Is Death a State of Annihilation?

We are continuing our meditation on eternal things and specifically thinking of the topic of Hell. Some say that Hell is a place where a person who rejects God’s free pardon for sin is annihilated. The word annihilation means “to reduce to utter ruin or nonexistence; to destroy utterly.” Three times in the passage we looked at yesterday (Scroll down for Matthew 25:41-46), though, Jesus used the same Greek word to describe the bliss of His followers, i.e. the word aiōnios, which means “Eternal, perpetual. When referring to eternal life, it means the life which is God’s and, hence, not affected by the limitation of time.”[1] That does not sound like annihilation. It is the clear teaching of Jesus that someone who rejects the gospel and continues in his sin, at the end of his life, will suffer eternal punishment.

Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin, leader of Russia from 1922-1953, accompanied her father at death’s door and said that she would never sit alongside an unbeliever who was dying again. She said that he went into Hell kicking and screaming. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Voltaire was said to have died crying out in torment, as was King Charles the ninth of France, David Hume, and Thomas Pain. Speaking for those who do know God, C.M. Ward said, “No Christian has ever been known to recant on his death bed.”

Why would a loving God send anyone to Hell? How bad does a person have to be to be sent to Hell? Is there a line that a person crosses?

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

The creator God has established the way for salvation. The situation is that the entire human race is in the same boat. We have all fallen short of God’s ideal for living. None of us can say we have never sinned. If you have only sinned once, then it is enough to make you a sinner. We all suffer with the same disease. Sin is what eternally separates us from God. James puts it this way, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). If there could have been another way for God to get you to heaven, apart from sending His Son to die a cruel and torturous death, don’t you think He would have taken it? He has given man the gift of free will, but His justice demands that rebellion has to be penalized. A holy God cannot allow sin to be in His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13). So, He honors the choices that a rebel who refuses to repent has made.

In His love for the human race, He initiated a rescue plan. The Son of God would take on human form and be a substitute to take the place of guilty man, taking the punishment upon Himself.  In that way, His justice would be satisfied, and He can reach out in love to save all who will turn their lives over to Him and walk in obedience to Him. When we repent and receive Christ, the Spirit of God gives us power to live for Christ. We also hold the answer for others, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power and boldness to speak to people about God’s rescue plan for the human race. We damage Satan’s kingdom when we speak the truth of God’s Word, and release precious people from his control. The church today is on the attack, breaking down every defense that Satan has raised against the kingdom of God. We are told that the gates of Hades (Hell) will not overcome the Church (Matthew 16:18). God has told us what happens in the end, and guess what, those that belong to Christ win!

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

[1] Key Word Study Bible, New Lexical Study Aids, AMG Publishers, page 1580.

Jesus Heals a Possessed Crippled Woman

10On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. 14Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” 15The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (Luke 13:10-16).

The passage we are studying today is about a lady who would probably be diagnosed by physician’s today as Marie-Strümpell Disease, a fusion of the spinal bones. There are no medicines known today that can cure this physical condition. But in this particular case the disease had a spiritual cause rather than a medical. Early in the course of the disease, sufferers often find that the pain is relieved somewhat when they lean forward. Sufferers go through the day leaning slightly forward, and gradually their spine begins to fuse. The more they lean in order to relieve the pain, the greater the angle, until a patient might be bent almost double, as the lady referred to in our passage. The bones become calcified and people are not able to straighten themselves. This lady had lived with this condition for 18 years and it was steadily getting worse.

It was a Sabbath day and the religious rulers would not allow healing to be practiced on the Sabbath; they considered it work. The woman sat there and silently trusted. The Lord Jesus knew the storm of controversy that would erupt at healing the woman on the Sabbath day, but He cared more for people than all the little rules that the religious leaders had put in place. Those that were out for His blood never intimidated Him! This passage is interesting because Jesus didn’t heal her; he set her free from the demon by casting out the spirit. When the spirit was forced to leave her at the command of Jesus, she was released from her ailment. The demon had not only caused this crippling disease 18 years previously, but was still keeping her tied up in a spiritual way. When Jesus put His hands on her, she immediately straightened up. We are told that she praised God. What joy flooded her heart!

At the sound of the woman’s praise, the synagogue ruler angrily tells off the woman accusing her of coming to be healed on the Sabbath. What a cold stone of a man he is! It does not seem right that he is in charge over a congregation of God’s people. Doesn’t it make you wonder how a man with no heart and compassion can lead the flock of God? He is indignant, what a strong word scripture uses about him. Instead of joy at this woman’s deliverance and healing, he is very angry and upset.

The synagogue leader does not scold the Lord for healing her, but this religious person takes it out on His people instead! This woman had patiently sat in her seat; it was Jesus who had called her forward. It strikes me how the Lord is so quick to defend this daughter of Abraham, a child of God, from the attacks of the evil one. The enemy sometimes uses religious people to squelch out the praise of God. One would expect that a leader of this synagogue would be a lover of people, but this man showed no compassion whatsoever. His words betray his heart. Something wonderful and God-honoring had happened in his synagogue and he is angry about it. On the other side, though, we see how kind the Lord is. He encourages her by calling her a daughter of Abraham, even though she had just been released from a demon that had disabled her for 18 years. Jesus speaks words of love and affirmation to her. How kind and reassuring that must have felt to her.

Jesus reminds the synagogue leader that animals are treated better than the Lord’s people under the heavy rules of the Jewish leadership. Doesn’t any man allow his animals to drink in the morning? One can hear the care in His voice for this poor woman that has been under the cruel bondage of Satan for 18 years. Not another day, He says. How about you? Isn’t it time you were released from whatever has bound you. Call upon the Lord with all your heart and He will hear you (Acts 2:21).

Keith Thomas

The Casting Out of a Dumb Demon

37The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” (Luke 9:37-40).

When Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, He found a father in desperation. He said to Jesus, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child” (v. 38). His only son was being tortured by an unseen evil spirit. When the spirit came upon him, it tried to kill him by throwing the boy into fire or drown him in water: “He has seizures and is suffering terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water” (Matthew 17:15). The evil spirit waited until he was near a campfire or the home cooking fire before throwing the boy’s body into the flames. Burns, scratches, and cuts were likely seen all over his body as a result. Likewise, whenever there was a river or a well, the spirit would throw the boy into the water with a view to destroy him. The boy could never be left alone, not for a second. It must have been an extremely exhausting, draining, and horrible existence for the entire family, coming face to face with demonic activity on a regular basis! As Jesus came close, the boy screamed at the top of his voice (Luke 9:39). After the scream, the demon threw him to the ground in convulsions (Luke 9:39). The demon took control of the boy’s vocal chords and sense of hearing so that the child became mute (Mark 9:17) and deaf as well (Mark 9:25). Aside from the terrible screams, the demon would not allow the boy to communicate his condition. Think of what this must have been like for him; he was totally isolated. He could not express what was going on inside him to his father or hear any words of comfort from his family.

Mark tells us more: “It slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out” (Mark 9:18). The Greek word that is translated into English as slams him is a very violent word. This was a frightening demonstration of a dark supernatural nature. When the boy is brought to Jesus, he is thrown to the ground having convulsions. He “rolled around, foaming at the mouth” (Mark 9:20), grinding his teeth while becoming stiff as a board. The father’s testimony about his son goes further: “Only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves” (Luke 9:39). When the father describes the mauling, what was he seeing? More than likely, he saw bruises appearing all over the boy’s body as the evil spirit tears him before leaving him until the time of the next attack.

We should not think that this was an epileptic fit, for Luke is a doctor, and I’m sure he knew about such things. We are to take Jesus at His word that it was an evil spirit causing this. As we read the various accounts, this was more than a physical phenomenon. The mauling of the boy before their eyes, the foaming of the mouth, inability to hear, the suicidal tendencies, and the way the spirit reacts to being confronted with the presence of Jesus should be evidence enough that this was not epilepsy. Neither should we make the mistake in thinking that all epileptic fits are demonic in origin. Mark adds that, when the boy is brought to Jesus, the spirit grabs hold of the boy and threw him into convulsions before their eyes as he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth (Mark 9:20). Demons cannot stay hidden before the presence of Christ.

41“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 42Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43And they were all amazed at the greatness of God (Luke 9:41-43).

There was a visible manifestation as soon as the demonized boy came into the presence of Jesus. Mark tells us, “When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth” (Mark 9:20).

While the boy was being thrown onto the ground by the demon, even though the boy was dumb to the words of Jesus, the Lord spoke to the demon. “But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father” (Luke 9:42). The boy was completely healed as the spirit that had tormented the boy left. What then took place in front of their eyes?  The boy’s scars, burns, and cuts were healed instantly while they all looked on. No wonder Luke records that, “They were all amazed at the greatness of God” (v. 43). I would have loved to have seen their faces and the amazement that they had. I hope there are re-runs in heaven! I would love to have witnessed this deliverance and healing! Keith Thomas

Is the Great Tribulation the Wrath of God?

Destruction_of_Jerusalem9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been (Revelation 6:9-11).

In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus was asked as to what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age (v.3). Verses 4 through 31 are an outline of the major events that will happen at the time of the end. These verses describe events almost exactly the same as the outline that the Lord gives us in Revelation 6-7 in the opening of the Seals. After chapter 7, the Lord gets into specific details. We are not told that these events all happen in the seven-year period that starts with a peace treaty in the Middle East (Daniel 9:27) over the land of Israel, but it is an assumption on most Bible teachers part. Jesus calls the first three and a half years after that peace covenant is signed “the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). As each seal is opened in the Book of Revelation chapter six, a corresponding event happens on the earth that makes the situation on earth so much worse, similar to a woman’s birth pains getting worse as the time for the birth gets near.

At the opening of the fifth seal (Rev 6:7), a great persecution will be initiated against believers in Christ and those Jews who will not take the mark and worship Antichrist. Some, perhaps many, believers will be martyred for Christ at the time of the fifth seal. The opening of this seal, I believe, corresponds to Jesus’ warning about the Great Tribulation (KJV) or great distress (NIV) that He spoke about in Matthew 24:21. I believe this time should be called the Great Persecution. However far ahead in time this is, we as Christians need to be ready to endure and not compromise our faith. Many will fall away when this persecution starts (2 Thessalonians 2:3). We cannot expect to be delivered (raptured) from the earth until some time into this Great Persecution of the saints.

There are some teachers who say we needn’t be worried about this time that is ahead (how far ahead, we do not know). They say that this period of time is the wrath of God being poured out on those who are left on the earth. They believe that the church will be raptured out of here before the Antichrist comes on the scene and the seals begin to be opened with terrible consequences on earth. They say that the tribulation is the wrath of God, and that Paul taught that, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). How can the Tribulation or Persecution be the wrath of God? In the passage at the top of the page, we are told clearly that some believers who had died in the Great Persecution, will ask God, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10). This happens at the fifth seal, some way after the mid-point, perhaps well into the second half of the seven-year period. The wrath of God is the judgment on those who are persecuting His church. At the fifth seal and the persecution, the wrath and judgment has not started yet. The Lord answers for those believers to wait, “until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been” (Revelation 6:11). The rapture will not happen until sometime into the second half of the seven-year period and before the wrath and judgment of God begins. However, many years ahead this time is, we need to be spiritually ready. It’s time to put away our toys and get serious about our faith. It’s time to get close to Jesus. When the darkness gets worse, God will pour out His Spirit and the Church will shine with His love, life and light (Isaiah 60:1-2. Daniel 12:3).

Keith Thomas

The Unseen Realm Part 1

There are three parts to this first talk on my new series called: If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? The first session of this series is called The Unseen Realm. The notes are free and in the middle column under the heading of this same series. The other two parts of this talk can be found below. I start this talk with an illustration from my early days as a commercial fisherman when I caught an unexploded mine in my nets.