THREE KINDS OF DIVINELY APPOINTED SUFFERING

THREE KINDS OF DIVINELY APPOINTED SUFFERING 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.

There are at least three kinds of Divinely appointed suffering. The first kind is the punishment that comes from the exercise of God’s wrath. The second kind is the chastening of the believer. The third kind consists of the various weaknesses that keep our personality pruned back so we may bear fruit.

It may prove helpful to some of the believers to understand what is happening to them so they may be able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit more willingly.

Table of Contents

The Torment of Divine Wrath The Chastening of God’s Sons The Pruning of Our Personality That Produces Fruit

THREE KINDS OF DIVINELY APPOINTED SUFFERING

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (I Thessalonians 1:10—NIV)

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10—NIV)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so Christ’s power may rest on me. (II Corinthians 12:8,9—NIV)

There has been religious (I won’t say Christian) talk among the believers in pleasure-loving America about how God will not allow Christians to suffer. Can you imagine? Given the record of the Scriptures, God does not allow His saints to suffer?

Since the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews discusses the heroes of faith in the Bible, and we can read there of their suffering, it is apparent that no matter how much faith we have we still may suffer according to the will of God.

Christians are at a crossroads today. Many unscriptural gospels are advising God’s people that they may have a wonderful time in the present world and still go to Heaven "by grace." God will not withhold from us any pleasure that we want badly enough.

Then there are other preachers who are telling us God wants us to turn from our wicked ways, get serious with Christ, take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow the Master.

Since the first way is one of pleasure in the present world, and the second is one of self-denial in the present world, it is clear one or the other is not proceeding from the Holy Spirit.

We have made up the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture in order to persuade ourselves that God does not want any of us to suffer. (Tell this to Isaiah, whom tradition maintains was sawed in two.)

But that was the Old Testament. Well then, how about the Christians described in Fox’s Book of Martyrs? How about the great number of martyrs slain in the twentieth century?

The notion that Christians are not supposed to suffer (actually we are counted as sheep for the slaughter) is so unscriptural and unhistorical as to not be worthy of further discussion.

One area of confusion today has to do with tribulation and wrath. Those who hold to the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the believers prove their point by stressing that God has not appointed us to wrath. Apparently they do not understand that tribulation and the torment of Divine wrath are two different kinds of suffering having very different purposes.

No believer will get very far with the Lord until he makes up his mind that Christians do suffer, and sometimes to the point of death. It should help each of us to understand why we suffer and what is causing our suffering; why God has found it necessary for us to hurt so much.

Let’s take a look at three of the causes of Divinely appointed suffering.

The torment of Divine wrath.

The chastening of God’s sons.

The pruning of our personality that produces fruit.

The Torment of Divine Wrath

We shall divide the torment of Divine Wrath into two sections:

The total destruction of the personality.

The partial destruction of the personality.

The total destruction of the personality. There is a Lake of Fire. There is a fiery Gehenna.

Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41—NIV)

I simply cannot hold with those who teach that Satan and the wicked will be in the Lake of Fire for a season and then released. The torment of Divine wrath is not a suffering to purification but to the destruction of the personality. It is "the eternal fire"!

Satan, his angels, and some people are so desperately wicked that although they suffered for a million years they would remain unchanged. Their torment would only confirm them in their evil nature. Were they released they would immediately continue with their work of destroying the creation.

God knows what He is doing and saying. If God says it is an eternal fire then it is an eternal fire. I know of no passage of Scripture that suggests the devil will finally be released and serve God with a pure heart.

In a matter as serious as God’s wrath we must be very careful to adhere to the Scriptures. The idea of remaining in a lake of fire for eternity is incomprehensible to us. Yet if this is what the Bible says, then this is what shall take place.

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15—NIV)

Christian teaching holds that all who are raised in the second resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when the earth and the heaven have fled from the Presence of God, are cast into the Lake of Fire.

First of all, this is not what the Scripture states.

Second, the entire population of the earth will be raised at this time with the exception of those found worthy to participate in the first resurrection. If God threw everyone except the royal priesthood of the first resurrection into the Lake of Fire, we would have no inheritance; for the inheritance of Christ and His saints is the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth.

Third, this would mean those who have never heard the Gospel would be hurled into the Lake of Fire because of their sin of not hearing the Gospel. This is the kind of wicked imaginings that proceed from the spirit of religion, not from the counsels of God. God judges no person on the basis of truth he has never heard.

It often is true that Christians do not distinguish between Divine wrath, which is destructive of our personality, and Divinely appointed tribulation, which trains and improves our personality. Because of this lack of understanding, the following passage is employed to prove the unscriptural doctrine of the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the believers.

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (I Thessalonians 1:10—NIV)

The statement is made that the above verse proves God will catch us up in a "rapture" so we will not experience the coming wrath, that is, the great tribulation according to the current error.

But that wrath and tribulation are not the same Divine work can be seen in the following:

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

The Bible does not say we must through much wrath enter the Kingdom of God, but much "tribulation." These are not the same at all, and so I Thessalonians 1:10 cannot possibly be used as a proof God will catch up the believers before they experience tribulation. Tribulation and wrath are altogether different in purpose and result.

Sinners experience wrath. The believers experience tribulation. The purpose of the great tribulation is to separate and purify the people of the Lord before the arrival of the Day of Wrath. If the Christian churches were caught up in their present silly, sloppy state, Paradise would be ruined. Fire will be required in order to prepare the heads of wheat for harvesting.

As far as we can tell from the Scriptures, those who are thrown into the Lake of Fire shall be there for eternity. The Lake of Fire actually was prepared for Satan and his angels. But the Bible says some people will experience this most dreadful of fates. They have loved Satan while they were living on the earth and they will have the pleasure of being with him forever. God opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.

The next passages speak of endless torment, but whether this is the Lake of Fire or not is difficult to determine.

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:2,3—NIV)

"Shame and everlasting contempt" indicates that the suffering of those who experience this sentence will arise at least in part from the attitude of other people.

A parallel passage follows:

"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." (Isaiah 66:24—NIV)

"Everlasting contempt" and "their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched" suggest eternal destruction of the personality.

It is apparent that one of the three kinds of Divinely appointed suffering is perpetual destruction in a place of torment. Let me hasten to add that it is the wicked, those who rebel against God, who will experience total destruction. Just attending a Christian church or saying we believe in Jesus may not save us from such a fate. The issue is that of rebellion and wickedness, not that of our religious beliefs. This is an area of considerable confusion today.

The Lord Jesus did not come to bring the wicked to Heaven. Jesus came to make the wicked righteous so they belong in Heaven. The individual who persists in wickedness and rebellion, whether or not he or she is a Christian, stands in danger of being blotted from the Book of Life. This is the truth though it is denied today by Christian teachers.

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 3:5—NIV)

The guarantee that we will not be blotted from the Book of Life is not given to the individual who professes Christ but to him who, through Christ, gains victory over sin and rebellion. The scriptural division is always between the righteous and the wicked, never between the Christian and the non-Christian. God is not nearly as interested in our "statement of faith" as He is in our personality and behavior. This is a very important concept and the Christians in America at the turn of the century need to understand it clearly.

The partial destruction of the personality. It is my point of view that some people shall experience the destructive wrath of God and yet not be thrown into the Lake of Fire.

Let me say first we are not presenting a purgatory. The concept of purgatory is based on the unscriptural idea that the goal of salvation is eternal residence in Heaven. The doctrine of purgatory is that some souls must remain outside of Paradise until they make amends for their sins on earth.

This is not what we are teaching by stating some people will experience the destructive wrath of God but not be thrown into the Lake of Fire. We do not teach the grace-Heaven religion but the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.

The Lord Jesus said there will be greatest and least in the Kingdom. The difference between the greatest and the least may be awesome. It may range from a position on the Throne of Christ to a complete loss of inheritance, resulting in entrance into the Kingdom as a naked spirit..

No, it is not a case of either being in a glorious Paradise or being in a temporary purgatory or being in the deepest fire. The issue is what kind of person we shall be and in what kind of role in the Kingdom of God.

A favorite verse of Christians who have no intention of attempting to live a victorious life in Christ is as follows:

If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (I Corinthians 3:14,15—NIV)

This verse sometimes is used to mean even if we live a sinful life we will still be saved by fire. In fact, the passage has been employed to prove everyone ultimately will be saved.

My own opinion is that it is referring to Christians whose works, particularly the works of ministry, have not been performed in conjunction with the Lord. Because the Lord did not know them, even though they have wrought miracles in His name, their works cannot stand the test. When God inspects the sacrifice the salt, the flavor of Christ, is missing.

What then? The Lord in His mercy may decide the individual should be brought into the Kingdom. But in what manner? He is rescued as "one escaping through the flames."

If Lot is an example of someone being saved through the flames, the loss may prove to be enormous.

Yes, the person was saved into the Kingdom. But without any of the rewards we associate with being a Christian. In addition, he may be exposed to fiery suffering for a very long time until the self-will and self-seeking are destroyed from his personality.

What kind of life he will have in the Kingdom, how he will be regarded, we do not know. There shall be no "well done, good and faithful servant." There shall be no glorious new body like that of the Lord Jesus. In addition, a significant part of his personality may have been burned away so he appears as a child, or an immature or naked spirit.

Lot lost his wife, his sons-in-law, his home, and his possessions. His daughters brought forth Moab and Ammon, the cursed of the Lord.

Because the issue of the Scriptures is the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth and our participation in that Kingdom, being saved through the flames of Divine judgment is not an enviable destiny. However, it is much better than being totally destroyed in the Lake of Fire.

Being saved through fire is an example, we believe, of suffering under the wrath of God, but not to full destruction of the personality.

Another example is as follows:

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)

Since "blows" may be many or few, we do not think these are the same as the Lake of Fire, which is not, as far as we know, arranged in degrees of torment.

We need to keep in mind that the blows are given to the believers; for those who do not do their Lord’s will are assigned an inheritance with the unbelievers.

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 12:46—NIV)

If there are many and then fewer blows, we are speaking of differing intensity of suffering and differing length of time they are given. So in my mind this is not speaking of the Lake of Fire.

One of the sufferings that proceed from Divine wrath is termed the darkness, or the outer darkness.

And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30—NIV)

As far as I know, only the Lord’s servants are driven into the darkness, not the unbelievers. The Lord’s servants are placed there because they did not serve the Lord as they should.

Whether or not this is the same as the Lake of Fire and whether it is an eternal placement remains to be seen. In any event, the believer who is driven from the light of Christ’s Presence into the darkness will be tormented by the memory of what could have been had he or she been faithful to the Lord.

I think the weeping will proceed from remorse, and the gnashing of teeth from anger. I think these people will have been under the impression Christ was accepting their behavior. Now they are raging because God has treated them this way.

In America today the Christian teaching is incorrect. It is not warning the believers they are going to reap what they are sowing. The average American Christian has no idea that in the day of resurrection he is going to be clothed with a house from Heaven that has been fashioned from his conduct on the earth.

He has been taught that he has been saved by "grace," and whether or not he lives a righteous, holy life he will go to Heaven to live in a splendid mansion. The unscriptural doctrine of the "any-moment rapture" has been added to this false, lawless grace so the believer is not preparing himself for the time of trouble that is at hand.

Multitudes of American Christians are unprepared for the devastating judgment that is at hand. They will scream in terror, and then turn on their teachers who told them they had nothing to worry about. Some may become furious at God.

If I am hearing the Lord correctly, numerous Americans will be slain by war and terrorism in the near future. God will punish America until the people who remain are willing to discard the abominations that are being practiced because of the manner in which the Constitution is being interpreted. Our Constitution protects numerous foul expressions of wickedness ranging from the aborting of the development of children to performing marriage ceremonies for people of the same gender.

I believe God is going to preserve America, but not until the incredible wickedness and perversity have been crushed. Perhaps the coming destruction will prove to be the wounding of one of the heads of the Beast, mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

The Beast is Antichrist, that is, the spirit of man-centeredness, man being his own god, that currently is endorsed in the United States.

Yet God will preserve the nation for a space of time, if I am hearing correctly.

Many American Christians who have not been serving the Lord as they should, in some instances because of false teaching, will be slain during the fiery Divine judgment and then raised in the day of resurrection. Instead of being crowned with glory they may be driven into the outer darkness. Then there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Chastening of God’s Sons

We have stated there are three forms of Divinely appointed suffering:

The torment of Divine wrath.

The chastening of God’s sons.

The pruning of our personality that produces fruit.

We divided the torment of Divine wrath into total destruction of the personality and then partial destruction of the personality.

A second form of Divinely-appointed suffering is the chastening of God’s sons, which often is referred to as tribulation.

The difference between wrath and tribulation is that wrath is destructive whereas tribulation is designed to train us up in the knowledge of the Lord.

All Christians must experience tribulation if they are to be legitimate children of God, just as all human children must receive chastening if they are to be acceptable members of the household.

The punishment of criminals is another matter. Wrath is visited on those who rebel against God, not being willing to obey Him. But God’s obedient children are chastened severely that they may be acceptable in His household.

And you have forgotten word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (Hebrews 12:5-8—NIV)

Again:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. (Revelation 3:19—NIV)

When God is dealing with us He may tear us to pieces in order that soon He may bind us up.

"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds." (Hosea 6:1—NIV)

When God is chastening us He often uses people to tear off the graveclothes, so to speak. We must be careful always to look to the Lord and pray to Him when we are hurt and frustrated by other people. If we become angry with the tools the Lord uses we will not grow in the Lord and will become bitter and unforgiving. Thus that which was meant for our good results in our harm.

We must be prepared to suffer in the Lord, because such suffering is intended to save us from sin.

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2—NIV)

We must "arm" ourselves with the expectation we are going to be chastened by the Lord. The pain we experience is designed to set us free from sin, to save us, in other words.

If we have been in the Lord’s prison for many years, this does not mean He has forsaken us. Our barrenness is the prelude that comes before exceedingly great fruitfulness. In fact, the new Jerusalem is composed of those who have known many years of desolation, just as was true of Abraham and Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, and countless others.

Whereas Divine wrath destroys all or part of us, Divine chastening results in peace, holiness, and every other desirable outcome.

There is coming on the earth a time of testing. If we guard the word of Christ’s patience, that is, if we endure hardships patiently while we are waiting for the Kingdom of God to come from Heaven to the earth, then Christ will guard us, keeping us from the devil when Satan comes to examine the inhabitants of the earth.

The path of the disciple is marked by fiery trials and sufferings of all sorts. But God brings us safely through every pain as we keep our eyes fastened on the Lord Jesus.

Our struggle is with God, not with Satan. There is too much attention being directed toward Satan these days. Satan regards all this attention as worship. God uses Satan to harass us. The solution comes, not as we confront Satan but as we turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and seek deliverance through Him.

The Pruning of Our Personality That Produces Fruit

The three forms of Divinely appointed suffering we are discussing are as follows:

The torment of Divine wrath.

The chastening of God’s sons.

The pruning of our personality that produces fruit.

We have pointed out that wrath is destructive. It is torment visited on those who behave wickedly and rebelliously.

Chastening, or tribulation, is applied to God’s children who are being taught the manners appropriate to residence in the heavenly palace.

The third form of Divinely appointed suffering is the pruning of our personality that produces fruit. After we have been trained up by chastening we are ready to bear fruit, that is, to reproduce the moral image of Jesus Christ in other people. But the process of fruit-bearing must be wrought by Christ, not by our human personality. So God sends various pressures on us that keep us weak so it will be Christ and not we who are ministering.

The best known passage may be as follows:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:7-10—NIV)

The messenger of pruning came from Satan. But Paul addressed the Lord, not Satan.

Paul prayed three times. He did not cease pleading with the Lord until he received his answer—and it was not immediate healing!

Some believe Paul’s thorn was a disease of his eyes, because of the following statement:

What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. (Galatians 4:15—NIV)

Paul was a vibrant individual, having many ideas and motives of his own. For this reason God kept Paul weak, pruned back. It is likely that Paul, for the most part, taught in fairly small home groups. Could he possibly have known that his letters, sometimes written from a feeling of frustration, would become holy Scripture?—that they would affect the course of world history?

So it is true of us. We must mature to the point that we desire Christ to be magnified in us by our life or our death. We would love to come home to be with the Lord. Yet we are mature enough to bear fruit. But we have ideas and motives of our own and so God must keep our personality pruned back.

The suffering of pruning is certainly not that of wrath, and not exactly that of chastening. Rather it is a setting aside of us to God’s holy purposes so, while our joy may be withheld for a season, people may see Christ through us as through a magnifying glass.

Again:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (II Corinthians 4:8-11—NIV)

Paul was being given over to death continually in order to please Jesus and do the work that Jesus required of him. Because of his willingness to suffer under the hand of God in this manner, the Life of Christ has been revealed to countless numbers of people through the centuries of the Christian Era.

Who wouldn’t want to please the Lord as did the Apostle Paul? Who would not want to bear fruit to this extent? God chooses who His fruit-bearers shall be; and yet we are available for God’s purposes only as long as we are willing to be pruned, frustrated, hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.

We see, therefore, that all people must suffer under the hand of God.

The rebels suffer the destructive wrath of God to a greater or lesser extent.

The Lord’s sons suffer chastening until they are established, strengthened, and settled in Christ.

The Lord’s mature saints suffer pruning that the excellency of the power may be of Christ and not of them.

When we refuse to suffer, always seeking how we can avoid unpleasantness, we lose our integrity. We forsake those who trust in us. We become people without principle.

An unprincipled person can never please God. He or she must be buried under tons of suffering if the cunning, evasive, self-seeking, manipulating, deceiving spirit is ever to be crushed and burned out of him or her. God will not have fellowship with those who are not utterly sincere.

There is something terribly sincere about Calvary! It is no place for the person who has learned to manipulate others by guileful deceits.

Let each believer accept the sufferings that come, praying always to the Lord for relief and joy, seeking His wisdom and strength in every situation, repenting when repentance is needed. He who endures to the end shall be saved and enter the joy of the Lord.