FURTHER THOUGHTSCopyright Š 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
("Further Thoughts" is taken from The Theology of Robert B. Thompson, copyright Š 2012 Robert B. Thompson, found in the Kindle Library)
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLEŽ, Copyright Š 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Following the Cloud and the Fire
Who Is in Control?
Further ThoughtsThe author has certain viewpoints about the Christian salvation You might not agree with all of them. But here are some of the concepts he has presented.
Wickedness and rebellion. There are many forms of wickedness. The Lake of Fire has authority over them. Eight such personalities are mentioned in the Book of Revelation:
The sexually immoral.
Those who practice magic arts.
If any of these eight behaviors is part of our personality, we are to confess it, denounce it as wickedness, renounce it with all our strength, declaring we never want to behave in this manner againnot for eternity. Finally, we are to ask Jesus to remove every lie from our personality.
If we will take these four steps, Christ will forgive us and either take the evil from us immediately, or else set in motion events that will help us overcome this particular wickedness.
It never is the will of Christ that his servants practice sin while realizing it is sin. Never! Sometimes there is evil in us that we are not aware of, as in the case of Adam and Eve. But when we are made aware of evil behavior, then we must confess it and stop doing it. Otherwise we are sinning.
It seems to me that Bible scholars fasten on a few passages that appear to support their notion that once we make a profession of belief in Jesus Christ we never can be separated from God. They then use these passages as axioms from which, by the process of deduction, they construct a plan of salvation. However, in doing so they ignore the majority of New Testament passages that clearly warn believers of the danger of obeying their sinful nature instead of the Spirit of God.
Now we come to rebellion, which is the deadliest of all behaviors. Jesus Christ is God's appointed Lord. This means we are to obey Him in every detail of our life.
In America we are taught that we are "free moral agents." This means we can do as we please. Such an idea is the opposite of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God through Jesus Christ. It is necessary that all saved people obey Christ diligently and completely.
Until we are inviting Christ into every aspect of our life and behavior we are a rebel against God.
God, using all of the grace contained in the Divine redemption, will work with each saved person to convert his or her personality to righteous behavior, that is, behavior free from wickedness.
There are incorrigibles who will not let go of their wicked personality. Their eternal home is the Lake of Fire, where they will dwell with Satan and his angels.
It is up to each individual to choose to obey Christ. As long as we continue to disobey Christ, God is not pleased with us, whether or not we have "accepted Christ."
Sometimes an individual, believer or not, is free from wickedness but will not bow to the will of Christ. This person, whether a believer or not, whether free from all wickedness or not, will be assigned to eternal darkness. Jesus Christ is God's appointed Ruler. God has commanded us to "hear him." Strict obedience to the will of Christ may be the most important aspect of the Kingdom of God.
Christ is Lord, and every person, human or angelic, of little status or highly placed in the hierarchy of Heaven, must bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is by command of the Father because of the obedience of Jesus, and there is no authority or power that can resist this edict.
Those individuals who, after all of God's dealings with them, insist on directing their own lives, will be sent into eternal darkness. They will not be given the gift of repentance. From that time forward they are wandering stars "for whom darkest blackness has been reserved forever."
The removal of sinful behavior is accomplished by the power of the Spirit of God, working on the authority of the blood of the cross. Rebellion, on the other hand, is removed from us by placing us in some kind of imprisoning circumstance. If we remain in our prison the rebellion in our personality will be overcome. If we are not willing to remain in our prison, insisting on deciding what we will do and what we won't do, we are in danger of eternal darkness.
Another topic I believe to be significant is the difference between religion and God's salvation. The current teaching is that the most important aspect of the Christian religion is what we believe. In direct contrast to this, the most important aspect of God's salvation is what kind of person we are; and, in particular, how obedient we are to Christ. True salvation is a new creation, not the old creation with certain beliefs.
As far as I know, beliefs are not an important issue in the spirit world. What is important, and what governs our appearance and our fellowship with God, Christ, and the saints, is what kind of person we are.
There are some people who are naturally righteous. However, no natural righteousness is of Kingdom quality. Yet, the Seed of the Kingdom must fall into an honest and good natural heart if it is to bear lasting fruit.
The important thing to remember here is that the Kingdom of God is not in what we believe. The Kingdom of God is in the transforming of the human personality as he or she receives the Life of Christ. This is possible only as the person obeys Christ; for two cannot walk together if they do not agree, as the Bible teaches.
When the Gospel is changing us it is not just preparing us to be saved, it is the change itself that is salvation.
Think how many people, women, children, and men of pure hearts, the Catholic and Muslim religions have murdered because of their beliefs. Christ never taught us to kill anyone because of his or her beliefs.
If I am correct, Christ's greatest enemy is religion. That is because religion comes from the mind of man. Salvation comes from the mind and heart of God.
My book, Godwill Castle, was conceived as a message to people that they do not have to be afraid of the death of their loved ones, or their own death. Death is not to be feared unless we are determined to live wickedly or to refuse to obey Christ.
People do not go to a far country when they die. They are all around us. After we die we will meet our loved ones and many of the people we have encountered during our life on the earth. There only is one world. Most of the people are in the spirit part of the one world. We can see the people in the physical world but not the people in the spirit world.
Death does not change what we are. The people remain the same, except as they receive instruction in the spirit world, as in my story.
There is a better world coming. The future will be marvelous beyond all imagination for every individual who is willing to permit Christ to govern his or her life. Always hold on to your brightest hopes. If God finds them to be worthy, they shall come to pass.
Remember, when God does not immediately give you what you want intensely, or keeps you in a situation you detest, He is endeavoring to bring you to righteousness, holiness, and obedience to Christ. The end of these three characteristics is righteousness, love, joy, and peace. Have faith in God. He is seeking your good!
Be careful that your desires are what you truly want. What you keep on desiring may be given to you. "God opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing."
You and I will be somewhere for eternity. It is up to us to choose where we will be in the future. We are making that choice each day of our life.
The spirit world is far more similar to our present world than we have any idea. Christian teachers have invented a mythologic world of mansions and material wealth, quite different from anything most of us have experienced. Perhaps this idea came from poor believers who were hoping for something better than they had known.
The truth is, the present physical world was created from the spirit world and reflects what the spirit world is. The spirit world is the original of most of what we are familiar with in the physical world.
We think we would like a new environment full of novelties. But we are deluding ourselves. What we want is righteousness, love, joy, and peace in familiar surroundings. Most of us want to be restored to our loved ones, whether in a mansion or a cottage. It is love and relationships that are important, not a strange new environment. What a deception this is!
The best inheritance by far is God, and after that is people. Blessed is the individual who finds that out for himself or herself.
We are not in the true, eternal world as yet. The present world is a proving ground. What is it proving about me and you?
Do not despair when you see the works of Satan in the earth. Eventually good shall triumph over evil.
For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10ASV)
Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22NASB)
Following the Cloud and the FireDuring my recent devotional readings in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, I have been amazed at how present God was and how detailed were his directions. I kept wondering, "Since we are under a better covenant, why isn't Christ just as present? Why doesn't He give us detailed directions about building his Church, as He did about the construction of the Tabernacle of the Congregation?"
Sometimes it is claimed that now that we have the New Testament we do not need to hear personally from the Lord. This is not true. All of us are faced with decisions each day that the Bible does not address specifically so we know what to do.
Should a young person go to college? Whom should he or she marry? He has two job offers. Which should he take? You want to go on vacation. Should you go and where should you go?
The Bible tells us to commit our way to the Lord and He, not the Bible, will direct our paths.
The Bible says the sons of God are led by the Spirit, not by the Bible.
It is impossible to enter the rest of God, mentioned in the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, until we commit every decision of every day to the Lord, looking to Him for guidance. The role of the Bible is to enable us to tell when we are being led astray by unclean motives or spirits. In this manner the written Word is a light on our path.
In addition to the numerous specific directions God gave to Moses and Aaron, there were the Urim and the Thummin, the "lights and perfections." These were some kind of device on the breastpiece of the High Priest at which a person could inquire and receive advice in a specific situation.
I came to the place where Moses asked his brother-in-law, Hobab, to help the Israelites find suitable camping places in the desert. Can you believe this? After God had been leading them so specifically with the Cloud and the Fire! When I read of Moses doing this I become angry against him, a person I truly admire.
"Moses, why in the world did you ask Hobab to guide you when God himself was specifically leading you by day and night? What nonsense is this!" (Behold how I vaunt myself against the elders!)
Then I thought about how, during the days of Samuel, the Israelites wanted a king they could see. They were not content with the Lord leading them through the Prophet, Samuel.
Believers want a pope, a priest, a pastor, an evangelist, who will pray for them and to whom they are willing to give their spiritual proxy. Then they can give him or her money and continue to live their own life.
Why is it that God's people insist on being guided and ruled by human beings rather than being governed and guided by the Lord? But it has been this way throughout human history. It is God, not man, who is to be guiding all human activityevery element of it.
When we humans are left to guide ourselves through life we continue to do foolish, hurtful, destructive things. Every sane individual has love, joy, and peace as his or her goal. But we simply cannot trust God to direct us to our goal. As in the case of Eve, we believe we will gain what we desire by taking matters into our own hands.
Some might respond that now we are to live by faith, meaning God is not willing to speak to us. This excuse will not hold up. The "faith chapter" of the Bible is the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. Every example of "faith" in this chapter comes from God's heroes of olden times. Moses certainly was a man of faith, as was Noah. Yet God spoke to them clearly.
No, it is not because now we are supposed to live by "faith." Rather it is because we prefer to lean on our own understanding. We simply do not want to look to Christ to guide us in every aspect of our daily life, nor do we trust Him to lead us to love, joy, and peace. We would rather continue with our own works than enter the rest of God in which God conducts our life.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6NIV)
To every individual who is reading my words, and who would love to live a life directed in detail by the Lord Jesus, let me tell you it is not only desirable but possible and expected. It is the way I have learned to live, after serving Christ for over sixty years. Have I made mistakes? Of course I have. But I have learned from them and am pressing on the upward way.
The sons of God are to be led by the Spirit of God. The purpose of the Bible is to keep us on the right track, because there are numerous voices in the spirit world that strive continually to deceive us and lead us astray. But if we remain prayerful and patient, meditating in the Scriptures daily, we can make a success of the Spirit-directed life.
People, including Christians, often long to hear God more frequently than they do. Well, we can, even though this fact is not often emphasized in Christian churches; and sometimes is scorned as being a frivolous, dangerous area we should not investigate.
Perhaps it is true that in many instances Christian leaders do not tell their followers that they can hear from God personally each day, if they will ask and obey. In fact, the most exciting part of our discipleship is to hear from Jesus each day. Why don't we tell the believers that such communication is possible?
All of our discipleship is by faith. But that faith includes and results in having a daily awareness of God's will for us on each occasion. This requires continual prayer and looking to Jesus in every situation.
I trust in the promises of God found in the Bible and read them each day. In addition, I hear from Jesus at each point of decision of my life because I continually ask for such direction. This does not mean I always hear a voice. It means, rather, that I am guided in one manner or another.
I read about Christian conferences, gatherings, and what the promoters hope will be the result. Have they actually heard from Christ that they should make such an effort? Or are they doing what they imagine God wants them to do?
I remember overhearing a pastor and his associates planning a "revival" and who the speakers should be. The pastor said a certain individual should be invited because "he draws the crowds." Can you imagine the Lord Jesus saying such a thing to his disciples? Neither can I. As I recall, this "revival" did not accomplish much.
Jesus Christ said He would build his Church. When we attempt to build his Church there is confusion. Consider the multitude of competing denominations! Soon, I think, Christ will call to the dead bones and they will come together to form an army.
What do you think would happen if all the Christian leaders in the world stepped back for a moment from their programs and plans and listened to Jesus? What do you think Jesus would say to them? I believe the Holy Spirit is proclaiming today that the Christian people should turn away from their sinful ways and cease using grace as an excuse for their transgressions and rebellions. Is this what the leaders would hear from the Lord do you suppose?
What we are hearing from the leadership is a renewed emphasis on "saving the lost." Maybe the "lost" that should be saved are those who sit in the pews each Sunday.
It seems most Christian churches are implying that we should be led by the Bible. But the Bible itself states the sons of God are to be led by the Spirit. I think that people prefer to be led by the Bible rather than by the Spirit of God so they can remain in control. To be led by the Spirit we must ask Jesus to guide us, and we must obey Him strictly when He shows us what He wants.
There is no adventure available to man on the earth more marvelous than that of walking hand in hand with the Lord Jesus through the minefields of life.
He will guide us through our times of sickness, trouble, financial distress, and also when the way appears to be simple and easy. We have to keep looking to him, asking Him for help, and obeying what He directs us to do.
If we don't keep praying and looking to the Lord at all times, we won't know when the Cloud and the Fire have lifted from the Tabernacle, so to speak, and we are supposed to move to a different place.
The Bible states the sons of God are those who are led by the Spirit. I have observed that much Christian work, while it is done with a good will, does not always result from a direct leading of the Lord.
Maybe those who work as Christian leaders really do hear from God as to the programs they institute. However, one can get the impression that they are doing what they think is God's will but that it is not by a clear command of Christ.
Jesus said He shall build his Church. I think this means that Jesus will hear from God concerning the construction of his Church, just as Moses received the directions concerning the construction of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. Then Jesus will inform those leaders He chooses, to work according to the heavenly blueprint.
I really wonder how often this is the case. I am certain that in some instances Christ really does initiate a work, a church, a school, a denomination, a missionary endeavor. But is it true that once a work has been founded, those who are involved may carry it forth without hearing from the Lord? This may be the case with many denominations.
How many Christian people look to the Lord continually to guide their daily lives? How many believe that Christ will direct our lives down to the smallest detail if we will look to him? I know Christian people often say "the Lord told me this or the Lord told me that." It is my opinion this really happens.
However, I don't believe it happens often enough. A lady told me that at the beginning of each year, Jesus would tell her about what would transpire that year. I am in favor of this. But I think this should be happening to each of as at the beginning of each day and throughout the day.
But will Christ really guide us to this extent? I believe He will. However, He guides the believers in many different ways. To some, it is an inner consciousness. To others, He speaks as they read the Word. Yet there may be others who hear a voice, or experience dreams or visions.
Then there are folks who commit their way to the Lord constantly, trusting that He will direct their path even though they do not hear from Him very often. He does guide such because of the promise in his Word.
My point is that we Christians do not have to go about blindly. Christ will guide us in every decision if we ask him.
I think I am correct that the adherents of the Muslim religion to a great extent follow the Koran with little or no feeling of the Presence of God. Maybe I am wrong in this. But when we Christians are sternly obedient to Christ and look to Him continually throughout the day and night, we experience his Presence. I doubt seriously that the practitioners of any other religion can experience the Presence of the true and living God as can an obedient, prayerful Christian.
I don't believe Muslims can feel the Presence of God, and so they try to establish their religion by human efforteven by violence if necessaryto gain what they desire. "A sword is worth ten thousand words."The Koran.
How could they feel the Presence of God? Are there two Lambs of God that take away the sin of the world? Are there two Trees of Life? Are there two Ways to the Father; two Truths of the Father; two Lives of the Father? I don't think so.
I have been seeking Christ fervently for sixty-five years. I look to Him in all things. He is very real to me. He will be just as real to anyone who looks to Him on a daily basis.
If I am hearing the Spirit of God correctly, terrible times are coming to the world. I do not have to recount here the horrible things being done to people in our day. In this week's issue of Time magazine (August 9, 2010) there is a picture on the cover of a beautiful eighteen year old Afghan girl, Aisha, whose husband cut off her ears and nose because she fled from what she termed "abusive inlaws."
The God of the Bible would not permit the deliberate disfiguring of one's wife. The disfiguring of Aisha occurred in the context of another religion. What then can we say when we compare the two religions? The two gods?
The Bible says, "He who loves his wife loves himself." We seem to have a difference in philosophy here!
Sometimes the Muslim people murder innocent Christian people, hoping thereby to please Allah. The truth is, when they die they will come before the Judgment Seat of Christ, not of Allah.
We know about the millions of babies aborted (murdered) in the United States alone.
How long can God refrain from bringing tribulation upon such horrors, as well as upon the abandoned revelries taking place in the so-called Christian nations?
Well, I believe the Spirit is saying that Divine judgment soon is to fall on the world. If we are going to stand in Christ we must be following him, listening to him, obeying him, continually, day and night.
Many Christians think they can be led by the Bible and do not need to hear from the Lord. Such may have a religious spirit. They do not realize that the Bible is the sword of the Spirit, not the sword of the Christian. They are like the Pharisees. They were looking down at the scroll of the Law when the Author of the Law was there waiting for them to look up to him.
The new covenant is not of the letter, as was the Law of Moses, but of the Spirit. This means that the words of the New Testament can be guided, applied, and enabled only by the Spirit of God, not by the mind of the Christian. When interpreted by the Spirit, the Scriptures are the way to God. When not interpreted by the Spirit, the Scriptures become the enemy of God.
There is no greater enemy of God than religion. Babylon murders the prophets.
The weak believers pay little attention to the Bible and are guided to a certain extent by their emotions. The self-righteous, doctrinaire believers know only the Bible and seek to be guided by it. The true saints know the Lord Jesus, pray without ceasing, are guided by the Spirit, and meditate in the Bible day and night.
When the words of the New Testament are guided, applied, and enabled by the good intentions of a Christian leader and not by the Spirit of God, they kill. They "cut off the ear" of the hearer, just as Peter cut off the ear of one of those who were arresting the Lord Jesus.
It is my point of view that the denominational divisions in the one Body of Christ result from believers operating from what their mind tells them the Bible says. It is a fact that if two believers are filled with the Spirit of God, they will be in unity, although their doctrinal understandings may differ. If all of us are going to be one, then all of us are going to have to be filled with the Spirit and living by the Spirit instead of by our mind.
The Book of Revelation speaks of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. I believe this means they have ceased operating from their physical mind and are looking to Jesus in all of their being and doing.
I do not know if Jesus has always been as close to us as He is today. I do know that in the case of Laodicea, the last of the seven churches of Revelation, He asks to be admitted into our life. I believe He is knocking at our hearts today. He sees the violent destruction approaching the United States because of our turning away from Christ. He is ready to help each person who will look to Him so he or she is not carried away in the flood of chaos on the horizon.
As I see it, the greatest need we Christians have today is to learn to listen to Jesus. Christ sits as King of the flood and He is more than willing and able to guide and keep each individual in the time of trouble, just as He kept Jeremiah when the Babylonians were destroying Jerusalem. Jesus always is knocking at our heart and we always are to be opening the door to Him and dining with him, and He with us.
But is God really willing to speak to us and guide us in a personal manner? Think about the Old Testament. In how many instances did God speak to the Israelites and guide them? Just think about that! And they were not born again. The Spirit of God came upon some of them at times, but the Spirit did not remain in them as He does in us.
How about the New Testament? Did angels speak to people? Were the Christians of those days led by the Spirit of God? We know they were from the many accounts in the New Testament, particularly the Book of Acts.
"But," some maintain, "now that we have the Bible we do not need to hear from God." Well if such wish to live a dry, religious, Christian life, that is their privilege I guess. But I think if they would look up from the text (which the Pharisees were unwilling to do) they would find that the Author of the text is waiting for them to look directly to Him and bring their concerns to him.
I am writing these words under an unusual compulsion. I do not know how soon disaster is going to strike the United States; but the Spirit is warning that each of us must draw closer to Jesus. We must learn to look to Him as we never did before. He wants to keep us in his Presence at all times so we will not panic and lose our faith when we see the terror soon to be unleashed on our land.
No Christian, man or woman, boy or girl, will be able to stand in the coming days of the United States until he or she has a strong inner relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be aware of Him constantly, always being guided and enabled by him. Otherwise the growing spiritual darkness will overcome us and we will find ourselves thinking, saying, and doing things that are against God's will for us.
It is a common practice today to ask Christ for healing, for deliverance from trouble, for money. There are instances when such a prayer is appropriate and necessary. However, I am not referring to this common practice. Rather I am suggesting that we use each of our distresses as an opportunity to have close fellowship with the Lord. Sometimes He leads us in new and surprising ways to the victory we need.
We cannot be led by the Spirit and then expect to plan our own way. We must ask the Lord to help us keep all of his commandments spoken to us personally, as well as those we read about in the New Testament.
Following the Cloud and the Fire can be like walking on the water. We must have courage as we learn to be led by the Spirit. Christ will help us if we sincerely are seeking to do his will, just as He reached out and assisted Peter.
It is kind of like flying by instrument, isn't it!
It is acceptable to ask Jesus if we are permitted to step out of the boat. But we then do not proceed to do so. We wait until He says, "Come."
Not hearing from the Lord continually can lead us into attempting to duplicate a Divine visitation of the past. There is something of this tendency in the practice of the Israelites who were burning incense to the bronze snake that God on a previous occasion had given for the healing of those who had been bitten by snakes.
Most of us know how God spoke to Abraham throughout his life. Abraham ran ahead of God in the case of the birth of Ishmael (a wild man and the ancestor of wild men.) The Seed God had in mind came through Isaac. We always produce a wild man when we act apart from God's leading.
I think the manner in which the living creatures, of the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, followed the Spirit of God, tells us something about the life lived in the Spirit of God. We are not to be subject to momentum. Christian institutions appear to be filled with momentum. Once they get started along a certain line they continue on that same line unto the ages of ageslong after God has left.
A denomination has a large monetary and ego involvement in the revelation that was given it in the beginning. It is quite difficult for it to move when God moves. Thus the denominations are landmarks in the wilderness that show where God was at one time.
It happened in a church service that a man yelled "Hallelujah"! As soon as he did, the Spirit of God fell on the assembly and they had a great meeting.
Guess what he did the following Sunday? And guess what happened? You are correct: nothing!
I think sometimes church fill in with music the vacancy left by the absent Spirit of God. It reminds me of the Jews placing the Altar of Incense in the Holy of Holies because the Babylonians had removed the Ark of the Covenant. I like music, but music ordinarily does not form Christ in the believers.
Because we do not always have the immediate Presence, direction, wisdom, and guidance of Christ we may turn and begin to worship what God has done in the past. We may go to a place like Wales, or Azusa Street in Los Angeles, in the hope that God will repeat what he did previously.
A prominent evangelist was known to have gone to the grave of a person greatly used by the Spirit, in the hope that her mantle would fall on him.
Sometimes relics are venerated.
We may study the Divine interventions in the lives and ministries of outstanding Christians of the past in the hope of finding what "works," that is, what draws in crowds of people. We do not appear to be equally interested that the Spirit of God builds up the believers in Christ. Thus our motives are suspect, aren't they?
We just can't seem to grasp that Christ chooses whom He will, when He will, how He will, where He will, and uses that person in the manner Christ knows will build his Church. We are not always willing to follow the Cloud and the Fire and send Hobab home.
I think sometimes if the present nation of Israel would look to God instead of to world opinion it would emerge in victory from the present distress. Israel needs a prophet who hears from God more than it does a statesman who hears from the United Nations.
It is such a delight to hear directly from the Lord Jesus, why do people insist on governing their lives apart from him?
I was taught in Bible school that the Apostles looked about for population centers, for the most advantageous location from which the Gospel could be spread. I never have found such a thing in the Book of Acts.
There is a human desire to solidify, to establish, to institutionalize an intervention of God. "Let us build three tabernacles." Why are we unwilling to look for the fresh intervention of God instead of seeking the past Glory?
There was the manna each day in the desert. There was the memorial jar of manna stored in the Ark of the Covenant. Do these teach us that God is willing to give us grace for the day; that as our days are, so shall our strength be?
There can be a reasonable amount of planning in the life of a disciple, but He always must be looking to the Lord for every action, not taking anything for granted.
Yesterday's manna has a bad smell.
I may be accused of being impractical. I have been a disciple for over sixty years, so I think by this time I am a fair judge of what is practical and what is a fantasy. Actually, much Christian activity is impractical from a Kingdom standpoint, although humans may regard it as practical and understandable.
I must say, when the churches maintain that when we die we go to live in a mansion with a backyard filled with diamonds, walk in our golden slippers on a street of gold and play a golden harp, and have no responsibilities for eternity, they are in no position to accuse me of being impractical, illogical, or unscriptural.
I am ready to agree that it certainly is easier to pursue the activities of our religion than to wait on the Lord moment by moment. I think many of us would rather water the plants in the sanctuary than spend an hour in prayer before the Lord. How do you feel about this?
It requires considerable experience before we can avoid many of the pitfalls in the path of the believer who is seeking to be led by the Spirit. This is why there are elders in the assemblies. Experience is the coin with which we buy wisdom. By the way, God never will rebuke you for questioning spirits. You can test spirits all day long and God will not be insulted.
A statement by Jeremiah has remained with me through the years:
Then Hanamel my uncle's son came to me in the court of the guard according to the word of the LORD and said to me, "Buy my field, please, that is at Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for you have the right of possession and the redemption is yours; buy it for yourself." Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. (Jeremiah 32:8NASB)
"Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord."
Can you see in this statement how even Jeremiah tested his revelations against what actually took place?
When thinking about following the Cloud and the Fire, it is necessary to realize the importance of learning to deal with deception. Because the power of Satan over people was broken on the cross of Calvary, Satan uses deception to gain control over individuals.
Satan is a master of deception. Sometimes Christians in their ignorance believe they cannot be deceived if they pray and read their Bible. I am here to tell you, based on personal experience, that you can pray fervently, read your Bible every day, and go to church on a regular basis, and still be deceived.
When we come to Christ we may have open doors in our personality through which Satan can work his works of deception. We may have a romantic nature, or a greedy, covetous personality. We may always be striving for preeminence or leadership, to be in control. We may have a murderous or hateful nature. The door to our personality may be along the line of intellectual pride.
Satan studies our personality profile. He estimates the best tactic to use to get us into his power. If we are a romantic person he will not use a crudity of some sort. If we have a hateful nature he probably will not seek to tempt us with money.
We may have many dimensions of our sinful nature that can be dispatched readily if we are willing to follow the Holy Spirit as He points them out. We are to confess and renounce them with all our might, asking Christ to help us.
But then there are these kings!
The kings are kept shut up in the Cave at Makkedah, so to speak. When the Lord sees we are strong enough to withstand his dealing with our kings, He brings them forth.
Sometimes Christ lets us wrestle with a king of our personality throughout our discipleship. This is how we gain a conquering personality. We never yield to the king, but he just doesn't leave as readily as some of the lesser traits.
On occasion the Lord permits us to be deceived. Satan reasons with us until we accept the king of our personality as being of God, even though the Scripture lists him as unclean. If we remain prayerful in the midst of our deception, Christ finally will bring us out. We have learned a hard, hard lesson that we will not soon forget. This is the manner in which Christ may deal with a major aspect of our sinful nature.
Deception comes through our mind, our reasoning. We may be well versed in the Bible, and this usually is helpful. We may be determined to serve the Lord. But it is our personal cross that is the wall against deception.
We become deceived when we attempt to make our life pleasurable. "God is so good! Surely He wants me to have her, or him, or this thing, or that circumstance." Be exceedingly careful with anything you cravethat you simply have to have in order to be happy. This is the arena of deception.
God has promised to give the desires of their heart to those who delight themselves in Him and his righteous, holy ways. And indeed He shall! He is bound by his unchanging Word to do this. But every such burning desire must be slain, and then raised in Christ, before we can receive it without being bound by it.
Before, it was an idol. Now it is an enlargement, a blessing, and no sorrow shall be added to it.
Deception is very prevalent among Christian people. Regular church attendance helps. Often a person who is deceived will receive spiritual assistance just by being in the company of other praying people.
However, it is in faithfully carrying one's cross of self-denial that by far is the best protection against deception. This world is not Heaven, and any attempt to make it heavenly will almost certainly lead the believer into deception.
If you suddenly realize that you, a devout Christian, have been deceived, maybe for years, do not panic. Go to Christ, ask Him to forgive and deliver you. He may require some sort of restitution. If He does, pray and ask his help as to what He wants you to do.
Sometimes it is nothing more than to withdraw from what you have been doing and go on your way in victory. On other occasions the Lord will direct you and help you to make things right if you have stolen something or offended someone.
If you have sinned against your wife or husband, it is best that you do not confess what you have done to the injured partner just to get rid of the feeling of guilt. You may really hurt him or her unnecessarily.
Or if you have hated someone. You do not have to confess that to a person. Keep your confessions to a minimum and just work it out with the Lord. Satan will try to take advantage of you and urge you to do something that will hurt someone or otherwise cause unnecessary trouble.
You have learned a hard lesson. Get right with the Lord and go on your way, a sadder, wiser Christian. Christ will help you to do just that.
I also might mention "passivity," another trap into which the person may fall while attempting to follow the Cloud and the Fire. This error is made by the fervent believer. He desires to be an empty vessel, filled with God and moved by the Lord just as a puppet would by one holding the strings.
One of the signs that the believer has fallen into the trap of passivity is that he cannot stay with a decision. He makes a decision, and then he changes his mind. This going back and forth continues until he is disabled.
When a believer is climbing out of this pitfall the solution is to pray, make a decision, and then stay with it even though he "feels" he is not doing what the Lord wants or what is best in the circumstances. He is to keep staying with his decisions until his will is razor-sharp. In order for this procedure to work correctly the believer must continually be looking to Jesus and committing everything he does to the Lord.
The Lord does not want empty vessels. Just be yourself. Keep on pressing forward and accept your chastenings. You will be cast down and frustrated on numerous occasions. Keep praying and pressing forward in Christ.
A sailboat cannot steered until it is in motion. Commit your way to the Lord constantly and do what is before you if it is reasonable. If you wait for the Lord to speak you probably will wait for the rest of your life. God does not like being forced to speak.
Pray much. Take one small step. Look at the fruit. If it is good, take another small step. Look at the fruit. Keep praying. If you are going in the wrong direction, Jesus will correct you.
But if you go in your closet and pray all night, it is possible nothing will happen. If it does, it probably will not be the Lord.
This especially is the case with young people. Go to college. Get a job. Follow your desires after you have prayed. If you pray and fast, asking the Lord to speak to you, you probably will be deceived.
Get out in the educational or work realms of your culture. When the ungodly correct you, listen to what they say. They probably are giving you good advice. If you can see it is good, wholesome advice, don't reject it because they are ungodly.
We Christians tend to be smug and conceited. We think we know more than the people of the world or people of other races or religions. We often are incorrect in this. We need to listen to their comments and weigh them carefully. They may be correct in their judgment of us, and we need to humble ourselves so we can profit from their observations.
Keep praying, take your knocks and learn from them, get up and press forward in Christ. He loves this kind of courageous, consistent, determined attitude.
I have been in the Pentecostal movement for many years. I have heard much prophesying. Some of it was from the Lord. Some was not. I do not say this to discourage any believer who wants to launch out in prophesying. But I will say when something you state does not bear witness with other Christians, or does not come to pass, admit that you need to be a bit more careful. It was prophesied over me that I was going to die. This was many years ago. Just remember, when it is God who speaks, the rooster crows.
Our Lord Jesus is our example of how to live in the Presence of God. Christ did nothing, thought nothing, said nothing, apart from the Father. This is the rest of God toward which we are to press.
We can get a flavor of this perfect obedience to the Father in the following expression:
So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. (John 11:6NASB)
The Lord Jesus knew that Lazarus was sick and would die, but He did not go to Bethany immediately. He waited for the Father to tell Him when to go. This is how we should make our decisionsalways waiting to hear from Christ.
Notice in the following passage how Christ was following the will of the Father closely. Every one of Jesus' steps was ordered with great care. So will ours be, if we ask God to carefully control our actions.
We see in the passage that this was not true of the disciples:
So Jesus said to them, "My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune." (John 7:6NASB)
When learning to follow the Cloud and the Fire, it is helpful to learn to live in the "now," not in the future or the past. Just make it a habit throughout the day to ask the Lord for the next step, even though you are in the midst of your work routine. It might save your life someday!
We are not to go to the mulberry trees at the next battle just because we are too lazy to seek the Lord afresh! He most likely will not talk about mulberry trees on the new occasion. In fact, if you do go to the mulberry trees at the next battle you may find that a denomination has started there.
Joshua was tricked by the Gibeonites. He didn't ask the Lord about them. This is why we are to pray about everything and not take anything for granted.
"Do whatever He tells you," Mary said. This is the whole idea, isn't it?
Don't forget, your life on earth is a pilgrimage, just as was true of the camps of Israel in the desert. You may stay at one place a short time, or a long time. If God has moved you to one place it does not mean you are to stay there forever. Follow the Cloud and the Fire.
The Lord Jesus wants us to have a happy heart, confident that He will take care of the future. This may be difficult to do, especially in times of trouble or sickness. But if we ask God to create this happy, confident, cheerful spirit in us, He shall do it. Such optimism is not carelessness, it is based on God's faithfulness.
The book, Godwill Castle, was given to me as I followed the Cloud and the Fire. The piano composition, "God Is My Salvation," was given to me as I followed the Cloud and the Fire. As for the publishing of these, that will be up to Christ. He will take the initiative in this task in his time, should He desire they be published.
Only one life 'twill soon be past. Only what's done by the Lord will last.
In our day the Ark of God is coming down the road, so to speak. If we lay our hand on it, attempting to assist or modify it, we will die spiritually. If we just let God have his wonderful way we will live and experience great blessing.
In the new world of righteousness God will bring into existence, every citizen will be living in the Spirit of God and not according to his or her thinking or ambition. We can begin our preparation for the new world by looking to our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, for every aspect of our life.
All who choose to accept the Kingship of Christ and are willing to be directed by Him shall be saved.
All who choose not to accept the Kingship of Christ and who refuse to live by Christ's will rather than their own will, are now, and forever shall be, lost to the Presence and blessing of God, unless they change.
You, dear reader, can inherit all the glory of Christ's Kingdom. But you absolutely have to set aside your own life that Christ may live in you.
If you choose to do this, the Lord will help you. You will be so glad that you have made this most important decision of all. If you do not choose to be part of Christ in this manner, you will be shaken out of the Kingdom in the coming days. Only what is part of Christ will survive the shaking.
With Christ's assistance you can follow the Cloud and the Fire until you reach your land of promise, your unique destiny, your own castle.
And now I want to sound the trumpet to all believers in America. If you wish to survive during the coming days of Divine judgment upon America you are going to have to know how to follow the Lord one step at a time. If you attempt to use your own judgment, wisdom, training, or any other source of direction, or take anything for granted, you very well may run into danger thinking you were escaping or going to a place of safety.
I say also to other people, including Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, and all other leaders and followers I say to you that in the days of trouble that are coming, if you seek Christ and ask for his guidance and help, He will help and guide you. You do not need to join another religion or throw away your Scriptures.
I am not speaking about a religion. Christ is alive. I will not bear a false witness. I have followed this Man for over sixty years. He is alive and I am living what I am teaching here. He has great power and wisdom. He will help you if you call on him. He has helped and still is helping me. Try it and see for yourself that whoever calls on the name of Christ shall be saved.
Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, "Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you." So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island." (Acts 27:23-26NIV)
Who Is in Control?From the beginning of the creation, humans have sought to be in control of their lives. This is why a democratic form of government is embraced by people. They desire as much control as possible!
There never has been, is not now, and never shall be a more important issue than that of who is in control. God has made Jesus our Savior and our Lord. Throughout church history, Jesus has been acclaimed as our Savior. The atoning authority of the blood of the cross has been preached clearly in many instances.
But if one will examine the history of the Christian Church he will discover that in the majority of instances, Jesus has not been Lord. The Catholic Church is a good example, but by no means the only example, of man seizing control of the Kingdom of God.
Yet, the mark toward which every believer is to press is that of the rest of God, that is, the state of being in which the individual is aware constantly of the need to bring every thought, every word, and every action, to Christ in prayer so that the will of Christ may be done.
Such a state of being and living is not difficult to attain to. It is no more difficult to look to Jesus for the decisions of life than it is to rely on our judgment or the judgment of others. Yet the desire to take control of one's own life is so strong in people that believers find it difficult if not impossible to commit every aspect of their way to the Lord.
I have not heard of a religious organization that looks to Jesus for his will. All Christian organizations pray that their plans may be blessed. But to wait on Christ for his decisions may not be possible for a denomination because of various pressures and responsibilities.
But it is possible to any believer who is willing to forsake his or her life and follow the Lord Jesus.
What has provoked me to write this present essay is the knowledge that a new error has entered Charismatic thinking. The error is that of seeking to place the Holy Spirit in the role of Christ. The idea is that we can pray to the Holy Spirit and get Him to do what we want. The previous error was that we can command angels.
In connection with this, the position is taken that when we become mature enough we do not have to look to Jesus. We can decide what should be done in the Kingdom.
One man explained it to me like this: When my son is a young child he must look to me for everything. But as he grows older, I expect him to make some decisions on his own.
This allegory appeals to man's instinct to control his own life. However, it is not valid. C. S. Lewis discusses something akin to this in Perelandra.
The son is not a branch growing out from his father. He is an independent person. He is not the bride of his father. His father is not being created in him. He does not live by the body and blood of his father.
His father did not create him that he may be an eternal temple of his father, such that his thoughts, words, and actions are to come from his father at all times. It is an inviting but invalid allegory. The son does not stand in relation to his father as we do to Christ.
Satan has little reason to fear most American church-attenders. But when one of those attenders decides to accept the crucifixion of his inward nature, take up his cross, and follow Jesus, Hell trembles.
Satan does not fear us, who are little more than intelligent dust. What Satan fears is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we turn over our life to Jesus Christ that He might live in us, and the Father in him, all through the Fullness of the Spirit of God, then the nations are as a drop in the bucket and Hell is a fading empire.
Before the "we can command the Spirit and we can command angels" errors, there were the prosperity and faith errors. "We do not need to look to Jesus for the answer to prayer, just speak the 'creative word.' Use your faith, never mind bothering Jesus with your problem. Declare that there is no problem and it will vanish." Can you imagine there are Christians who believe this?
And, of course, there is the Catholic tendency to place Mary in the position that should be held only by Jesus. Can you picture the Apostle Paul praying, "O that I may know Mary"? Indeed, Mary was singularly blessed. So were Moses and the Apostle Paul. But neither Mary or Moses or Paul was anything more than a human being. Our Lord Jesus is infinitely more than just a human being.
The Catholics are no worse than we. We are seeking a substitute for relying on Christ. "If we can just find the right formula, we can exert power and accomplish whatever we wish."
I do not believe there is greater room for error in Christian thinking than that of who is to direct the building of the Church, the Kingdom of God, or to assist us with our daily needs.
Any device, any formula, any technique, any system or practice that we adopt in order to achieve our desires apart from looking to Jesus at every point of decision, is loss for us and loss for Christ.
When one of our techniques "works," then we are led away from Christ. It is Satan's use of what retailers term a "loss leader." It is Satan's way of inviting us to act independently of Christ.
"Perhaps if we go someplace where God poured out his Spirit, or to a cemetery where a saint has been buried, we can pray and God will give us power so we can do what we think is best (and, of course, bring glory to ourselves)."
The above reminds me of American Indians eating the heart of a dead missionary in the hope of gaining his courage. This took place long ago.
If you can believe this, some are teaching that the Kingdom of God is here now. If we wish to, we can go forth and exercise the powers of the age to come. This sort of belief produces an afflatus, a temporary feeling of power, but it is a delusion.
If you will think about what I have just written, you will see that all of these errors have one goalit is to place the power of God in the hands of man rather than in the hands of Christ. God will have none of it.
God the Father is the source of all spiritual power. The Holy Spirit himself gives gifts and ministries. But it is the Lord Jesus Christ, and only the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the authority to administer the power of the Father. Christ is the Chief Executive Officer, we might say.
When Audrey and I first accepted the pastorate of Mount Zion Fellowship in Poway, California, I stated that the Charismatic movement is going to be divided into two groups. The larger group will attempt to seize the gifts and power of the Spirit in order to "go forth and save a lost and dying world."
The second, and much smaller, body of believers will take all their gifts and talents, and their own lives as well, and pour them on the feet of Jesus as did the woman with the perfume.
They will not go forth to save "a lost and dying world" unless and until the Lord directs them to do so. They will wait on the Lord each moment in order to discover what He is doing and what He wants.
Audrey and I have adopted this stance. We endeavor to meet the needs as they arise. We have taken some steps, such as Internet sites, television programs, the sending out of literature. But there is no grand plan, just a patient waiting on Christ.
Meanwhile we have seen, in the arena of denominationalism, the continued emphasis on numbers of people coming to church on Sunday. This is the index of success, it appears. I believe all true Christians would agree that the number of people who attend a church is not the index of the worth of that church in the Kingdom of God. Yet denominations persist in this emphasis.
I seriously doubt that this misleading emphasis will ever change, and I am not persuaded that it should. My concern is that people seek to plan and operate the Kingdom of God rather than to patiently wait on the Lord Jesus until we know what He desires. As long as this is true, the pitiful moral weakness of the Christian churches will continue, I believe.
And the problem with the weakness of the Christian churches, at least in America, is that the leaders of government are not being presented by the churches with the moral behavior God insists on. Therefore Divine judgment awaits us.
Every nation that has abandoned itself to sexual immorality and other pleasures of the flesh has perished, even though at one time it had been strong and prosperous. Such is the future of America unless God grants a revival that restores moral strength to our country.
If we are to be given a true understanding of what Christ is desiring today there must be people who have their Job experience; who taste the "strange ashes"; in whom "Life that shall endless be blossoms red from the ground"; who can sit in the ruins of their life's work and sing, "Jesus is the sweetest name I know."
These sorts of experiences do happen to people who love the Lord. The purpose of such prisons, such crosses, is that they may know Jesus. From now on He is the Boss. They have no strength or wisdom to "go forth and save a lost and dying world." They are thankful to get through the day, leaning at all times on their beloved.
Such servants of the Lord are not always popular and often do not attract a large following. However they must continue to be sternly faithful to the Lord Jesus. They will receive their reward in due season.
The willingness of Charismatic people to seek power rather than Jesus will lead to the False Prophet. The False Prophet has the two horns (doubled power) of the Lamb, but he speaks with the voice of the dragon: "I will. I will. I will direct angels. I will use the Holy Spirit. I will put on my administrative hat and arrange the master spirits who govern cities."
Brother, Sister, let us remove ourselves from those who are determined to use Christ to build the Kingdom the way they think God wants it built.
"Upon this rock I will build my Church." Jesus did not say the rock would build his Church; He said He would build his Church.
And so He shall, if we will, as did Moses, look to Christ for every detail of the construction of the Church, hence of God's Kingdom.
Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. (Psalms 127:1NASB)
John 3:16The Bible teaches us that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will not perish but have eternal life. This passage may be the most familiar of all Bible statements.
But what does the verse mean? It commonly is taught that this promise means whoever places his or her faith in Jesus Christ will go to Heaven and not to Hell when he or she dies. But this cannot be the correct interpretation, on two counts: First. the verse in question does not mention Hell or Heaven. Second, eternal life is a kind of life. Hell and Heaven are places, not kinds of life, while perishing is the end of life.
If it is true that we do not understand the basic promise of salvation, it may be that much of what we teach is tradition and not God's truth.
Notice that the issues are "perishing" and "eternal life."
What does it mean "to perish." The same Greek term for perish is used commonly to indicate loss of life: "Master, we perish"; "You shall all likewise perish."
To "perish" is to lose our life. Being placed in Hell is the result of being a wicked person.
There are several passages in the Bible that set forth the end of the wicked. These are the destinies of those who have sinned until their eternal life has been lost; or of those who never had eternal life but whose conduct on the earth causes the Lord to judge them unworthy of being given eternal life.
"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 66:24NIV)
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15NASB)
Wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:13NASB)
Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30NASB)
Then He will also say to those on His left, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels"; (Matthew 25:41NASB)
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2NASB)
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out. Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29NIV)
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8NIV)
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8NASB)
If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29NASB)
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36KJV)
Notice it is the body that is thrown into Hell. We will be punished and rewarded in our body. Notice also that we lose our soul, perhaps leaving us no longer in God's image.
It seems as though at the final resurrection, all whose names are not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. How then can we account for all the other destinies mentioned above?
Thrown into Hell.
Loathsome to all mankind.
Blackest darkness. The flames of the Lake of Fire give no light.
Outer darkness (King James).
Shame and everlasting contempt.
Rise to be condemned.
The fiery lake of burning sulfur.
Lose our soul, which is the image of God.
My conclusion is that the Lake of Fire is like a great room with many compartments, perhaps depending on the type of person confined there. Hell is one of those compartments, since Hell is thrown into the Lake of Fire at the final resurrection. Does that seem to fit all the passages from your point of view?
The Lord Jesus said that at the resurrection everyonethose who have done good and those who have done evilwill rise. Those who have done good will rise to life. Those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
The massive error of our day is the teaching that by grace the evil will rise to live. I hope you and I are not caught in that trap.
Then each will be given a body that reveals the type of person he or she is.
Perhaps those of similar experience will be grouped together. People at the several levels of maturity in Christ will be in their various stations in the Land of Light; and the evil will be at their various stations in the Land of Darkness. The givers will be placed with the givers, and the takers will be placed with the takers.
The Heaven-Hell model has given rise to a destructive interpretation. It is that once we make a profession of belief in Jesus Christ we instantly and eternally are free from the possibility of experiencing any of these terrifying destinies.
If an evil genius set himself to devise an error that would totally frustrate God's intention under the new covenant, it is that upon once professing belief in Christ we eternally are spared banishment from God's Presence.
John 3:16 is preached as though once we profess belief in Christ we never can perish; we never can experience the dreadful destinies set forth in the Old and New Testaments as being the eternal home of the wicked, of those "who have done evil."
By adding our own ideas to what John 3:16 states, instead of adhering to the text, we have created a monstrous interpretationthat God is not concerned about changing our moral behavior, only our religious beliefs.
The harm that has been done to the Christian churches is incalculable! The Christian salvation is perceived as any of the several religions of the world that promise their adherents escape from punishment and a life of bliss after death.
If the prevailing "grace" error is added to this, we do not have even the righteous requirements of some of the other religions. What is being presented as the Christian salvation is not that at all. It is more like the ancient error, Gnosticism. The idea is that if you believe and profess certain doctrines, you are assured that you will have a mansion and walk on a golden street after you die. It is a kind of life insurance.
How did we ever get into such absurdities? I would say our enemy, Satan, is more clever than we have realized.
Satan's goal is to maintain the nations of the world as his playground. The current teaching of salvation enables him to do just that. Satan's kingdom is not disturbed by "Statements of Faith," no matter how accurate, but by someone who is living in close contact with the Lord Jesus.
Satan and his demons are well aware that the Fundamental "Statements of Faith" are correct. But Satan and his demons have no eternal life.
Now we come to the disaster when we change John 3:16 from having eternal life into going to Heaven when we die. It really is the same problem we have with changing shall not perish to not going to Hell when we die. We set forth an initial pronouncement of belief in Christ as an assurance that we never again can be threatened with eternal punishment but will live forever in peace and joy in Heaven.
It is not always pointed out that "perishing" and "eternal life" are related. To perish is to not be given eternal life. In the case of the people of the nations of the earth who are not of God's elect, they will be given to eat of of the Life of Christ if God judges them worthy to enter the new world of righteousness. Christ and his saints will be life-giving spirits who can give eternal life to the people of the nations as God directs.
If their behavior on the earth has been such that God does not judge them worthy of life on the new earth, in the new world of righteousness, they then have perished and will be sent to one of the locations mentioned above.
Eternal life often is preached as though it is a gift given to us, much as someone might give us a hundred dollars. It is not that at all. The verse used to support this concept is Romans 6:23.
In actuality, the preceding verses in Chapter Six, of which Verse 23 is the conclusion, is that if the believer, having been baptized in water, chooses to be a slave to righteous behavior, he will reap the fruit of holiness, the result of which is eternal life.
If he does not choose to be a slave to righteous behavior, he will die spiritually. This same warning is set forth in Romans 8:13.
The difference between this and the current interpretation is radical!
Romans 8:13 exhorts us to put to death through the Spirit the sinful actions of our body. Paul has told us that sin dwells in our flesh. Since the sins that dwell in us are not part of our physical body, we may view them as spiritual forces. Putting these forces to death means taking the fire and life out of them so we can resist them successfully.
It may be true that the sinful forces, now lifeless, remain in our flesh while we are living, for Paul says our body is dead because of sin while our inner nature is alive spiritually. I think part of our reward for living in victory is that in the Day of Resurrection when our body is resurrected, the sinful forces, now dead, will be removed and we will be clothed with a body of incorruptible eternal life.
The Book of Romans, Chapter Eight, Verses 1-14, explains that the eternal life, that is God's gift to us, is contingent on our choosing to turn away from the acts of our sinful nature. We always must obey the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God himself is the eternal Life spoken of in John 3:16. We are to obey the Spirit of God at all times throughout every day and throughout the part of the night that we are awake.
Satan's kingdom is not disturbed until a believer denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows the Lord Jesus at every waking moment. As the believer does this, his self-nature, his will, his life (these three all are the same aspect of his personality) is slain. The eternal Life of the Lord Jesus Christ enters him bit by bit. It is this Life that produces the eternal change into godly behavior. It is this Life of Jesus Christ formed in the believer that overcomes Satan.
It is true that eternal life includes immortality in the body. We see this as God expressed his concern when Adam and Eve were barred from the Tree of Life. But eternal life is more than immortality in the body. Eternal life must be distinguished from eternal consciousness. Perhaps the wicked who are eternally incarcerated have eternal consciousness.
But to possess eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. The only manner in which we can truly know the Father and the Son is internally. Christ must be formed in us. Then the Father and the Son come and dwell in that which has been formed in us. Then we do not perish because the Divine Life in our body is not perishable. It endures for eternity.
The life of flesh and blood is perishable. If this is the only life an individual possesses, having no Divine Life, he or she already is dead spiritually and is slowly dying physically. The Lord Jesus came that we might have Divine Life, and that Divine Life might raise up our physical body in the Day of Resurrection.
As I stated previously, if an individual who never has had an opportunity to acquire eternal life dies, and then is found worthy of eternal life when he or she is judged, he will be given to eat of Christ, of the Tree of Life, and permitted to enter the new, eternal world of righteousness. It certainly is true that the "sheep," those people who assisted the Lord's elect while they were being tested in the earth, will enter the Life of Christ. This is clear in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew.
Eternal life is not referring only to length of life. It is a kind of life, a quality of life. The eternal Life that is in the Lord Jesus Christ is Divine in Nature. It is righteousness, love, joy, peace, and every other fruit of the Spirit. It includes courage, faith, and other desirable traits.
Some of these traits are found from time to time in various individuals in their adamic states. But these adamic traits are not of eternal quality. They will fail if pressed hard enough. They are, you might say, a reflection of Christ who created the physical world. But those who are turning aside from their own life, accepting the crucifixion the Lord sends to them, are growing in the eternal Life of God. Nothing is more desirable than this!
It may be true that in some of the large, popular churches, the Gospel is preached as "all this and Heaven too." We are going to have a comfortable life now, and when we die we are going to live forever in a wonderful playland.
However, eternal life is more than bodily immortality. It is, as I said, a kind of life. In order to lay hold on it we have to forsake the ways of our fleshly personality. It is the Life of God, which is eternal in nature, not the preservation of our adamic life to eternity. A person who does not love God and Jesus and their ways of doing things would not be happy at all with the kind of everlasting life Christ is referring to in John 3:16.
The goal of the Apostle Paul is to attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when Christ comes. This resurrection is for those who have pursued Christ until they are eligible for and capable of receiving back their body, now filled with eternal Divine Life, when He returns.
The rest of the dead, including the Christian dead, except for those who attained to the first resurrection, as I understand the program at this time, will be raised at the final resurrection. Their escape from the Lake of Fire depends on what is written in the Books.
It may be helpful for the believer to understand that we possess eternal life in degrees, or increments. We have to lay hold on life. We have to grow in life. Every time we choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, choosing to do what is godly and right, we are fed with the body and blood of Christ in the spirit realm. The body and blood of Jesus Christ are our eternal life. It is these elements that will raise us to meet Christ at his appearing.
As the Apostle Paul taught us, those believers who are giving way to their sinful nature instead of devoting themselves to Christ each day, are sowing corruption and shall reap corruption in the Day of Christ. Their destiny shall be the outer darkness.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8NIV)
And to whom is the Apostle writing?
Paul, an apostlesent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the deadand all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: (Galatians 1:1,2NIV)
So we see the current teaching that eternal life is a gift that is handed to someone who makes the correct religious profession is not at all scriptural. The eternal life that the Lord Jesus Christ came to bring us is gained as we deny the desires of our sinful nature and cooperate with the Spirit of God in our daily behavior.
Perhaps in our determination to construct a religion out of what God intends to be a daily interaction with a living Lord Jesus, we have interpreted John 3:16 to mean that we are to make an initial profession of Christ and view Christ as our ticket to Heaven and our pass out of Hell. This concept is contrary to much of the text of the New Testament.
Would we gain a clearer understanding of the program of redemption if we did not view professing Christ as a ticket? What if we viewed believing in Christ as a continuing act? What if we conceived of our salvation as a daily battle against the death that is in the world spirit, the death that is in our sinful nature, the death that Satan himself is? Could this struggle be the "race" of which Paul spoke?
What if "whoever believes in him" means that as we keep believing in him, we keep passing from the death that surrounds us on every hand in this dark valley in which we are attempting to survive, into the bright shining of the Divine Life that the Lord Jesus Christ is? Would this change our preaching?
Certainly the passage from Galatians quoted above appears to lean toward the idea that eternal life is gained by sowing the right kind of seed. And I would suggest it is a continual sowing as each day we encounter the challenges of that day.
Could you agree with me that our salvation is something that must be worked out, and we are not finished working it out until God is pleased to remove us from this present world?
I think we who are Christian pastors, teachers, or evangelists, might care to read once again the sixth and eighth chapters of the Book of Romans, particularly Romans 8:1-14. Then we need to ask ourselves, "Does the current Christian teaching conform to these passages?"
It is my opinion that we are in sore need of a reformation of Christian thinking.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11NASB)