“From their fruits you shall be recognizing them. Not from thorns are they culling grapes, nor from star thistles figs. Thus every good tree ideal fruit is producing, yet the rotten tree noxious fruit is producing. A good tree cannot bear noxious fruit, neither is a rotten tree producing ideal fruit.” Matt. 7:16-18. “Will the Ethiopian turn his skin, or the leopard its spots? Moreover, then, you can do good, when taught to do evil” Jer. 13:23.
Since there is no hope from within, let us look only to our God and Father, but not, craftily, to ourselves. Our humble prayer, serious and heartfelt, should be that God might be “adapting (us) to every good work to do His will, doing in us what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for the eons of the eons. Amen! (see Heb. 13:20,21). It is glorious to know that we are making our requests known to One Who is able. Even to the One “Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the power that is operating in us, to Him be the glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen!” Eph. 3:20,21. Only thus can our outlook and attitude accord with the truth. May God enable us to say from the heart and with understanding, even as it is written, “He who is boasting, in the Lord let him be boasting.” 1Cor. 1:31.
This is not to say that our efforts are not essential or that there will be nothing for us to do since it is God Who saves us from our failings. To the contrary, God graciously saves us by causing us to work, “training us that, disowning irreverence and worldly desires, we should be living sanely and justly and devoutly in the current eon” Titus 2:11,12. But our efforts are merely a product; they are the means through which God saves us. We contribute nothing.
It is not a question of our discipline and volition, but of pride and self-reliance concerning our discipline and volition, of boasting in the flesh instead of glorying in the transforming power of God. As long as we continue to see ourselves, in the final sense, as the key to anything, we will remain proud, antagonistic to “the grace of God in truth” Col. 1:6.
It is one thing to conceive of ourselves, in a dutiful sense and relatively speaking, as “cooperating” with the Lord Jesus, as He leads us into paths of better service. It is quite another, however, proudly to fancy ourselves to be so utterly independent of the Supreme Deity Himself, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, that even He is at a loss to change our will or walk without our help.
Believing the evangel
The obtaining and the experiencing of salvation are granted to us in the exercise of faith, in the act of believing. But this cannot mean that the salvation achieved by Christ is reversed by our failure to believe it. What is achieved remains achieved; the salvation is there whether or not it is experienced. In addition, faith itself is a gift, graciously granted to us by God (Phil. 1:29), a truth that accords very poorly with human wisdom, but a truth that believers come to recognize more and more as they become acquainted with the God of the Scriptures. If Saul of Tarsus and you and I have been graciously granted faith, why should we think God would have difficulty granting it to all?
But some will think this is unfair. Rather we should say at this point, as many great believers have said when they saw a drunkard or blasphemer, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Can we not say this of sinners who have died apart from faith? But even more importantly, what of God Who gave His Son for that sinner? Was that in vain? And indeed, to speak of what is fair and unfair, how shall we describe the fact that we have been given faith today, while others have not? There may be afflictions associated with believing, but in light of the joy and peace we have in knowing Christ as our Savior, how can it be that we would not want God to grant faith and the blessings of faith even to those who have made our lives so difficult because of their irreverence and scorn?
To make salvation itself, rather than the enjoyment of salvation, contingent on human believing in a limited period of time, is to grant our faith much the same place the Galatians were granting circumcision. It is to make human faith in the present life, and the whole debate about what constitutes true faith, of such dominant importance that Christ’s faithful obedience is hardly considered at all.
Very few believers seem to recognize the emphasis placed on the faith of Jesus Christ in the evangel. Yet it is His faith and faithfulness in obedience even to the death of the cross that secures justification. Romans 3:21-28 and Galatians 2:15,16; 3:22, are passages that declare this quite clearly. None of us have perfect faith, but Christ’s faith was unfaltering, and because of that we can be sure that its results on our behalf are secure. Our faith is very important, but Christ’s faithful work is the vital thing and the very heart of the gospel. The difference between Christ’s faith and ours are many, but the principal difference is that His faith actually saves, since it led Him to the cross, while our faith merely introduces this salvation into our lives and consciousness.
The evangel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13) is fully true in itself, entirely apart from whether we believe all of it, some of it, or none of it. We do well, then, to stop all our ill-disguised proud boastings as to how it is that we, unlike other men, have been good enough to “accept Christ,” and thus have saved ourselves from wrath while obligating God to bless us. Such concepts are present, whether expressed or not, whenever salvation is conceived in a conditional way, whenever such “steps” are believed finally to occur because of man’s actions rather than God’s.
Such inner pride- though in most cases also exhibiting itself outwardly- may well pass for humility, but only among those of a similar disposition. However pleasantly it may be manifested, it is still a boasting in man, for it adds to the work of Christ. Consequently, the advocates of all such views are following a course that is destructive to faithful service to the Lord, and one’s appreciation of the truth of the evangel. For, however unintentionally, in denying the full significance and purpose of the cross of Christ, they have thus become its enemies (Phil. 3:19; see Gal. 5:11b).
If the evangel’s significance has become clouded to us through a mistaken belief that it is finally by our own obedience- the cross of Christ notwithstanding- that we fend off God’s indignation, we will lose much precious truth of great practical value. This is because, with such an outlook, our life of faith will necessarily become self-centered, instead of Christ-centered.
As we seek to share this evangel with others, may it be that we speak more and more of Christ
and what He has done for us and less and less of ourselves.
The Lord is near
It is a blessed truth that Christ may appear at any moment, and that the Lord may soon descend to call us away to His presence, where rejoicing will fill our hearts forevermore, but that is not all. In spirit the Lord is near now. If we realize this, it will help us greatly in our relations with others, especially in their unjust dealings with us. If we stood alone, with no hope of righting our wrongs, it would tend to make us bitter and severe. But with Him at hand, we know that all will be adjusted in due time, and, in the meanwhile, is part of His plan for us; hence we are able to be lenient and forbearing. In these last days of inordinate selfishness it is very difficult to make our lenience known, for the most flagrant wrongs are considered rights, so our very lenience may be denounced, or used as evidence against us. But this must be expected in a period which is perilous (2Tim.3:1).
Few, indeed, have entered into the peace of God, that tranquility which is His because He is guiding all to His predetermined goal. From the very beginning, He knew the end, and planned every detail in between. Nothing ever has or can go wrong. For Him the future is as settled as the past. What has He to worry about?
At that season, answering, Jesus said, “I am acclaiming Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for Thou hidest these things from the wise and intelligent and Thou dost reveal them to minors. Yea, Father, seeing that thus it became a delight in front of Thee.
“All was given up to Me by My Father. And no one is recognizing the Son except the Father; neither is anyone recognizing the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son should be intending to unveil Him. Hither to Me, all who are toiling and laden, and I will be giving you rest. Lift My yoke upon you and be learning from Me, for meek am I and humble in heart, and you shall be finding rest for your souls, for My yoke is kindly and My load is light.” “For there is not anything hidden, except that it should be manifested, neither did it become concealed, but that it may be coming into manifestation. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matt. 11:25-30; Mk. 4:22,23. See Lk. 24:16, 45; 18:31-34; Jn. 12:37-40.
Form and likeness
“For let this disposition be in you, which is in Christ Jesus also, Who, being inherently in the form of God, deems it not pillaging to be equal with God, nevertheless empties Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming to be in the likeness of humanity, and, being found in fashion as a human, He humbles Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Phillipians 2:5-8
Form, likeness and fashion are terms describing similitude, not equality or identity. Jesus is inherently in the form of God, for thus was He created, to be the visible representative of the invisible Creator. Later He took the form of a slave (the likeness or fashion of humanity). This does not indicate equality with mankind as far as our inclination towards sin. It is possible that Jesus had, from His conception, the new birth required of Israelites for entrance into the Kingdom of God. This makes it impossible to sin. 1John 3:9. He was tempted in all points as we are, but never sinned. Hebrews 4:15. Christ Jesus is unique and is the only Mediator between God and mankind. While being referred to as God and as Man, He is not identical in every respect with either. Language is often generalized, since a complete description of the details of every matter on every occasion would be tedious. Analogous and symbolic language is also commonly used to describe someone or something by comparison to something familiar. Jesus is referred to as the Son of God and the Son of Man, while He is obviously not the Son of God, as humanity usually considers son-ship. God does not reproduce as earthly species do. We are told that Mary was a virgin when He was conceived. The details of how God accomplished this are not revealed. While we have no definite indication that there was any male contribution to Jesus’ conception, we are aware that He was of the tribe of Judah, which, as far as I know, would not be the case if Mary were His only parent.
Designed by chance?
Natural selection has no wisdom and no foresight, being by definition, the epitome of random chance.
The eye is an intricate organ displaying the complex interaction of many parts. It is universally recognized that for natural selection to bring about the immediate development of a functioning eye is an obvious absurdity. It is equally obvious that a partially-formed eye provides liability rather than benefit to the creature. Such a mutation is therefore destined to disappear and not be passed to succeeding generations. In fact, for any organ or system to develop by natural selection would require many generations. Each of these generations would pay a price to nourish and protect this (as yet useless) organ or system. This, of course, would be completely “natural and random”, or so we’re led to believe.
Scientists are unsure how to account for a mutation resulting in an increase of genetic material- in fact, the opposite is often the case.
How, then, did we get from one gene to over 20,000?
How does the survival of the fittest account for animal cooperation? Why do animals endanger themselves individually to protect others, especially the young, even the young of others in their group? Why don’t they seek individual survival above all else? Remember, natural selection has no wisdom and no foresight.
Many thinking minds conclude that we cannot account for the complexity and balance of nature through chance. Plants and animals display remarkable abilities to adapt to changing environments. For example, colors may change, size may decrease due to variation in available foods, and behavior may change to overcome human interference. These changes have been referred to as natural selection or the survival of the fittest. Nevertheless, each species can adapt only in certain ways and to a certain degree. When forced beyond its limits, a species goes extinct.
Concerning human evolution, it will necessarily embody a spiritual dimension, for without honesty and compassion, all life-forms on the planet are endangered. For humanity to thrive and nature to continue as our ally rather than the reciprocal source of our demise, we must face certain issues head-on. Cruelty yields cruelty, abuse yields abuse and procrastination yields regret. The harm caused by meat-eating is amplified by the disease rampant due to the unnatural conditions in which animals are raised. Close confinement breeds disease, so we abuse antibiotics, creating super-bugs. These animal victims too often fall into depression, insanity and even cannibalism. We then consume their flesh, rife with the adrenaline of stress and terror. As we continue to confine animals in “concentration camps” we harm our earth, leading to an acceleration of extinctions. We will never know what benefits those species could have brought humanity. Without a strong ethical foundation, the use of nature becomes the abuse of nature. This is nowhere truer than in the area of genetic engineering. Humanity will evolve, but not necessarily for the better.
Reponses to certain questions and assertions:
“But what about Judas Iscariot? Doesn’t it say it would have been better if he’d never been born?
Matthew 26:24 “The Son of Mankind is indeed going away, according as it is written concerning Him, yet woe to that man through whom the Son of Mankind is being given up! Ideal were it for Him if that man were not born!” It would have been ideal (pleasing and peaceful) for Jesus if Judas had not been born. It was nevertheless necessary for him to be born and commit his sin of betrayal in order for scripture to be fulfilled. See Genesis 6:6; John 18:11; Matt. 26:39. (While many Bible versions mistranslate Matt.26:24, some do put the correct rendering in the margin.) Concerning Judas’ title, “son of destruction”, John 17:12, the Greek word is apollumi, often translated, perish or lose. This word is used in the New Testament about 90 times. Many people, animals, and even things are described as being “lost”, “destroyed” or “perished”. It is unwise to assume the word describes “eternal damnation”. “For the Son of Mankind came to seek and to save the lost (apollumi).” Luke 19:10. The book All in All, by A. E. Knoch, is very informative on this and some other important topics, such as the eons, the 3 classes of vivification, “hell”, and “annihilation”.
“It says some people will never be forgiven for their sins.”
Matthew 12:31,32 “Therefore I am saying to you, Every sin and blasphemy shall be pardoned men, yet the blasphemy of the spirit shall not be pardoned. And whosoever may be saying a word against the Son of Mankind, it will be pardoned him, yet whoever may be saying aught against the holy spirit, it shall not be pardoned him, neither in this eon, nor in that which is impending.” Verses 24-30 show that this is addressed to a certain group of Israelites whom, as clearly stated, will not be pardoned for their blasphemy, neither in the current eon nor during the 1,000 year kingdom eon. They will be judged at the great white throne and cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
“And another, a third messenger, follows them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone is worshipping the wild beast and it’s image, and is getting an emblem on his forehead or on his hand, he, also, is drinking of the wine of the fury of God, blended undiluted in the cup of His indignation, and he shall be tormented in fire and sulphur in the sight of the holy messengers and in the sight of the Lambkin. And the fumes of their torment are ascending for the eons of the eons. And they are having no rest day and night, those worshipping the wild beast and its image, and if anyone is getting the emblem of its name””. Rev. 14:9-11. Those receiving “the mark of the beast” will apparently suffer the most severe punishment of all mankind. Believers are advised not to pray for eonian life for those who accept this emblem. 1John 5:13-17. It may be that by receiving the emblem of the wild beast they will be committing the blasphemy of the spirit.
Clearly both of these groups of people will be judged harshly. Nowhere is it stated that they will never be saved.
“You claim eonian doesn’t mean eternal. If to be “at home with the Lord” is the same as “having a building of God, a house not made by hands, eonian, in the heavens”, after our “terrestrial tabernacle house should be demolished” ( 2Cor. 5:1,2), then our new bodies won’t be eternal, will they? So we have no guarantee of living forever according to you.”
Let’s take this apart; firstly, I would say that the above verse, like Matthew 25:46, refers to human existence from Christ’s second coming until the consummation of vivification. Nothing can be inferred from these particular verses as to what will ensue afterwards. Secondly, eonian relates to one or more eons, therefore something which is eonian could be eternal, although that is not the meaning of the word. Eons end, so eonian does not mean endless. Likewise, many doesn’t mean all, although in some cases many is also all. Thirdly, since all mankind will one day be immortal, obviously the bodies we will then enjoy will be either everlasting, or will be exchanged one or more times for other (perhaps superior) bodies. So, if we assume the bodies we are to receive at the time of Christ’s return are not eternal, then we can also assume that they will be substituted with other bodies, as the All-Wise sees fit. As the Muslims say, “Allah knows best.”
“God has to respect our decisions, so He can’t save us if we don’t want to be saved.”
So who’s in charge, us or Him? Who gave us this so-called “freedom”? If He gave us this freedom, then He gave control of the universe over to sinners. The scriptures clearly state that faith is a gift- not an offered gift, but simply a gift. The Giver determines who will receive faith and when. Regardless of the circumstances and timing, only He saves, through His grace. And there is only one Name in which we must be saved. Acts 4:12; Rev. 17:17.
“God didn’t make the devil- the devil made himself a devil.”
Again, who’s in charge? If God didn’t know what would happen, then we have no hope, for the future is a mystery to everyone. Perhaps an asteroid will destroy new Jerusalem or sin will break out again. And God would be rightly judged to have made defective creatures, even if the defect appeared long after creation.
If He knew what was to occur, then it was His will- otherwise He wouldn’t have created the one called Satan in the first place. Ro. 3:4.
“It’s not God’s fault if we go to eternal hellfire- we chose it, and besides, it wasn’t made for us, but for the devil and his angels.”
Who “hellfire” was originally prepared for is beside the point- if God sends someone to the lake of fire, it’s for a purpose, and sadistic torture is not the purpose of a loving God. Are we to assume heaven will be populated by people without the least compassion or sense of justice? There is no word in the Bible which could possibly be accurately translated, “eternal”. It is also completely false to assume that because someone chooses something, he necessarily could have chosen otherwise. At least at the present time “not for all is the faith.” 2Thes. 3:2; Acts 13:48.
“It says God will burn all the sinners to ash and that the second death is eternal.”
Some believe Malachi 4 is a literal description of a judgment upon sinners. We would be wise to study the symbolism of the word “ashes”. We can’t negate the many clear statements that all will be constituted just and immortal, based on the assumption that some of the saints will literally dance upon the remains of those condemned to burning judgment. In fact, both could be fulfilled; there is no contradiction. The claim that the second death is permanent is a mere assumption, not unlike the assumption many make about the first death. Acts 24:15.
“How can you say Israel will rule on earth when they gave up that right by rejecting Christ? And it says the earth will be vacant during the 1,000 years.”
Chapter and verse divisions were added by man to the Bible for study purposes. Please notice Micah 3:9 through 4:3. God’s promises to Israel were not conditional in the sense that they may never be fulfilled because of their disobedience. They will be fulfilled once He writes His law in their hearts, which He has also promised. The book of Revelation was revealed after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans- long after most Jews, especially the leadership, rejected Christ. Every promise made in Revelation 2 and 3 to those in Israel who overcome, will be fulfilled after Christ returns to earth. Rev, 2:26,27 “And to the one conquering and keeping my acts until the consummation, to him will I be giving authority over the nations; and he shall be shepherding them with an iron club, as vessels of pottery are being crushed, as I also have obtained from My Father.” Unless we put the fulfillment of this promise in heaven or on the new earth, we are forced to accept the literal fulfillment of Daniel 2:35 and Revelation 11:15. In addition, if all the saved are in heaven, immortal and just, and everyone else is dead, then why would Satan need to be bound the 1,000 years? Rev. 20:2,3. These are but a few of many scriptures showing that the assertion of an uninhabited earth during the millennium is misinterpretation.
“But the Bible ends with the new heaven and new earth, and there’s nothing after that- that’s the way it will be forever.”
1Corinthians 15 clearly states that Christ will reign until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet, nullifying all sovereignty and all authority and power. Yet Revelation 21:24 mentions kings on the new earth! “….and they (God’s servants) will be reigning for the eons of the eons.” Rev. 22:5. Both eons were future at the time of John’s vision, and remain so. Chapter 21 also refers to the second death, so obviously, those individuals will not yet be immortal. In fact, comparing Genesis 3:22 and Rev. 22:2, it appears unlikely that immortality will be the lot even of the entirety of the inhabitants of the new earth. Immortality (vivification) does not entail the necessity of eating of a certain plant to avoid death. Nor do the immortal require a “cure”. So, regardless of where man may have placed the book of Revelation in the Bible, there is no clear description in this book of the ensuing events which Paul so often describes in detail. Paul wrote, (it is) “granted to me for you, to complete the word of God” Col. 1:25. The scriptures pertaining to Israel deal almost exclusively with matters pertaining mainly to Israel. On the other hand, Paul’s writings are often universal in scope. His epistles inform and remind us that all were justified by Christ’s death, and all will be reconciled, constituted just and immortal. He makes clear that there will be only one Head at the consummation: God our heavenly Father. No additional government will be desired nor required.
God is spirit: He is neither male nor female, nor is He human.
Many believe Adam, as created, was neither male nor female either
- more accurately, Adam was both female and male when created.
Many scriptures, relating to time and prophetic fulfillment, were confusing to me for many years. Once we see that the future is as certain as the past to God, we can better understand passages such as John 3:13, for example. Since God is vivifying all, all are alive to Him. 1Tim. 6:13. Another feature of prophecy is that sometimes long periods of time receive little if any mention, as though we were “fast-forwarded” through some time, even centuries, only to resume the fulfillment later. Daniel’s prophecies display this at times.
Relating to foreknowledge, we often hear of someone dreaming of a certain event or series of events, only to shortly thereafter find the reality to bear an uncanny resemblance to their dream. We also hear of similar phenomena, referred to as psychic powers, remote viewing, etc. Regardless of whether or not it be wise to engage in or rely upon these phenomena, they do seem to support the truth that the future is already “written” by an Omnipotent Hand.
Another phenomenon that science has detected concerns instantaneous communication between distant objects or beings. This defies the long-standing assumption that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. It would appear that a universal consciousness is already becoming evident. 1Cor. 2:9. Science has demonstrated teleportation of atoms, as well as telepathy, including between humans and animals.
It has also been noted that the “behavior” of objects, small and not so small, is altered by the mere act of observing them. Some claim that electricity proceeds from ones eyes and strikes the object being observed. It is a scientific fact that we possess at least two systems of “vision”. People can detect being observed even from behind. The “reptile brain” observes what we do not consciously see. This can account for reflexive self-preservation before we even “notice” anything threatening.
“So that we, from now on, are acquainted with no one according to flesh. Yet even if we have known Christ according to flesh, nevertheless now we know Him so no longer.” Paul was not an eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly ministry as were Israel’s twelve apostles. He never saw Christ until after He had ascended into heaven. Nor did Paul replace Judas as the twelfth of Christ’s apostles. 1Jn. 1:1; Acts 1:15-26. To be an Israelite involves the flesh in a predominant way. “And am even I having confidence in flesh, also? If any other one is presuming to have confidence in flesh, I rather: in circumcision the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, in relation to law, a Pharisee, in relation to zeal, persecuting the ecclesia, in relation to the righteousness which is in law, becoming blameless. But things which were gain to me, these I have deemed a forfeit because of Christ.” Phil 3:4-7. Read through verse 17 where Paul sets himself as a model to be imitated.
“For I am saying that Christ has become the Servant of the Circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises.” Ro. 15:8. Jesus said, “I was not commissioned except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matt. 15:24. Christ is the only human who ever lived a sinless life. But while on earth, His ministry was to Israel. He came under law. Gal. 4:5. He lived as an Israelite, obeying Israel’s laws. As to sinlessness, Christ is always our hero and ideal. As to the ecclesia’s present relationship to God and to law, Paul is our example. Paul’s teachings are of direct application to us, while Christ’s teachings were to His disciples, who were Jewish. Israel is not the body of Christ, but His bride. There are some Israelites who are members of the ecclesia, but for the most part, the ecclesia is made up of “gentiles” (non-Jewish).
Christ’s evangel concerned the coming kingdom of the heavens when the faithful in Israel will enjoy the allotment of the land. Matt. 5:1-12. Paul was not called by Christ to apostleship in the Promised Land, but in Syria. His gospel is concerned with a celestial allotment, not an earthly one. We don’t know Christ according to flesh, for we are not claiming Israel’s promises, but those made to the body of Christ. We have fellowship with Christ, ascended in resurrection glory, not based on our fleshly qualifications, but on His faith.
So as believers in Christ today,
We aren’t acquainted with each other according to flesh.
Now there is a new creation!