he means by "if God permits."
 
"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come." (Hebrews 6:4-5)
 
Notice the above steps demonstrate a progression of spiritual growth. First, they demonstrate that the person was "enlightened." This means they came to saving faith, that is, became a believer.
 
"I pray that the eye of your heart may be enlightened." (Ephesians 1:18a) Paul wrote that to believers, meaning, saved people.
 
Then the writer to the Hebrews says "have tasted of the heavenly gift." We are told over and again that eternal life is a gift of God.
 
"…the gift of God is eternal life." (Romans 6:23b)
 
The next step mentioned is "have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit." This is a Christian-only experience. Only saved people have the Holy Spirit–unbelievers do not.
 
"…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." (Romans 8:9b)
 
Up to this point, all these conditions apply to baby Christians. Next, some spiritual maturity gets added to the list: "have tasted the good word of God." Remember the "young men" (i.e., spiritual teenagers) that John wrote about?
 
"I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you…" (1 John 2:14b)
 
The writer adds yet another element of spiritual maturity: "and the powers of the age to come."
 
This condition corresponds to John’s "young men" teaching about overcoming the evil one:
 
"I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:13b)
 
So, the situation where God would NOT permit someone to "press on to maturity" involved someone who is not only born again, but has gone on in spiritual growth toward maturity, either John’s "young men" (i.e., teenagers) or "fathers" (i.e., adults) stage. The expression "(tasted) the powers of the age to come" indicates this is no beginner in the faith, no spiritual just-got-saved "newbie."
 
What, then, does the Hebrews writer say about this person?
 
"and then have fallen away." (Hebrews 6:6a)
 
The Greek word for "fallen away" is "parapipto." As far as I can tell from my study tools, it is found nowhere else in the New Testament. It carries the idea of "to fall around" or "fall aside," meaning in the area of, such as to the side of where a person should have been standing. This is supported by the warning Hebrews gives earlier:
 
"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it." (Hebrews 2:1)
 
So, "parapipto" is where someone has chosen, or allowed themselves, to "drift away from it."
 
In the context of the letter to these particular Hebrew Christians, "parapipto" is supposing that someone became a believer, grew into maturity, and then chose to abandon faith in Christ for another religion, in this case, was going back to Moses and the Law. So, if this person does this, what happens next?
 
"…it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." (Hebrews 6:6b)
 
What does it say is impossible? "To renew them again to repentance." This does NOT say they lose their salvation, as salvation is not in view here. What is in view, is somebody who is saved whom God will not permit to "press on to maturity." Repentance simply means to change your mind. In Hebrews 6:1b, "repentance from dead works and of faith toward God" means to change your mind about depending on your works (which are dead) to save you, and instead to change your mind to depend on Christ to save you.
 
Context is everything. When someone deliberately turns away from Christ, they will not be allowed to change their mind back to faith in Christ. That is what it means when it says "it is impossible to renew them again to repentance," and why (in verse 3) it says "if God permits" (meaning there is a situation where God will NOT permit it).
 
So, why won’t God permit it?
 
"…since they crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to open shame." (Hebrews 6:6b)
 
Let’s illustrate this with an example. Suppose a famous Christian who is the president of a famous Christian Bible school suddenly announces he doesn’t believe the blood of Christ and His crucifixion solved mankind’s problem of sin, but that Buddha had a better way, and forsakes Christ for Buddhism. Think of the shock waves that would send through the students, the faculty, and Christian communities around the world. Think of how it would affect the students and how it could damage their faith. After all, some students might reason, "If so-and-so, who is such a learned Christian, doesn’t think Christianity is true, why should I study it?" Think of how the unbelievers in the media and the world at large who learned of it would mock and ridicule Christians, casting shame on the name of Christ saying, even one of their own has recanted. How they would laugh Christians–and Christ–to scorn!
 
Then suppose that former school president announces, "You know what, I guess I was wrong–Christ’s death on the cross really did count for me after all." He is crucifying Jesus to himself all over again. First time he believed in the crucifixion, now after going away from the cross, he’s trusting again in the crucifixion. How do you think the students would react, or for that matter, how the unbelievers would react? They would not, could not, trust him again. The unbelievers would certainly jeer, saying, "Oh, so NOW you believe?" The name of Jesus Christ would be put to open shame. This what the verse is saying by "since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame."
 
This, God will not permit. For someone advanced in Christian maturity and knowledge of the Bible, to do a "parapipto" involves such an injury against the faith they once held so strongly, that there’s no coming back. Christ’s blood still saves them, but with such a regression into complete unbelief, they will never again have more than "baby" stage faith–if that. God will not permit them to "press on to maturity."
 
Yet, they are still saved. Being saved isn’t just a mindset. Being saved means being born-again. When that happens, the Holy Spirit literally indwells a believer, and a new life force, a spiritual one, now exists inside the believer where that life did not formerly exist. Nothing in the Bible makes a case for where that spiritual life force gets "un-born again" or "taken back" by God.
 
Quite the contrary, Scripture says that the believer is sealed with the presence of the Holy Spirit who is given as a pledge that we will have an inheritance in heaven:
 
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed–, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14)
 
We all start out spiritually dead. (Ephesians 2:1) Those who believe in Christ become spiritually alive (i.e., born-again) (1 Peter 1:23) and are protected by the power of God to make sure they get to heaven. (1 Peter 1:4-5)
 
A farming illustration follows in Hebrews 6 in verses 7-8.
 
"For the ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned." (Hebrews 6:7-8)
 
The writer says that ground that drinks up rain produces useful vegetation. This represents a believer who stays the course, which is the very thing the writer to the Hebrews is urging the letter’s recipients to do. For someone who fits the description of the exception case of verses 4-6, there is no fruit coming out of their life, but only thorns and thistles. Both of these latter are injurious to the hand of the one who touches them. They are "worthless."
 
The one who falls away (i.e., "parapipto") not only has no more fruit for God, but their unbelief is also spiritually injurious to those his unbelief touches. What is coming out of his life is worthless and harmful, and "fruit" of that sort is fit only to be gathered and burned up to protect people. That’s why God won’t permit them to "press on to maturity." They had some maturity before, and threw it away. Later in Hebrews, the writer urges again those Hebrew Christians suffering terrible things because of their faith, not to throw their faith away (i.e., don’t give in and return to Moses and the Law):
 
"Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward." (Hebrews 10:35)
 
A "parapipto" person does "throw away" their confidence (i.e., faith) in Christ, and their life gets no blessing from God anymore. But, because such a person was redeemed by faith in Christ and became born again and was joined one spirit with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17), he still possesses eternal life. God will not curse one of His children, for He has redeemed us from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13), but sadly that is as much as that person will get from God in this life, as Scripture says, the "parapipto" person will "come close to being cursed." (verse 8).
 
Such is the fate the writer to the Hebrews is warning the Hebrew Christians about, since they seem to be stuck in spiritual "baby" mode. He writes that they ought to have been teachers by now, but weren’t. (Hebrews 5:12) He is warning them against "parapipto."
 
However, the writer then reassures them. While such a condition as described in Hebrews 6:4-8 is possible, he is confident that these believers are not ones in that condition described.
 
"But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking to you in this way." (Hebrews 6:9)
 
Still, verses 4-8 warn of what COULD happen if these Hebrew Christians (and us, for that matter) abandon Christ for something else. For the early Christians, it was Moses and the law. For us today, it could be anything else that would replace our faith in Christ, such as science, philosophy, a cult, devotion to a political cause, etc.
 
As we have just seen, Hebrews 6 is not describing losing one’s salvation. While some Christians believe Hebrews 6 and 10 teach that you can lose your salvation, ironically, the letter to the Hebrews actually demonstrates OSAS! Look at the following two verses:
 
1) "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10)
 
2) "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)
 
We who believed "have been" (i.e., happened in the past) "sanctified…once for all." Focus on that. The offering of Jesus’s body is "once for all." Again, in that second verse, we are told (concerning the offering of Jesus’s body) that "He has perfected (us) for all time."
 
Once for all… For all time…
 
When we believed, Jesus perfected us "for all time." That’s once-saved-always-saved. How much clearer does it have to be?
 
Eternal life is a gift from God (Romans 6:23), and we receive it and the Holy Spirit the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ. (John 6:47; Ephesians 1:13) Keeping in mind that eternal life is a gift from God, let us look at what Scripture says about gifts from God:
 
"For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29)
 
The gift of eternal life, therefore, will NEVER be revoked! Once saved, always saved. We cannot lose salvation by our sins, for Christ has paid for all of them (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 1:2; John 10:28). We cannot even lose it if we falter in our faith, such as the situation described in Hebrews 6. (2 Timothy 2:13)
 
The ONLY way we can be denied eternal life and a home in Heaven with God for all eternity, is if we never take that first step to place our faith in Christ. Yes, if someone denies Jesus Christ by refusing to place faith in Him, then he will be denied by Jesus on the Day of Judgment. That person will hear the terrible words of Jesus Christ:
 
"And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:23)
 
"Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)
 
Think of those words: "I never knew you." They do not say, "I knew you once, but then I didn’t know you anymore," as would be the case if Hebrews 6 taught you could lose your salvation. The words say, "I NEVER knew you."
 
For the one who has believed in Christ, the very opposite is true. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them…" (John 10:27a). Jesus KNOWS those who placed their trust in Him, yes, even those who failed later by "falling away" (i.e., "parapipto").
 
Only persons Jesus has never known go to hell. A believer, He has known, and He grants unto him eternal life, which cannot be revoked. A believer is a sheep that was lost, but now is found, and shall never perish. (John 10:27-29)
 
Think of the words of the beloved Christian hymn, "Amazing Grace":
 
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see."
 
In conclusion, when a lot of verses/passages say you are saved eternally, and one other verse/passage seems to say you can lose that salvation, you can sure you are missing the context somehow on the one. God can’t contradict Himself.
 
Once saved, always saved. It’s by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9). It’s eternal life, not until-the-next-time-you-blow-it-life. It’s "they shall NEVER perish." (John 10:28) It’s being given an inheritance with the Holy Spirit as a down-payment. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
 
Believers, hear this loud and clear! God went to too much trouble to purchase your freedom! It cost Him the life of His Son. He’s not giving you up for anything in this universe or beyond!
 
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-38)

Rapture References

Rapture References – This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley – www.gracethrufaith.com
 
Recently I was challenged to make a list of all the passages in the Bible that hint of a pre-trib rapture. As you may know I believe Paul was the first person on Earth to present a clear pre-trib teaching, about 20 years after the cross. Before that time it was unknown because Jesus didn’t teach it to His other disciples during their time together. And since the Olivet Discourse is directed at Israel, there’s no mention of it there either, even though the end times is in view. Israel will not participate in the rapture.
 
Now I’ll be the first to admit that doing this requires that you already have a working knowledge of the pre-trib position, because without it you wouldn’t recognize some of these references as being pertinent to the subject. But ever since Paul revealed the rapture, scholars have been seeing hints of it here and there, even in the Old Testament.
 
Before we begin, in 1 Cor. 2:6-8 Paul explained why God’s plans for the church had been kept secret until after the crucifixion. He said that if the rulers of this age (Satan & Co.) had understood all that God intended for us they would not have crucified the Lord. Not that they could have stopped it, of course. But had they known God was going to use the murder of His Son to save us all, they wouldn’t have gone ahead with it, and in fact would have tried to prevent it. It wasn’t until He was on the cross that they discovered the Lord’s death was going to become payment in full for all our sins, so instead of it being cause for a great celebration it totally disarmed them and made them into a public spectacle (Colossians 2:13-15). Then, 20 years later, they learned about the rapture. These were both things that God had planned from the beginning, but a good general keeps his strategy a secret in order to take his enemy by surprise, so God didn’t let Satan (or anyone else) know about these things until it was too late for him to react. Even now, Satan doesn’t know when the rapture is coming. All he knows is what we know, that each new believer could be the last one, the one that takes us all out of here and beyond his reach forever.
 
I’m convinced that God’s plan requires the Church to disappear before Daniel’s 70th week begins. Remember, the Lord set aside 70 weeks (490 years) for Israel to accomplish 6 things. (Daniel 9:24) At the end of 69 weeks (483 years) Jesus was crucified, the clock suddenly stopped, and Israel disappeared along with its Temple and Old Covenant worship. Daniel’s prophecy was left incomplete and from that time on, God’s focus was on the church.
 
The reappearance of Israel in 1948, the promised rebuilding of a Temple, and resumption of Levitical sacrifice during the 70th week make it clear that the Church didn’t end the dispensation of Law but only interrupted it seven years short of its intended duration. We would all agree that if the introduction of a dam into a stream of water interrupts its flow, then it’s reasonable and logical to conclude that removal of the dam will be necessary for the flow to resume. Therefore if the introduction of the Church after the 69th week of Daniels prophecy caused the interruption in its fulfillment, it’s reasonable and logical to conclude that the Church will have to be removed before the final seven years of the dispensation of Law can run their course and Daniel’s prophecy can be fulfilled.
 
Of course there are other sound reasons why the church has to disappear before the End Times begin in earnest. Not having a destiny on Earth, our presence here would serve no purpose during the time of Earth’s liberation from bondage (Romans 8:19-21). Not being subject to judgment the Church has no unfinished business with God that could be concluded during the End Times. Unlike Israel we don’t need to be made righteous because we’re already as righteous as God is (2 cor. 5:21).
 
Jeremiah 30:11 says the End time judgments will serve a twofold purpose, to completely destroy all the nations among which Israel has been scattered and to discipline Israel. Since God does not consider the Church to belong to either group our presence on Earth during that time would be irrelevant.
 
But the most important reason, as we’ll see, is that God said we won’t be here. Those who teach the Church’s presence on Earth during any part of Daniel’s70th Week have to re-define grace, re-invent the church and re-interpret the Scriptures to support their position.
 
With that introduction, let’s look at some of the clearest hints God placed in the Scriptures to show He has always planned for a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. Naturally, we’ll begin in the Old Testament.
 
Enoch Disappeared
 
Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took Him away. (Genesis 5:24)
 
In Matt. 24:37, Jesus said that the time of His coming would be like the days of Noah. He went onto explain that just as all the unbelievers perished in the flood, all unbelievers would perish at the time of His 2nd coming as well. Those who survive the devastation of the Great Tribulation will immediately face judgment and be taken off the planet. The parables of the servant, the ten virgins, and the talents explain this, as does the account of the Sheep and Goat judgment. (Matt. 24:45-25:46)
 
But if you give the Lord’s statement its widest possible application, you can see that as the time of the Great Flood drew near there were 3 kinds of people on Earth. There were the unbelievers who perished in the flood, Noah and his family who were preserved through it, and Enoch, who was taken by the Lord well before it.
 
Just so, as the End of the Age draws near there will still be three kinds of people on Earth. They are the unbelievers of our time who will perish in the End Times judgments, modern Israel who will be preserved through them, and the Church who will be taken by God well before they begin.
 
There some interesting similarities between Enoch and the Church. For starters, the name Enoch comes from a root which means to train or teach. To the church Jesus said, “Go and make disciples (students) of all men.” (Matt. 28:19) And according to Hebrew tradition, Enoch was born on the day that would become Pentecost. It’s the same day the Church was born. I believe Enoch was an early type of the Church and his disappearance before the flood gave the first hint of a pre-tribulation rapture.
 
Lot Had To Leave Sodom
 
But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it. (Genesis 19:23)
 
Abraham had struck a bargain with the Lord that if even 10 righteous people could be found in Sodom and Gomorrah He would spare the cities. The fact that the cities were destroyed indicates 10 righteous people could not be found there. But there was one, and though He wasn’t bound to do it, the Lord instructed the angels to get Lot out of town before commencing their judgment. Peter referred to Lot’s rescue from Sodom as evidence that the Lord does not judge the righteous with the wicked (2 peter 2:7-9) Lot therefore becomes a model of the Church, who with a righteousness imputed by faith, has to be removed from the time and place of judgment before it begins.
 
Where Was Daniel?
 
Daniel 3 contains one of the most popular children’s stories of the Old Testament. Many don’t realize that it’s also one of the clearest models of the End Times anywhere in the Bible. King Nebuchadnezzar represents the anti-Christ who decrees that anyone who refuses to bow down and worship the statue he has made will be put to death in the fiery furnace, which represents Great Tribulation. Daniel’s three friends, representing Israel, refuse to worship the image and are thrown into the furnace to die. While in there they encounter the Lord, are preserved through the judgment, and are elevated to positions of honor in Babylon.
 
But where was Daniel? He was a prominent figure both before and after chapter 3. But in this episode his name was not even mentioned. Did he worship the statue to escape judgment? If you think that, you don’t know Daniel. Did he refuse to bow down but was not accused? If you think that, you don’t know his enemies. After all they rounded up his three closest friends. For the purposes of this story it’s as if he has disappeared altogether. In chapter 3, Daniel was a model of the Church, who during the End times judgments will have disappeared altogether, while Israel will be preserved through them, meet the Lord in the midst of them, and be elevated to positions of honor in the Kingdom Age.
 
Isaiah Said It Best
 
But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.
 
Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
 
See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the bloodshed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer. (Isaiah 26:19-21)
 
Without a doubt this is the clearest statement of the Lord’s intentions for the Church anywhere in the Old Testament. It can’t be tied to any event in history, but clearly awaits a future fulfillment. And it can’t be intended for Israel, whose resurrection will come after the time of God’s wrath, not before it. (Daniel 12:1-2)
 
Someday soon a group of people will suddenly rise from the dead. Another group, still living, will be whisked away to rooms prepared for them to be hidden from the time of God’s wrath. Then the Lord will punish the people of the Earth for their sins. The fact that the groups being resurrected and hidden are not objects of his wrath is indicated by the switch from second person (resurrected and hidden) to third person (punished). Notice how similar the wording is to 1 Thes 4:16-17 & 5:9, Paul’s teaching on the rapture.
 
But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. (The dead in Christ will rise first).
 
Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; (After that we who are alive and left will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air)
 
It’s appropriate to insert John 14:2-3 here as well to see what rooms Isaiah was talking about.
 
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
 
This promise does not point to the 2nd Coming when the Lord will come to Earth to be with Israel here, where they are. This is a promise to the Church that He has gone to His father’s house to prepare our rooms for us. Then He will come for us to take us there, where He is.
 
See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. (For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.)
 
I’m convinced this is the passage Paul had in mind when he said “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.“ (1 Thes. 4:15). I say this because with the exception of 1 Thes 4:16-17 there is no passage in all the Bible that so clearly describes the pre-trib rapture of the Church.
 
This is not the sum of Old Testament verses that point to a pre-tribulation rapture. But it’s a good sample of the clearest ones, to help you see that God always intended to take us to be with him before He unleashes the End Times judgments upon the unbelieving Earth. Next time we’ll take a similar survey of the New Testament.
 

COMFORTED TO COMFORT

COMFORTED TO COMFORT
[God] comforts us…
that we may be able
to comfort [others]
with the comfort with
which we ourselves are
comforted by God.
-Corinthians 1:4


Paul encouraged a group of believers in a town
called Corinth. He reminded them that afflictions
were inevitable for the follower of Jesus. Many
were being persecuted, imprisoned, and oppressed-
all because of their relationship with Jesus. Paul
wanted the Corinthians to know that in the midst of
their trouble God was their source of help, He would
come to their side and help them to have a godly
responses. Then Paul gave one of the reasons God
allowed suffering and brought divine comfort-so that
the Corinthians might have the empathy to enter into
other people’s sorrow and comfort them (2 Cor. 1:4).

When we suffer, let us remember that God will bring
comfort to us through His Word, by the Holy Spirit,
and through fellow believers. God doesnot comfort us
so that we’ll be comfortable; we are comforted by God
so that we might be comforters.
~Marvin Williams

When you receive God’s comfort,
Be sure to pass it on,
Then give to God the glory
From whom the comfort’s drawn.
~Hess


When God permits trials, He also provides comfort.

For You formed my inward parts…


~13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.

~14 I will praise You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

~15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

~16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

~17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!

~18 If I should count them,
they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

~23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;

~24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

-Psalm 139:15-18,23-24 nkjv

Special Report: Heaven from the Cesspool

Special Report: Heaven from the Cesspool – Jack Kinsella – Omega Letter Editor – www.omegaletter.com
 
It’s been observed that, ‘Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’. It makes you wonder – why is that? Since the worst thing anybody can do to another human being is kill them and the most desirable outcome for any Christian is to go home to glory. . . what’s up with that, anyway?
 
The Bible describes heaven as a place where the streets are made from gold, and where the ‘pure river of the water of Life proceeds out from the throne of God and of the Lamb’ where there shall be no night, since God Himself with illuminate it and so on.
 
 
What kind of mental image does this give you?
 
To me, it sounds pretty neat, but . . . somehow, not.
 
Please don’t run screaming from the room screaming ‘blasphemy’ just yet – I’m not finished. Give me a few more lines.
 
I recall sitting between a couple of sand dunes, surveying the wind-swept beach on one of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, watching as the breakers crashed into the pilings on the nearby pier. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm; it was altogether an idyllic scene.
 
The beauty was breathtaking. Alone with the Lord, I mused about what heaven must REALLY be like, if this wasn’t it. Indeed, as I pointed out earlier, John’s description of heaven was, um, nice, but where I was sitting was pretty nice, too. There were no rivers of living water, but I know that I am saved and have eternal life already.
 
The sand isn’t made of gold, but what value will gold have in eternity, anyway? It will pave the streets, as common as the sand. I like the sand.
 
And I LIKE the night; I’ve sat in that exact same spot at night, and when the breeze is warm and the stars are out, with the moon reflecting off the ocean it is no less idyllic than it is during the day.
 
I thought about what the Bible said about heaven, and more to the point, what the Bible says about our Big Blue Marble.
 
The Bible describes the fall of Lucifer, his sin, and his ejection from heaven, together with the third of the angels who rebelled with him. When they were cast from heaven, where did they go?
 
The Book of Job says: “And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” (Job 1:7, 2:2)
 
It has been my experience in studying God’s Word that when He causes something to be repeated, as in this case, it is worth giving it an extra look.
 
When Satan and his crew cast from heaven, they were cast to the earth, what the theologians call the ‘cosmos diabolicus’ or literally, a world of evil. To the angels, it was the worst place they could imagine — a place of involuntary and horrific exile.
 
 
Planet Earth is the one place in the universe where sin can exist without throwing the entire universe out of balance, thanks to the fact it has an environment that contains it.
 
Our environment, which sustains us, also contains us and keeps us from doing to the universe what we have already done to our planet.
 
Indeed, we managed to get to the outer fringes of our planet and what did we do? Filled it with orbiting space junk, some of which threatens OTHER orbiting space junk, such as the international space station.
 
Meanwhile, back on earth . . . when the fallen angels were cast to earth, it was an astonishing drop. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12)
 
To the angels, the beautiful seaside scene I described earlier is a cesspool of sin, a place of punishment to the angels who rebelled, a place so horrible, that seen from the heavenly perspective, merely being stuck here was enough to turn Lucifer the Archangel into Satan the Destroyer.
 
Imagine our planet from God’s perspective. Everything is stained by sin. The beautiful beach scene? Stained by sin. The ground we walk on? Stained by sin.
 
I tried to imagine that stain for what it is, and of course, I cannot. I can only defer to the Bible’s description of sin. It is so filthy, so repugnant, so disgusting, that God can’t bear to view it.
 
When God created Adam, He created a special place for him. The Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve fell, they were first cast OUT of the Garden, and into the cesspool where sin was allowed to operate freely.
 
Jerusalem sits in the middle of the cesspool. In the center of Jerusalem was the Temple, a place kept scrubbed of the taint of sin by the Levitical priesthood, and the Holy of Holies, a place scrubbed even more carefully.
 
The only place where God would commune with sinful man on this sin-stained planet was that tiny place where the muck of sin was scrubbed away as much as possible.
 
Until even that place became so buried in the muck and mire of sin that, after four hundred years of silence, He decided to Personally scrub it –and us — clean of that stain, once and for all.
 
Scripture says the angels were astonished that the Lord of Glory would assume human form, step out of sinless and perfect eternity, and wallow in the mire of sin with sinful humanity. Every step for Him must have been an agony, like walking knee-deep in sewage.
 
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9)
 
It is a measure of how disgusting sin is to God. The fact it was the place God cast the rebellious angels is revealing. To the angels, our beautiful planet earth is a leper colony. We mortal humans are little more than bugs, willingly wallowing in the yuck of sin, yea, REVELING in it.
 
Yet the Scripture says that the angels are fascinated by us, and by our plight, and astonished by our unwillingness to climb out of the muck. It amazes them that men love the world, since they see it for what it is, and have some basis for comparison between it and the things of the spirit.
 
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us . . .” (Hebrews 12:1)
 
“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and TO ANGELS, and to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:9)
 
Scripture tells us that; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
 
We cannot imagine heaven, we can only compare it to earth and all its beauty and wonderment, and realize that the earth is the universe’s garbage dump. Heaven is like the Bible describes it; but it is much more.
 
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
 
What IS death, that we fear it? In a word, separation. Death separates us from our loved ones. Death takes our loved ones from us, separating us from them until eternity.
 
Sin is a form of death. It separated the fallen angels from fellowship with God. It separates the unsaved from God. Revelation 20:14 speaks of the Great White Throne Judgment in which unbelievers are cast into the Lake of Fire as ‘the second death’ — a second – and permanent separation.
 
Sin separates us from God, our sin nature blinds us to that fact and so we love the world, and thereby astonish the angels. Picture the nastiest, gooeyest, smelliest substance you can think of, and imagine being in it up to your neck. From the angelic perspective, that’s where we are, and most of us are loving it, until we get saved.
 
Jesus said, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10) The angels know what that sinner has just escaped from.
 
Jesus also describes what we become in eternity in Luke 20:36, “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”
 
Paul tells us that we will receive new, immortal bodies. “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:49-50)
 
What is heaven like? I don’t know.
 
But I know what a beautiful, sunny day, a warm ocean breeze and the sights and sounds of the waves as they gently break on the shore is like.
 
And compared to heaven, it’s a cesspool.
 
To the angels, it is a place of exile, a leper colony, a place where the fallen angels were sent to await their fate at the Great White Throne. Our ‘beautiful’ planet is the angelic ‘hell’ to which they were cast to await sentencing to the Lake of Fire.
 
But we will be ‘equal to the angels’ says the Lord, in our immortal, sin-free bodies, and equal to the angels in understanding just HOW evil and repugnant this place really is, from the perspective of the spirit.
 
Why is it, then, that everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die?
 
Because if we knew what awaits us there, we’d all jump off a cliff tomorrow.
 

Pray with persistence

Pray with persistence – Greg Laurie – www.worldnetdaily.com and www.harvest.org
 
We have a secret weapon in the church. It is called prayer. And when all other doors may remain closed, one door is always open: the door into the presence of God through prayer. The problem is that prayer is so often our last resort. It’s what we do when all else fails.
 
In contrast, the church of the first century prayed – and they prayed constantly. When King Herod had Peter arrested and thrown into prison, we read that "constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church" (Acts 12:5 NKJV).
 
King Herod, or Herod Agrippa I, was already responsible for killing James. And now he had turned his attention toward Peter. So when their leader was arrested, what did the early church do? Did they organize a protest and storm Herod’s palace? No. Did they launch a boycott of all products made in Rome? No. The church prayed. While there is a place for taking action, our first priority always should be prayer.
 
The problem is that many times our prayers have no power in them because there is no heart in them. And if we put so little heart into our prayers, how can we expect God to put much heart into answering them?
 
We don’t read of the church tossing up some flippant prayer along the lines of, "Lord, save Peter, or whatever. …" Rather, they prayed with passion and persistence. Another way to translate the phrase "constant prayer" would be "earnest prayer." In fact, the Greek word used to describe their prayer is the same word that was used to describe the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest. The Bible tells us that "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44 NKJV). That was a prayer of passion. It was an agonizing prayer. And that is how the early church prayed: with great fervency and great passion.
 
All too often, we offer heartless prayers. Someone will tell us about a crisis they are facing, and in all honesty, our prayers sound like this: "Oh, Lord, just help them. And then get back to me." We don’t care. We don’t pray with passion. And we don’t pray continuously.
 
How do you handle life when your problems are bigger than you are? Get Greg’s manual for adversity: "Dealing with Giants"
 
Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Luke 18:9 NKJV). From the original tense, it would be better translated, "Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking." When someone keeps knocking at your door, you answer it just to have some peace and quiet. The good news is that God is not irritated by your asking. He tells you to be persistent and to keep at it. We will pray for something once, twice, maybe even three times and then say, "Well, I guess that God isn’t going to answer this prayer." Keep praying about it. Don’t give up so easily.
 
Keep praying, because God has his timing in answering our prayers. Sometimes we think our prayers weren’t answered when, in reality, we just didn’t like the answer. But no is as much of an answer to prayer as yes. God answers prayer three ways: yes, no and wait. We usually like yes. We at least can accept no. But wait? That is hard, because we don’t like to wait. In a culture where we are accustomed to getting everything on demand, we don’t want to wait. But God has his timing. Sometimes he says, "Go." Sometimes he says, "Slow." And sometimes he says, "Grow."
 
Our objective in prayer should be to align our will with the will of God. If you want to see your prayers answered in the affirmative, then your goal should be to pray according to God’s will. But how do we discover God’s will? We discover the heart and mind of God through the study of the Bible. And as we know more and more about God’s desires and will, then we will pray accordingly.
 
Jesus made this amazing promise: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7 NKJV). We like promises like this one – especially the latter part about asking what we desire. But we also need to remember the condition of this promise, which is, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you. …" If you are spending time studying the Bible and getting to know the nature and the character of God, then you will start praying for what He wants. True prayer is not bending God your way; it is bending yourself God’s way.
 
The Bible tells us that the apostle Paul had what is described as a "thorn in the flesh." We don’t know what that "thorn" was, but it was some type of physical infirmity. Three times Paul prayed that the God would remove it, but God answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV). So effectively God was saying to Paul, "Grow. I am going to use this set of circumstances in your life to cause you to grow."
 
But then there was Moses, who wanted to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It was a great idea, but his timing was way off – about 40 years early. So God essentially was saying to Moses, "Slow."
 
But sometimes God says, "Go," and we are even shocked at how quickly our prayers have been answered. This was the situation as the early church prayed for Peter. While they were still praying for his release, he was knocking at the door of the house where they had gathered. In fact, when the girl who answered the door announced that it was Peter, no one believed her at first. But God came through, and they were excited as they realized their prayers had been answered.
 
This story opens with Herod’s wreaking havoc on the church. James was dead, and Peter was in prison. Herod had on his side the power of government, the sword and the threat of prison. But the church had on their side the Creator of the universe and the secret weapon given to them (and to us) called prayer.
 
And when this story comes to a close, Herod is dead. After giving a speech, he accepted the people’s adulation rather than giving glory to God. As a result, the Bible tells us, "Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:23 NKJV).
 
The next verse adds this detail: "But the word of God grew and multiplied." You see, it is not over until it’s over. So keep praying.
 
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