Although the fine details vary from denomination to denomination, it is a wide held belief that the wicked will burn in a lake of fire. Why not believe that? The Bible says it. While many accept this truth, most fail to understand the God who instituted it. The fateful fire can paint a picture of a God who is tyrannical and perhaps a bit extreme. I know I have had to think twice about it on several occasions. One thing I can be sure of though: ""God is love." His nature, His law, is love. It ever has been; it ever will be. Every manifestation of creative power is an expression of infinite love. The history of the great conflict between good and evil from the time it first began in heaven is also a demonstration of God's unchanging love." I "happened" upon this quote years ago when I was SET in my misconstrued idea of God's love. This quote helped clear it up immediately, and I have never forgotten it.
So, while it is true that the wrath of God will be poured out "without mixture" (Revelation 14:10), I have to believe that the coming lake of fire is still indeed an act of God's love. It is important to note that this "everlasting fire" is actually "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:1), and not for any of us. Remember, we are needed by God? Before he formed us in the belly, He knew us. (Jeremiah 1:5) And He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) So why the eternal death by fire? Sin. It's not cliche', it's fact. "But [our] iniquities have separated between [us] and [our] God, and [our] sins have hid His face from [us] that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2) I don't think I can word it better than dear brother Frazee, so I won't try: "Yes, sin is man's great problem, but it is also God's great problem. He LONGS to have us with Him in happy fellowship. Yes, since sin made the separation, sin must be removed for the separation to end.
"Why should it be such a problem to get rid of sin? Why not burn it up, the sooner the better! God would like to destroy it at once. But look at His problem. Many of those He loves are infected with this deadly virus. The only solution which can satisfy God's heart of infinite love must separate sin from sinners. Can this be done? God says it can. Satan says, "Impossible!" Whom do you believe?" I wish I could share the whole chapter! But I'll end here: The Bible says "our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29) who was manifested to us through His Son to TAKE AWAY OUR SINS. (1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:19) When Christ, the brightness of the Father's glory (Hebrews 1:3), came to earth, His desire was to "make manifest to men their sin" as He inevitably revealed the character of God, in hopes that they would be purged of it. "In all who submit to His power the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them." Only the "pure in heart" shall see God (Matthew 5:8). Our God is a consuming fire who wants to consume the sin in your life, in my life. But He can only wait so long. And if we cling to sin, He has no choice but to consume us, for iniquity and God cannot co-exist. "If, as you look into the mirror of God's holy law, you see yourself a transgressor, will you not come and put your sins upon the Lamb? God has no other way to separate you from your sins. And no matter how little your sin may seem to you, it murdered the Son of God."
Won't you surrender it to Him today?
*Feel free to ask me for my sources*
"And He said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."
I remember appreciating the Sabbath for the first time when I was in college. I was somewhat of a nerd, so studying on a regular and completing all my assignments to the best of my ability was not an option for me. So I welcomed the Sabbath with open arms! "Yes, I CAN'T do any work....finally, REST!" I'm sure many can attest, but I am so glad I am learning that Sabbath means SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!
The Sabbath was instituted at the beginning of the world. Jesus, the Word of God, was our Creator (John 1:1-3). Just after He created man, the "crowning work of His Creation", He created the Sabbath so that Adam could take time to reflect upon and enjoy those things that the Creator made. Adam was just created, so certainly He did not need rest in the sense that many understand it today. Instead, He was to enjoy creation, and in so doing, get to know the character of God, for "it was a memorial of the work of creation, and thus a sign of God's power and His love. The Scripture says, "He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered." " The things that are made," declare "the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world," "even His everlasting power and divinity."" (Psalm 111:4; Romans 1:20) How amazing must have been Adam's first full day! Not only did he have face to face communion with his Creator, he also had His beautiful handiwork to teach him about God's love.
We don't have face to face communion yet, but we can have that experience. "The Sabbath calls our thoughts to nature and brings us into communion with the Creator. In the song of the bird, the sighing of the trees, and the music of the sea, we still may hear His voice who talked with Adam in Eden in the cool of the day. And as we behold His power in nature we find comfort, for the word that created all things is that which speaks life to the soul." And this is where it gets really amazing! As you reflect upon God's handiwork today, also remember this: Only after He finished His work, after He saw that it was good, did He rest and offer us that same rest. Christ is again offering us rest, but first He must finish a work. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works..." (Ephesians 2:10), and "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform [or FINISH] it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) So Christ wants to finish His work in us, that we may be declared "good" and thus enter into His rest. (Note to self: I'll have to do a part 2 on what it means to finish the work.)
I could go on and on because this is such a beautiful subject. But I'll finish with this: The same Word that spoke the world into existence can also speak new life into you, His life to be exact. This is His desire. Our Creator wants to "CREATE in [us] a clean heart...and renew a right spirit within [us]." (Psalm 51:10) And today He wants us to REMEMBER that He can and will do just that if we surrender and ask Him.
Happy Sabbath! Be made new. Today.
*Feel free to ask me for my sources*
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)
There is something that really stood out to me in the last study that I want to dwell upon a little longer. Joseph did not understand the magnitude of the words spoken to him by the angel. Neither did Mary understand when the angel said to her: "[Jesus] shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:32, 33) That's why they did not really take into account what the focus of their 12 year old son ought to be when they took Him to witness His first Passover. Thus, they lost sight of Him for 3 days. What strikes me as amazing is the fact that, now having understood His mission, Jesus, even from the age of 12, tried to direct His earthly parents' minds to the prophecies that pointed out the future suffering that He would have to endure. Mary, led by the Holy Spirit, did a good job at teaching her Son spiritual truths from the Scriptures. She had access to those same prophecies which Christ then sought to point her thoughts toward. Still, she did not understand His mission. "As Jesus had been separated from her, and she had sought Him sorrowing three days, so when He should be offered up for the sins of the world, He would again be lost to her for three days. And as He should come forth from the tomb, her sorrow would again be turned to joy. But how much better she could have borne the anguish of His death if she had understood the Scriptures to which He was now trying to turn her thoughts!"
"If Joseph and Mary had stayed their minds upon God by meditation and prayer, they would have realized the sacredness of their trust, and would not have lost sight of Jesus. By one day's neglect they lost the Saviour; but it cost them three days of anxious search to find Him. So with us: by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in ONE DAY lose the Saviour's presence, and it may take many days of sorrowful search to find Him, and regain the peace that we have lost." The good news is, even when we lose sight of Christ or fail to seek the Lord as we should, He is tirelessly seeking after us! His promise is, "As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day." (Ezekiel 34:12) "As the shepherd loves his sheep, and cannot rest if even one be missing, so, in an infinitely higher degree, does God love every outcast soul. [We] may deny the claim of His love, [we] may wander from Him, [we] may choose another master; yet [we] are God's, and He longs to recover His own." And if we "submit to be ransomed, Christ will rescue [with a loving embrace and a heart filled with joy] from the pit of corruption and from the briers of sin" as He carries us back to the fold.
So Jesus is the Word of God and the Way of God. Contemplating this point as I consider these oft repeated verses gives them a bit more meaning: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the WAY everlasting (Psalm 139:23, 24) and Thy WAY, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? (Psalm 77:13). Every act in the services of the Sanctuary of ancient Israel was "bound up with [Christ's] own life." Thus to know the Sanctuary is to know the Way of God, that is the Way that leads to everlasting life. To know the Sanctuary is to know the mission of Christ while He was on earth and even after He returned to Heaven. And to know His mission is to know our mission and His plan for our lives.
As mentioned previously, Jesus did not exercise any divine power that we do not have access to while He was on earth, for, as our Example, to do so, we would have claimed, would have been an unfair advantage. So the omniscience of His Father was of none effect to Jesus while He was on earth. He had no foreknowledge of His divine mission. He had to study the Scriptures and commune with His Father daily in order to understand. As was common practice for Jewish boys, Jesus was finally allowed to participate in the Jewish feasts linked to the Sanctuary when He was 12 years old. So for the first time, He made the journey with His parents to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover feast. "For the first time the child Jesus looked upon the temple. He saw the white-robed priests performing their solemn ministry. He beheld the bleeding victim [the sacrificed lamb] upon the altar of sacrifice. With the worshipers He bowed in prayer, while the cloud of incense ascended before God. He witnessed the impressive rites of the paschal service. Day by day He saw their meaning more clearly. Every act seemed to be bound up with His own life. New impulses were awakening within Him. Silent and absorbed, He seemed to be studying out a great problem. The mystery of His mission was opening to the Saviour." This is what prompted the "gentle reproof" from our 12 year old Saviour when his mother seemed to reprove Him for "going missing" for 3 days (more on that tomorrow): "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49) Mary and Joseph did not understand the meaning behind His words, but that 12 year old Child had finally come to the realization that 1) God was His Father and 2) He was born to die. He was born to die. Many a child, many an adult would balk at such responsibility, but Christ continued for the next 18 years to prepare to fulfill His mission. It is only because Christ has such a close walk with His Father that he was able to discern the true meaning of the earthly Sanctuary and continue on with great love in His heart for the fallen race that He had come to save. What love! And what sweet communion! Praise God, we can have that same love and communion in our own Christian walk. We must keep our eyes fixed upon Christ! Trace His steps through the Sanctuary to see how He lived, died and is living right now for us! "As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit."
*Feel free to ask me for my sources*