A DESTRUCTIVE CONCEPT OF DIVINE GRACE

(Trumpet Ministries,Inc. / Words of Righteousness)

A DESTRUCTIVE CONCEPT OF DIVINE GRACE Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

A massive misunderstanding pervades Christian thinking. We have a destructive concept of Divine grace. The purpose of Divine grace is to bring people to the moral image of Jesus Christ. Instead we are viewing Divine grace as an alternative to moral transformation.

As a corollary our vision of the future has been corrupted.

There could be no more destructive error in thinking, no more effective means of diverting God's intention, than today's presentation of the plan of salvation. It is the Lord's will that we now abandon this error, this perversion of truth, and ask God for the Spirit of wisdom that we may understand the new covenant.

Table of Contents

Grace and Truth Contravening the Warnings of Jesus and Paul The ten virgins The talents The Vine Sowing and reaping The sower Workers of iniquity Beating the menservants and maidservants Not doing God's will Practicing sin Slaying our own resurrection Repaid according to our deeds A minority of the believers Lukewarm Christians When Will the Judgment of the Elect Take Place? How We Should View the Return of the Lord Jesus. What would you like to be true of the coming of the Lord? What does God want to be true of the coming of the Lord? What do the Scriptures state will be true of the coming of the Lord?

A DESTRUCTIVE CONCEPT OF DIVINE GRACE

Grace and Truth

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17—NIV)

The source of the problem with today's teaching of Divine grace can be explained simply. We understand grace to be an alternative to righteous behavior. Grace actually is an alternative to the Law of Moses.

The Law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Unbeknown to Christians, grace does not replace God's demand for righteous behavior. Grace replaces the Law of Moses.

Today's Christian doctrine is derived primarily from the Epistles of Paul. Paul is the one who said we are saved by grace rather than works. But if we look at Paul's statements we will see instantly, whether in Romans or Galatians, that Paul was reacting against those who were trying to impose the Law of Moses on Christians, not against teachers who were maintaining that Christians must live righteously.

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." (Acts 15:10,11—NIV)

Can you see clearly in the above passage that Paul is contrasting the grace of our Lord Jesus with the yoke of the Law of Moses?

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, (Romans 3:20-22—NIV)

Can you see in the above passage that Paul is contrasting faith in Jesus Christ with observing the Law of Moses? Not a righteousness from God apart from our righteous behavior but a righteousness from God apart from the Law of Moses.

"We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15,16—NIV)

Is it clear in the above passage that Paul is contrasting justification by faith in Jesus Christ with justification by observing the Law of Moses?

It is as simple as this. We are mistaken in our interpretation of the new covenant.

It is difficult for us to understand Paul because we do not have the same background as he. Paul was raised in a strict Pharisaic environment, what we would call today an Orthodox environment. From his earliest years all Paul knew of life was the Law of Moses. This was true also of the first Christians.

Perhaps the greatest problem Paul had was that of convincing the believers to turn away from the Torah and look to Christ alone for justification and salvation. Paul himself had been convinced. But everywhere Paul went, whether among the other Apostles, the Jews, or the Gentiles, the pressure was on to maintain at least part of the Law while receiving Jesus as Messiah.

Always, always, always, every day, every day, Paul was faced with pressure to not abandon the Law of Moses but to include at least parts of the Law in the plan of salvation. We being Gentiles have little understanding of this unceasing pressure. Therefore we have trouble understanding the Epistles. An orthodox Jew would find it much easier to understand Paul than would Gentiles.

We of today do not understand the Jewishness of Christianity. Perhaps it will help us to consider that the holy city, which is the Wife of the Lamb, the glorified Christian Church, is the new Jerusalem! On the gates of the new Jerusalem are inscribed the names of the twelve families of Israel. On the foundations of the wall are written the names of the twelve Jewish Apostles of the Lamb.

We Gentiles have been included in the plan of salvation, but salvation first and foremost is the children's bread. We have been removed from our physical inheritance and grafted into the one Olive Tree. We are as Asenath, the Egyptian wife of Joseph. Through Jesus Christ we now are part of the one new Man, the one family of God.

Although we may not understand the reason for such continual exhortation, Paul kept on declaring we are not saved by works of righteousness we have done but by grace. By this Paul meant that we cannot save ourselves by diligently observing the Law of Moses (or any other moral code); but Paul did not think in terms of other moral codes, only the LAW!)

We Gentiles, not aware of the pressure on Paul, have interpreted him to mean Divine grace is an alternative to righteous behavior. If one takes a few verses from the Epistles, and defines works as "righteous behavior," one could teach the Christian salvation as a plan whereby God receives Gentiles on the basis of belief and brings them to Heaven regardless of any misconduct on their part.

But if one examines the entire New Testament, and defines Paul's use of the term works as "the works of the Law of Moses," then we understand the Christian salvation is a plan whereby God forgives Gentiles (and Jews as well) and transforms them morally until their behavior is righteous, holy, and obedient to God to a degree far, far surpassing that of the most zealous adherent to the Law of Moses.

One can see at a glance the infinite abyss between these two descriptions of the Christian salvation. The first makes Jesus Christ the minister of sin, and Divine grace God's excuse for the ungodly behavior of His people. The second makes Jesus Christ the source of the new righteous creation and Divine grace the Presence of God through Christ to transform people and bring them into untroubled rest in the Father's Person and will.

We should have known that God would never give a covenant that saved men by belief in certain doctrines while they continued in their fallen, adamic state.

Well, we didn't, and we have a morally chaotic world to show for it.

We Christians have been wrong. What else can we say?

The Law was given by Moses. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The grace of God brings about righteousness, first by forgiving our sins on the basis of the blood atonement, second by enabling us through the Holy Spirit to gain the victory over sin. The first is useless without the second, in terms of the new covenant. The grace of God does this without the Law of Moses. The only role of the Law of Moses is to keep breathing down our neck, driving us to Christ.

The grace of God is God in Christ making it possible for people to be conformed to the moral image of Jesus Christ and to enter untroubled rest in the will of the Father. Grace is not a substitute for our becoming a new righteous creation in Jesus Christ, a substitute for entering untroubled rest in the will of the Father. Grace is a substitute for, an alternative to, the Law of Moses. Divine grace brings truth not possible under the Law of Moses.

To make Divine grace a substitute for moral transformation and obedience to God is to miss the point entirely, which we have done in a tremendous way.

Contravening the Warnings of Jesus and Paul

I don't like to use unfamiliar terms like "contravening" but it so fits the situation I am tempted to use it. In case the word is unfamiliar to you, to contravene is to "act or be counter to, to violate, to oppose in argument, to gainsay" (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Jesus and Paul warned us clearly concerning our behavior. Today we are assuming that grace contravenes these warnings. We have been taught that Divine grace supersedes the warnings of Christ. This is terribly, terribly, incorrect. All the commandments and warnings of Christ, as far as I know, can be found in one form or another in the Epistles. How could it be otherwise seeing that the Spirit of Christ was in the Apostles?

The philosophy of Dispensationalism, I am told, implies that all such warnings are to the Jews after the flesh. This is a totally unscriptural idea, completely impractical in application.

The warnings we will mention in a minute are all—without exception—directed toward the Lord's servants, the saints, the elect, the members of the Church, the Body of Christ. They are not addressed to any unbeliever, including Jewish unbelievers, they are directed toward us who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, who are serving Him.

If you do not believe the admonitions of Christ and His Apostles are addressed to you as a Christian your understanding of the Scriptures is not coherent. Your belief comprises verses taken here and there to support your philosophy. You are outside the mainstream of Divine truth. You are interpreting the Scriptures according to your whims or the notions of a misled teacher.

But let's look at what the Lord said.

The ten virgins.

"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ "But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ (Matthew 25:10-12—NIV)

The proponents of lawless grace are stating today that the parable of the ten virgins cannot possibly apply to Christians because once we make a profession of faith we are saved by a sovereign intervention of God independently of our behavior.

Thus they have made the warning of Christ of no effect.

The question is, whom do the ten virgins represent?

First of all, we are talking about "the Kingdom of Heaven." We are not speaking of the unsaved world or physical Jews.

The ten people were "virgins." We are referring to people who were going to meet the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

Each of the ten had burning lamps. This means they began on an equal footing. The lamp often is thought of as the Scriptures. The oil is the Life of God by which we live. So we are not referring to the unsaved or the physical Jews.

They all had the Word and the Life of God to begin with.

The message is one of living in preparation for the Lord's return by keeping full of the Life of God. The five foolish ran out of oil and their lamp was going out.

The penalty for their foolishness, their lack of preparation, was exclusion from the wedding.

Now, the enthusiastic supporters of lawless grace will claim Divine grace covers us to the point that whether or not we are foolish and careless we will still be part of the wedding when the Lord returns.

There is no possible way in which this can be true. This is a pure contravention of the Words of the Son of God. We are destroying the work of God when we teach such unscriptural error.

The message is simple. You are a Christian. You have your lamp, God's Word. You have the Holy Spirit in you giving light and life to the Word. You have been careless and lazy, not praying, not gathering with fervent saints, not meditating in the Scriptures. Listen to me. According to the clear Words of Jesus Christ you are in danger of being rejected when He comes. If this is not the case the Bible is not the Word of God.

I think sometimes the impression is given that we will rise to meet the Lord because of a profession of belief in correct doctrine. This absolutely is not the case. When the Lord Jesus described His coming He never mentioned doctrinal belief. The issue was and always will be the behavior of His servants.

If you do not have the inner Life of Christ abiding in you, you will not be raised when the Lord appears regardless of your religious beliefs. This is because it is the inner Life, the body and blood of Christ, that will raise the saints. There is no exception to this!

The talents.

"His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so when I returned I would have received it back with interest." ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:26-30—NIV)

Now, whom are we talking about?

We are talking about the Lord's servants to whom He has given talents. We are not referring to physical Jews who do not know Jesus, or to the unsaved.

What are talents? Talents are whatever the Lord has given you: the body and blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, justification by faith, the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit, your family—all that has been added to you since you were born. All is to be used in building the Kingdom of God.

To one man the Master gave five thousand dollars, so to speak. To another man two thousand dollars. To another man one thousand dollars.

When we look around us we can see that Christians vary greatly in the amount of spiritual understanding and ability given to them. Isn't it so?

Then the Master returned.

The man who was given five thousand dollars produced ten thousand dollars. The Master congratulated him and put him in charge of many things.

The man who was given two thousand dollars produced four thousand dollars.

The Master congratulated him and put him in charge of many things.

The man who was given one thousand dollars dug a hole and hid his thousand dollars in the ground.

The Master called him wicked and lazy, took his thousand dollars and gave it to the man with ten thousand, and drove the wicked servant into the darkness.

Today's teachers say this could not apply to Christians because they are saved by grace and could never be put in the outer darkness. "Oh no, they are going to be raptured, hear nothing negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and then rule the nations with a rod of iron (after they sit in their mansion wearing their golden slippers and admire their back yard full of diamonds)." The doctrines taught today would be funny if they weren't so appallingly disastrous!

What we are preaching today is sheer mythology. Furthermore we are contravening the Words of Jesus Christ with our ear-tickling traditions.

The people under discussion, in the parable of the talents, belong to one of six groups.

They are unbelievers.

They are the Jews living at the time of Christ.

They are physical Jews who do not know Christ.

They are physical Jews who know Christ but Gentile Christians are not included.

They are Gentiles who know Christ but Jewish Christians are not included.

They are Christians whether Jewish or Gentile by race.

Has Jesus come to the unbelievers and warned them that if they do not use the talents they have they will be thrown into outer darkness? that if they use their talents wisely they will be entrusted with authority in His Kingdom? This is ridiculous and against everything we believe.

Has Jesus come to the Jews of His own day with this warning? This is not possible for He is speaking of His return. Will He raise them at His coming and either throw them into the darkness or entrust them with great authority?

Has Jesus come to the physical Jews who do not know Christ and warned them that if they do not use their talents they will be thrown into outer darkness? that if they use their talents wisely they will be entrusted with authority in His Kingdom? There is no basis for such an idea.

Has Jesus come to the physical Jews who know Christ and warned them that if they do not use their talents diligently they will be thrown into outer darkness? that if they use their talents diligently they will be entrusted with authority in His Kingdom? but this does not apply to Gentile Christians?

To make a division between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians would be to do away with Paul's teaching of the one Olive Tree, the one Seed of Abraham, the one new Man.

Has Jesus come to Gentiles who know Christ but not Jews who know Christ? This is impossible for the previous reason.

The plain, simple truth that every Christian would recognize if his mind had not been poisoned with the current teaching is that Jesus Christ is warning His servants, the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, that if they are careless and lazy with the grace He has given them, not working at it, not bearing the fruit He is looking for and reproducing that fruit in others, they will be thrown into outer darkness at the coming of the Lord.

To believe otherwise is to choose to be deluded.

The penalty for not being diligent with what God has entrusted to us is the loss of what we were given and confinement in the outer darkness. This is an exceedingly severe punishment that we would suppose would be reserved for murderers and adulterers. The fact that being careless with the things of God, as so many believers are in the United States, will bring such consequences upon us, shows us that the Gospel of the Kingdom is much stricter than is being presented.

There is too much emphasis today on God's love and mercy. The severity of God is not being stressed as a scriptural balance. The lawless grace we are preaching, the grace that does not require a new righteous creation but brings us to Heaven on the basis of a sovereign intervention of God, is pure mythology. I believe the Lord God would have the current teaching of lawless grace thrown out of the churches because it is ruining His intentions concerning man. Our current view of grace makes Jesus Christ the minister of sin! It is a horrible error!

We would have to think a long time before we could create a doctrine deadlier in effect than the current teaching of lawless grace.

The Vine.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1,2—NIV)

To whom is Jesus speaking? He is speaking to branches in Himself. Nothing could be clearer then this.

Jesus is addressing Christians, members of the Body of Christ.

We are to bear fruit. The fruit we bear is the image of Christ in our thoughts. words, and actions, and in the thoughts, words, and actions of others. God the Father is looking for the image of His Son in us. Do you believe this?

What happens if we do not bear the image of Christ? We are cut off from Christ.

What does it mean to be cut off from Christ? Can we still be "saved" and not be part of Christ? This is the kind of question that will be posed by Christian people because we are so determined to go to Heaven apart from moral change. Whether or not we are a branch of Christ is not all that important just as long as we escape Hell and go to Heaven. So the current thinking goes.

How does the teaching of a sovereign grace unaffected by our behavior apply to John 15:2? Have the Epistles contravened the Word of Jesus Christ?

But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:8—NIV)

Is the writer of Hebrews describing real estate or is he referring to Christians? Isn't he saying precisely what Jesus said, in John 15:2? Do you know there are people today teaching that the Book of Hebrews does not apply to Christians because it "teaches works"? We are so desperate to avoid having to live righteously that we are willing to discard parts of the New Testament to prove our point.

How abominable can we get?

How did Paul compare agriculture with the Gospel of the Kingdom?

Sowing and reaping.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature  will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8—NIV)

Is Paul speaking of Christians? Is it true that a Christian can sow to his flesh and then in the Day of Resurrection reap eternal life, as long as he or she "stands in grace"?

Do you dare say yes or no? I wish Christians, especially pastors and teachers, would say yes or no to such direct questions. Maybe we could get off dead center if they would!

The principle of reaping what we sow is an immutable law of the Kingdom of God. It cannot be abrogated without leaving a path of destruction. Divine grace does not violate the Kingdom principle of sowing and reaping. Rather grace helps us change from sowing to the flesh to sowing to the Spirit of God so we can reap eternal life. Eternal life is the Life of God. It is a kind of life that we reap, not a legal state in which we exist forever.

Did The Lord Jesus say anything else about fruitbearing?

The sower.

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:20-22—NIV)

Let's ask some pointed questions about the parable of the sower.

First of all, what is the seed that is sown? The Seed is Christ, the living Word of God.

Second, of four kinds of ground, how many enjoyed lasting fruit? Only one of the four kinds of ground enjoyed lasting fruit.

When we think about the person who had no roots, and the individual who had many weeds and thorns of worry and the deceitfulness of wealth, we see that the seed actually had germinated. Those with no roots, and those with thorns, actually had experienced the Life of Christ in them beginning to bear fruit.

No intelligent reader in his right mind could claim the rootless and the thorny had never been Christians. The Seed had been born in them and was beginning to bear fruit!

Then what happened? The one fell away. The other became unfruitful.

But Jesus said He has chosen us that our fruit should remain.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16—NIV)

"Fruit that will last"! If we do not bear lasting fruit we will be cut from the Vine, from Christ.

How can so many Christians persist in their belief that once we accept Christ we never can be removed from Christ or that we are living in an impenetrable bubble of grace not affected by the fruit of our life? How in the world do modern Christian teachers get around the parable of the sower?

I am sure they have an answer.

The other day I heard a way to get around the parable of the vine. I had thought I had a foolproof answer to the eternal security group. If you don't bear the fruit of Christ in your personality you will be cut out of the Vine, out of Christ.

By gum if an Christian didn't find a way out. He said the whole world starts off in Christ and not bearing fruit means you didn't accept Christ.

I am tempted to give up after that tortured interpretation, but I can't really give up because if I keep on explaining the new covenant I might save one more Christian from today's unscriptural traditions.

So we see that salvation is not a case of profession of belief in orthodox doctrine but that of bearing fruit. God the Farmer is looking for fruit. When He does not find it, when He does not see the image of His son coming forth, He begins to think about removing the tree. God is seeking trees of life, not dead trees.

‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.’ (John 15:16—NIV)

Lest the reader become confused with all these examples, what we are teaching is that there is no such thing as a state of grace in which Gentiles (and the same is true for Jews) are protected from wrath and brought to Heaven even if they do not serve God, do not bear fruit.

We have made belief in doctrine the hallmark of redemption. Belief in doctrine is not the hallmark of redemption. Fruit is the hallmark of redemption. Belief in the gardener's manual is not the goal of the farmer. The crop is the goal of the farmer.

Workers of iniquity.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22,23—NIV)

It appears the ones being addressed in the above are Christians. They had prophesied in the name of Jesus. They had driven out demons in the name of Jesus. They had performed many miracles in the name of Jesus.

How would you feel toward someone who had done all these things in the name of Jesus? Would you believe him or her to be a true Christian?

Jesus didn't!

These believers did all these things. They were saved, filled with God's Spirit, and demonstrated the ministries and gifts of the Spirit.

But they were evildoers! They were not listening to Christ. He did not know them and never had known them.

Were they performing these miracles by the power of the devil or by the power of the Holy Spirit? I think they accomplished their works by the power of the Spirit.

How can this be?

A question arises in our mind because we do not understand the nature of the Christian salvation. The Christian salvation is moral transformation, not the working of supernatural signs.

But! But! But!

God gives gifts of the Spirit to people without regard to their spirituality. The oil comes on the blood, not on our spiritual maturity. And the gifts of God are without repentance.

The gifts and ministries are given to us that we might be transformed into the image of Christ and that those to whom we minister might be transformed into the image of Christ. They are given for no other reason.

The fruit the heavenly Farmer is looking for is the moral image of Christ in us and in those to whom we minister and whom we influence.

If we are transformed morally then Christ will know us. Christ does not know an evildoer regardless of how prominent in the ministry he or she may be.

If we are not transformed morally, then Christ does not know us. Yet the gift continues to operate for it is without repentance, not revocable.

There are prominent minsters today, known around the world, under whose ministry hundreds of thousands of people have been converted and healed. Yet they are evildoers. Christ does not know them. They hold successful evangelistic revivals and healing crusades while at the same time practicing adultery or mishandling the funds given by the faithful. They are robbers of widows. Christ does not know them.

The reason ministers are seduced away from the truth and practice evil is twofold. First, they have in their personality strong lusts for money, prominence, sexual indulgence, pornography, alcohol, drugs, child molestation, or some other driving spirit.

Second, they have been taught that we "stand in grace" and shall be brought to Paradise to live forever even though we have practiced lawlessness. These two factors, the lusts of their personality and their belief that they are protected from Divine wrath by their statement of belief in Christ, combine to make them evildoers.

In the Presence of Christ they will hear: "Get away from Me, you evildoer!"

So much for the "state of grace" that purports to be an eternal amnesty for Gentiles.

Do we believe the written Word of God or not!

Beating the menservants and maidservants.

But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:45,46—NIV)

We know the above is directed toward Christians, the Lord's servants, because of the expression "assign him a place with the unbelievers." If you begin to beat your fellow servants you will be cut in pieces (whatever that means) and removed from the family of God.

There is nothing more common today in the Christian churches than beating our fellow Christians. We do this by gossip and slander. Yet the first chapter of the Book of Romans lists gossip and slander with the worst sins of mankind, saying those who do such things are worthy of death.

What will happen to us if the Lord arrives unexpectedly while we are gossiping and slandering, speaking evil of our fellow Christians? We will be cut in pieces and assigned to the ranks of the unbelievers.

What happened to the "state of grace"? Nothing. It remains as foreign to the Gospel as ever.

When the Lord put this present essay on my heart the other morning He let me know He is very displeased with the perversion of the Gospel of grace. I am responding by writing down what I think the Lord has laid on my heart. It is up to the Holy Spirit to alert the Church. My job is to prophesy to the bones.

So we see we are not engaging in a theological exercise, presenting a novel view of the Bible. Either we are correct, the present view of salvation is incorrect, and God is very displeased at the wrecking of His intention concerning man, or we are deluded.

The only way in which my words can be proven to be a delusion is by a demonstration from the Word of God that I have not cut a straight course in the Word of truth. Traditions and reasoning (such as how can someone be unborn after they have been born, and this sort of nonsense) have no strength at all when it comes to proving the validity of doctrine. The Word must respond with yea or nay. I am ready to accept the verdict of the written Word.

Does anyone care enough to prove me wrong?

Americans tend to be good-natured, easygoing people and probably would prefer to keep on driving on the wrong highway just as long as the weather is nice and the car is operating smoothly. As long as the economy remains strong they are not interested in fussing about truth! We can see that from what is taking place in our government today.

"Daddy, Daddy, we missed our turnoff back there."

"Don't worry, Honey, just sit back and enjoy the ride and the beautiful weather. Perfect for our trip!"

They will not become alarmed enough to change until they arrive at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Then they will realize something is wrong and take another look at the map. Maybe it will not be too late to turn around and go in the other direction.

Hopefully there are some exceptions to this!

Not doing God's will.

"That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:47,48—NIV)

The context of the above passage indicates the people being addressed are the Lord's servants, that is, Christians. The Christian who knows what God wants and does not do it will be beaten with many blows. When and where he will be beaten I do not know. This does not sound like total loss of salvation to me. It probably is more in line with being saved as by fire.

This passage alone reveals the utter folly of the "rapture" position. Will we be raised from the dead, glorified, caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and then beaten with many blows? How utterly illogical and foolish!

If we say such blows are given in this life so we will repent and thus be ready for the first resurrection from the dead, I can go along with this. This reinforces my thesis that the Divine salvation insists on godly living as a requirement for protection from the wrath of God.

If we would be saved we must turn from our sin. We are not saved "by faith alone." This is a destructive doctrine. All true Christians suffer a great deal of chastisement at the hand of God that we may be found worthy of the Kingdom. We are saved by these Divine fires. They make us partakers of God's holy, peaceful Nature, knocking the foolishness out of us. We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.

We who are not doing God's will shall be beaten with many blows in this life to drive us to repentance, or such lashes will be administered in the next life. If administered in the next life, then we can understand the blows must be administered before we are glorified and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. It is ridiculous to imagine we will be raised, glorified, caught up to be with the Lord forever, and then beaten with many blows. Think about this!

Practicing sin.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21—NIV)

Would anyone like to venture that the Apostle Paul is not speaking to the Christians in Galatia?

Notice the statement, "those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Incidentally numerous Christians exhibit these characteristics.

Some editors will admit that Paul is addressing the churches in Galatia. But, they say, the people who do these things never were real Christians.

Thus they utterly confound themselves. If the members of the churches of Galatia practiced the works of the flesh, as so many American Christians do, and then we say they never were true Christians, then how, pray tell, do you identify a true Christian? By his or her righteous behavior?

Paul said the same thing in other epistles!

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 5:5,6—NIV)

As we said, Christian editors evade such passages by saying no true Christians would live in the sins of the flesh. If they are stating that only those who demonstrate righteous behavior are true Christians, then what happened to their teaching that our behavior is not related to our "sovereignly installed salvation"? Can't they see they are arguing in circles?

Why can't we be immoral, filled with anger and dissension of every sort, and still inherit the Kingdom of God, if it is true that believers "stand in grace"?

I think the eternal security people better review their position.

Well, let us suppose Paul is addressing unsaved people. Is Paul implying that if they do not practice the sinful works of the flesh they will inherit the Kingdom of God? No Christian believes this!

Why don't we just abandon our contemporary traditions and state clearly and unequivocally that if Christian believers are immoral, divisive people characterized by jealousy, dissension, and fits of rage (which they often are) they cannot possibly inherit the Kingdom of God? Why don't we adhere to the Bible for a change? How refreshing this would be!

True, it is agreed, they cannot inherit the Kingdom but they are saved by grace. God does not see their sin, only the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

In other words, Paul is correct and our tradition of grace is correct, and somehow, somewhere, sometime, in a realm of logic not available to us in the present hour, both positions are true. Paul is correct in saying sinful people will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Today's teachers are correct in saying no matter how we live we can never really lose our salvation.

Maybe being saved is one thing and being in the Kingdom of God is another. Now we have two groups of people. One comprising immoral, angry people whose personality God overlooks. The other composed of righteous, holy individuals who are members of the Kingdom of God.

Which group are you in? Would you care to join me in never-never land?

The inability of devout, competent scholars to perceive the inconsistency of their position on grace is enough to drive one crazy!

Slaying our own resurrection.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13—NIV)

Paul, to whom are you speaking?

"To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints, obviously. Didn't I make myself clear in the first chapter?"

Paul, what are you saying to us in Rome whom God loves and who are called to be saints?

"I am telling you that if you live according to your sinful nature you will die."

Do you mean if we live according to our sinful nature we will die physically?

"You fool, you are going to die physically no matter how you live. What a stupid question!"

Please don't get excited. We are having a hard time figuring out what you mean.

"If you will read the preceding verses you will understand what I mean. I told you your body is dead because of sin but your inward nature is alive because God has ascribed righteousness to it. Then I wrote that if God's Spirit is living in you He plans on making your dead body alive in the future by His Spirit that is in you. This is the resurrection from the dead, our central hope.

"But if you insist on living according to your sinful nature the spiritual life that is in you will dwindle away. You will run out of oil, according to the Lord's parable. Then there will be no eternal life in you to make alive your body. You will lose your chance at eternal life and immortality! You will destroy your own resurrection by your conduct. You will have no white robe with which to clothe yourself.

"I told the Galatians the same thing, that if they insist on sowing to their flesh they are going to reap corruption, not eternal life."

Paul, we have been taught that no matter what we do we cannot lose our eternal life.

"Why don't you read my epistle again, particularly the sixth chapter of my letter to the saints in Rome. It sounds like people are taking your crown!"

Repaid according to our deeds.

I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Revelation 2:21-23—NIV)

One of the main Christian teachings of our day is that no Christian will suffer at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is a terribly destructive doctrine because it removes the fear of God from the churches.

Look at the passage above.

To whom is Jesus speaking? To the angel of the church in Thyatira.

There was immorality in the church in Thyatira, probably a strong spirit of partying.

Now, why did the Lord speak so harshly to these believers when they all were "standing in grace?" Maybe Christ was just going after the angel. Perhaps it was the angel who was living in immorality and Christ's words do not apply to the believers. Could this be the explanation?

Jesus is calling for repentance. Do you know the Spirit of God is calling for repentance in the United States of America? Do you know what else? We have no doctrinal basis for repentance. God sees us only through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. To repent is to cast aspersions on the perfect work of God. Of what is there to repent? Christ's own righteousness that clothes us?

Obviously something is amiss because we all can feel the call to repentance.

How much more fruitful would be the Spirit's call to repentance if our doctrine were not confusing everyone!

Concerning the spirit of immorality and partying, Jesus did not say, " Not to worry Honey, good ol' Jesus will cover you with His robe of righteousness. Go ahead. Have fun in the Son. Have a good time on Me!"

What did our gentle Lord say?

"I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead.

Wow! Kind of harsh words for the gentle Jesus! Maybe Jesus is not as gentle as we thought! If American preachers talked like Jesus we would have the greatest backdoor revival in history.

Then Jesus said something else that blows apart the contemporary preaching.

"All the churches will know I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds."

Since we know the Lord will never repay a believer according to his deeds, we must go to the Greek to discover what Jesus actually said.

If you will look at the pluperfect, past redundant, by golly participle of the word "repay" you will discover Jesus actually was saying He will overlook everything bad we have done. The use of this Greek term by the Babylonians proves beyond doubt that all believers stand in grace and Jesus has waved away their immorality, slander, covetousness, and dishonesty. Now they will govern all nations with a rod of iron while lying in bed in their mansion.

A minority of the believers.

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 3:3-5—NIV)

To whom is Jesus speaking? To the angel of the church in Sardis, not to the unsaved in Sardis. The reason I repeat such obvious facts is that Christian teachers insist that the warnings of Jesus and His Apostles do not apply to Christians. Believe it or not, this is how they get around the Bible so they can prove their "stand in grace" error.

What is Jesus saying? He is saying only a minority of the believers in Sardis will walk with Him in the white robes of the royal priesthood. This means the majority of believers in Sardis will not be raised in the first resurrection, the resurrection of the priesthood, but must wait until the thousand-year Kingdom Age has been concluded.

So much for the unscriptural "four steps of salvation and you're in the rapture" error.

The implication of the Lord's statements is that those who do not gain victory over worldliness, lust, and self-will are in danger of having their name blotted from the Book of Life. Now we are referring to the Lake of Fire.

The teaching today is that no one who professes belief in Jesus Christ need be concerned about the Lake of Fire. This is not what the Bible teaches!

The Lake of Fire has authority over eight specific areas of behavior. As long as we practice those the Lake of Fire has a claim on us, grace or no grace.

Otherwise why did the Lord say "I will never blot out from the Book of Life the name of him who overcomes," leaving the distinct impression that if we do not overcome we stand in danger of the Lake of Fire? Isn't Jesus smart enough to know this is the impression He is leaving?

Do you know what will happen to the individual who takes away from the Book of Revelation? Or is that curse also abrogated by grace?

The teaching today that we are an overcomer by merely taking the four steps of salvation is unscriptural. If this were true, if every professing Christian is automatically an overcomer, then what in the world are the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation talking about?

Are you willing to live with such enormous inconsistencies? I'm not! I don't know about you but my salvation is much too important to me to leave in the hands of those who argue in circles, saying at one moment the Bible is the fully inspired Word of God and then attempting to prove it doesn't mean what it states.

Lukewarm Christians

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15,16—NIV)

To whom is Jesus speaking? To the angel of the church in Laodicea.

What is He saying"

"I know how you are behaving and I sure wish you were cold or hot, either intensely in love with Me or intensely in love with Satan. You are not filled with Me and you are not filled with Satan. You know what? I don't know what to do with you.

"I like My coffee either boiling hot or ice cold, none of this tepid stuff. I am going to spit you out of My mouth. Ugh!"

What a joy to be spit out of the Lord's mouth! We know we can never lose our salvation because we "stand in grace." How wonderful to be spit from the mouth of Christ (in whose mouth all of us live and move and have our being), knowing we are eternally secure wherever the drops land. We don't care if we are spit out of the Lord's mouth, just as long as we are saved and go to Heaven when we die.

Wait a minute! I think Christ was talking to the Jews. Those Jews better get cold or hot if they know what is good for them!

When Will the Judgment of the Elect Take Place?

Now I will abandon my foolishness and get serious.

We have listed thirteen judgments on the elect. The only judgment we can think of that falls on the secular realm is the judgment concerning the sheep and goat nations. This makes fourteen judgments to consider.

There is, of course, the business of the wheat and tares, the removal from the Kingdom of God of offenses, and then of those who offend, when that which has been planted in the earth comes to maturity. This probably will take place at the coming of the Lord Jesus, when the wicked of the world are trampled underfoot by the Lord's army.

Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things," says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 4:3—NIV)

Here is the big question. When do each of these fourteen judgments take place?

This question is not as easy to answer as one could wish. We'll take a shot at it realizing that our understanding may change in the future. It truly is a difficult question in several instances.

The ten virgins. Closing the door against the foolish believers could take place at any time. Even today the Lord is calling to His people, inviting us to enter a closer relationship to Him. Some are responding. Others are discovering they do not have what it takes to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow the Lord with a perfect heart.

If this parable is pointed toward the first resurrection, the resurrection that will occur when the Lord returns, then we are saying a multitude of the Christians alive at the time will be left when the trumpet sounds, for it is obvious the saving element is not our profession of belief in Christ but the amount of oil we have in reserve. How many believers are living foolishly, wasting their time, hoping for a "rapture" that will deliver them from all trouble and inconvenience? These are not carrying extra oil with their lamp.

The talents. Again, this could happen at any time. The Lord could come, demand an accounting of us, and either entrust us with more Kingdom ability or remove what we do have. It is obvious the believer could not be raised from the dead (or transformed), glorified, ascend to meet the Lord in the air to be ever with the Lord, and then have his or her talent removed and be thrust into the outer darkness. Can you see the illogic of this?

On the other hand, the judgment of the talents may take place before the White Throne, at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.

The Vine. I think this could happen at any time. The Lord comes to us and perceives there is none of His Nature obvious in our behavior. He removes us from Himself, and we are so accustomed to living in the impulses of our adamic nature we do not notice the loss of His Presence.

Sowing and reaping. This seems to be to be pointed toward the Day of Resurrection, although again it could take place at any time. Peter tells us judgment has begun in the household of God. Peter informs us that not only the living but the dead also are being judged.

The Christian who persists in living in the lusts and appetites of his flesh will certainly produce a crop of corruption now, and in the day when his or her body is called forth from its place of interment. Our resurrection from the dead will be either the putting on of eternal life and immortality or else entrance into a state of being that is stunted, corrupt, and void of the Presence of God. Our resurrection will be according to the sowing we have done.

The sower. This judgment takes place in the present life. Either we bear lasting fruit in our personality or we do not.

Workers of iniquity. This may take place at the resurrection. Many Christian workers of our day are not known by the Lord. We understand this to be true because of the things they do, robbing widows and living in adultery. Although they have genuine gifts of ministry that are operating, the Lord one day will say, "I never knew you. Get away from Me you wicked person." This in spite of all their accomplishments in the ministry.

Beating the menservants and maidservants. It is difficult to tell exactly when this judgment will occur. When it does take place we will lose our position with Jesus because of our harsh treatment of other Christians.

Not doing God's will. This judgment sometimes happens in the present life as the Lord chastises us severely for not doing His will, as in the case of the prophet Jonah.

Practicing sin. As long as we are walking in the sinful passions of our body we are not entering the Kingdom of God. There is no sin in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is the doing of God's will on earth as it is performed in Heaven.

We will not inherit the Kingdom at the coming of the Lord if we choose to live in the flesh and soul rather than the Spirit of God.

Slaying our own resurrection. When we choose to live in the flesh, putting the major emphasis of our life on eating, sleeping, working, playing, and reproducing, leaving little time for prayer, for meditating in the Scriptures, for gathering with fervent believers, the Life of God given to us when we received Jesus Christ begins to be crowded out. If we do not repent, then when the Day of Resurrection arrives there will be no eternal life in our personality to make alive our body. Instead we will reap the corruption of the flesh.

Repaid according to our deeds. We are beginning to see that these judgments can be exercised at any time. Christians who listen to the Jezebel voices that call to the flesh, loving partying and sensual behavior, may be struck spiritually or even physically dead at any time.

The believer will be repaid by Jesus according to how he or she has lived. The original lie, the greatest lie ever told, is that we will not receive back what we have practiced in our body.

The secular realm fights against creationism, preferring evolution, because creationism suggests there is a God who will call people to account for their behavior.

The Christian realm fights with the same desperation against the truth of the Scriptures that believers certainly will receive back what they have done.

The satanic lie that "you shall not surely die" pervades Christian theology.

God has put the promise of staggering rewards of glory, and also of punishment so dreadful as to be beyond the mind of man to comprehend, in His unchanging Word. Consider sometime the curses pronounced from Mount Ebal, curses directed toward God's chosen people, not toward the Canaanites. Yet the threat of the Lake of Fire passes far, far beyond Mount Ebal.

These promises of glory and dreadful punishment are in the written Word for a purpose. The purpose is to remind Satan and his followers, and also human beings, of the consequences of obedience to God and disobedience to God.

Satan and his angels, who never can be redeemed, are terrified of what they are facing. Like wicked people often do, they put the fear out of their mind and go on their way, bound hideously with their own lusts and self will.

Satan and his angels will be judged by the saints. Therefore Satan is using every device possible to persuade the believers, God's future judges, that they need have no fear of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Satan is hoping by some means he will be able to persuade the judges to live in sin so when the time of judgment comes they will be unable to judge him. God will have to free Satan and his followers because God's own people are so similar in character and behavior to Satan.

The error in Christian thinking that once we have believed in Jesus Christ we can never be lost can have unacceptable consequences.

I know of the great importance attached to this false security because Christians who will go along with me that God desires righteous, holy, obedient behavior will object strenuously when I insist that if such behavior does not follow, the Christian may be subjected to dreadful punishment or even the maximum penalty.

The believers simply won't hear of this even though the Scripture clearly and in many places, as I have pointed out above, shows that every person on earth, believer in Christ or not, will be judged and rewarded according to his or her behavior.

"You shall not surely die" was the beginning of the insane howling debauchery known as world history. "You shall not surely die" is being preached today in the great majority of Christian churches to "believers" who are not serving the Lord. It is Satan who is speaking behind the pulpit, though the preacher may be a fine man. Peter was a fine man but Satan through him tried to keep the Lord from going to Jerusalem and making the atonement for our sins.

The truth is (and no one knows it better than Adam and Eve) if you do not obey the commandments of God you will surely die, and there is no grace, or mercy, or love, or dispensation, or any other of the devices employed today that will prevent your death if you do not keep the commandments of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.

A minority of the churches. The judgments concerning Sardis seem to be pointed toward the next age. Only a minority of the believers of Sardis are eligible for the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood. Only those clothed in white robes are members of the priesthood. The rest will be judged for their refusal to return to their first works of prayer, of continual repentance and turning away from sin, of meditating day and night in God's Word and practicing what the Word teaches.

Only the victorious saints have the assurance in writing, in the book of the Bible that preempts all of the other books because it is a direct revelation from God through Jesus Christ, that the Lake of Fire no longer has authority over them.

Lukewarm Christians. How wonderful to be spit from Christ's mouth! Not really. When will the lukewarm be spit from Christ's mouth? Probably when He, after warning and chastising them, has decided they are not going to seek Him with their whole heart.

The sheep and goat nations. After no small amount of wondering we have come to the conclusion that the separation of the sheep from the goats will take place at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.

To place the sheep and goat judgment at the time of the return of Jesus Christ presents certain problems, problems that do not arise if we move this judgment to the time of the White Throne.

For instance, we are of the opinion that these will be the sheep and goat nations of the entire Christian Era, and perhaps of all world history. Christ's brothers, who either were ignored or assisted by the nations, probably include all the righteous from the time of Abel. At least the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews could be viewed as suggesting this.

If this is true, if the sheep-goat judgment is not limited to nations on the earth at the time of the Lord's coming, then we have people being raised from the dead and judged prior to the time of the White Throne. This to me seems unlikely. Why pick on just the living nations when multitudes of people long since deceased also have either refused to help God's witnesses or else have gone to their assistance? In addition we have the problem of people being sent to the Lake of Fire at the beginning of the Kingdom Age, the time of Jesus' return. This means they will not be raised from the dead and appear before the White Throne at the end of the Kingdom Age. Actually we would then have had two White Throne judgments, one at the beginning and one at the end of the thousand year Kingdom Age.

I think only the Beast and the False Prophet will be cast in their bodies into the Lake of Fire at the return of the Lord. There is no reason to wait until the end of the Kingdom Age to judge them. They already are known to be the very personification of Satan. Into the Lake of Fire they go while still in their bodies.

But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Revelation 19:20—NIV)

Now we come to another departure from Christian teaching. It is our point of view that the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when Jesus returns, is reserved for the victorious saints.

I 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. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed 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 20:4-6—NIV)

Everything about this resurrection suggest an elite, a firstfruits. This is not a resurrection to salvation but to rulership.

A study of the second and third chapter of the Book of Revelation leaves at least two impressions. First, those who overcome are a minority of the church members. It is always to "him" who overcomes, not "them" who overcome.

Second, the rewards to the overcomers are not those of basic salvation, or residence in Paradise, but have to do with crowns, thrones, closeness to God. It is our opinion that the rewards presented in these two chapters are steps toward the first resurrection from the dead.

As we look about us in Christendom we can see there are few truly self-denying, cross-carrying, victorious saints. The rest are churchgoers, good people but they simply are not disciples. In fact, the demands of discipleship are frightening to them.

The fact is, however, immature as they may be they are God's elect, His family.

Now, since Revelation 20:5 states "the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended," we are forced to the conclusion that the great majority of God's elect will be raised from the dead at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.

Since we have written extensively concerning the division of the one Church into a firstfruits, and then the balance of the Church, and have discussed the several major supporting types such as the separation of the Ark of the Covenant from the remainder of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, we will not rehearse that topic here. But we are satisfied from the Scripture that Armageddon will be fought by a Gideon's army, a remnant of Israel, and that these are the participants in the first resurrection. They are a firstfruits of the Bride, having clothed themselves in the radiantly white linen of their righteous conduct, and will follow the Lord on the white war stallions as He invades the earth and establishes His Kingdom.

We have also written elsewhere of our opinion that one of the major purposes of the thousand-year Kingdom Age is to give the Lord's firstfruits time to assist the balance of the Church, to prepare those who did not qualify for the first resurrection, for the descent of the entire Church to the earth as the new Jerusalem, the Tabernacle of God among the saved nations.

Now let us think further, for we rapidly are approaching the time of the Lord's return when these ideas will pass from the realm of paper to the substance of the Kingdom of God.

I believe the spirit realm is somewhat different from what we suppose. I think it is a place of intense activity. I believe people are trained there, educated, judged, punished, have wonderful opportunities to minister. While some aspects of character such as iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience are probably learned best on the earth (the Logos Himself learned obedience on the earth), yet it must be true that we can grow in many aspects of Divine Life after we leave our probationary period on earth.

We are in a sort of boot camp now. As I see it our present embryonic existence on the earth is only the first of a multitude of stages through which we will pass until we truly are in the image of Him who can inhale or breathe out firmaments at His will.

One day, I do believe, we will be in the image of Christ as presented in the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel.

So we might think of the spirit realm as a very busy place where the spirits of the righteous are perfected, where people are punished, or healed, or educated. This present life is really the valley of the shadow of death because of the presence of Satan and his followers.

What I picture, then, is the coming of the Lord to raise the members of His army into the air in preparation for their descent with Him in the attack of Armageddon.

But what about the majority of the elect, those who are nowhere near qualified to ride behind Christ in the great cavalry charge.

For example, how about those Corinthians believers who were sick or who died prematurely because God had judged them for taking the Communion improperly? By no stretch of the imagination are they members of the royal priesthood, ready to ride behind the Commander in Chief.

How about those who are saved as by fire, having lost all inheritance as did Lot? These hardly are members of the Lord's firstfruits who will follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

So if we are to have any coherent picture of the next age we must make allowance for the great diversity of spiritual strength in God's people, and that allowance is not to make everyone who makes a profession of belief in Christ a king and throw the rest of the population of the earth into the Lake of Fire. This is simplistic thinking. It does not satisfy the relevant passages of the Scriptures.

Therefore I see a Gideon's army governing the earth for one thousand years, working alongside Christ and growing to be more like Him.

I see this same company preparing the balance of the Church for her appearing as the Bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem. The concept of the stronger dressing the weaker for the wedding can be found in the eighth chapter of the Song of Solomon.

According to the Scriptures, no person other than the members of the royal priesthood, the overcomers, will be raised at the return of Jesus. The remainder of the elect, as well as the rest of mankind, must wait until the thousand years have been concluded. This fulfills the type of the partial reign of David over Judah prior to his rule over all Israel.

Now we come to the general resurrection from the dead, after the earth and sky have fled from the face of Christ.

We see a great white throne. On the throne are Jesus Christ and His brothers, as we know from other passages of Scriptures (Revelation 3:21, for example).

Before the judges stand every person born on the earth except those who were raised in the first resurrection and now are seated on the throne of judgment.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12-15—NIV)

The families of Israel will be there. They will be judged by the Apostles, according to the word of the Lord Jesus.

The sheep and goat nations will be there, I believe. When Jesus says, "Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brothers," He is referring to His brothers who in that hour will be surrounding Him, His fellow judges.

The sea, death, and Hades gave up the dead in them. The sea probably refers to the great sea of mankind. The dead small and great are standing before God, not on the earth because the earth and the sky had fled from the face of Christ.

I believe, however, they are standing in resurrected bodies. I may be incorrect in this, but it is God's way to judge us in the body, to reward us in the body, and to punish us in the body. Also, Jesus plainly stated that all shall be raised at one time or another.

"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29—NIV)

How could a flesh and bones body be in the spirit realm? How could Elijah and Enoch be caught up in their flesh and bones? There is an lot we do not know, isn't there?

It is the exception who is cast into the Lake of Fire. We know this from the statement, "if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." The wording implies that only a minority were assigned to this fate that is dreadful beyond comprehension. Otherwise it would say, "if anyone's name was found in the book of life he was not thrown into the lake of fire."

The current Christian position that this is only a mock judgment and everyone without exception will be cast into the Lake of Fire is based on an unscriptural philosophy that makes a mockery of the exact wording of the passage. Nothing of the kind is implied in the text itself.

The fact that each person was judged according to what he had done does not mean he was lost! In several places in the New Testament we are told that we will be judged according to what we have done.

We have previously quoted the following:

I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Revelation 2:23—NIV)

We are in need of a midcourse correction in Christian theology.

We have discussed the judgment of Israel, of the sheep and goat nations, and of the rest of the people of the world.

The one group remaining consists of the members of God's elect who did not attain the first resurrection.

Their judgment is special because they are the Lord's servants. We already have set forth thirteen examples of the judgment of the elect. These thirteen aspects of the judgment of the elect may take place during the present life, after they die, during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, or after the judgment of the White Throne.

A great deal of time (if time is a factor in the eternal age) may be devoted to the final preparations of the Bride of the Lamb, and also to the introduction of the members of the sheep nations to the Lord Jesus so they may receive the eternal life promised to them.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (Matthew 25:34—NIV)

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:46—NIV)

All of this activity may take place after the last verse of Chapter Twenty and before the first verse of Chapter Twenty-one.

The next thing we are allowed to see, after the White Throne judgment, is the new sky and the new earth, and the completed Church coming down through the sky to rest forever on a high mountain of the new earth.

Consider the following:

In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. (Ezekiel 40:2—NIV)

It is our point of view that the description of the temple found in the Book of Ezekiel is a symbolic way of setting forth the inward nature of those who compose the new Jerusalem, the work that must be done before we are ready to wipe away the tears of the saved nations.

How We Should View the Return of the Lord Jesus

The Lord Jesus is not coming to take His Church to Heaven. There is no scriptural basis for this tradition. Search the Scriptures and assure yourself that the Lord is not returning to carry off His Bride to Heaven. This is not the purpose for His coming.

The Scriptures promise fullness of joy to the righteous, pleasures forever at the right hand of God.

What would you like to be true of the coming of the Lord?

You have made  known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalms 16:11—NIV)

Since God has promised to fill us with joy, what we want to be true of the coming of the Lord is important. His coming should bring joy to us.

We may think our greatest joy would be to be carried off to Heaven to live in a mansion, resting forever in a luxurious surrounding, no cares, no dread, no pain, no concerns, no deadlines to meet, there being nothing for which we are responsible, no pressures of any kind. We think we would enjoy an eternal vacation, something like going to Florida and laying on the beach while the endless ages roll by.

There is no scriptural assurance that the spirit world is this kind of place. Again, search the Scriptures and check me out.

There are several places in the Scriptures where a worry-free environment is discussed. But nearly every one of these places has to do with the earth.

First there was the Garden of Eden, located in the region of the Persian Gulf.

Then there is the description of the earth during the thousand-year Kingdom Age.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling  together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9—NIV)

Finally the description of the new earth.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4—NIV)

If you want any of these delightful circumstances to be true of you, you will have to be on the earth to enjoy them.

This is why the resurrection from the dead is of supreme importance to you. The purpose of the resurrection is to bring you back to the earth. And the kind of resurrection you will experience depends directly on how you are living in Christ today.

"But what have you done with my mansion in Heaven?"

The Bible says nothing about mansions in Heaven. This idea comes from a faulty translation of a Greek term that actually means a room or place of abiding.

You do have a "house" that is being constructed for you before the Throne of God in Heaven. This house is being fashioned from your conduct on the earth. But you will not go to this house. Your house will return with the Lord Jesus and clothe your resurrected flesh and bones.

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (II Corinthians 5:4—NIV)

"Are there any passages that reveal what it will be like for me after I die?"

There are very few. The Bible is almost silent on our life between death and resurrection. Here are two passages, and you will see they probably are different from what you have pictured.

I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:14-17—NIV)

When 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. They 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?" (Revelation 6:9,10—NIV)

Do either of these two passages sound like what you truly desire for eternity? Probably not, if you search your heart.

You were not created to live in the spirit world. The spirit world is for the angels. God does not form you and then spend enormous resources of time and attention to educate you in His ways so you can spend an eternal vacation in the spirit realm. You have an endless life of service and responsibility ahead of you!

Right now you may be so pressured, so tired, so filled with dread and anxiety that the idea of going to a mansion and just doing nothing for a while sounds pretty good. What you need is a good long vacation with no worries.

But think about it. Let's say you no longer are tired, there are no money problems, you are in perfect health, you can do whatever you like for as long as you like.

Now, think deeply about this. Where do you want to be? With whom do you wish to be? What would you desire to be doing? Remember, you are fully rested, in perfect health, and have no worries or responsibilities of any kind. What do you really want?

There may be some who still wish they could be in the spirit realm, laying on a mansion, perhaps surrounded by their loved ones, and doing nothing at all except talking and looking around for eternity.

To me this would be Hell, not Heaven.

I am looking for the resurrection, primarily, so I can regain life on the earth. It is the earth, with its oceans and meadows, where I wish to spend eternity, not the spirit realm.

But after death and before resurrection I am hoping for access to the Palace where Jesus and His mighty men sit at the table and plan the Kingdom. But especially I am looking forward to a time of relaxation, of returning to the scenes of my childhood where my roots are, maybe rowing out to the breakwater like I used to do and sitting on one of the rocks, listening to the seagulls and the waves lapping against the huge stones.

I need time to think, time to realize the cross no longer is cutting into my back. Time to remember. One of the greatest blessings of living the victorious life is that God will give us the choice of what we wish to remember and what we want to forget. Those who are to be punished have no such choice. Tormenting memories are part of Hell and the outer darkness.

After this I probably will want to visit the new Jerusalem and the palace, maybe renew old acquaintances. There are a few authors I would like to visit, such as C. S. Lewis, and tell them how much enjoyment they gave me.

Hopefully there will be an opportunity for Jesus and me to come before the Father and present to Him whatever fruitfulness there has been from my life.

They say time passes very rapidly in the spirit realm, so I suppose the next event will be to suddenly awaken once again on the earth, surrounded by saints in shining bodies, and then ascend to find my place in the air in the ranks of the Lord's army.

Down through the clouds, the furious destruction of the armies of the wicked, and then to the coronation ceremony on the Temple Mount. I look forward to returning with Jesus on a white war-stallion. I understand the battle will be fierce and very real. But I have no fear because God is in control and Christ is leading the way.

I anticipate with the greatest joy seeing the King crowned on the Temple Mount, and then being sent out to take charge of people who have survived the onslaught of Armageddon. Here will be a whole new family of human beings to guide in the righteous ways of the Lord.

I really look forward to a thousand years of taking care of the people assigned to me, for they are the Lord's inheritance, and also mine because I along with you am a coheir of the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth.

I am anticipating a full life of ministering to people. There will be no cross to carry and no dread of financial loss or sickness. But I look for increasing responsibility and pressure that will move me to new levels of the image of Christ and a deeper rest in God's perfect will. I hope I will pass through many more stages of life until I am truly in the image of our Father. How about you?

I know the Lord Jesus is coming to take control of our earth. This is what I want—to be with Him ministering to the needs of the peoples of the earth, and also to the needs of my fellow Christians as I am doing today.

I am old and tired, but not so old and tired as to want to have Jesus come and then return to Heaven with me so I can rest!

Think of it! Before we ascend to meet the Lord in the air we shall have been raised from the dead and clothed with immortality. There will be no need to flee to the spirit realm in order to rest or to be protected from Antichrist or the Great Tribulation or our bills or whatever else is of concern to us. The idea is to descend with Christ to the earth. This is where the excitement, the adventure, the wonder will be.

Then too, think of those who have been with the Lord for hundreds or thousands of years. They are waiting for their opportunity to govern the nations of the earth.

And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9,10—NIV)

Do you think these saints who have been waiting so long to return to the earth are going to want to be resurrected and then turn around and go back to Heaven so the living saints can get rested up? I don't think so

No, they won't want to and neither will you.

Search your heart. It is very important what you desire for God's Word has promised you the desires of your heart and the Scriptures cannot be changed in any manner. They are eternal. So if what you really want is to remain in Heaven with the angels, resting on a golden couch in your mansion, then perhaps that is what you will receive.

But as for me, I want to be with the Lord and the people God has given me for my inheritance.

What does God want to be true of the coming of the Lord?

In addition to what we want to be true of the coming of the Lord there are also God's desires to be considered.

God loves people. He formed the earth for people and gave them bodies derived from the earth. God made the earth to be inhabited.

For this is what the LORD says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18—NIV)

God wants His will to be done in the earth.

God wants justice to prevail among the nations so people can dwell in righteousness, peace and joy.

God wants to dwell among mankind, to be with them, to govern them successfully, to wipe away their tears, to answer their petitions, to give them eternal life without pain and dread.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:3,4—NIV)

God's method for living among people and blessing them is to create a great house for Himself composed of the chief Corner Stone and many other living stones.

God's wants the coming of the Lord Jesus to be the arrival of His great house, His tabernacle, on the earth resulting in the destruction of the wicked and the bringing of justice to the saved nations.

I think this also would be the hope of the meek of the earth if they were aware of what the coming of the Kingdom of God would mean to them.

What do the Scriptures state will be true of the coming of the Lord?

First of all, the return of the Lord will bring relief to the nation of Israel, which at that time will be occupied by Antichrist.

You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:5—NIV)

The return of Jesus the Christ, the Servant of the Lord, Christ—Head and Body, will bring justice to the saved nations of the earth. Bringing justice to the nations is a principal objective of the return of Jesus.

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations." (Isaiah 42:1—NIV)

Another important objective of the coming of the Lord is to judge and convict those who are gathering with the saints but are ungodly.

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones To judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 1:14,15—NIV)

Another purpose for the coming of the Lord is to take command of every national government, to rule the people with an iron scepter. This is going to be very hard on those nations accustomed to a democratic form of government. Such citizens have deep roots of rebellion in them and will not submit quietly to a strong monarchy.

Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."  He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. (Revelation 19:15—NIV)

We have been so accustomed to picturing Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the Twenty-third Psalm that His coming to His Church as the Lord of Hosts of the Twenty-fourth Psalm is a bit unreal.

Who is this King of Glory that is asking us to open the everlasting gates of our heart? The King of Glory, the Lord of Hosts, is none other than the Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord of Hosts is as fierce as the Good Shepherd is gentle. Jesus is never half-shepherd and half-warrior. When He is the Shepherd He is as tender and gentle as a nursing mother.

When He is the Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory, the Rider on the white war stallion, He is fierce beyond belief. At one word from Him, from the sharp sword that comes from His mouth, the nations shall be struck down. No king of the earth has ever held the power to exercise judgment in any manner comparable to that of the Lord Jesus.

We have been crooned to sleep by today's overemphasis on the love of God. We have lost the fear of God in America. The coming of God's Commander in these days will wake us up in a hurry!

The name of Jesus Christ is often despised and mocked. At the coming of the Lord the nations will tremble at His vast majesty and glory. First, however, Zion, the Body of Christ, must come further toward maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.

The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. (Psalms 102:15,16—NIV)

The Lord Jesus will come and establish His government in Jerusalem. Then the law will go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

The saved nations will voluntarily come up to Jerusalem to be taught and blessed. The nations will observe the feast of Tabernacles by acknowledging the Presence of God in Christ in the saints. The nations will receive life and healing from the saints who by this time will themselves be trees of life and the light of the world. This is because Christ has been formed in them.

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4—NIV)

When God comes to earth in Jesus Christ and His saints the peoples and the kingdoms will join together to worship the Lord.

"The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death." So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem When the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD. (Psalms 102:19-22—NIV)

The next passages blow away the teaching of the "rapture." The rapture is presented as God's way of delivering His saints from Antichrist and the Great Tribulation.

Look carefully at the following two passages and you will see that God will deliver His saints, not by bringing them to Heaven (totally unscriptural) but by coming and destroying those wicked people who were troubling the believers in Thessalonica and all others who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel. This is how God will bring relief to troubled believers.

The Lord Jesus will bring relief to troubled and suffering believers, not by carrying them off to Heaven but by the power and majesty of His coming. He will destroy the wicked and establish the righteous in His Kingdom.

Don't you think the coming of the Lord to establish His people in victory on the earth is a better, more godly hope for the future, than that of removing people from the earth for fear of the Devil? The vision of Divine victory in the midst of dangerous circumstances certainly has much more scriptural precedent than that of a massive retreat from the field of battle. I thought the Lord said that nothing of Satan could by any means hurt us!

Instead of confining us in Heaven the scriptural vision gives us both Heaven and earth to enjoy at our pleasure.

If these believers were to be delivered from trouble by being brought to Heaven before the Lord returned, it is clear Paul was totally ignorant of this.

When will the Thessalonians receive relief? "This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels."

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (II Thessalonians 1:6-10—NIV)

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. (II Thessalonians 2:8—NIV)

The next seven verses portray the wonderful peace and joy that will come to the earth with the return of the Lord Jesus with His saints and holy angels. They reveal the answer to the Lord's prayer: "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in the earth as it is in Heaven."

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah. That your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah The peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. (Psalms 67:1-7—NIV)

The time setting of the following events is established by the signs in the heavens, the signs that Jesus said would be His calling card.

Notice that the return of Jesus is the great day of the wrath of God and the Lamb. No flesh will stand in God's Presence in that Day!

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, And the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:12-17—NIV)

I believe the passages presented above provide for us a much more accurate picture of the coming of the Lord than the contemporary view, which is that Jesus is coming to take His Church to Heaven. Nowhere in the Scriptures is such an idea supported.

The coming of the Lord, accompanied by His saints, to bring justice to the nations of the earth, is a primary theme of the Prophets. The New Testament in no manner changes this vision. The Apostle Paul always taught from the Old Testament, from the Law and the Prophets.

The entrance of Dispensational theory into the thinking of American Christians has destroyed the scriptural concept of Divine grace and in addition has given us a mythological vision of the return of Christ Jesus to the earth.

The purpose of this brief essay is to awaken the Christian churches to the fact that we are deceived concerning the nature and working of Divine grace. Also our view of the future has been corrupted. The result has been nothing short of catastrophic, affecting all of mankind.

It is time now for us to return to the Lord. If you cannot support the current incoherent illogical traditions with clear passages from the Scriptures kept in context, are you willing to fight for the truth?

Therefore this is what the LORD says: "If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 15:19,20—NIV)