The place with the sign Too Late over the door

We are continuing to meditate on the topic of eternity, and for the next few days specifically thinking about what the Holy Scriptures say about that awful place called Hell. Some would say that there is no place called Hell and we are not brought to account before the Judge of the living and the dead. Let me ask you a question: If you were standing in line to board an aircraft, and coming off the plane you see an old friend who was the pilot. What if he were to tell you that there was only a one in six chance that the plane would get you to your destination, would you take the chance? Do you believe that there is a one in six chance that God is telling you the truth of a place called hell? Will you take the chance or respond today to the gospel? To believe in heaven but not in hell is to declare that there were times when Jesus was telling the truth and times when He was lying. Thomas Brooks wrote, “God has but one hell, and that is for those to whom sin has been commonly a heaven in this world.” Although it is hard for me to write about such things as hell, the love of Christ compels me to reach you before you are called to eternity at the end of your life. I do not want you, dear reader, to ever see that place where some say written over the gate are the words, TOO LATE.

While we wait for the return of Christ, our mission as Christians is to rescue people from Satan’s control in order that they should not be separated from God for eternity and sent to a place called Hell. Every man, woman and child are deeply loved by God who does not want any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But what if they don’t? What if they die without coming to know Christ? What if they are unresponsive to God’s message of love and good news? At the Second Coming of Christ, He will separate the sheep (believers) from the goats (non-believers), and Jesus said twice that the punishment will be for eternity:

 41Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life  (Matthew 25:41-46. Emphasis mine).

The Lord talked often about Hell, and He devoted several of His parables to the subject of heaven, hell, eternal judgment, and eternal rewards. If it were important for Him to tell His disciples about such things, then we need to give serious attention to the subject of eternity and what the Bible teaches about heaven and hell. We must also remember that Satan is a deceiver, the father of lies, and is called an angel of light. Some of the near-death stories we shared yesterday may glorify God, and they could be true. However, our faith rests in God and in His Word. Satan seeks to counterfeit true accounts that give glory to God in order to dupe some into believing that all roads lead to God. We can only trust the Scriptures.

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

Hell: A Subject not to be Avoided

We come today to study the subject that is most avoided by pastors and teachers, and one that we would all rather avoid if possible, that is the topic of Hell. The story has been told of C. S. Lewis’ listening to a young preacher’s sermon on the subject of God’s judgment on sin. At the end of his message, the young man said, “If you do not receive Christ as Savior, you will suffer grave eschatological ramifications!” After the service, Lewis asked him the question, “Do you mean that a person who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to Hell?” “Precisely,” was his response. “Then say so,” Lewis replied.”[1] Even though we may be uncomfortable in studying it, the topic is important for all of us.

Some would say, “Can’t we just bypass the topic of Hell?” Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said, “Think lightly of Hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Savior who delivers you from them.” It is possible that some people avoid the issue of Hell because they want to view death as the end, when it is just the beginning. When we truly understand what is at stake, i.e. what was our destiny without Christ, we will much more appreciate what Christ has done for us at the cross.

There is a great deal of interest today in the topic of life after death and near-death experiences. It is not hard to find a book on the subject. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, in his book, To Hell and Back, researching near-death experiences, reports that some people experienced Hell, but had the memory of it repressed in a few days’ time. He said that, as a general rule, people remember that which is good and forget that which is bad, and so, if the interview is delayed just a little bit, days, weeks or months later, only the positive experiences will be found.

Dr. Rawlings tells the story of a young man who recounted his experience to him after an operation to insert a pacemaker into his heart. He told Dr. Rawlings what he saw and experienced, which he considered to be hell. He states that he saw a tunnel which led to light, then the tunnel caught fire. He had the sensation of moving fast toward a lake of fire, which looked to him like an oil spill on fire. He saw elongated shadows of people that were moving back and forth, like animals do that are caged in a zoo. The man called out “Jesus is Lord” and then suddenly, he was aware that he was back in his body.

Dr. Rawlings also gives an account of giving CPR to a patient who had also had a pacemaker installed, and who was in the throes of death. The patient kept coming back, slipping in and out of consciousness, and pleaded with Dr. Rawlings to pray for him, as he cried out that he was in hell. Dr. Rawlings did not want to pray for the man because he was not yet a believer himself, but finally because of the man’s distress, he did give the man a prayer to pray. He asked Jesus Christ to keep him out of hell. The man immediately calmed. He was no longer a screaming lunatic. Dr. Rawlings states that this incident impacted him so much that he gave his life to Christ. Dr. Rawlings is not a theologian or a minister; rather, he is an unbiased doctor who has written the findings of the patients he has resuscitated.

There are many people who claim to have had near-death experiences, but there is no way that we can really know for sure which ones are valid. It is reasonable to assume that, if God allowed Paul to be caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), and if Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father before he died (Acts 7:55), then there may be those today who have been permitted to have a glimpse of what lies beyond this life.

Our faith, however, must rest on God’s Word and not an experience. After all, there are those who would have us believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs or regardless of the life they lived, will be welcomed by brilliant light and ushered into a peaceful eternity. However, this does not agree with what we are told in Scripture. Jesus personified both love and truth. He did not hold anything back from His disciples, and we should not avoid this topic, for none of us wants to go there. Over the next few days we will talk about what the Holy Scriptures say about this topic.

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

[1] Taken from: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/Hell.html

The Seed of the Body (Part 1)

We are continuing our thoughts on what the Resurrection body is like that we are given at the coming of Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). The apostles John and Paul wrote about this transformation in this way:

  1. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
  2. Just as our physical life was inherited from Adam in that we became like him, in the same way we will also be like the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, at the Resurrection: 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49).
  3. But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, that there will be varying degrees of glory between believers that occurs at this change (vv. 38-42). He likens it to differing degrees of brightness between planetary stars and planets. Our physical bodies have been created by God to live in the physical realm, however, this body is to be redeemed and changed into the spiritual and physical body that God has planned for us to put on. Those who are Christ’s will shine with God’s glory according to how much of the character of Christ is in us.

The life that we received from Adam, is not enough for us to enter this heavenly kingdom without this addition of the life we receive from Christ—the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). I believe that God’s plan for redeemed humanity, the Church of the Living God, is for the saints to be able to live in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm, just as Christ did in the 40 days after His resurrection. Christ Jesus has not left His body on Earth somewhere; He abides in heaven with a physical yet spiritual resurrected body. Isn’t that true of Enoch, the man of God? God enjoyed his company so much that he took him up to heaven in his physical being: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).

We are told the same thing of Elijah. He, too, was taken up to heaven still clothed with his physical body (2 Kings 2:11). Some say that Enoch and Elijah are the two witnesses that are mentioned as testifying to the world’s sin as mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:3). These two individuals have yet to die once (Hebrews 9:27), so it is possible that they come from heaven to testify of God’s grace and then are killed. Of course, three and a half days later God raises them from the dead much to the anger of Antichrist’s followers (Revelation 11:11). Spiritual life only comes at the death of the physical seed planted; the Lord Jesus Christ was that heavenly spiritual seed that gave His life for us as a seed:

23Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:23-25).

We’ll carry on this thought of the seed of the body tomorrow.

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

The Life of God Sown in Our Hearts

We are continuing our meditation about the resurrection of the body (scroll down for that meditation). When a person gives their life to Christ, something happens within. They are regenerated or born-again by the Spirit. Jesus said that without this experience of being born again, or born from above, no one can see the kingdom of God: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

The apostle Peter writes, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). A spiritual seed begins to grow in us from that point, slowly transforming us through the word of God, and our trials and life experiences, into the image of Christ:

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

The characteristic of this living seed is spiritual life but more full, abundant, eternal and imperishable. The Greek word that is translated “life” in the above passage of scripture is the word zōē. It means: “to live.” My Key Word Study Bible says of this word:

“It is a somewhat metaphysical term which denotes the very life force itself, the vital principle which animates living beings. Zōē is used most in connection with eternal life. This life is the very life of God of which believers are made partakers.”[1]

I don’t understand how words can be seeds but I do not doubt the power of words. God spoke His Word and the world was created. Throughout Genesis chapter one, the creation was brought about by God speaking His Word. For instance, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Take a look at how many times the words “And God said” are written. There is great power in the spoken word of God. In our passage in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that God is the One who determines what the seed will become when it grows up (Verse 38). He says that there are different kinds of physical bodies on planet earth, men, animals, birds and fish. All physical creatures that are born on earth come from seeds. I see Paul making two different analogies when he talks about a seed:

Our resurrection body will be able to be recognized in some way as us. He says, 37“When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else (v.37). Within the seed is the DNA of the physical body. Oranges do not grow from apple seeds. There is a continuity of life shared between the seed and the body it will become. Our heavenly resurrected bodies will be somewhat like the seed of our earthly fleshly body. We will recognize one another in our resurrection bodies, but it will be vastly different from the seed out of which the resurrected body has come. Our frail bodies will be renewed into a powerful transcendent body. That’s good news! Let’s carry on this thought tomorrow.

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

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1630.

The Resurrection of the Body

We have been meditating on the Rapture of the Church (scroll down to read that devotional). This same event that we call the rapture is the same event in a different passage of Scripture that we call the resurrection. At the rapture of the church our bodies will be instantly changed just as Jesus’ body was when He was raised from the dead. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the same event of the dead being raised:

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

Notice this same event is preceded by the blast of a trumpet and the dead are raised. There are not two raising of the dead. The rapture and the resurrection are one and the same. Our earthly tent, this sinful body we all have in this world, will be changed instantaneously. We are told that this change occurs in “a moment” (v.52). The Greek word used is atomō, we get the English word “atom” from this word. It describes an atomic particle of a second—instantaneously we will be changed. Twice the word “changed” is used and only in this passage of scripture. The Greek word is allagēsometha. It means to change, alter, transform. Paul the apostle, before he tells us about this transformation, introduces this event by writing about what happens to seeds. Let’s try and understand what he is communicating. We need to go back a bit in the passage as he writes about the process of how we as Christians come to receive a glorified body:

35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:35-42).

Paul uses the analogy of a seed. He says that a seed differs greatly from the plant that comes from it. He is saying that our physical body is but a seed that, when sown at the death of the body, will be greatly changed when this sinful age is over and the resurrection of the body occurs. Before we move on to talk more about the resurrection body, we have to talk about how this transformation comes about. We’ll do that tomorrow.

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