The Apple Of God's Eye

April 7, 2011

Five Doctrines Which Identify The True Church Of God

WHY were you born? After death, then what? What is man’s destiny?

These are the most important questions of your life, yet they are often lost in the shuffle of most religious debates.

A cloud of superstition has crept over the main denominations of Christianity. This cloud of counterfeit doctrines prevents mankind from seeing the clear scriptures which outline God’s master plan for man.

In place of the five fundamental biblical doctrines which identify God’s true Church, man has concocted five false doctrines, which are commonly assumed to be in the Bible.

Following is a two-pronged presentation of each of the five fundamental doctrines: first an explanation of the true biblical teaching; then a study of the counterfeit.

1. The “Plan for All Seasons”

The plan of God, expressed in the four following doctrines, is pictured by the first doctrine: the weekly Sabbath (Ex. 31:13-17) and the annual holy days (Lev. 23), which picture that plan of God through seven steps and three annual seasons.

The “plan for all seasons” begins with the Passover in early spring. This solemn memorial service pictures the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died to pay the physical and spiritual penalty for man’s sins. This initial holy day is immediately followed by the Days of Unleavened Bread, picturing sin (as leaven) being removed from the lives of newly baptized Christians.

The third holy day, Pentecost, comes during early summer. Just as the early summer harvest is a small foretaste of the great autumn harvest, Pentecost pictures the relatively “small flock” of called-out Christians who receive God’s Holy Spirit during this 6,000-year age of man’s rule.

There are four more holy days clustered in one month of autumn. The first is the Day of Trumpets, representing the trumpeted end-time warning to the world and Christ’s subsequent return to earth at the “last trump.” The Day of Atonement follows nine days later, picturing the Christian’s resurrection to sonship (being “at one”) with God the Father.

Five days later is the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles representing the millennial fall “harvest” of human beings and the rule of God for 1,000 years.

The last holy day, called the “Last Great Day,” represents the time following the millennium when every human being who has ever lived (not having a chance for salvation in this age) will be resurrected to life and given his first chance to live the way of life God intended — on a beautiful, rebuilt planet earth. (more…)

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February 15, 2010

Seven Proofs Of God's True Church, Part 3

This is part 3 of our seven part series of proving the true Church of God.

PROOF THREE: THE TRUTH ABOUT PAGAN DOCTRINES

Look at the superstitions around you. In the modern world, we seemingly take for granted the various bizarre “doctrines” and “beliefs” of the many religions. We’re not even especially alarmed at the almost fantastic varieties of “belief” held by the average passersby on the streets of our modern cities.

A Plethora of Paganism

Some believe in “going to heaven.” Others believe there is no God — that evolution is true. Still others believe in various interpretations of pantheism, polytheism, deism, dualism, theistic evolution, and, give or take a few hundred, about a thousand more shades and colorings of “belief.” Fast friends in many social circles believe widely different things about religion.

Sitting across from each other at the bridge table may be one person fully expecting to be “raptured” away secretly some day — while another believes there is no living Christ. One thinks only his body dies, and his “soul” goes off to heaven, while another believes he will reappear in the form of a gnat, or a mosquito. (more…)

January 16, 2010

Why The Resurrection Instead Of Going To Heaven?

Most people believe that Christ completed God’s plan of redemption by dying on the cross. But if salvation was made full and complete by Jesus’ death, then why does the Bible still speak of a resurrection from the dead?

We often hear the saying, “Christ died to save sinners,” but this is not even a Biblical quotation. If you believe that Christ’s death imparts to us eternal life — that the blood of Christ — His death, actually saves or imparts everlasting life, then you are wrong in your assumption. Nowhere in the Bible does it say this is so!

So why did Christ Die for us ? First, realize that all have sinned and the penalty for sin is death (Rom. 3:23, 6:23)! The Bible definition of sin is the transgression of God’s law — summed up by the Ten Commandments (I John 3:4). It was established by God for the happiness of man, something that has eluded him in a world of strife and war, fear and worry, poverty and want, discontent and suffering.

This world believes God’s salvation merely imparts eternal life! Jesus said He came that we might have eternal life, yes. But He also said something more: “I am come,” He said, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Not merely continuous existence — but a life full of happiness for all eternity! (more…)

January 1, 2010

Which Type Of Music Is Spiritually Destructive?

We like to think we know our music. But how much do you really understand it? The Bible tells us that we cannot simply take a cursory glance at music and determine whether it is good or not. Amos 6 shows that music is one of the major factors bringing down our nation in the end time (see verses 3-6).

Amos 6:5 says the people are into music “like David.” To them it looks righteous, but it leads them into captivity! (verse 7). How can that be? Satan himself poses as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Christians must know how to discern good and evil when it comes to this ever-elusive subject of music. Heb. 5:14 commends those Christians who “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” This can only be done through God’s perspective, as music’s has a spiritual nature and profound influence.

So the scriptures tell us that we must have our physical senses exercised “by reason of use.” God wants our senses to play a part in discerning, because he equipped us with the sense of hearing. This requires a lot of individual judgment. (more…)

October 23, 2009

Parables Of Jesus: The Kingdom

As Jesus sat in a small fishing craft just offshore on the Sea (or lake) of Galilee, He began to address the large crowd assembled on the shore. He spoke in parables about the Kingdom of God.

In this first group of parables, Jesus gave to the people six parables without any explanation. Later, He privately explained the meaning of all these to His own disciples. He also gave the disciples four additional parables, which were self-explanatory. These last four parables contained a special message within the overall theme pertaining directly to the disciples’ future apostolic ministry.

It is important to realize that the parables were doctrinal in nature: “And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine” (Mark 4:2).

A doctrine is a biblical principle, teaching or truth that is accepted as authoritative. It constitutes part of the dogma of real Christianity. Therefore, we cannot underestimate the importance of seeking understanding of the parables of Jesus!

The first parable Jesus gave is of special significance because it is a pacesetter of sorts. It is typical of all such parables, and the method of explanation also follows the same basic pattern. Jesus said to His disciples: ” … Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13.)

The parable of the sower

“Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:3-8).

This first parable is a simple story liberally laced with local color. It is found in three of the four gospel accounts — Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each gospel mentions a point or two not found in the other accounts. We will use Mark’s more concise gospel as our basic reference.

Jesus describes a scene very familiar to His audience: A sower went out to sow grain in his field. The seed falls on four different types of ground: 1) the wayside, 2) stony ground, 3) among thorns and 4) good ground. Each represents a different category of person who hears the Word of God at some point in his life. Each responds differently.

We are not told who the sower is, but it is explained that “the sower soweth the word” (verse 14). We must assume that whoever disseminates God’s Word (God or one of His human instruments) is the sower. The seed in the parable, then, represents the Gospel message and all that it includes.

Each person who hears it reacts differently. Not everyone responds with equal enthusiasm. Nor does the Word of God bear the same fruit in each individual it touches.

Those by the wayside

The people in this first category hear the Gospel message, but they are immediately dissuaded from doing anything about it. God’s truth is never allowed to take root in their lives. They are easy prey for the devil, who subtly convinces them to disbelieve what they hear. ” … Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (verse 15).

There are many ways by which this happens: A snide remark about the message from a “friend” who is supposedly in the know about such things. A sudden change of personal circumstances may lead to a temporary diversion — which becomes permanent.

A minor disagreement about a small point can lead the prospective Christian to “throw out the baby with the bath water.” It could be any number of things, but the result is always the same! The person rejects the Gospel of the Kingdom of God before it gets a chance to take root.

On stony ground

These persons advance somewhat further than those in the first category. Their initial reaction to the Word of God is enthusiastic. They are happy to hear the truth preached. They may even become baptized. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized … ” (Acts 2:41).

But unfortunately, their enthusiasm soon wears thin. They ” … have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17).

These babes in Christ never allow their spiritual roots to go down quite deeply enough to draw on the pure, nourishing water of God’s spiritual power (John 7:38, 39; Acts 1:8). When persecution comes along, they are not strong enough to withstand. They have no persevering power in the face of the ridicule and derision of those who do not share their beliefs.

Such people are only willing to obey God as long as it does not cost them anything in terms of personal prestige and respect. They are willing to compromise the Word of God rather than suffer for it.

Did not Jesus say in another place: ” … If any man will come after me, let him … take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)?

Among thorns

The third type of person progresses somewhat further. He too begins to bear fruit and live a life of obedience to Christ. His life changes as he yields to the Word of God. But he too has a hang-up. At some point in his Christian life, “… the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

In order to become unfruitful, he must have at one time been fruitful. Here is someone who has actually begun to bear substantial fruit as a result of God’s Word. He has made spiritual progress. He may have been in the Church for some time. Others may even consider him well established in the Body of Christ.

But sooner or later, plain old materialism or sensuality creeps in and smothers his spirituality.

Perhaps it is a craving for material success in the world of business or industry. A desire to be at the top of the financial heap can divert a person’s focus of attention from spiritual to material things.

For this reason, the apostle Paul warned the Colossians about drifting into materialism: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). He also said that “… to be carnally [physically] minded is death …” (Romans 8:6).

There are many pitfalls that can tear a person away from the abundant life to which God has called him. It could be money, the desire for financial success, another woman or man, a job or an inordinate desire of any kind. It could be a craving for liquor or food (not that eating and drinking are wrong, but drunkenness and gluttony are) or possibly even narcotic drugs.

Whatever it is, it diverts one from his life in Christ — choking out the influence of God’s Holy Spirit and any further bearing of good fruit.

On good ground

This category describes people who are converted and who make continual growth and progress in the faith. They bear the good fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

But not all bear the same amount of fruit. Some are much more productive than others. Many do not realize their maximum potential as Christians — they merely get by with a modicum of effort.

Yet it is Christ’s will that we bear much fruit. Those who are closest to Jesus Christ bear the most fruit. Jesus said: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Which category are you in?

The wheat and the tares

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servant said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:24-30).

The second parable is also taken from a description of rural life in the province of Galilee. Any farmer of the day would have known about tares (darnel). They were weeds that grew with the wheat and looked much like it as long as the wheat remained in the blade stage. When they grew to maturity, however, they were readily distinguishable.

This is a simple illustration pointing out that both the converted and unconverted have to coexist in the same society until the time of the great harvest of lives at Christ’s return. During that time Jesus Christ will make a separation between those who are His and those who are not.

The best account of this parable is found in Matthew 13:24-30. (The explanation is given in verses 36-43.) Each element has vital meaning. Notice Matthew’s explanation:

“The field is the world; the good seed [true Christians] are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one [Satan — compare John 8:44, I John 3:8]; The enemy that sowed them is the devil [the god of this society, II Corinthians 4:4]; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world [Greek: aionos, meaning age].”

This parable graphically shows the fate of those who insist on following the devil when they know better! Those who are incorrigibly wicked will be thrown into a lake of fire and be burned into ashes (Malachi 4:3).

John spoke of this in the book of Revelation: “And death [the dead] and hell [the grave — hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). In order to die twice, one must first live twice. This means a resurrection must occur.

This is not immortal life as a “soul” in an ever-burning hellfire — it is complete extinction and oblivion forever! And this is doctrine!

The Good News, April 1979

October 6, 2009

The Eternal Habitation Of God

bwzone.wordpress.com

bwzone.wordpress.com

Isaiah 57:15 contains one of the most incredible phrases that a human mind could possiblyunderstand. These few words describe God as “One that inhabiteth eternity.”  Considering the overwhelming significance of these words, let’s investigate what “inhabit” and “eternity” mean.

The Hebrew word translated “eternity” is ad. Ad can be translated “eternity, forever, everlasting, always.”  The English word “inhabit” in Isaiah 57:15 comes from the Hebrew verb shakhan — which can mean “to rest, live in, continue, dwell, settle, inhabit.” The word shakhan gives the impression of comfort and confidence. In various contexts the meaning includes the complete possession, occupation and fulfillment of the object inhabited.

And so, much like the human family abides in, dwells in, continues in and inhabits the earth, the God family rests in, abides in, dwells in, continues in and inhabits eternity!

In the same manner that physical beings can control and comprehend a specific plot of space, spirit beings can control and comprehend an eternity of time. Just as the earth is the arena for all the activities of the human family, eternity is the arena for all the unimaginable activities of the God family.

Grasp the fundamental difference: Just as physical beings employ the vectors of space, spirit beings employ the vectors of time. (This is why God equally speaks of 1000 years as one day and one day as 1000 years — II Peter 3:8.)
Jesus Christ is called the Father of Eternity — which is a way the phrase “the everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6 can be translated. And incredibly, the Bible actually states that human beings have the potential to be like Christ (John 17:22). Like God!

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).

God says as a son in His family, all will eventually possess, envelop, encompass, occupy and fulfill eternity, in the same manner as they today can physically possess, envelop, encompass, occupy and fulfill a comfortable home or a soft easy chair.

That is a fundamental truth that the religions of this world cannot accept, They are locked into doctrinal disputes which have nothing to do with what Christ actually spoke about; concepts such as going to heaven or hell, the trinity, pagan holidays (Christmas, easter, etc). NONE of these are biblical, yet all of them are universally accepted among Christian denominations.

What is eternity?

Eternity is a long time. Could it get boring?  If it could, it would!  There’s plenty of time available! If boredom would develop — even a little bit — we’d be in deep trouble. Eternity would become a literal hell! As a matter of fact, that is precisely the fate reserved for Satan and his demons — hell — an eternity of boredom: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13).

If eternity is to be spent gazing blissfully up into God’s face in heaven, or having our every wish immediately fulfilled — as many religions teach — after a few months (or after a few octillion years, it doesn’t really matter). life would get unbearingly boring.  And once life got boring, it would be sickeningly and fiendishly terrifying. Because there would remain nothing but an unending eternity of boredom to come — with death a wonderful but impossible way of escape (see Luke 20:35-38). This would indeed be the ultimate torture.

But our Eternal Father has a better idea. He has designed a plan in which eternity will not grow progressively more boring. But, as unbelievable as it seems, eternity will grow progressively more exciting, more scintillating, and more enjoyable as each eon follows eon.

In Ephesians 2:7 God reveals “that in the ages to come he [God] might chew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 16:11 multiplies this simple but profound concept: “… In thy presence is fulness of joy; at [in] thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

The words “pleasures” and “for evermore” in Psalm 16:11 are somewhat unusual. Note the numerous meanings of each:

“Pleasures” is translated from the Hebrew word naeem meaning: “pleasant, delights, agreeable, lovely, beauty, glory, pleasures.” “Forevermore” is translated from natzach, a Hebrew root which can mean: “forever, perpetuity, permanency, truth, faithful, overseer, entire, perfect, complete, surpass, excellency, glory.”

Now combine them together in your mind’s eye in order to begin to barely approach the really great time that God has in store for us for eternity.

Men are shackled to time

Man is  constantly hounded by time because he does not have life, only a temporary physio-chemical existence. It feels like life because it is all he knows – this limited physical body needs to recharge daily.

God wants us to realize the temporary nature of all things physical – the nature of matter. It’s all in bondage to decay. Everything in us does not want to accept that fact. We don’t want to believe it, despite the evidence.

Do we realize how short and temporary life is? The Bible says we are like a fading flower, like a fleeting shadow. Another analogy is that we are like an alarm clock that is constantly running down to death. We die daily and are one breath away from death. That is why the Bible says our years come to an end in a flash, like a tale told (Ps. 90:5).

There is simply no guarantee that we will see 70-80 years of life and there is no way to predict how long we live either. Compare the days of your life to an hourglass with sand draining from top to bottom. Now imagine the top being opaque and hard to see through. You would have no idea how much time is left. There may be a lot but there may also be very little.

Now consider if you are married and how you feel about your wonderful wife and children. Do you understand that you marriage covenant is a temporary agreement only, until you die? You will see 100% disruption and destruction by death, abandonment, split-up, or old age.

Use time wisely

God tells us to number our days (Ps. 90:12), which is akin to asking God to teach us to understand how short life  really is and how certain it is to come to an end and motivate us to use our time wisely. The better perspective we have with time, the better we will put it to use.

If we are wise with the use of our time on this earth, then God rewards us with rulership in His Kingdom (Math. 25:20-21). Basically, God says if we sue this small amount of time (our life) in a faithful way, He will give us eternity with “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away…” (I Pet. 1:4).

God (through His human servant) then proceeds to explain the contrast between the physical and the spiritual by saying:

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away (I Pet. 1:23-24).

In other words, what is waiting for us has eternal (and very positive and joyful) consequences, while the end of the physical life offers only decay.

The nature of God

Psalm 90:2-4, II Pet. 3:8) shows that to God,a thousand years is as a day and a day as a thousand years. What does that mean?

It is all about our approach to time. Our destiny is to become members of God’s family – with a mind oriented towards eternity.  1000 years can go by as a single day to God. Figures are arbitrary. Paul may well have said one second is as a trillion years.

We can only be in one place at one time, but for God time is multi-dimensional. He can dwell in one moment for as long as He chooses or move one moment to another at will. He is not restricted by time, which is why he can listen to all our prayers at the same time.

In these prayers, true Christians have special access to Christ. But what if  all desire to have access at the same time? The answer is that we will have time without limits. Eternity is not an endless amount of seconds, minutes and hours. It is timelessness – to have all limitations removed.   You can inhabit eternity to have all problems resolved.

Time versus eternity

God puts limitations in the lives of humans so that they have to prioritize. Seek first the kingdom of God to eventually be rulers over many things. Man has to manage his time because he are in bondage to it. And precisely because he is limited to time, he must do all he can with limited resources. Don’t waste a single day. Our body is a temporary tent and we have to make the best use of it (II Cor. 5:1).

We crave permanence and stability – we crave eternity. God has shackled us to decay and we don’t want to think about something not being permanent. How often in this life have old age and death, tragedies and separations disrupted and seemingly obliterated forever the supreme joys of deep family satisfaction and quiet family happiness? One hundred percent of the time!

Every family that has ever existed has eventually been destroyed by death. The death of husband, wife, parents, children, brothers, sisters — whether at premature or elderly ages — is always the most piercing and the most permanent of human tragedies.

Well, the time is coming — soon — when such misery will never again darken the door of any home. And even more fantastically stirring, most members of almost every family in all human history, having been ripped apart by death, will become reunited! And this time they will be forever inseparable.

God’s Word has the answer to death: “… Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:54, 55.)

Never again will the corruption of disintegrating change alter the serenity of family life. Never again will separation, disease, old age and death bring that grinding despair known to every human being. This is why verse four of the twenty-first chapter of the book of Revelation is so emotionally stunning:

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

All the epochs of human obituary — in childhood, in youth, in the prime of life, in middle age; all the ways of human death by war, by accident, by disease — will all be eradicated. Full families — your family — will for the first time be really together — grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren. All will be in the prime of their spiritual lives, working, living and enjoying life as a close-knit family, as part of the overall family of God. Forever. And ever.

But this life is just a stepping stone to something far greater. Ps. 36:7 says all will eventually be abundantly satisfied. There will be no death or disease in the World Tomorrow.

Make the best use of all we have and all the time we have. Number our days and soak up all moments. It may be our last opportunity to do so. We are one breath away from death, so this little sliver of time is a gift. Use it to attain eternal life.

May 18, 2009

Does Eternal Punishing Differ From Eternal Punishment?

socrates58.blogspot.com

socrates58.blogspot.com

Many people today preach about an eternal hell fire and eternal punishment. First, here’s the terse and brief summation of this popular belief, which I quote from the Encyclopedia Americana:

“… As generally understood, hell is the abode of evil spirits; the infernal regions…whither lost and condemned souls go after death to suffer indescribable torments and eternal punishment… Some have thought of it as the place created by the Deity, where He punishes with inconceivable severity, and through all eternity, the souls of those who through unbelief or through the worship of false gods have angered Him. It is the place of divine revenge, untempered, never ending.”

Now where, and how, did this popular belief about hell originate? The Encyclopedia Americana states further:

“The main features of hell as conceived by Hindu, Persian, Egyptian, Grecian and Christian theologians are essentially the same.” The Western religious leaders from Roman times through the Middle Ages borrowed the doctrine of eternal torture from the pagan philosophers. Certain writers of the Middle Ages had such tremendous influence on the Christian-professing world, that their writings and teachings came to be generally accepted and believed, until it became the doctrine of the Christian-professing world. Among these influential writers were Augustine and Dante Alighieri.”

An interesting book titled Dante, and His Inferno summs up the history of the Christian-professing doctrine of hell. This factual history is rather amazing! Dante lived A.D. 1265 to 1321. Dante, remember, wrote a tremendously popular book, titled Divine Comedy, in three parts – “Hell,” “Purgatory” and “Paradise.”

This from the aforementioned book of history:

“Of all poets of modern times, Dante Alighieri was, perhaps, the greatest educator. He possibly had a greater influence on the course of civilization than any other man since his day… He wrote, in incomprehensible verse, an imaginative and lurid account of a dismal hell – a long poem containing certain phrases which have caught the attention of the world, such as, ‘all hope abandon… ye, who enter here!’ This had a tremendous impression and influence on the popular Christian thought and teaching. His Inferno was based on Virgil and Plato.”

Dante is reported to have been so fascinated and enraptured by the ideas and philosophies of Plato and Virgil, pagan philosophers, that he believed they were divinely inspired.

Here is an article on Virgil, from the Americana: “VIRGIL, pagan Roman poet, 70-19 B.C. Belonged to the national school of pagan Roman thought, influenced by the Greek writers. Christians of the Middle Ages, including Dante, believed he had received some measure of divine inspiration.”

Plato was a pagan Greek philosopher, born in Athens, 427 B.C., a student of Socrates. He wrote the famous book Phaedo, on the immortality of the soul, and this book is the real origin of the modern belief in the immortality of the soul. In it, he acknowledges . .. three kinds of gods: superior, inferior, and intermediate.”

There is the general statement of the popular belief about hell, and where that belief came from – actually from the imaginations of pagans who DID NOT not God!

What about the billions of non-Christians?

Before we examine the common idea about hell to see whether it is true, consider one or two facts. On this earth are some 6,790,062,216 people (US Census Bureau). The most populous lands are China, India and other parts of Asia. In spite of missionaries from the West, actually more than half of air the people on this earth have never so much as heard the only name by which men may be saved – the name of Jesus Christ! Now is there some other way by which men may be saved? The Bible says there is not!

That means that thousands of millions of people on this earth have lived, and died, without ever having known anything about Christian salvation – without saving knowledge – never having heard the ONLY name by which men may be saved! Now think what that means! IF all unsaved go immediately to hell at death – the hell commonly believed in – then more than HALF of the people who have lived on this earth have been consigned there – and they are there, now, without ever having been given so much as a CHANCE to escape it!

Ask yourselves candidly, do you believe THAT is the plan by which an all-wise, all-merciful, loving GOD is working out his purpose here below?

Now what is the TRUTH?

We face this alternative: Either the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God, by which the Creator reveals the truth on the subject, or else we must fling up our hands and confess we just don’t know – we are ignorant on the question – because no one has ever come back from such an ever-burning hell to tell us about it, and science knows nothing about it. We must believe what the Bible says, or we can believe nothing, if we are rational and honest!

Source: The Plain Truth, a955, Herbert W Armstrong

So why does Math. 25:41 quote an everlasting fire?

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…”

The word translated “everlasting” in verse 41 is “aionion” in the Greek. This word comes from the root “aion,” which can mean “eternal” but often means “age.” In verse 41, the correct translation into English should be “age-lasting” fire.

During the Millennium — the “age” of Christ’s rule with the saints on the earth — the valley of Hinnom will be kept perpetually burning. The incorrigibly wicked, those who set their wills in persistent rebellion against God’s laws, will be thrown into that fire as a stern witness to the rest of the world (Isa. 66:24).

Gehenna was a place of destruction and death – not a place of living torture. Jesus was talking to Jews who understood all about this Gehenna or Valley of Hinnom. Utter destruction by fire was complete. Nothing was left, but ashes!  Every text in the Bible translated from this Greek word gehenna means complete destruction – not living torture – not eternal life in torment! The Bible says, in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is DEATH” – not eternal life in torture. The punishment revealed in the Bible is death – the cessation of life. Eternal life is the gift of God!

Then why have we been believing that punishment is eternal life in fire? And why have we been believing we already have eternal life and don’t need to come to God through Christ to receive it as His gift?

When Jesus spoke of being cast into “gehenna fire,” he was using this expression as an illustration of the “lake of fire.” This everlasting punishment spoken of in Matthew 25:46 is what the Bible elsewhere calls the “second death” (Rev. 20:14; 21:3). Death for all eternity is eternal punishMENT. The Bible nowhere teaches eternal punishING. The wicked will be burned up and will become ashes under the feet of the righteous (Mal. 4:3).

That fire will be much hotter than Dante’s imaginary hell!

April 8, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be Born Of Water – And Of Spirit?

117Here is a verse which really confuses mainstream Christianity which believes in the false notion of going to heaven when one dies. In fact, there is not one verse in the Bible which backs up this assumption. John 3:5 states:

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” 

Jesus here spoke of a literal birth — the entrance into the Family of God as a spirit being, and the process by which one attains that goal. It DOES NOT speak about going to heaven. Hence, both water and God’s Spirit are involved. 

What does the Bible say about being “born of water”? The apostle Peter explained that upon repentance one should be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism pictures the washing away of past sins and the burial of the old self (Rom. 6). In addition, Ephesians 5:26-27 and John 15:3 show that Jesus Christ is sanctifying and cleansing His Church with the “washing of water by the word [the Bible].” Why? So He might present it to Himself as a Church without any spiritual blemishes.  The crowning glory of each person’s life will be his resurrection. Then the saints will be changed from mortal to immortal to become children of God.

I Corinthians 15:51-54 gives an amazingly clear description of this process. Jesus here attempts to describe this spiritual process to a carnal thinking Nicodemus. He explains that “what is born of the spirit is spirit.” This does not merely mean that we are renewed “like the Spirit,” or that we are renewed by the Spirit of God, while still in our physical forms. That would be trivializing what is really said here. Jesus Christ said that we are to literally be born into the family of God – to be Spirit beings in the Father’s family. This is made plain by the emphasis on the fact that none yet reside with God in heaven:

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even  the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13)

Further proof is in Acts 2:34:

“For David is not ascended into the heavens…” This despite David being long dead, and surely worthy of being in heaven as he is a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).

Could anything be plainer? We do not go to heaven or hell upon our death. Those doctrines are man made myths. But we do have the choice of eternal life in the family of God. If we understand, repent, are baptized (Acts 2:38) and then walk in the ways (commandments) of God, we will inherit eternal life as a Spirit member of the family of God. THIS is the concept Jesus tried to explain to Nicodemus.

If we do not accept the conditions God imposes on us – in complete love – will not be written in the book of life and will end up in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). This IS NOT HELL. This concept is of God, who destroys the wicked quickly and with the least amount of suffering possible, to lose out on eternal life and joy with God. There is no such thing as suffering eternally with God, as He is a God of love, not hatred. It’s time we banish the foolishness of denominational doctrines meant to enslave man in pagan fears and superstitions. They only destroy the beautiful message of the gospel, which Jesus Christ died for.

March 28, 2009

Pagan Holidays Or God’s Holy Days – Which?

Editors Note: This article is the introduction to the above mentioned booklet. I will keep sections short, for brevity, and include other parts of the booklet in different articles and subjects.

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From The Booklet: Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days— Which?
by Herbert W. Armstrong

Does it make any difference which days we observe or whether we keep them? Does the Bible establish whether we are to keep certain days holy to God? Were these days given to ancient Israel only? Are they binding today only on the Jewish people, while Christians are commanded to keep holidays such as Christmas?

In the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel is an amazing prophecy picturing, for twenty-five hundred years into future, from the day it was written, the course of the Gentile kingdoms. Starting with the ancient Chaldean Empire of Nebuchadnezzar, this prophecy foretells the successive world rule of the Persian Empire, Alexander’s Greco-Macedonian kingdom with its four divisions, and finally, of the mighty Roman Empire.

Out of the original Roman Empire, symbolized by “horns” growing out of the head of a “beast,” are pictured the ten resurrections of the Roman Empire that have continued since its fall to the present, and are scheduled to continue until the coming of Christ.

Among these ten kingdoms, which have ruled in the Western world since the fall of Rome to the present, appeared another “little horn,” whose “look was more stout than fellows.” In other words, another government, actually smaller, yet dominating over all the others. Students of prophecy recognize this “little horn” as a great religious hierarchy. And in the 25th verse of this prophecy, it is stated that this hierarchy shall “think to change times and laws.”

How Time Was Changed

This same power is mentioned again in the 17th chapter of Revelation, here pictured as ruling over the kings and kingdoms of the earth, persecuting the true saints.

In every possible manner, this power has changed TIME.

  1. God begins the days at sunset, but “the little horn” has changed it so the world now begins the day in the middle of the night by a man-made watch.
  2. God begins the week with the ending of the true Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, but the world begins the working week in the middle of the night, the second day of the week.
  3. God begins the months with the new moons, but this “little horn” has induced the world to begin the months according to a clumsy man-made calendar of heathen origin.
  4. God begins the year in the early spring, when new life is budding in nature everywhere, but ancient heathen Rome caused the world to begin the year in the middle of dead winter.
  5. God gave His children a true rest day, designed to keep them continually in the knowledge and true worship of the true God, a memorial of God’s Creation, the seventh day of the week. But the “little horn” has fastened upon a deluded world the observance of the days on which the pagans worshipped the Sun, the first day of the week, called SUNday.

Pagan Origins

Ancient Rome’s pagan holidays have been chained upon a heedless and deceived world. These include certain annual holidays Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, as well as many more, every one a pagan day, every one used to stimulate the sale of merchandise in the commercial markets. Upon honest investigation, the earnest seeker-after-truth learns that these days are all of heathen origin and pagan significance. He learns that he can have no part in them.

But is the Christian of today left without any annual holy days? Did God never give to His people annual holy days, as well as the weekly Sabbath? Are not ancient Rome’s annual holidays mere counterfeits of God’s true holy days, exactly as Sunday is a counterfeit of the true Sabbath?

Banishing Prejudice

We are told to study, not argue, not to refute, but to show ourselves approved unto God to learn God’s will. We are commanded, as Christians, to grow in knowledge as well as in grace (II Peter 3:18). All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable to correct and to reprove us, where we have, through assumption, false teaching, or prejudice, been in error.

Most people have supposed that all the annual Sabbaths and feast days of Israel were done away. And yet Church history shows that the early true Church did, for more than four hundred long years at least, perhaps much longer after Christ’s resurrection, continued to keep and observe these annual holy days given by God!

And just as the Sunday observer is inclined to look, at first, upon any argument for the weekly Sabbath with prejudice, as a heresy, and to examine every argument only in an attitude of attempting to refute it— so it will be only human, only natural for us, if we are not on our guard against it, to look upon any presentation of these annual Sabbaths in the same spirit of prejudice. But remember that, “he that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Study This Twice

Certain objections will be sure to come to the mind all of which, will be dealt with and explained later on. But unless the reader is careful to guard against it, the mere presence of this objection in his mind will, to him, overthrow each point as it’s presented— and then, when the objections are later explained, the points made will not come back to the mind, unless the whole exposition of the subject is carefully studied again from the first.

And in each case, the objection will be one of the very arguments used by Sunday preachers in attempting to overthrow the truth of the weekly Sabbath! For the weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths stand or fall together. The arguments used against the annual Sabbaths will be the identical arguments used to overthrow the Sabbath and if these arguments could hold, then they would abolish the weekly Sabbath!

Such arguments as “the annual Sabbaths are part of the law of Moses,” or “they offered sacrifices on the annual Sabbaths,” or “Colossians 2:16 does away with the annual Sabbaths,” are not scriptural.

For the annual Sabbaths were not part of the law of Moses, but were observed before the ritualistic ordinances contained in the law of Moses were given. Sacrifices were offered on the weekly Sabbath, but this does not do away with the Sabbath. In fact, sacrifices were offered on every day of the year (Numbers 28:3).

Colossians 2:16 refers, not alone to the annual Sabbaths, but to the annual days, the monthly new moons, and the weekly Sabbath. Whenever the Bible uses the expression “Sabbath days,” with new moons and holy days, it is referring to the weekly Sabbath days, the new moons and the annual holy days or feast days. The “Sabbath days” of Colossians 2:16 refers to the weekly Sabbath. Compare I Chronicles 23:31 with II Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Nehemiah 10:33; Ezekiel 46:3. If Colossians does away with the one, it also abolishes the other.

The Old Testament Church

When did the true Church begin? In Acts 7:38 we learn that the congregation of Israel was called the church in the wilderness, in the days of Moses. The English word “congregation” used throughout the Old Testament is only another rendering, having the same identical meaning, as the word “church” in the New Testament. The word translated “congregation” in the Old Testament is ekklesia in the Septuagint the same identical Greek word that is always translated CHURCH in the New Testament.

Israel was both church and state. As a kingdom, it was for years ruled by a system of judges, over 50s, 100s, thousands, etc., later having a king. But as a congregation, or church, Israel was organized with a leader Moses, Joshua, etc. and the priests of the tribe of Levi. The law of Moses contained those ritualistic or ceremonial laws which were ADDED, because of transgressions, to the Old Covenant— added until Christ— to teach and instill into them the habit of obedience. These consisted of meat and drink offerings, various washings, and physical ordinances. Also they had the sacrifices, as a substitute for the sacrifice of Christ.

Prior to the Law of Moses

In the 12th chapter of Exodus, while the Children of Israel were still in Egypt, long before any of the Law of Moses had been given, prior to the time when God revealed to Moses and the Israelites He would make the Old Covenant with them, we find God’s annual holy days being observed. And in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus we find a summary of these annual holy days or set feasts.

Now when God made the Sabbath for man, He gave man a rest day carrying great significance and purpose. To His Church in the wilderness, God said that the Sabbath was a covenant sign between Him and His people. A sign is a supernatural proof of identity. It is the sign by which we know that He is God. How does it prove that to us? “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested.” It is a memorial of creation.

And creation is the proof of the existence of God. Creation identifies God. The Sabbath is a weekly memorial of creation. A weekly reminder of God’s power to create. Therefore it identifies God to us, keeps us in the true memory and true worship of the true God. No other day, but the seventh day of the week, could have that great significance and meaning. It was designed to keep us in the true worship of God.

The Purpose of Holy Days

Now in like manner, when God gave His Church seven annual Sabbaths, God, in His wisdom, had a great purpose. These days, too, were given to keep God’s children in the true memory and worship of God, by keeping us constantly in the understanding of God’s great plan of redemption. For these annual days picture the different epochs in the plan of spiritual creation, mark the dispensations, and picture their meaning.

The whole story of spiritual regeneration was, in these feast days, to be reenacted year after year continually. They have vitally important symbolism and meaning.

It is an historic fact that any nation which ever profaned God’s holy Sabbath (weekly), has lost contact with and knowledge of the true God, and gone into idolatry. The only nation which ever did keep God’s Sabbath is the only one that was kept in the true memory and worship of the true God— and only when they kept the Sabbath. When ancient Israel began to profane God’s Sabbath, they began to worship idols!

And in the same way, when in these New Testament times we have failed to observe God’s annual Sabbaths we, as a nation and people, are without knowledge of God’s true plan of reproducing Himself.

The so-called Christian churches today do not understand or teach what sin is— they do not teach that sin must be put away— they do not understand what man is, the purpose of life, the meaning of being born again, and of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit— they do not understand that God’s Church, today, is not to convert the world, but to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness— to live a life of overcoming sin, enduring unto the end, and that the over-comers shall reign with Christ, being kings, and priests, in His Kingdom.

They do not understand that Christ is coming again, and those who preach the second coming fail to understand its meaning and purpose. They have no knowledge or conception of the good news of the coming Kingdom of God— the only true New Testament Bible gospel.

Not understanding these vital steps in the true plan of regeneration, the Christian churches teach that the Law is abolished. They teach the pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul, going immediately to heaven or hell at death and they teach that death is only life.

And all is confusion!

God’s feasts, or holy days, or Sabbaths, were commanded to be kept year after year, and forever! Thus God purposed to impress the truths these “high” Sabbaths picture upon all the minds of His children through all time, keeping His Church in the true understanding of His plan!

February 23, 2009

There Can Only Be One True God!

There are thousands of religions in this world, with the eight major ones comprising Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism. Besides these, there are hundreds of sects, cults, beliefs, practices and man-devised idols of bizarre appearance.

For many people, religion is a system involving one supreme God. Other religions have a number of different gods, while some have no specific deity to be worshiped. There are also those who practice their religious beliefs in their own personal way, largely independent of organized religion.

Regardless of participation in a religion, only one God IS God. Therefore 99.9% of all worship is wrong because they abound with homespun ideas of God. Men prostrate themselves before carved stones, wood or even photographs – anything to which mankind has affixed the label “God.” None understand that their practice falls far short of the God of the Bible!

Now, you won’t hear many of them call their practice pagan, but neither did ancient Israel when they worshipped a molten calf at the base of Mt. Sinai (Exod. 32:1). They called it a feast to God (verse 5), even though this golden calf was a mere idol! How did the real God feel about this? Read it yourself:

“Thus they changed my glory into the similitude of an ox that eats grass” (Ps. 106:20).

So that biblical occasion was prophetic of what mankind has done ever since. Modern religion is not much different from the ancient Israelites. There are thousands of gods called the true “God, with myriads of pagan idols, worships and practices running contrary to the Bible. Can all of them be right, or is it as Jesus Christ said: “ I will build My (singular) Church…(Math. 16:19). He does not speak of multiple churches or practices. Someone (or most) have to be wrong. Jesus Christ cannot be wrong!

Which God?

So here’s an analogy. If we have two objects (one true and one false), and call both by the same name, does it make both objects identical? Of course it doesn’t! In the same way, if people worship another god, he is still a false god, no matter if the name of the true God is affixed to him.

The Bible shows that we have to look behind the label “God” to see if the religion we practice is of the true God. He has to be defined, just as Moses had to define the true God from Isis, Osiris or Ra to the Israelites, all which all had the label of “God” (Ex. 3:13). This cuts through the bewildering array of denominational ideas of “God.” You need to be sure you have the right God — your Creator!

Creating Gods

The Bible describes the process of man creating his own gods.

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship” (Isa. 46:5-6).

Now Christians may argue with this, but don’t they believe that their Saviour has long flowing hair and soft features? Don’t they know that the Bible states that it is a shame for a man (their Saviour) to have long hair? (I Cor. 11:14).

Where do they get their ideas associated with the term “God”? It isn’t from the Bible! Rather, it was formed from childhood Bible stories, from what parents and friends said, from what was read. People don’t question what they have learned; what they have absorbed from their environment, observed about them at home from parents or heard spoken from the pulpit. Religious prejudices, loyalties and various teachings grow up with them, according to what other people in their lives have come to believe. Religion is also identified with social customs and taboos, so what is religion to one is nonsense to another.

Though a person may adopt a totally different set of convictions later in life, such changes are often based principally on the emotional knowledge that they contrast to former ideas. Few approach scripture with the attitude of correcting their misconceptions. Rather, they simply “choose new gods” (Judges 5:8). Yet, though people change, God says “I change not” (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).

A different god for different circumstances

Each nation creates its own gods and they always resemble their creators in emotional makeup, power structure, image and patriotic leanings. The earth has a long history of gods who were revengeful, savage, lustful, and ignorant — partial to the people who created them by assisting in robbing and destroying others. Their concept of God can be nothing but their own personal human ideas — unless they know where to go to find the real answer.

Others – free thinkers – have looked at history and spotted this flaw, ultimately concluding that there is no God. But this is an erroneous assumption based on faulty research. They did not look past the false gods that man created, and rejected their merciful, living Creator!

Is God Like Man?

If you really want to know if your “God” is God, then study the Bible, which describes His personal characteristics. God possesses feet (Gen. 3:8), hands (Ex. 31:18), ears (Isa. 59:1), and has a mouth (Isa. 58:14). Various other scriptures show God has feelings, emotions, reason and will. Man is created in the bodily shape and form of the real God (Genesis 1:26-27), with a creative mind like God’s for the vital purpose of being born into the family of God (I John 3:2; Ps. 17:15). Most of this world does not understand this plan of salvation and actually rejects it. But man is wrong in ascribing his wrong motivations to God:

“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 (Isa. 55:8-9).

Though man resembles God in physical form, he has much to learn about the characteristics of God’s mind, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22, 23). The Bible describes the characteristics of the natural human mind as adultery, fornication, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, murders, drunkenness, and similar things (Gal. 5:19-21).

This is important to understand as man has used his false religions to justify covering the earth with blood. Torture, killing, rape and other atrocities were perpetrated for service to this “god.” Great churches were built for worship false images, while dungeons housed prisoners in filth. Clouds were said to be filled with angels, while the earth was stocked with slaves. These acts of evil were done in the name of false gods; as were mistakes in astronomy, in geography, in philosophy, in morality. In other words, their gods were as wise or dumb as their creators, and had the same doctrines (a cruel hell fire or eternal torment) and values (many times murderous) as their creators.

Even today, many people continue to deny their Creator as an infinite fiend because of false assumptions. These belie the truth of God which states, “Love your neighbour” (Lev. 19:18). In fact, any man that hates his brother cannot love God, (I John 4:20). How then can most major religions today, which have a long and bloody history, claim to be guided by God? They are deceived by imputing their own evil nature onto their Creator.

The True Christian Approach

The teaching of the Bible states that a man must acquire God’s divine nature (II Pet. 1:4) and mind (Phil. 2:5) — and give up his own nature. Christ is the Captain and example of our salvation (Heb. 2:10, I Pet. 2:21), and He was  stamped with the very character of God, and with the mind of God (II Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-7; Heb. 1:3). Any opinion of the nature or character of God that conflicts with this example is of our own creation! How unlike what we have just read.

God’s mind comes by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, which requires repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). It also requires us to discard our own thoughts and ideas of what God loves or hates, what He will do or won’t do. Everything else is invalid unless backed by God’s Word, the Bible! Otherwise, we are as guilty of creating God in our image as any pagan idol maker. Do we perceive the glory of the true God:

“The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6).

Why settle for an inferior product? If you want to know if your “God” is the true God, then search the scriptures and find the truth.

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