The Thousand Year Peace.

We are continuing from our study yesterday on the topic of the Millennium. The thousand-year reign of Jesus on Earth. In the third study of Insights into eternity (In the middle column), we talked about the resurrection of the saints at the return of Christ. Those who are born again and walking with Christ will receive an imperishable body, a body of power that is immortal. This body will be like Christ’s resurrection body, a body that had been sown in dishonor, but raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:43). The saints are given authority to reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4; 1 Corinthians 6:2) and Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).

1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6 Emphasis mine).

Theologians and scholars call this thousand-year reign of Christ, the Millennium. The word millennium means a thousand. There are three beliefs about the Millennium. The first is called Amillennialism. An Amillennialist believes that the thousand years mentioned five times in the passage above is not a literal number but a symbolic number and represents the time we are in now, the church age. Secondly, there is postmillennialism.  Postmillennialists also believe that the 1000-year period mentioned in the passage above, is not literally 1,000 years. In their view, the church will bring in a golden age of Christian ethics and that Jesus’ Second Coming will come after that period of time. Thirdly, there is premillennialism, to which I personally hold. A premillenialist believes that Jesus’ coming will be after a time of tribulation, that He will raise the saints, those who have been born-again of the Spirit, and that the saints will rule and reign with Him in a literal thousand-year reign on the earth.

The dragon, that ancient serpent that appeared in the Garden of Eden, also called the devil and Satan, will be bound, verse three tells us, in the Abyss (Greek word is Abussos, a word that means bottomless, unfathomed; enormous; unbounded; immeasurable depth). There will be no more war until the 1000 years are up, and after that Satan must be released for a time. Imagine what our world will be like with Satan bound. What changes do you think will come about for those living on earth in total freedom from satanic influence?

For the saints, the Body of Christ, in their new resurrection bodies, there will be no temptation towards evil and sin, and no more deception at work on the earth (Verse 3). Our resurrection bodies will take away all fear of harm. There will be no fear of death. From the point when Jesus returns, the saints are immortal. Our sin nature, also, will be taken away, and there will be no desire to sin at all. Because we will be operating in a totally free capacity, our creativity will be unleashed. We will see our bodies, souls and minds operating at a totally different level, free from constraint. We will experience life as God intended us to know it. Oh, how I look forward to it! I hope you are too.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas

Eternity is Written on Our Soul

We are continuing to meditate on the topic of eternity, so today we begin our look at the Millennium. Somehow, in our inner soul, it just does not ring true that this life that we experience in our short time on earth is all that there is. First, when one looks at the complexities of life, the closer we get to the structure of atoms, one who really examines the evidence, finds it completely illogical to buy into any theory that denies our Creator. There are questions that science cannot answer. There is something in our hearts that tells us that there is more to life than what we experience in the here and now. King Solomon, known as one of the wisest men who have ever lived, said:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Solomon spoke of God’s creative design by saying that our inner nature is divinely imprinted with impressions of eternity. The French Bible translates the original Hebrew by saying that God has “set the thoughts of eternity in our hearts.” Prince Charles once talked about the inner emptiness of the human soul. He said, “For all the advantages of science, there remains deep in the soul a persistent and unconscious anxiety that something is missing.” Princess Diana, speaking at a charity event, spoke of “an overwhelming sense of loss and isolation that undermines many people’s efforts to survive and cope with the complexities of modern life. They know,” she said, “something is missing.” Deep in our heart of hearts, until we come to Christ, there is an awareness of a void, an emptiness of soul. We try to satisfy it with drugs, alcohol, sex, possessions, power, money, and prestige, but nothing satisfies because we are created with that emptiness. As Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician, wrote, “Within each human being there is a God-shaped void.”

C.S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, wrote:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

The fifth-century philosopher Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are unquieted until they find their rest in Thee.”[1] This missing piece is God Himself.  He is the Living Water, the Bread of Life. He alone is the only One that can satisfy us. Haggai the prophet writes: “I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Haggai 2:7). The One who is desired of all nations, the Holy One of Israel, Jesus the Messiah, will come and stand upon the Earth, and in our resurrection bodies, we shall see God. This is what Job told us:

25“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26“Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; 27Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another” (Job 19:25-27).

The Second Coming of Christ and His presence on Earth will precede a glorious time of peace. Over the next few days, we will examine what the Bible says about the thousand years of righteousness, joy, and peace under the reign of the King of Kings, Messiah Jesus.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas

[1] http://www.newlife.org/know-god-personally

The Sin of the Rich Man

We are continuing from yesterday (scroll down for other meditations) our meditation on the passage in Luke 16, where Jesus teaches about two individuals, a rich man and a man called Lazarus, and where they went when they died. The rich man was surprised to find himself in hell. That begs the question: Is it a sin to be rich? And does a person that is poor go to heaven because he or she is poor? If not, then what was the sin that sent the rich man to Hell? There are many sins that the rich man may have committed, but his main sin was that he was quite content without God. His life was one in which he had no need. He paid no heed to anything but his own pleasure and comfort. It could be that he never noticed or cared about Lazarus, which certainly would have increased his condemnation. He had been in a position to help Lazarus, but instead he left him to suffer and die. He seems to have had the notion that it was perfectly normal and natural that Lazarus should wallow in pain while he basked in a life of luxury. He looked at a fellow man, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. Lazarus was discontent on earth without God and had sought Him out in his need, and he found Him to be merciful and gracious.In fact, the name Lazarus means, “God is my help”. The rich man had not really felt any need at all. Both had been born into the world in the same situation as you and I. Paul the apostle, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, describes every person’s situation in this way:

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12).

During our lifetime on Earth, God sends opportunities our way to search out a path to His home. This is the universal need of every person on this planet—to find God. After death, God will honor the choices we have made in life. If we choose to live without God on Earth, He will grant our wishes for eternity. If you are living your life without a second thought of God or eternity, call out to Him now while you can still experience His grace. Why wait for another second? Surely, your spiritual enemy, the devil, will seek to have you put off this message for another day, but Christ waits for you with open arms.

When the rich man found out that his position was fixed for eternity, and that no one could come to him to help him, he replied to Abraham:

27“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (Luke 16:27-31).

Why was the ex-rich man so concerned about his brothers still on Earth? He prayed twice while in Hell. The first prayer was for water; the second was for his brothers on Earth. Both prayers were refused. He had been unfaithful to his responsibility. His responsibility was toward those around him, but especially to his brothers. He had set as a pattern before them the most corrupting thing on Earth—an example of a man who was content without God. Now that he was in Hell, he remembered that his brothers were living according to the model that he had given them, i.e. a contented life without God. The one thing that can add agony to a person in Hell is to be shut up forever with those you have helped to bring there. As we have said elsewhere, every one of us influences others for good or for worse. Let us commit ourselves to be faithful to those who model their lives after us: our brothers, our sisters, our sons, daughters and our close relatives. We must live whole-heartedly for Christ. Other lives depend on it.

On what basis was the rich man’s brothers refused a messenger? The ex-rich man is told that they have the Word of God (at that particular time they had the writings of Moses and the prophets). That is all the witness that they need. It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), so if they do not believe God’s Words, they will not believe even if one should return from the dead. God’s written Word is the most important evidence that one can examine to prepare us for life in eternity. It is ignored at great danger to one’s eternal life beyond the grave.

What are the chief take-home lessons that this passage in Luke 16 teaches us?

  • That the time to seek the Lord is now and not to put it off.
  • That there are consequences to our actions that are not always felt on earth but follow us into eternity.
  • We influence others more than we realize on earth.
  • God’s Word is the most important evidence for us to prepare for life eternal.
  • That, no matter what our economic position in this world, if we don’t have Christ, we don’t have life (1 John 5:12).

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

What’s it Like in Hell?

We are continuing from yesterday Jesus’ teaching on Hell in Luke 16, the Rich Man and Lazarus. Here is the passage in Luke’s Gospel:

19There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us’ (Luke 16:19-26).

One of the first things the rich man experiences is utter torment (Verse 23). The Greek word used is basanos, which literally means “going to the bottom, the lowest torture or torment.”[1] This Greek word is possibly used to describe what we talked about earlier, i.e. that in Hell there are different levels of suffering, and the deepest level of torment was what this man is experiencing (present tense, in that he is still there today). We are also told that his tongue was burning; he needed water to cool his tongue. Even though he does not have a body, he is experiencing the sense of touch and is in terrible pain. He also has the sense of sight and recognition, for he sees Lazarus across a great chasm and Abraham by his side. How painful to see Paradise and yet know that it is too late and that he will never experience one moment there.

Later, at the Great White Throne Judgment, found in Revelation 20:11-15, we read that death and Hades is thrown into the Lake of Fire, where there will be eternal darkness. From that point onward, the ex-rich man will no longer be able to see anything. He has the sense of speech; he calls to Abraham and communicates his pain. It seems that there is no change in his character or attitude toward Lazarus, for he still thinks that he can command Lazarus to get water for him and also to visit his brothers. His appeal to Abraham is somewhat manipulative. He calls him Father Abraham, intimating that he is in relationship to Abraham due to his being born into a nation of faith in God. How deceived he was! How similar to many born into a Christian country today. Many people call themselves Christian, yet not all of them are in relationship with God through Christ. The sense of hearing is also still with him; he can hear Abraham talking with him.

Abraham then answers the rich man and says something that will remain with him for the rest of eternity. It was a powerful statement, full of truth, but with no hope: he will remember his life (v. 25) on earth, and all the opportunities he missed to repent and give his life to God. How painful that would be! The mind will be very clear; the faculties will still be with those who are consigned there, perhaps more so in eternity. There will be a great amount of regret over deeds committed alongside an inability to set them right, for it is too late. The ex-rich man does not have anyone to pray him out of this situation; it is a lie from Satan to believe your position can be changed after death. On top of that, he is told that his location is fixed, that the chasm that separates them will forever be there, and that there will not be anyone who can cross either way (v. 26). Where death finds you, eternity binds you. According to what we see in Scripture, there is no purgatory, no reincarnation, and no chance of relief. The time to change your eternal destiny is before you die, before it is too late.

May I plead with you, that if you are not yet a true born-again believer in Christ Jesus, that you do not put these thoughts out of your mind—your eternal destiny is at stake. Get down on your knees and repent, turn your life over to Christ. Give Him control—live for Him alone! More on this topic tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Finis Jennings Dake, Dakes Annotated Reference Bible, Copyright 1961 by Finis J. Dake. Page 80 in the New Testament.

The Rich Man and Lazarus 

We are continuing our study on the topic of Hell. Jesus spoke more of Hell than he did of heaven, in order that men would turn from that place as their destination in eternity to receiving His forgiveness for sin. He told a story about two men’s experiences in eternity. He never states that this is a parable. We will meditate on this for the next few days. Here’s the first part of the story:

 19There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire’ (Luke 16:19-24)

The color purple in the days of Christ was not an easy commodity to obtain. This rich man was more than likely clothed in Tyrian purple[1] (or Royal purple), the Prada, Armani or top fashion design of the day. The color was extracted from the mucus of a rare sea snail.  Aristotle assigned a value to it of ten to twenty times its weight in gold. The rich man also wore fine linen. The word used in Greek for fine linen is bussos, a strong rare thread secreted by mussels.[2] Kings, such as the Egyptian King Tutankhamen, wore this very expensive cloth. This rich man lived sumptuously every day. He ate the best foods, drank the best wine, and his house was the best mansion in town. We are not overdoing it by presuming that this man was well known in the whole country as someone to be envied. He was an influential celebrity of his day.

We are told that Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s gate or porch. The Greek word translated as “laid” is ballo. Literally, it means to throw out with force. He had been flung roughly, and it seems that he was just left to lay there, life slowly ebbing from him. The gate where Lazarus was thrown was more than likely the rear servant’s entrance where the servants deposited the rubbish and the dogs congregated and licked his dying skin. It was obvious to anyone that Lazarus was very ill, being covered with ulcerated sores. It is also very likely that he was too ill to go anywhere but stay where he was thrown and beg for the scraps of food that fell from the rich man’s table.

Dogs kept licking at his sores, and it is possible that he was too weakened through sickness and hunger to fend them off. We don’t know if the rich man had him thrown out because he was asking him for help or that others in the town had thrown him there because he was a health threat to the local populace. It seems that Lazarus was in no position to help himself. He longed to eat some scraps of food, but he was competing with the dogs for the scraps. Keep in mind that most dogs were not household pets at the time.

The Condition of the Two Men in Eternity: We are not told that anything happened for Lazarus at his death. No funeral, not even a burial was held in his honor. It is likely that, if no one cared for him while he was alive, his death was no different. Scripture speaks loudly in its silence on the subject. Contrast that with the rich man. We are specifically told that he was buried. I feel sure that it was a lavish ceremony with public mourning. His body was probably given a space on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem as only the rich could afford.

The procession to his burial place would require a horde of professional mourners, hired for such an occasion as was customary at the time. Of course, the rich man couldn’t care less as soon as he died. He was quite surprised to find himself in Hell. While living at the rich man’s gate, it is likely that no one knew the name of Lazarus, but everybody knew the name of the rich man. At the other side of death’s door, though, things are turned around; everybody knows the name of Lazarus. As for the rich man, no one has any idea of who he is, i.e. his name is not known, and all of a sudden he’s a nobody. How sad it is that many who believe that death is annihilation will find themselves very conscious upon entering eternity through death’s door. Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byssus