The Apple Of God's Eye

July 31, 2011

God’s Required Qualifications For Grace!

wjcollier3.wordpress.com

Some Christians believe we should still keep much if not all of the law. Some say that because Jesus fulfilled the law we are not bound at all to any of it. Like most polarizing issues, a right understanding is found in allowing God to guide our Bible study.

.There is a distinction between a birthright and grace we ought to understand. A birthright is normally passed on from father to eldest son. There are no conditions which the recipient is required to meet. The son does nothing to qualify for it. He receives it as his right for no other reason than he happened to be born his father’s son. He has a right to it without earning it or qualifying to be worthy of it. He could however, disqualify himself to keep, or even to receive it.

But the gift of immortality received by grace does have qualifying conditions. It is not your right, or mine, to receive the gift of eternal life. Think what conditions would result if it were. A rebellious, defiant, hostile, God-hating criminal or atheist could shake his fist at God and say:

“Look, God! I hate you. I defy you! I refuse to obey you! But I demand your gift of eternal life! It’s my right! I want to receive all the power of a son of God, so that I can use that power to oppose you! I want to make your family a house divided against itself. I will cause friction, hostility, hatred, unhappiness among all your children. I demand that power, as your gift, as my right, so that I may abuse that power – use it for evil!” (more…)

September 28, 2009

The Day of Atonement and Your Future

Scene one: A young woman walks through a semitropical garden filled with beautiful trees loaded with luscious fruit. Everything looks so good — so right.  But is it?

Suddenly she is confronted by a talking serpent who asks about God’s commands. Subtly, the serpent reasons with her until she decides to eat the fruit forbidden her by her Creator. Her husband then follows her example of disobedience.

From that time forward, mankind continues to be subject to Satan’s influence. Consequently, all humans sin and fall short of God’s glory.

Scene two: A young man, once strong and virile, is nailed to a stake. Blood oozes from deep, gaping lacerations in His body, wounds inflicted by a savage beating. Tormentors surround Him, arrogantly jeering, “He can save others, but not Himself!”

But the man’s mind is not on revenge; it is on the ultimate purpose of His suffering, which is to provide the sacrifice necessary for mankind’s salvation.

Finally, after many hours of suffering, death comes suddenly. Three days later He is resurrected. He rejoins His Father, where He serves as High Priest and soon-coming King for all humanity.

Scene three: The earth has been devastated. Plant and aquatic life are almost nonexistent. The human population has been reduced to a small fraction of its former size by the terrifying events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

Everywhere there is destruction, but there is also hope. Jesus Christ has intervened in world affairs. One obstacle remains — the presence of Satan the devil, mankind’s enemy for 6,000 years.

To eliminate this threat to global peace, an angel is sent to bind Satan. Satan is taken to a place of restraint where he is prohibited from influencing mankind for a thousand years.

Is there a relationship between these scenes? The answer is yes. There is a profound relationship that can be understood by studying the meaning of one of God’s annual festivals — the Day of Atonement.

This Day is commanded

Most professing Christians don’t even know that this Festival of God exists. Many who have heard of it think that it is no longer to be kept. But what does God say?

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God…. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings’ ” (Lev. 23:26-28, 31).

This year the Day of Atonement falls on September 28. Some will reason that this command ceased to be in force after Christ’s crucifixion. Such reasoning is false! Jesus Christ did not come to nail God’s annual Holy Days to the cross (Matt. 5:17-18) .

The fact is that God’s festivals have only begun to be fulfilled. These days picture aspects of God’s plan of salvation (Col. 2:16-17), and must be observed by true Christians.

But what about the ritualistic laws that the Old Testament commanded with festival observance? Are they to be kept, or have they been fulfilled?

The purpose of the physical rituals God gave to ancient Israel was to remind the people of the need for the payment of their sins. The various sacrifices pointed ahead to the sacrifice of One who would come later in history as Savior of all mankind.

So the ritualistic laws were fulfilled by the events leading to and including Christ’s own sacrificial death. Therefore they need not be kept today, nor can they be, as there is no Aaronic priesthood to perform these physical duties (Heb. 9:8-10, 10:1-4, 9-12).

The ritualistic laws are no longer performed, but their various aspects still have symbolic meaning. For each festival, we seek to understand all the festival’s meanings, as revealed in the Bible, and as they relate to salvation.

The Tabernacle and the priesthood

Before we proceed with a study of these rituals and symbols, it is necessary for us to understand some things about the Tabernacle and the priesthood.

After making the covenant agreement with Israel, God told the nation to build a Tabernacle, which is a physical type of God’s habitation in heaven (Ex. 25-27, 30, Heb. 9:23-24). The Tabernacle consisted of an enclosed courtyard, containing an altar for animal sacrifices and a tent.

The tent was divided into two sections by a veil. The section behind the veil was called the “Most Holy” place or “Holiest of All.” The other section was the “holy place” (Ex. 26:33, Heb. 9:3). The most holy place represented God’s throne. Located here was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments and other items (Deut. 10:2, 31:26, Ex. 16:33-34, Num. 17:1-10). The lid of the Ark was called the mercy seat; this was where God manifested Himself (Ex. 25:22).

The job of high priest was given to Aaron; his sons served as priests. As time passed, other of his descendants held these positions. As priests, they performed various animal sacrifices and ceremonies on behalf of Israel.

Rituals for Aaron

On the Day of Atonement, special animal sacrifices and ceremonies were conducted. These are explained in Leviticus 16.

This was the only day when Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place. Before doing this, he had to bathe and dress himself in his priestly garments (Lev. 16:4). Then he had to offer on the altar a bullock as a sin offering for himself.

Once this was completed, he took a censer, a vessel that held burning coals, from the altar and entered the most holy place. He then took incense, an aromatic compound, and placed it on the burning coals. Next he sprinkled blood from the bullock on the mercy seat, which represented God’s throne (verses 11-14).

Why did Aaron do these things? What did they picture? Aaron had to first make atonement for himself as a sinning human before God. The word atonement means “to make at one with.”

Washing himself pictured having his conscience changed to accept God’s standard of righteousness (Heb. 10:22). His linen coat symbolized living a righteous life (Rev. 19:8). The incense pictured prayers ascending to God (Ps. 141:2, Rev. 5:8). The blood represented the way sins are forgiven (Heb. 9:13-14, Rom. 3:25).

Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Jesus Christ, who is now our High Priest (Heb. 3:1). By living a sinless life, Jesus qualified to offer Himself as a sin sacrifice for all humanity through His crucifixion.

After Jesus’ death, the veil in the Temple (the Temple had replaced the Tabernacle) was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The torn veil represented the fact that we are now allowed direct contact with God the Father through prayer (Heb. 10:19-22, John 16:23).

This contact is something that those living before Christ’s resurrection did not have; their access was limited to the Word of God, the God of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ.

The two goats

Now that Aaron had completed sacrifices for himself, what happened next?

“The two goats he must place in front of the Eternal at the entrance to the Trysting tent [Tabernacle]; Aaron shall cast lots over the goats, one lot for the Eternal and the other for Azazel the demon; the goat that falls by lot to the Eternal shall be brought forward and offered as a sin-offering, but the goat that falls by lot to Azazel shall be set free in presence of the Eternal, that Aaron may perform expiatory rites over it and send it away for Azazel into the desert” (Lev. 16:7-10, Moffatt).

Whom did this slain goat, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the altar for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15-19), represent? The answer is Christ, who was slain and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Heb. 9:12, 22-26).

But Christ’s death has not completed the job of making atonement for the sins of humanity. Why? Because Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of most people. Consequently, mankind rejects the true Gospel, which includes accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and living a righteous life (II Cor. 4:3-4, Rev. 12:9).

So how will the job of atonement be completed? How will mankind be made at one with God?

The answer is revealed through the symbolism of the live goat — the azazel, in Hebrew.

Says The Comprehensive Commentary: “[According to] the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians … Azazel is the name of the Devil … the word signified the goat which went away.” The Azazel was the goat that was sent into the wilderness.

This Azazel is sometimes referred to as the “escape goat” or “scapegoat.” But these terms make the meaning unclear. Scapegoat has come to mean “one who bears blame or guilt for others.” This is not the case with Satan. He is guilty of influencing mankind into disobeying God (Eph. 2:2). And he will be punished for it — Satan will bear his own guilt! He will not be allowed to escape.

Symbolism,

The live goat was brought before Aaron, who, as we have seen, is a type of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Aaron laid hands on this goat, confessing upon it the people’s sins. Then it was led by another individual into the wilderness where it was released (Lev. 16:20-22).

How is this symbolism going to be fulfilled? Jesus is coming to this earth again, this time to rule. He will order Satan bound and taken to a place of restraint for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).

The world will then become free of Satan’s influence and responsive to God’s way of life; man’s sins will be laid to Satan’s charge. The change will be remarkable. Humanity as a whole will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and live according to God’s law (Isa. 11:9). Finally, there will be universal peace, joy and happiness (Jer. 31:12-14).

What about fasting?

In addition to the symbolism of the sacrifices, there is another aspect of this Festival that we must consider. Notice Leviticus 16:29:

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who sojourns among you.”

What does it mean “afflict your soul”? The word afflict (Hebrew anah) is translated “humble” in Psalm 35:13, where David said, “I humbled myself with fasting.” So afflicting oneself means to fast.

Biblical examples show that fasting means to go without food and water (Deut. 9:9, 18, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:8-9). This is the only day when we are commanded to fast. It is so important that in the New Testament we see this Festival referred to as “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves, to see our insignificance and realize our need for and utter dependence on God (Jas. 4:9-10). God does not hold us guiltless for the sins that Satan influences us to commit. We bear a responsibility for yielding to Satan’s temptations.

God wants you to examine yourself so you will recognize your shortcomings and overcome them. These are the conditions of a proper fast that will cause God to intervene on your behalf.

Keep this Festival

The Day of Atonement, then, is a solemn, serious occasion, and yet, because of what it pictures, this Festival is a tremendously positive and encouraging day.

Besides revealing vital understanding about God’s plan of salvation, the Day of Atonement can bring you much closer to God, if you obey God’s command to observe this day.

Don’t deny yourself this relationship with God. Decide now to keep the Day of Atonement!

Source: The Good News, August 1983

July 28, 2009

Why Are Animals Dangerous?

There is a reason the world — including the animal kingdom– suffers strife and violence. In chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis, we see that in the beginning, before sin entered the world, God’s creation had been one of total harmony and peace! God offered our first parents a way of life which would lead to every blessing imaginable and, ultimately, to eternal life.

However, they rejected God’s way and chose the way of Satan the devil instead. Because of their disobedience and rebellion, God told Adam and Eve the earth would come under a curse (Gen.3:17-19). The result of sin is misery, suffering, violence, and death. This is why even the nature of most wild animals was changed, becoming fierce and hostile toward man and each other. Instead of assisting man during his lifetime, the earth became a hostile environment in which to live.

Thankfully, Jesus Christ will soon intervene in the affairs of mankind and establish God’s Kingdom on earth. When this occurs, there will be a restitution of peace and harmony between all living creatures. God’s creation will be restored to its original state before sin entered the world. Then the nature of animals will again be gentle and tame. You can read of this in Isaiah 11:

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (verses 6-9).

When Jesus Christ establishes God’s Government on the earth, the cause of sin will be removed. The nature of the animals — including poisonous snakes and spiders — will be changed, and the entire earth will experience peace and prosperity undreamed of by man!

June 18, 2009

The Apostle Paul: Commandment Breaker Or Keeper?

www.art.com/MILLIONS of professing Christians assume Paul taught Christians to disobey the Ten Commandments. If you keep the Law of God, it is claimed, you are under a curse! You probably have heard this teaching from childhood and have assumed it to be true.

To be sure, many have sincerely thought and assumed that this is New Testament teaching. But God commands us to quit assuming — to “prove all things …” (I Thess. 5:21).

Does it make any difference to God whether you obey Him?

How to Begin

Some of what Paul wrote is admittedly difficult to understand. Peter was inspired to say that Paul wrote “some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable WREST, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:16).

But on the other hand, Paul also wrote much which is clear, plain and EASY to understand. In those passages it would be impossible to misunderstand what he is saying.  The logical way to understand Paul’s teachings about the Ten Commandments is to go first to his plain, clear, straightforward statements on this subject. Only when we first understand these, are we ready to intelligently study Paul’s more difficult passages.

However, because the natural mind of man has a built-in hostility toward God and His Ten Commandment Law (Rom. 8:7), men don’t follow this logical approach. Instead of understanding Paul’s difficult statements in the light of his PLAIN, CLEAR, easy-to-understand words, many do just the opposite. They totally discard, reject and IGNORE Paul’s direct, straightforward, UNMISTAKABLE statements about the Ten Commandments. They then twist and distort his more difficult-to-be-understood statements.

What Paul Clearly Taught

Now what are some of Paul’s clear statements about the Ten Commandments? One such statement is found in I Corinthians 6:9-10. Here Paul warns: “Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers… nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

In this one short passage the Apostle Paul names the breaking of FOUR of the Ten Commandments — idolatry, adultery, stealing and coveting — and dogmatically states that any found guilty of breaking these commandments will not inherit God’s Kingdom! And he warns us not to deceive ourselves by thinking otherwise!

Notice another unmistakably clear and easy-to-understand passage: “Now the works of the flesh … are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry… wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).

This passage repeats two commandments — those pertaining to adultery and idolatry — and adds one more — the command against murder.

This makes a total of FIVE commandments which Paul has specifically and unequivocally stated Christians must keep if they are to inherit or enter God’s Kingdom. And since idolatry, which is mentioned in both of these passages, automatically breaks the first commandment, which is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3), Paul has actually commanded obedience to six of the Ten Commandments in just two short passages!

Now turn to Colossians 3:5-9. This passage reads: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of DISOBEDIENCE… But now ye also PUT OFF ALL THESE: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. LIE NOT one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.”

This scripture names and condemns disobedience to two more of the Ten Commandments — bearing false witness, or lying, and taking God’s name in vain through blasphemy and filthy talk. (See also Ephesians 4:29.)

Next open your Bible to Ephesians 6:1-2. Here we read, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.” This is a direct quote from the commandment in Exodus 20:12. Yet here Paul explicitly COMMANDS Christians to obey it!

This makes a total of NINE commandments which Paul has distinctly and separately named as being binding on Christians. Only the Sabbath command is left. Let’s see what Paul taught about it.

Paul and the Fourth Commandment

Every argument imaginable has been advanced against the command to keep holy the day God made holy (Ex. 20:8). Some want to use time as they please. They don’t want God telling them what to do! Some hate this command more than any other, it seems. It is the “test commandment” to show who God’s people really are.

Did Paul obey this commandment? Did he personally keep the day God made holy — and did he teach others to obey it? Let’s not just guess or assume. Let’s examine the Scriptures and “prove all things.”

In Acts 13 we have the account of Paul and Barnabas coming to Antioch in Pisidia. There they “went into the synagogue ON THE SABBATH DAY, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on” (Acts 13:14-15).

Then Paul stood up and spoke, preaching Christ to them.

“And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the GENTILES besought that these words might be preached to them THE NEXT SABBATH” (verse 42).

Now since Paul was preaching “the grace of God” (verse 43), here was his opportunity to straighten out these Gentiles. Notice what Paul did.

“And the NEXT SABBATH DAY came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (verse 44). Here Paul waited a whole week in order to preach to the Gentiles upon the day God made holy!

But this is not the only passage showing that Paul obeyed this commandment. In Acts 18:1-11 there is the account of Paul living with Aquila and Priscilla for one and one-half years (verse 11). During this time we read that he “reasoned in the synagogue EVERY SABBATH, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (verse 4).

Notice it! This New Testament passage tells us that Paul labored the six working days and taught in the synagogue every Sabbath for one and one-half years!

Likewise in Acts 17:2, Paul “as his manner was, went in unto them, and three SABBATH DAYS reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” It was Paul’s MANNER — his CUSTOM — to keep God’s day holy. Did he follow Christ in this? Certainly! Jesus, “as his custom was… went into the synagogue ON THE SABBATH DAY” (Luke 4:16).

It was Christ’s custom to keep the Sabbath. Paul followed Christ and he commands Christians: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). Paul kept the fourth commandment and he commands Christians to follow him in this regard.

For a final clincher of this fact, turn to Hebrews 4:9. Here, according to the original inspired Greek, Paul makes the direct statement, “There remaineth therefore a sabbath observance to the people of God.”

This passage is obscured in the King James Version which reads, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” But the word translated “rest” comes from the Greek word sabbatismos and, as the marginal readings in many Bibles show, means “keeping of the Sabbath observance.” Because the King James translators didn’t believe this verse meant what it said, they translated sabbatismos by the obscure word “rest.”

This verse, then, tells us point-blank that those who really are God’s people will be keeping holy the day He made holy.

What Will YOU Do?

The evidence is overwhelming! Paul personally kept ALL TEN of God’s Ten Commandments. In doing this he followed in the steps of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul could say, “Be ye followers [imitators] of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
Christ taught obedience to the Law. In John 15:10 Jesus said, “I have kept my Father’s commandments….” He says to His true followers, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.”

The question for us today is: Are WE willing to follow Christ, too? If we, like Paul, are crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) and Christ lives His life in us by His Spirit, Christ IN us will still keep God’s Ten Commandments, for He is the SAME, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

There are hundreds of additional New Testament passages covering obedience to God and His Law, both from the writings of Paul and others. We have, however, given sufficient information to prove conclusively and beyond a shadow of a doubt that Paul DID teach obedience to the Ten Commandments.

Don’t be deceived by those who teach disobedience! Many who hate God’s Law are very skillful at putting a clever twist on certain of Paul’s more difficult passages to make it appear that the Ten Commandments are “done away.”

Heed Peter’s warning! Don’t be deceived!

Source: Tomorrow’s World, January 1972

June 4, 2009

Life after Death: It's Not What You Think!

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yinvsyang.com

Few things have intrigued mankind as much as the concept of an afterlife. After about 75-80 years, death is the surest thing in anyone’s life. Eventually, everyone has to face that fact, but what follows death? The popular belief is that an immortal soul continues to live on, either in heaven or hell. Yet is that what the Bible teaches?

Return from the afterlife?

Let’s review what happens when a man dies. First, some people claim that they have experienced “life” after they had supposedly died and returned to tell about their unusual experience.

Though many of these happenings are understandably astounding and seem to contradict what the Bible says about
death, the whole idea of this so-called “life after life” experience is based on the premise that these people died.

According to the medical profession, these individuals were clinically dead. However, medical science has not yet agreed on what constitutes actual death in a human being. Real death, according to the Bible, is total and complete unconsciousness — without memory, feeling, knowledge, or perception (Eccl. 9:5, 10; Ps. 6:5). Therefore, it is evident that those who were revived to relate their experiences were not actually dead, but simply in an unconscious state.

Furthermore, science has discovered that the human brain and nervous system are actuated by electrical signals and impulses. The brain is dependent on a steady supply of blood and oxygen to function properly. When circulation and respiration are impaired or interrupted for even a few minutes, the brain begins to malfunction, and will eventually cease functioning altogether.

It is thought by some researchers that the strange lights, sensations, perceptions, and the like, associated with “coming
back from death” may be attributable to the electrical malfunctions of the brain and nervous system associated with the
trauma of nearly dying.

The fact is: we don’t really know, but there is one undeniable truth – these people did not come back from the dead.

The truth about death

In Romans 6:23, we read that “the wages of sin is DEATH,” not everlasting life in either heaven or hell. Real death, as we have already seen from the Biblical account, is a total and complete unconsciousness — without memory, feeling, knowledge, or perception. Why does it say this? Because the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the doctrine of going to heaven after you die is complete and utter nonsense:

  1. “And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven” (John 3:13).
  2. “For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.” So we see that David also, a “man after God’s own heart” is still in the grave. Surely, he deserves a place in heaven if there was such a place to go after death?

The commentaries (as well as critics), get all convoluted about this verse. Because of the inherent belief of heaven for the saved, they cannot come up with a unified conclusion. They reason that this verse merely means t is the body that is in the grave, but not the soul. But they reason around the plain language of the Bible.

No immortal soul

Death is the effect, or “wages” earned, for living the way of sin. The reason man has to die is sin. Sin causes death. Every man is subject to death because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Thus every man is destined to die.

But when he is dead, God informs us: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Note that there is no work, no device, no knowledge and no wisdom in the grave. The dead know nothing — they are simply dead! Solomon was also inspired to write, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing…” (verse 5, Revised Standard Version).

Those in the grave cannot do anything and their souls don’t praise God, as many believe. That is reserved for those living (Isaiah 38:18-19). The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which simply means a living, breathing creature. When God created mankind, man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). He didn’t possess an immortal soul, but became a living, breathing creature. The same Hebrew word is used to describe the life of animals — “every living creature” — in Genesis 1:21, 24 and 2:19. Like the animals, man does not possess an immortal soul.

When an individual dies, his body simply returns to dust (Genesis 3:19) — just as an animal does when it dies (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). When God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness. In the Creator’s great wisdom, He created man with a temporary physical existence — subject to decay and death — so that, should he reject God’s way of life, man would mercifully cease to exist for all eternity.

At the re-creation, recorded in Genesis, God created two physical trees — symbolic of two ways of life — two choices (Genesis 2:9). God then clearly instructed man regarding which choice he should make (verses 16-17). He told him that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would lead to death! But man did not believe his Creator. Instead, Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan’s lie that they would not die — that man is an immortal soul — that they already had eternal life (Genesis 3:4-6). Disobeying God, they incurred the death penalty. Twice God records in the book of Ezekiel that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

A change after death

But there is an actual life after death. No, I’m not contradicting myself. The patriarch Job posed the question: “If a man die, shall he live again?….” He then answers his own question by stating, “…all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come” (Job 14:14). Job was expecting a change — a change to what?

The Bible reveals that, ultimately, everyone dies physically. The Apostle Paul stated: “[l]t is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). All men die physically — all suffer the first death. As all die physically, all will, at some time, be judged. God will judge all humans according to a plan — a time order — at different periods of time. Each of God’s judgment periods is followed by a resurrection. The Bible shows that all mankind will be resurrected in one of three resurrections.

The first resurrection

God records in 1 Corinthians 15, also known as the resurrection chapter, that “as in Adam all DIE, even so in Christ shall ALL [the same “all”] BE MADE ALIVE. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (verses 22-23). At this time only God’s people are being judged (I Peter 4:17). Following this present period of judgment, all “they that are Christ’s at his coming” will be resurrected or changed (1 Corinthians 15:23, 52). These verses refer to the first resurrection, that of the saints, or firstfruits, called out of the world now, to be changed to spirit life at the return of Christ. This is the change Job awaited.

The second resurrection

But what about the rest of humanity — those not called and being judged now? I Corinthians 15:24 focuses on another resurrection — the second resurrection — that will occur at “the end” of Christ’s millennial rule on Earth. In contrast to the first resurrection, this is a resurrection to physical life and a 100-year period of judgment (Isaiah 65:20) for all those cut off from a relationship with God during Satan’s 6,000-year reign on Earth.

We find a more detailed description of the nature of this resurrection in Ezekiel 37. God is not a respecter of persons and will provide every human with the opportunity to get to know Him, choose to and learn to live by His laws, and — after a period of growth and overcoming — be born into the Family of God. This will be the greatest resurrection in terms of numbers. At this time, the billions who have lived cut off from God during Satan’s dominion will be given their opportunity to learn and become a part of God’s awesome plan for mankind.

The third resurrection

Following the second resurrection and judgment of those in it, is another resurrection — the third resurrection, also to physical life. This resurrection is reserved for the willfully disobedient who cling to the way of sin. They are resurrected to be condemned to death. Only a loving God would devise such a merciful plan that prevents man from living in eternal misery and causing misery to those around him.

All three resurrections are described in the 20th chapter of the book of Revelation.

Born again produces change

So the change spoken of in the bible can only be undergone if we are born again. What does it really mean to be born again? Christ made it very plain: “That which is born of the flesh IS flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit IS spirit” (John 3:6). And physical flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). We must be born again, or changed to immortal spirit.

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