The Apple Of God's Eye

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…)

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

September 2, 2009

What Happens When We Die: It's Not What You Think!

flatlandhowler.blogspot.com

flatlandhowler.blogspot.com

Public enemy No. 1! That’s how death can be described. It will slay us all, and at a time of its own choosing.

But paradoxically, although we all know we will die, very few know exactly what death is. Certainly death must be the least understood although most relentless enemy!

Yet it need not remain a mystery to those who will look into their Bibles to read — and believe — what God says. For God has not left us in ignorance about this important subject.

The basic doctrine

Since life is merely a temporary, mortal, chemical process (with man being made from the physical elements — “dust”), death is just the cessation of life. One who is dead has no consciousness separate from his body and feels no pain nor pleasure, but is as if asleep. Nonetheless, we all will live again after death, after a passage of time, when resurrected back to life again.

The usual teachings of this world

Most professing Christians believe that at death they do not really die — that is, cease to live in any form. They instead believe that at death only the body dies, and that the “soul” is then liberated to live on in heaven or hell (depending upon the moral merit of the former life).

Others believe in reincarnation, thinking that their soul, which is liberated at death, will be placed in a new body to live again, with this process occurring over and over. Scientists who believe evolution seem to recognize death for what it is (the total cessation of life), but they also err because they know nothing of the hope of the dead — life again after a resurrection. Even other beliefs about death exist.

Yet, surprisingly, these concepts are not from the Bible!

The Bible teaching

Perhaps the main reason why people, religious or otherwise, do not understand death is because, first of all, they do not understand what life is. The Bible makes it plain.

Genesis 2:7 records, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Authorized Version).

Notice! Man does not have a soul. He is a soul. The word translated “soul” here is the Hebrew word nephesh. It means a living, breathing, physical creature. The word carries no implication of immortality. In Genesis 1:24 it is translated “living creature” and refers to animals.

Further, the Scriptures say dogmatically that the soul can die and therefore cannot be immortal. See Ezekiel 18:4, 20 and Matthew 10:28.

The Bible nowhere teaches that man has an immortal soul. In fact, the immortal soul doctrine was adopted by professing Christianity from pagan Egypt through the Greek philosophers.

But note that man, as God stated, is composed of the physical elements of the earth and is dust. God plainly told Adam, who sinned, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). But men do not want to die, so they do not want to believe God. They do not want to believe that man’s life is merely a physicochemical existence that will run down and stop — die!

Hence, they choose instead to believe the lie Satan told Eve when he said, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). They believe that within this dusty body, as a sort of prisoner of the flesh, is an immortal soul that is unleashed at the death of the body and that continues in conscious life forever.

To be sure, man is not merely an animal. For one, man is made in God’s image and in God’s likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). And man’s potential — that of being born into the God Family — is far more incredible than the fate of any animal.

Further, God reveals that there is a spirit in man (I Corinthians 2:11) that gives man mental superiority over animals. It is this spirit that imparts the power of mind to man, and the power of moral decision, including the ability to grow in character. But this spirit is not the man. And it is not an immortal soul. It is something in man that gives man a dimension of life above the animals. It does not give him immortal life, however.

To understand death requires that we know that man’s life is merely a chemical process involving physical elements. When that process stops, we die. We are dust, and when we die our bodies decay and return to the dust.

When we die, all conscious thought and awareness ceases. Notice Psalm 6:5: “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?”

And compare Ecclesiastes 9:4-5: “For him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing.”

The apostle Peter knew that even the righteous die and lose all consciousness and bodily presence, for he stated: “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. … For David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34). Even righteous David was not an immortal soul that left his body and went to heaven. Even David was dust and decayed back to the elements.

Other scriptures supply even more detail about death, comparing it in a figure of speech to sleep (I Corinthians 11:30, I Kings 2:10). When a person is asleep, he loses consciousness and is unaware of his surroundings.

The topic of death is in some ways unique. Most people will not believe what God says if their senses tell them differently. For example, Adam and Eve did not believe God’s warning about the tree of good and evil, because the fruit of it looked good and desirable. Yet, in the case of death, people will not believe God when He says death is what it indeed appears to be to the most casual observer — namely, the cessation of life! People will not believe God no matter what He says, whether our senses tell us to agree or not.

But caution! Nothing said here means to imply that death is the end of all hope of life. It is not. An old saying goes, “Where there is life, there is hope.” But the great God says, in effect, that even where there is death there is still hope — in fact, the main hope.

That hope is the resurrection of the dead from death to life again. Notice Job’s question and answer about death: “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come” (Job 14:14, AV).

Realize this: The demonstrable fact of the resurrection of the dead proves once and for all that humans are not immortal souls. If we were, why would the dead have to be resurrected? They would already be alive.

And see further Christ’s startling statement: “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).

Jesus knew His statement might startle His audience, so He said further: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation [judgment]” (verses 28-29).

The Scriptures are plain that all people will be resurrected, even those who will eventually be cast into the lake of fire to die the “second death.”

The apostle Paul chose to comfort the living relatives of those true Christians who had died by reminding them of the wonderful resurrection to come (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

To alleviate their sorrow, Paul explained that the dead in Christ will be resurrected at Christ’s return, and that they — along with us, if we qualify — will forever be with Christ.

Yes, the truth about death is far less foreboding than the fanciful imaginations of well-intentioned but errant religionists!

Key verses

When properly understood, this topic of death can fill us all with real hope, for then we know the wonderful truth that we will all see our beloved deceased relatives again. Therefore it may be well to note specially the basic scriptures that describe the truth about death. Here are some of them:

Genesis 2:7 and 3:19 — man is a mortal being made from the dust. Genesis 1:24 — the Hebrew word translated “soul” in Genesis 2:7 is translated here as “living creature” and refers to animals. Ezekiel 18:4, 20 and Matthew 10:28 — the soul is not immortal; it dies. Psalm 6:5 and Ecclesiastes 9:4-5 — the dead have no consciousness. John 11:11-14 and I Kings 2:10 — death is compared to sleep. John 5:25, 28-29 and I Corinthians 15 — the dead will be resurrected.

Death is indeed an enemy, but through the resurrection from the dead this enemy is annihilated. Therefore Paul says in I Corinthians 15:26, 54-55 (AV): “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death…. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, 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?”

Source: Good News, March 1986

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