BELIEF; HOPE; FAITH; OBEDIENCE
BELIEF; HOPE; FAITH; OBEDIENCECopyright Š 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The traditional goal of Christian people is Heaven. We hope to go to Heaven when we die. Actually, our true goal is eternal righteous behavior, love, joy, and peace.
We know little or nothing about Heaven, but we suppose going there after we die will bring us righteousness, love, joy, and peace. Yet, as long as our character is deformed, that is, not in the image of God, we cannot have the fullness of righteous behavior, love, joy, or peace.
There is no scriptural basis I know of that supports our hope that we will be changed in character by dying and going to Heaven. There is no scriptural basis that supports the idea of mansions in Heaven. This venerable tradition is based on an archaic translation of John 14:2. It appears nowhere else in the Bible, according to my understanding.
The warfare that is taking place today is between good and evil; God and Satan; Christ and Antichrist; the Holy Spirit and the False Prophet. It is not between Heaven and earth, as though when we go to Heaven the battle will have been won.
We are as Israel journeying from Egypt to Canaan, to the Land of Promise. Traditionally we have viewed Heaven as our Canaan, our Land of Promise. It is not. Our Land of Promise is, for the most part, a state of being. Going to Heaven will not bring us to our Land of Promise. Only spiritual warfare will bring us to our Land of Promise.
Our Land of Promise holds true whether we are in Heaven or upon the earth. The place we finally will inherit is the earth, not Heaven.
Our Land of Promise is our state of being for eternity. It is as follows:
Righteousness of behavior. Righteousness of behavior is one of the principal topics of the Bible and is very important to God. To behave righteously is to treat other people as God treats them. Holiness is love for God and the absence of unclean spirits.
Love. Love is the desire for union with others. Hatred rejects other people.
Joy. Joy is happiness. The opposite is misery.
Peace. Peace is calmness of spirit and the absence of trouble.
Righteousness, love, joy, and peace, and the Presence and approval of God. This is our goal as Christian people, whether we are in Heaven or upon the earth.
There is no assurance whatever that we will gain this state of being by dying and going to Heaven. God does not like mixtures, and so we will go with people who are like us. Perhaps this will not be pleasing to us.
We may picture entering a city like Oz, a Neverland where the mountains are made of ice cream and the trees are lollipops. Such is our mythology. Actually, the spirit world is much like our own. The one good part of dying, if we have been a decent person, is meeting friends old and new.
The Israelites had to fight to get to the entrance to their Land of Promise. After they arrived at the entrance, they had to fight city by city in order to make their home in Canaan.
It is obvious that we have to fight to attain to righteous behavior, love, joy, and peace in the present world. Satan, his demons, the world, our own bodily passions and lust, and our unbelief strive mightily to prevent our possessing righteousness, love, peace, and joy. Is this true in your life?
Now, what about once we die and enter the spirit world. If the type of the Israelites and their possession of Canaan applies to us Christians, then we will have to fight to maintain our righteousness, love, joy, and peace after we die. This probably will be true also when we return with the Lord Jesus and work at the task of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
When you think about it, the army of saints that returns with the Lord, as we see in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation, will have to fight to maintain their righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
Notice the following passage:
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (I Peter 4:6)
The above verse probably is referring back to Christ preaching the Gospel to the people who drowned during the days of Noah. My point is that all will not be righteousness, love, peace, and joy when we die unless we have attained to that state prior to dying. Perhaps, if we have faithfully obeyed Christ while living on the earth, we will have an opportunity to grow spiritually after we die.
There is a passage in Daniel that suggests God is going to shake the heavens and the earth, and all persons who are not established in Christ will be thrown down to the eartheven some who have been at the right hand of God in Christ.
Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. (Daniel 8:9-12)
Because of rebellion! It appears to me that Antichrist is going to be given great authority and power in the last days. He will be able to reach into Heaven and throw down to the earth some of the host of the saints, and trample on them. This is because of rebellion. It is difficult to imagine the saints rebelling in Heaven, but I think this is what the text is stating.
You know, there are numerous Christian churches in which people worship God in the Spirit. Yet many such believers are self-willed. They have never really made Jesus their Lord whom they obey in every matter of their life. When they die they will bring their disobedient attitude into the spirit world.
Unless they change after they die (and they might not find it possible to change when they are in the spirit worldespecially if they have disobeyed Christ while they were living on the earth) they will be vulnerable to the power of Antichrist. After all, self-will and rebellion began in Heaven with Satan, who was one of the cherubim who overshadowed the Throne of God with their wings.
Below is another possibly relevant passage:
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled downthat ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." (Revelation 12:7-12)
War in Heaven! Hard to believe, isn't it? Yet, here it is.
Michael and his angels struggled successfully. Satan and his angels were hurled to the earth.
Notice the consequence of the hurling of Satan to the earth: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ." This is unusual, isn't it?
Now notice: "For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down." "Our brothers" may be referring to saints who then were alive in the spirit world. Satan had been accusing them before God day and night. But the brothers overcame Satan.
They overcame Satan by their faith in the blood of the Lamb.
They overcame Satan by bearing a true witness of God, His Person, His will, His ways, and His eternal purpose in Christ.
They overcame Satan by loving not their lives to the point of death.
No doubt these three aspects of overcoming had been true of the brothers while living on the earth, and they brought their overcoming faith with them into the spirit world after they died.
The next passage tells us that Satan had been making the inhabitants of Heaven miserable by his continual accusing of the victorious saints. The following is the reaction of Heaven when the brothers overcome Satan:
"Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!"
It appears possible, from the passages above, that the saints are going to have to occupy Heaven, just as the Israelites had to occupy Canaan.
As I stated previously, the true goal of the Christian person is eternal righteousness of behavior; love; joy, and peace. But let us think for a moment of four attitudes we must have if we are going to attain to our goal.
Picture an automobile.
Let us think of the car itself and its destination as being "what we believe about Christ."
Let us think of the gasoline as being "hope."
Let us think further of the engine as being "faith."
"Obedience" starts up the engine.
We can tell that "belief" and "faith" are not exactly the same attitude, when we insert the word "belief" in the doctrine of the Reformers: "The righteous shall live by belief," instead of "The righteous shall live by faith." It just isn't the same, is it?
And it is a factit isn't the same. We are not saved by "belief" alone, although contemporary preaching suggests that we are. "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom God has sent"this type of Scripture is emphasized to the exclusion of numerous other passages of the New Testament.
All we do is believe our Statement of Faith and we are on our way to Heaven. Oh?
One cannot arrive at the Land of Promise, at the "rest" of God, unless belief, hope, faith, and obedience are all working properly.
Without hope we will not succeed. Without faith we will not reach the goal of salvation the New Testament offers to us.
But what about "belief"? Our belief must be reasonably accurate. We must hold that the Lord Jesus is God's Son and was sent by God Himself into our world. We must believe in the atoning blood. We must believe that it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment. We must believe Christ rose from the dead and will return in bodily form. We must believe that we too will be resurrected in the Day of Resurrection.
We must believe that the Bible is God's Word. After these statements of faith, there are many variations from denomination to denomination. But I think what I have just written are the fundamentals. These are our necessary orientation to the correct hope and faithhope and faith that will bring us into the rest of God and the other aspects of our salvation.
A scripturally correct destination is an important part of our belief system. Obviously, if as part of our belief system we have an incorrect destination, our hope and faith are affected.
The true, scriptural destination is, as I have stated, eternal righteous behavior, love, joy, and peace. These are our goal.
There are seven objectives, when attained to, that accomplish our goal:
Our change into the image of Jesus Christ, which is the image of God.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
A redeemed body.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
Completely free in body, soul, and spirit from all the works of Satan.
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:41)
To be filled with all the fullness of God.
And to know this love that surpasses knowledgethat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
To be an integral part of God through Christ.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:22)
To see Him as He is.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
Entrance into the "rest of God." To live in the rest of God is to live by the Life of the Lord Jesus. We cease from our own works and think, speak, and act in the manner that God planned for us as an individual on the sixth day of creation. We who believe this and act on it are living in the rest of God.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)
Obviously, the writer of the Book of Hebrews is presenting the "rest of God" as entrance into our Land of Promise.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11)
God's rest is that state of being where we live by the Life of Jesus rather than by our own wisdom, experience, strength, understanding, plans, and desires. We trade our own life for Christ's Life. That is a major objective that leads to our goal, our Land of Promise.
There are other aspects of our Land of Promise, such as our inheritance of people. But prior to our external inheritance is our possession of righteous behavior, love, joy, and peace.
You may notice I have mentioned only the changes that must take place in us I have not included our areas of role and service, such as being members of the Royal Priesthood, part of the Body of Christ, sons of God, and so forth. However, successful participation in these depends on the change in us that occurs as part of the plan of our redemption.
Whatever other crowns of glory that will be given to the victorious saint, to trade our life for the Life of Christ is the highest good, the highest priority, and will lead to all the other parts of our inheritance..
I have said that our automobile, our belief system, must be correctincluding the destination. Throughout the Christian Era we have, for the most part, included an incorrect destination in our belief structure. Consequently, our hope and faith are misapplied.
We view eternal residence in Heaven, to which we have added a mansion, as our destination, our goal, our Land of Promise. There is no scriptural basis whatever for eternal residence in Heaven as being the goal of our discipleship.
What verse of Scripture tells us that our objective is eternal residence in Heaven? John 14:2? John 14:2 is referring to the Father's House, which is the Christian Church. The "mansions" are rooms, or living stones, in that house.
How about the patriarchs seeking a city?
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better countrya heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:14-16)
The patriarchs were not referring to eternal residence in Heaven. Instead they were looking forward to residence in Mount Zion, which today is in the spirit world but is to be installed for eternity on the new earth.
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
Mount Zion, the city presently located in the spirit world, and to which we refer as "Heaven," is, as I said, destined to come down to a high mountain of the new earth. This will take place as soon as the members of the Church, who are the residents of Mount Zion, have been prepared to serve as a royal priesthood for the benefit of the nations of saved people who inhabit the new earth.
When we read in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews concerning Mount Zion, we find that the inhabitants are the "spirits of righteous men made perfect." Whether they are made perfect before they get there, or are made perfect while they are there (which seems to be more likely) I am not prepared to say.
But in any case, the Church, the heavenly Zion, will be an unblemished Bride of the Lamb. It is the "Kingdom" the government of the Kingdom of God, that Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles preached as coming to the earth.
Our current goal, viewing eternal residence in Heaven in a mansion, simply is not scriptural. But it has been believed for so long it may be a generation or two before Bible preachers and teachers are able to convince people that God is bringing them to their goal, to some of the several aspects I have stated previously, while they still are alive on the earth.
Then, when the Lord returns, they shall be like Him for they shall see Him as He is.
One can understand readily that if our belief system is to be a proper background for our hope and faith, then our destination must be the Land of Promise set forth in the New Testament. If not, our discipleship is not bringing us to the goal we desire.
The second aspect of the three attitudes we are discussing, is the "gasoline" of the automobile. It is "hope." The New Testament has much to say about hope.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:23-25)
It can be noticed that if we view our destination as eternal residence in the spirit world, there is little we are to do except make a profession of belief in Christ, and then wait until we die in order to achieve our goal.
But let us think about Paul's hope. He wanted to be set free from a sinful body. His objective at that point was viewed as the redemption of his body. He already had entered the rest of God in his inward nature. To achieve his goal completely, all that was needed was to be housed in the body that God had planned for him from the beginning of the world.
However, Paul would not receive the body of his hopes apart from his continual pressing forward in Christ, which he described in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians.
To enter the rest of God is to accept and rest in that which God spoke into being at the creation of the world. God worked for six days, At that time God finished His plan from that time all the way through to the coming down to earth of the new Jerusalemand perhaps even beyond that.
Then God rested. We are to cease creating our own Heaven and earth and labor to enter the work of God that was finished from the creation of the world. That is why I am saying that Paul hoped to be clothed with the body God had planned for him from the beginning of the world.
"Hope" can be passive or dynamic. We can hope that we still will be alive tomorrow morning. This is a relatively passive hope, one to which ordinarily we do not give much thought. But if we are suffering from a terminal disease, our hope that we still will be alive in the morning might be much more intense.
So it is with the hope of eternal residence in Heaven. With most Christians, such a hope might be passive, laying back in their mind most of the time. Perhaps if they are facing death for some reason, it might be a more vigorous hope.
But the hope of entering God's rest can never be a passive hope. It is a strong, enduring hope that should be occupying our thinking and efforts every day. We want to think what Jesus is thinking at all times, so we keep looking to Him. We want to say what Jesus is saying, so we keep in prayer about the words we speak. We want to do what Jesus is doing, so we remain in an attitude of prayer throughout the day and during the night when we are awake.
Can you see that going to Heaven, for most of us most of the time, is a passive hope. There is little we can do about it. But if we have set living by the Life of Jesus as our goal, now and for eternity, we keep observing our thinking, speaking, and acting at all times. I guess this is what Paul meant when he exhorted us to pray without ceasing.
Most of my readers may not be quite up to this level of consecration. But let me urge you to make every effort to enter God's rest. Chaotic days are coming to America and the rest of the world, and we will not be able to stand, or to help others to stand, unless we are living by the Life of the Lord Jesus.
So our belief system, including the vision we hold of our objective, is the automobile. The hope that energizes us, is the gasoline we put into the car.
What about the engine? The engine is faith. If we are going to attain to our objective of the rest of God, we must employ the shield of faith at all times.
Every day, it seems, there is problem after problem. We can be passive about these problems, blaming others, feeling sorry for ourselves, using our own wisdom and strength in an attempt to solve them. This is where faith is to be employed.
Instead of blaming others, feeling sorry for ourselves, our relying on our own wisdom and strength to solve our problems, we can see these afflictions as sent by the Lord to bring us to our objectives. If we keep praying and looking to Jesus, each pressure, instead of tearing us down from our high place in God, will lead us and teach us to live by the Life of Jesus.
This is why it is so utterly necessary to have the correct goal, the true Land of Promise that comes from God. If we view eternal residence in Heaven as our objective, we will view our numerous tribulations as needless harassments, proceeding from Satan or from malicious people.
But if we see our pain as the means of pressing us into the Life of Christ, then we will pray until we understand what it is that God is seeking to accomplish in us.
Where, then, does faith come in? Faith reminds us of the promises of God. So instead of losing our hope, or neglecting to look to Jesus to enable us to overcome the various afflictions and difficulties, we press forward to total victory, with the shield of faith quenching the fiery darts of Satan.
"But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:38,39)
Notice the expression "shrink back and are destroyed." This implies a pressing forward against formidable obstacles. It is not a passive belief in theologic facts.
"Those who believe and are saved" is similar to "he who endures to the end shall be saved." These two expressions remind us that being saved is not something that begins and finishes at a point of time but must be worked at and worked out until we die.
Although the above passage is in Chapter Ten, it really is the introduction to Chapter Eleven. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is an explanation of the meaning of "the righteous shall live by faith."
The theory of Dispensationalism holds that the Christian Era is a sort of parenthesis between God's covenants, being different from previous covenants in that belief in Christ takes the place of righteous behavior. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews shows the Dispensational stance to be in error, in that all the examples of "faith" are from the Old Testament and all have to do with righteous behavior.
Doctrinal belief is not mentioned in Chapter, Eleven. It is an account of what people did in response to God's intervention in their lives. Therefore true faith is not belief in doctrinal statements. True faith is the response of people to what they believe Christ is telling them to do.
The "witnesses" in Hebrews, Eleven, from Abel forward, had true faith in God. True faith in God always produces action. An abstract belief in theologic facts is not what the New Testament means by "belief," "hope," or "faith." The demons have an abstract belief in theologic facts; but they have no eternal life.
An abstract belief in theologic facts is being preached in America as the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. It is not. It has been deduced from a few verses of the New Testament and is presented as "the four steps of salvation."
It is my belief that numerous people have found their way to Christ through the ministry of those who preach the "four steps of salvation." But one would not find this pattern of abstract belief in the preaching of the Apostles in the Book of Acts. Genuine faith in God, the pursuit of God, the "engine" that drives the life of victory in Christ, is not found in "the four steps of salvation," in my opinion.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 1:1)
Notice the role played by hope. I have not preached much about hope, nor have I heard it preached very much. But as I look in the New Testament I see that the term appears frequently. It may be true that the intensity of one's hope varies with our love for Christ, the casual Christians having a passive hope and the committed Christians having a fervent, intense hope of being with the Lord Jesus some daya hope so strong that it occupies much of our thinking and speaking.
Our discipleship is conducted in the faith that what we believe is true, even though God and Christ are invisible to us at this time. Also the city that has foundations and endures eternally is invisible, although by hope we claim citizenship in it.
This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebrews 1:2)
If we actually were in a new Dispensation, I do not believe the writer of Hebrews would want us to have the attitude and behavior of the ancients, using them as an example of what true faith is.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 12:3)
The things of the creation that we see about us were made from the invisible spirit world. This tells me that the things of earth have their counterpart in the spirit world. The spirit world is not much different from what we see around us. The person of faith looks beyond what is visible and pursues that which is invisible, believing it is a better world.
God does not intend to make all new things, but all things new. Our current mythology has us thinking of Heaven as a fantastic place filled with bizarre people and things. Not so. There always will be a sky, an earth, and peoplethe forms to which we are accustomed.
Didn't the Apostle Paul tell us that nature teaches us about God?
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualitieshis eternal power and divine naturehave been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 8:20)
If we want to know what the spirit world is like, we can look about us and picture a world without sin or human institutions, such as skyscrapers, airplanes, and automobiles.. The rest is the same, although greatly improved.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)
Abel loved God in his heart. Cain did not. As a result when God reproved him, Cain became angry, jealous, and murderous. If Cain loved God, he would have asked God what he did wrong and would have made an effort to correct his behavior so as to please God.
Cain knew there was a God, so knowing there is a God is not faith. Cain did not trust or love God. Faith is compounded from many things, including love for God and trust in God.
Cain was a farmer and presented his crops to the Lord; but his heart was not right with God. When we offer of our resources to God we are to do so with a cheerful heart that loves God. It is so easy in a church service to be praising God and at the same time thinking about something else. We are just doing our duty, as was true of Cain.
"By faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." This is referring to Abel. It is telling us that the faith of Abel keeps speaking to us today. So it is that when we have love for God and serve Him cheerfully, we leave a testimony that is an inspiration to the people who come after us.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. (Hebrews 12:5)
The Bible states that Enoch walked with God for 300 years. He pleased God by doing so. Walking with God is an important aspect of faith. To walk with God we have to keep inviting Him into everything we think; everything we say; and everything we do.
Inviting God into our life to such an extent may seem to many of us like an impossibility. It assuredly is not. We can start with a small area of our life, such as putting on our clothes. Even if we have only one robe, we can talk to God while we are putting it on. We can thank Him for the robe. We can ask Him if we should wash it today, and so forth.
We just keep a running conversation with God, thanking Him for everything that is going well, for all answers to prayer; and asking His help when there is a problem.
After getting into the habit of talking to God when we put on our clothes, we can add another area, such as whom we talk to during the day. While we are speaking with someone we can be praying in our heart, asking God to help us with all that we are saying and all that is being said to us.
Then we can expand to another part of our life. It won't be long until we are walking with Christ, thinking, speaking, and acting with Christ. This really is the only satisfactory in which to live. It will save us from a lot of pain and danger!
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
There is much talk in my country, America, about believing there is a God. At the present time the atheists are becoming militant, advertising their atheism in various places, and even having parades.
It appears the universities, by and large, have accepted evolution as a scientific fact. Personally I think evolution remains at the level of a theory. There are disturbing elements which prevent its being an established fact, as I see it. Belief in the theory of evolution leads to the idea that there is no intelligent Person who designed nature.
I personally have concluded that the pressure on society to accept that mankind evolved, and if there is a God, He certainly is not one who is aware of people as individuals but is a great something or other existing somewhere or other, is to do away with the idea that at some point we are going to have to answer to God for our conduct. Sometimes people enjoy the idea that there is no Heaven, no Hell, no God. We all can do as we please.
It is quite difficult for most of us to look at all the things in the universe and say they just happened. We are accustomed to believe that if something exists, it came from somewhere. So the idea that the earth and people came from nothing, or the chance occurrence of chemical reactions, is not easy to accept.
Even if all that we see is a chance occurrence of chemical reactions, where did the chemicals come from?
Another telling argument to bring into the debate is the number of people throughout history who have had supernatural experiences. This is true of Christian people as well as of the natives in the bush. There have been millions of such encounterscertainly enough to prove there is a personal God and a spirit world.
To ignore this multitude of testimonies is to hide one's head in the sand and proclaim blindly that these events never happened and there is no God. People have to have a reason when they deny what is obvious. As I said, I believe it is because they do not want to face the prospect of having to face a scene in which their conduct is brought before a righteous God for judgment.
The married college professor who desires to have a sexual relationship with one of his students is not going to look favorably at the idea of there being a personal God who is aware of everything he does and to whom he is going to have to answer some day.
I like to think of the question of there being a God, in this manner: If the God of the Bible truly is God, and we serve Him faithfully, then our future is wonderful. But if there is no God, and we serve what we think is God, we will have a better life than we would have had if we had practiced sinful behavior.
But if there is a God, and we choose to ignore Him and live a wicked life, when we die we are in the worse trouble possible for a human being to experience. Spiritual suffering is worse than physical suffering, and we can't evade it by falling unconscious or dying.
Our remorse for having betrayed people who trusted us is a frightful punishment by itself, apart from any Hell or Lake of Fire that there may be.
But the Scripture says faith is believing that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. There are millions of Americans, I believe, who would emphasize vigorously that God exists, and make a great commotion if someone said there is no God. But they have no intention of earnestly seeking Him.
For this reason I do not become excited about the battle that goes on about whether or not there is a God. The demons know quite well that God exists, but they have no intention of earnestly seeking Him. It is the earnest, fervent, continual seeking of God that brings to us the riches of the Kingdom.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
Noah was prompted by fear. There is nothing wrong with fearing God. In our day, human beings are in love with themselves. In addition to this, they are arrogant. They often do not believe in fearing God. Reverencing Him, that may be acceptable. But fearing God means that He may punish us if He believes it is necessary; and this we absolutely shall not accept!
Any human being who does not fear God is unrealistic. We are helpless in the hands of God. God has absolute power over us.
Sometimes people who are angry with one another say, "I'll see you in Hell." They have no idea what they are saying. To die, and then to enter the spirit world without the blessing of Christ, is absolutely the worst experience anyone can have.
Here come the grotesque demons, more ugly than any heathen idol, to bind us with chains and to drag us off to the home we have chosen, to be with them for eternity. There they can torment us at their pleasure; and they have no mercy whatever!
Then we will plead with God to help us. But there will be no answer. We did not love or fear Him while we were alive on the earth. We treated His good advice and kindness to us with arrogance. Now it is too late. Too late!
Noah was moved with the wholesome fear that is an integral part of true faith. Notice how faith results in action. Noah did not just believe there is a God and that there was going to be a flood, and he was supposed to build an ark. He actually built an ark! It is a good thing there was no preacher around to tell Noah that he and his family would be saved from drowning by faith alone.
When the Lord Jesus tells us that to be His disciple, that is, a Christian, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Jesus does not intend that we just believe He said this. He wants us to do what He said. When we obey Christ, does this mean we are attempting to save ourselves by "works of righteousness we have done"? Or does it mean we are saving ourselves by obeying Christ?
Is faith that of believing Christ is the Son of God and that He spoke to us about what it means to be a disciple? Or is faith denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him?
When modern ministers cry out that we are saved by "faith alone," does that mean we are not to obey the commands of Christ and His Apostles? What if we do not deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ? Are we a disciple, a Christian, if we don't do what He said?
Are we saved by grace if we do not do what Christ and His Apostles have commanded? It is my contention that the doctrine of lawless grace has destroyed the Christian churches, and that it is time for a new reformation of Gospel preaching.
Notice that Noah condemned the world by doing what God commanded. Jesus told us to do good works, and that this will be a light that will cause the onlookers to glorify God. Are we endeavoring to save ourselves by works when we do what Christ has commanded? Is it true that our nation, America, is slipping down into a cesspool of immorality because the Christian churchgoers are not behaving righteously in many instances?
The Book of Hebrews states that by building the ark in faith, Noah became "heir of the righteousness that comes by faith." Abraham believed the "impossible" promise of God, and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Noah built an ark and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Since this is true, we conclude that the common denominator of inheriting righteousness is neither belief nor action but obedience. It is obedience that starts up the car and gets it running.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)
The Apostle Paul made much of the fact that when God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many descendants, Abraham, having no offspring at the time, believed the impossible. God pronounced Abraham as righteous because he had believed.
Paul used this fact to demonstrate that a person could be called "righteous" apart from obedience to the Law of Moses. We are using this fact today to prove that a person can do nothing but believe what God has said, and that this belief alone guarantees we are righteous in God's sight.
Abraham obeyed God when God called him to move to another place. Would God have viewed Abraham as righteous if he had refused to move? I don't think so.
Abraham was looking for the city with foundations. How he knew about the heavenly Jerusalem I have no idea. I suppose God had told Abraham about the city or gave Abraham a vision of it.
I do not know why the fact that the new Jerusalem has foundations is of such importance. The wall around it does, and those foundations are highly ornamented revealing their beauty and importance.
Probably all of us know how unstable life is. It certainly has been established upon the floods. It appears we continually are facing one kind of danger or another. Eventually we learn that Christ is our Rock and cannot be shaken no matter what occurs in our life.
The hope of coming to the city that has foundations was the "gasoline" that drove the engine of faith. Abraham's faith in God resulted in his obedience to God's commands. His obedience to God's commands resulted in righteousness.
Abraham did not just believe there is such a city, he lived in tents in the land of promise like a stranger in a foreign country in obedience to all God commanded, so he and his offspring would inherit the city of his hope.
Abraham was a wealthy man and could have had an elaborate dwelling if he so desired. People who regard themselves as aliens and strangers do not invest, in the present world, more than is necessary. Their eyes are on the future. This is where their heart and treasures are.
Thus it is true that if we are to fulfill our hopes we have to obey the Lord. There are things we have to do. We cannot just live by a passive hope that someday we will be in a better situation. Above all, we must obey Christ in every detail. We must live close enough to Him that we know what He wants us to do.
Abraham did not know where he was going. Sometimes God prompts us to do things we do not understand. After careful prayer to make sure we are not being deceived, we have to be obedient, trusting that God knows what He is doing and is bringing us to righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past ageand Sarah herself was barrenwas enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:11,12)
The birth of Isaac was an absolute miracle. After we have served the Lord for many years we tend to accept the inevitable, supposing we never will accomplish the great things for God we had imagined when we were a younger Christian.
We lose our idealism. This is not realistic because all things are possible with God.
Many years ago, while teaching the fifth grace in Palo Alto, California, I prayed that God would enable me to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever people breathe the air. This was before the invention of the personal computer and the Internet. I was asking for that which was impossible, apparently. I was over forty years of age at the time.
Do you know what? It is possible today for me to reach every person who breathes the air. I am writing these words in Escondido, California. You who are reading them may be in Lapland, or in the Negev, or in Tierra del Fuego.
My point is, we must never accept the "inevitable." We must search our heart to see what we would like to have God do with us. Then we are to ask, nothing doubting, having faith that God is faithful.
This is what I did, and I have reached multiplied thousands of people with the Gospel of the Kingdom. Something like this can happen for you, if you are willing to ask and then obey what Christ tells you to do.
With God, all things are possible. Hope drives the engine of faith. Faith in God gives victory in all situations. Obedience starts the car. God's Word tells us where to go.
Abraham believed what God had promised him, although it appeared impossible. The result was a stunning miracle. What is your miracle going to be like? Walk patiently with God, and He will show you. Then believe everything God says. He never speaks in vain.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
You can see from the verse above how important hope is. These people of faith described in Chapter, Eleven viewed themselves as strangers on the earth. They died in the hope of being part of the city that has foundations. Theirs was a fervent, dynamic hope that governed their daily lives. This is true faith, the faith that saves us.
The city did not come to earth in their lifetime. But they kept hoping until they died. They esteemed what God had shown them as being of greater importance than their life on the earth.
If we are going to live victoriously in Christ, we have to put our treasures in Heaven. They are safe there. If we receive any of our hopes in the present world, that is fine. But the true overcomers always are looking forward to the day when they are with Jesus, knowing He has kept all their hopes intactin fact, in a far better condition that ever would have been true on the earth if they had not been placed in Heaven in the safety of His keeping.
It is not preached commonly that Christians are aliens and strangers on the earth. This concept directly contradicts the spirit of Humanism. I do not perceive in the churches I have visited the flavor of Christians being aliens and strangers on the earth. Rather, there is an arrogance toward the secular world as though Christians somehow deserve the best of this present life.
I am not certain I can make myself clear on this issue. Once God has called us to be a saint, a "holy one," we no longer are of this world just as our Lord is not of this world. It might be true that if the pastors of the largest churches in America preached that we are not of this world, that we are aliens here looking for a city with foundations to come, they would lose the majority of their congregation. At least this probably would be the case in American churches.
The examples of faith, in Hebrews, Eleven did not, during their lifetime, receive what they were hoping for. They died still holding this hope and faith. They lived for what would be true in the future, one might say.
We are near to a presidential election in America. As American citizens, we are expected to be involved in the candidates and to vote. This is as it should be, I suppose. But I think involvement in politics, except for those persons whom God has called to be involved in politics, tends to pull the "aliens and strangers" down from their high place with Christ in God.
We Christians are citizens of two worlds: of Heaven, and of our own country.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20)
It is well that we, as American citizens, fulfill our civic duties. But we never are to forget that we are citizens also of Heaven, and that we eagerly are waiting for the coming of the Kingdom to which we always are to render our first allegiance.
It is understandable that many people, including Christians, are fighting for social justice. However, social justice never shall come to this earth until our Lord returns. We can expedite the coming of social justice from Heaven by making certain we are perfectly and completely obeying the Lord Jesus in all that we are doing.
We are to admit that we are aliens and strangers on the earth.
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. (Hebrews 11:14)
This part of Chapter, Eleven could be used to prove that our goal is to go to another country, that is, to Heaven. But this is not what it is referring to. While the city that has foundations, the new Jerusalem, Mount Zion, is in the spirit world at the present time, it is destined to come to the new earth. That will take place after the thousand-year Kingdom Age, often named the "Millennium."
However, the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem are the spirits of righteous people made perfect. So the issue today is not that of "going to Heaven" but to be a righteous person made perfect; because the justice on the earth that we desire cannot come until the new Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb, has been made perfect.
God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)
As long as we view going to eternal residence in Heaven as our goal, we are missing the plan of God, which is to bring justice to the nations. Our goal is to be made perfect so we, through Jesus Christ, can bring the desired justice to the nations of the earth.
Fortunately we do not have to wait until the end of the Kingdom Age to see justice temporarily established on the earth. God is preparing a Firstfruits company who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They will return with Him. During the Kingdom Age, Christ and His Firstfruits will govern the nations with iron discipline.
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. (II Corinthians 10:6)
The obedience of the Firstfruits company, who stand on Mount Zion with the Lamb, must be brought to perfection before Christ will be able, by the authority and power of almighty God, to come and exercise vengeance on all those who oppress, corrupt, and destroy all that on the earth contributes to righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
All of us who are following the Lamb at this time should be revealing in ourselves that we are aliens and strangers; that we ardently are looking for our Kingdom to come with the Lord Jesus. We simply are not at home in the present antichrist world spirit. We are not in our own country as yet.
If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. (Hebrews 11:15)
Every person who is longing for the Kingdom of God to come to the earth must take the attitude of the Apostle Paul:
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (Philippians 3:13)
Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. (Psalms 45:10)
It is characteristic of those who are living in the adamic nature to yield to nostalgia. They take out their scrapbooks and weep and mourn over "dreams of long ago." I will tell you what our testimony should be: "No 'memories that bless and burn' for me. I refuse to look back. I am pressing forward in Christ to the best that yet is ahead. All that is worthwhile will be there to meet me."
You can look back to the "good old days" and boohoo all you want to. But as for me, my attention is focused on the righteousness, love, joy, and peace that are awaiting me and all those who have set aside their own life that they might live by the Life of the Lord Jesus.
Instead, they were longing for a better countrya heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:16)
If we are happy and content in this present world, and are under the impression this is the best God can do, God is ashamed of us. The longer I live the more I want to go and be with Jesus in His world.
The abominations taking place in America at this time are not God's idea of what a world should be. The Garden in Eden was the environment God instituted originally. But we think we know better than God, and so we strive endlessly to bring about righteousness, peace, and joy. But they always elude us and always shall elude us until the Lord Jesus arrives on the scene.
God has prepared for us a city that He believes to be suitable for human beings to live in. Right now God is preparing the inhabitants of that city, so when it comes to the earth it can install and maintain Paradise.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, (Hebrews 11:17)
Whenever God gives us a promise He always tests us to see if we will obey Him. The willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his only son, the son for whom he had waited twenty-five years, reminds us of Christ in Gethsemane who was offering up His fellowship with God. These both are acts of obedience to God that are beyond all we can imagine.
The Apostle Paul informs us that Abraham was regarded as righteous because he believed God's promise. Then the Apostle James reminds us that Abraham was righteous also because he faithfully did what God commanded. There is a time to believe only. Then there is a time to obey, if we wish for God to regard us as righteous.
Even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." (Hebrews 11:18)
It appeared that God was making it impossible for His promise to be fulfilled. Yet the faithful Abraham marched forward in obedience. If God gives us a promise it shall be fulfilled. However, there may come situations while God is leading us that appear to prevent the fulfillment of the promise. In this case, let us obey God. There is nothing we can attain to or possess that is worthwhile if in the process we have disobeyed God! I wonder how many people throughout the history of the earth have found this to be true.
Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:19)
There is a death to the world. There is a death to sin. Then there is a death to our hopeseven the hopes that have come from God. Death to the world and death to sin are death to that which is unlawful. But this is not so with death to our hopes.
Our hopes generally are not unlawful. Death to our hopes is death to that which, in ordinary circumstances, is that to which we can reasonably expect to be our rightful circumstances and possessions.
Such was the case with Isaaceven more so because Isaac was a hope first announced and then realized. Isaac and his descendants were God's gift to Abraham.
Would God give a gift and then ask for it back? Why shouldn't He? All that we have, our very life included, have come from Him? Why can't He rightfully give what He wishes and remove what He wishes? Does God owe us anything?
This is difficult for Americans to accept. We cling fiercely to what we refer to as "the rights of people." "We have our rights," we demand. "We will sue you if you infringe on our rights," we scream.
And then God says to us, "You have no rights as far as I am concerned. I am the Potter. You are the clay. I will do as I will with you."
Right here is revealed whether an individual does or does not love and trust God. The faithful saint answers, "Amen." Numerous believers respond, "Never! I hate you God. You took my child and You can't do that. It isn't fair. I have my rights!"
It is a good thing God is so patient, because we often behave like spoiled brats. Let us give God glory, being fully persuaded that everything He does in our life is for our good---even when we do not understand it; and that He is leading us to everlasting righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
It is amazing that Abraham reasoned God would raise Isaac from the dead. The man's faith just would not quit!
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. (Hebrews 11:20-22)
True faith in God always is looking toward the future, and this is where hope enters the picture. We are saved by hope when our vision of the future coincides with God's plan from the beginning. There is nothing wrong with asking God to give us the hope He would have us have.
Notice that the faith of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph caused them to act. Genuine faith always results in action of some sort.
Each true Christian who lives in an attitude of prayer and is continually aware of the Presence of Jesus has a prophetic touch on his or her life. His hope of a joyful future guides him through the valley of the shadow of death, in which we always are living while bound to the earth.
By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. (Hebrews 11:23)
"They were not afraid of the king's edict." I believe there is a time of vicious persecution coming to America. We can see signs of it already, as various institutions are afraid of any expression of Christianity. In that day we are to do what is right, every though we have to resist fear. We may have to disobey the government, as has been true of many saints of the past.
The first category of people in the Lake of Fire is the fearful. Faith results in courage. Unbelief results in fear.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. (Hebrews 11:24)
This reminds us of the Apostle Paul who set aside his background as a distinguished Pharisee that he might take his place with the despised Christians. We must keep in mind that Jesus warned us about denying Him in the time of trouble. The day very well may come in America when we will be tempted to deny Jesus. Let us never be guilty of denying the One who paid for our sins with His blood.
He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (Hebrews 11:25)
I have noticed in life a characteristic that differs from one person to the next. We might call it a willingness to be disciplined. One person will do what he knows to be right even though the choice causes pain or loss of some kind.
Another person, when faced with a decision, will choose the path that brings the most pleasure and security, even though it is not the way he esteems to be morally right or the Lord's will.
If we are to govern with the rod of iron, along with the Lord Jesus, we have to have the iron created in us. That iron must accept no compromise. It must cause us to make the hardest of decisions, like Abraham offering Isaac.
I have seen people who must have pleasure, even though their choice betrays other people and finally results in chaos. People in America understand that smoking cigarettes results in various ailments. Yet they continue to smoke, leaving their loved ones to suffer the cancer produced by second-hand smoke.
The statistics reveal that homosexual activity may lead to AIDS. Yet the homosexuals continue with their practices, meanwhile hoping for a medicine that will prevent or cure AIDS. This refusal to do what is right, and insistence on a cure rather than to cease doing what causes the disease is, I believe, a product of humanistic thinking.
The human being must always be free to do whatever he or she wants to do, it is maintained, and society must discover a way of preventing or fixing any harm that results. Such is the attitude of so many in America today. And I notice that the bacteria that cause the diseases, as soon as they are conquered, develop immunity to the medicines that were overcoming them.
Somehow I see the hand of God in this. God protects and heals us when we are doing all we know to avoid trouble. But, as the Bible tells us, God does not protect and help fools.
Moses chose to suffer with the people of God when he could have lived as a noble in the court of Pharaoh. Let us, as strangers and aliens, refuse the praise of the world and take our place with the despised saints.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:26)
Faith turns aside from the visible rewards and looks beyond the visible to the heavenly rewards. Again we see that our pilgrimage on the earth depends upon our attitude toward the future. The true saint pays necessary but minimal attention to the affairs of the present world, while his hope and faith is in that which is in the future and is unseen as yet.
This is the true definition of faith, isn't it? We have faith in the future God has promised, and this enables us to escape the temptations present in the world system and in our sinful, self-seeking nature.
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)
Again we see the need to resist fear. Fear will prevent our doing God's will. And notice that Moses was seeing the invisible Christ. I do not believe Moses was literally seeing Christ, but he was living so close to the Lord it was as though he could see Him.
We are welcome to do the same. We can keep inviting Christ into everything we do during the day and the night. If we do this, although we cannot see Him physically or literally, He is there and we know it. It is that way with me and has been for several years.
I write according to His Presence. I am not really an author but a scribe. I write what I feel He wants me to write. Maybe "feel" is not the correct word. It is like when you go into a completely dark room, and somehow you know someone is there. You don't see them. You kind of feel their presence. I guess it is more of an awareness than anything else.
Our place is to open the door and invite Him in. Then He dines with us on our obedience and worship. We dine with Him on His body and blood. All of this becomes exceedingly real when we practice His Presence over a number of years.
And so Moses "saw him who is invisible" and persevered in faith. The result was that all Israel was delivered from Egypt. I might add, during the journey of Israel to the land of promise there were many signs and wonders that could be seen with the physical eye.
Yet the process is the same. Even after the visible cloud and fire, the manna, and other miracles, the Israelites still had to persevere in faith in the invisible Christ. The Jews did this sometimes, and failed to do so on other occasions.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (Hebrews 11:28)
When we practice our Christian religion we almost always are dealing with the invisible. This is where faith comes in. When we celebrate the Communion we are going through a ceremony, the meaning of which cannot be seen by the physical eye. That is why the things of Christ are as so much foolishness to the sophisticated people of the present world. But the poorer people find the practice of religion comforting. The common people always hear Jesus gladly.
The destroying angel was invisible. To the average person, the actions of the Israelites would seem as so much foolishness. They sprinkled blood on the doors of their homes, packed up their belongings and left Egypt, the women carrying the unleavened dough on their shoulders. There were six hundred thousand men plus women and children. All these people by faith were following the directions of the invisible God.
Meanwhile the firstborn of the people and animals in Egypt were dying. Although so much of our religious activities are invisible, yet they have powerful consequences in the physical world, as happened in the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)
The opening of a path in the Red Sea was one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world. Moses and the people, children and all, walked through the sea as though it were dry land. No doubt the water was very deep, because the Egyptian soldiers, many no doubt who were physically strong and good swimmers, drowned.
The distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians carries through from Abraham and Sarah to the wall of the new Jerusalem. It is the eternal division between the Royal Priesthood and the world.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30)
During the past thirty or so years there has been an emphasis on miracles produced by faith. If we had enough faith, it is ventured, we could work miracles, such as the toppling of the walls of Jericho. We could heal the sick. We could get all the money we wanted.
But such preachers miss the point, I believe. Joshua did not speak the "word of faith" causing the walls of Jericho to fall. Rather, he was obeying God. Jericho was not defeated because the people decided to step out in faith. Rather the Israelites obeyed what God had commanded. Obedience is a form of faith, if you think about it.
If we are going to see miracles in our own day, and we sorely need them, then there shall have to be believers in Christ who obey Him without question. I believe the Lord Jesus intends to do miracles in America, but it will be in a time of trouble. We are not to "step out in faith" or "speak the creative word." What we must do is to listen to Jesus, and then obey Him completely.
I do not believe we in America are in need of great miracle workers. What we do need, however, are ordinary believers who listen to Jesus and obey Him accurately and completely. Then, if the Lord chooses to work miracles, He has a vehicle He can use.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)
Rahab had heard from the caravans the miracles God had performed among the Israelites. These reports created faith in her heart. Rahab took her life in her hands when she assisted the spies from the camp of Israel. The result was, the Lord kept her safe. Not only that, she became an ancestress of the Lord Jesus.
If I am not mistaken, this kind of courage, to defy the government, is going to be needed by Christians in the days ahead in America. Christians tend to be law-abiding people. But there comes a time when we have to give priority to what God demands. In such cases we must be very certain that we indeed are hearing from God!
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:32-38)
When we think about the people and their exploits in the passage above we gain a true concept of "faith." Faith is not a magic by which we get what we want. Faith is an awareness of God's will and obedience to it. We are not to be presumptuous. We are not to "step out in faith."
We are to do as Enoch did. I do not remember that Enoch performed any miracles, like Elijah or Elisha. But by faith he walked in the Presence of God for three hundred years. And then God took Enoch which, I think, was due to God having love for Enoch and his righteous behavior.
Faith is not something we conjure up in our adamic nature. Faith is a part of the Spirit of God that comes into our spirit according to the will of God.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)
Faith comes also by hearing the Word of God.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
We really do not have to worry about "having faith." If we will listen carefully to the Lord Jesus, as we have opportunity, He will guide our path. When Jesus is guiding our path, and we are being strictly obedient, then the Lord Jesus will work all needed miracles.
Ordinarily the lack of miracles occurs because we are not finding out what His will is and obeying it. The God of Heaven has no problem with working miracles. But He has a major problem finding people who will take the time to listen to Him and then obey Him strictly.
However, to live our life in the Presence of Jesus requires faith, because the various pressures of life drive us to lean on our own understanding. Then, when we know what Christ's will is, we have to have faith to be obedient. Such is the proper procedure if we expect to get our prayers answered.
We notice, when studying the events in the lives of the witnesses in the above passage, that there was much persecution, danger, and suffering. Ordinarily Christians in America are not subject to this sort of persecution and danger. But it can happen.
When it does, we can choose to be in the ranks of those who profess to be strangers and aliens in the world. I would conjecture that millions of American Christians will grow cold toward the Lord if we enter a period where Christian people are viewed with suspicion and hostility. We had best prepare ourselves mentally for this sort of social environment, because it very well could take place in the not too distant future.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. (Hebrews 11:39)
We would say today that all these people of faith are in Heaven. Therefore it comes as a surprise to discover that they have not received what had been promised to them. If eternal residence in Heaven and a mansion were not given to them at their death, then what had been promised to them?
God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)
I described at the beginning of this essay what had been promised to them, although they probably were not given these objectives in such detail:
Our change into the image of Jesus Christ, which is the image of God.
A redeemed body.
Completely free in body, soul, and spirit from all the works of Satan.
To be filled with all the fullness of God.
An integral part of God through Christ.
To see Him as He is.
Entrance into the "rest of God."
What is meant by the statement that "only together with us would they be made perfect"?
I believe it means that the witnesses described in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews are waiting in the spirit world for God's full plan of redemption to be revealed. As always, God's revelation comes through people on the earth.
We have been moving ahead in understanding since the days of the Protestant Reformers, from "the righteous shall live by faith" through to speaking in tongues and life lived in the Spirit of God.
In our day we are receiving the understanding of the spiritual fulfillment of the last thee of the Levitical feasts: the Blowing of Trumpets; the Day of Atonement; and, finally, the feast of Tabernacles. They always have been in the Bible, along with all the other aspects of the Divine plan of redemption.
So God's ministers of our day are proclaiming these final steps in our attaining to the several elements in the full apprehension of the Divine goal.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, the Bible tells us. The Word of God is the automobile. Our hope in the promise of God is the gasoline. Faith is the engine that drives us forward through all obstacles until the attain to that which has been promised. Obedience starts up the engine.
Since the full plan of redemption had not been revealed while the witnesses of Hebrews, Eleven were living on the earth, they have been waiting in the spirit world to hear about God's plan. Little by little they have heard about it from the ministers on the earth. As they have heard the different aspects of the plan, faith has been created in them.
And so on and on until we all reach perfection together. They and we are part of the one Body of Christ, one Bride of the Lamb.
When the Lord returns to earth, these witnesses will be with Him. Then they and we will be resurrected and receive the sonship, the redemption of our body. Thus they and we shall be made perfect together.
This is my understanding in the present hour.
After the thousand-year Kingdom Age, the city that has foundations will descend from Heaven through the new sky. The hope of all true saints from the time of Abel to the last member of the Body of Christ shall have been fulfilled. The new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb, will illuminate the whole world, bringing to pass the words of the Lord, "You are the light of the world."
We will live forever in righteous behavior, love, joy, and peacein untroubled rest in the center of God's Person and will.
All of us who love Jesus will persevere, learning to live by His Life, until all that our Father in Heaven has planned has been completed perfectly to the finest detail. Then we shall bow in faith before the Father, that He may be All in all in His creation.