Author Archives: deorl

About deorl

Pastor of Lifewell Church. lifewellchurch.com

My Smile

I never smile with my teeth. At least, not on purpose. I have need for quite a bit of dental work, but have never been willing or able to invest the money. However, the most visible flaw that I seek to hide is a broken tooth, which I’ve had for 35 years. Today that will change. In a couple of hours I will finally have a crown put on that tooth.

I’ve related the story of my broken tooth to audiences when speaking about fighting and turning the other cheek. You see my tooth got knocked out by an employee of an Exxon gas station.

It was 1983 in Phoenix, Az, and I was on Christmas break from Baylor University. I purchased a 1970 yellow Chevelle Malibu to get around. One December evening I decided to go to Metrocenter Mall to see the movie Bladerunner. However, my Chevy was running rough. I figured the timing needed to be adjusted, so I pulled into a full-service Exxon gas station near the mall. The bay door of the garage was up with a big sign that said, “open.” I parked and asked the guy if he’d put a timing light on my car real quick. He said, “We’re closed.” I pointed out that the sign said open. He insisted. I walked away and muttered an obscenity under my breath.

I sat in the driver’s seat and proceeded to try staring my car. Next thing I know there’s the employee I’d asked, standing at my open window. He grabbed my face with a greasy hand and punched me with the other. I watched my tooth fly across into the passenger side of the car.I was shocked, injured, in an indefensible position and probably outnumbered, since I seem to remember seeing another guy walking up behind my attacker. So, I pulled away. Humiliated

I had to have emergency surgery on the tooth that night to disconnect the nerve. For 35 years I ‘ve lived with that broken tooth. It’s been a reminder of several things.

1) Watch your mouth. I haven’t always done so to this day. However, blurting out whatever you feel can get you hurt or in trouble. We have some politicians today that could stand to learn this lesson today.

2) Be mindful. Have 360 degree awareness of people and surroundings. It’s too easy to be distracted. Far more so now than in ’83 due to all of our little tech gadgets. There are bad people out there, and they will take advantage of those whom they perceive to be weaker than themselves.

3) Don’t allow a potential threat to approach me while sitting in the car with an open window. Keep the window up. Don’t roll it down to meet a confrontation. If I cannot drive off, I’ll get out of the car.

4) Turning the other cheek is costly. It’s humiliating to get hit and not hit back. My pride was more injured than my tooth. I wanted to return to the garage that night with some big friends and pay the guy back. I didn’t. Not fighting back bothered me for many years, even though I am a Christian who says he believes in the teaching of Jesus. However, this is the perfect example of what Jesus spoke about. I turn the other cheek in response to an offense, not an onslaught. This guy proved to be what I had called him under my breath, a jerk (I used a more offensive term), and he hit me and hurt me because I had offended him. It stopped there. He didn’t keep hitting me. His friend/co-worker didn’t hit me. I was permitted to leave. Self-defense was not necessary, except that I should have been aware of the threat and blocked a punch.

Thirty-five years is a long time to live with a broken tooth and an embarrassing smile. Hopefully, the need for a reminder to keep my mouth shut is over. After today I’ll smile a little more. In fact, I’m thinking of getting braces in the near future, so a mega-watt smile may be in the works.

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Laziness and Socialism

Notes on a study in 2 Thessalonians.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6–12, ESV)

Laziness is sin. There is a reason sloth was listed among the 7 deadly sins. Idleness promotes temptation. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Consider the bad example of King David in the Bathsheba incident. The good king committed adultery with a woman and had her husband killed. This all began after he failed to go out to battle with his army.

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel…. It happened late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.” (2 Sam. 11:1a, 2, ESV)

‘keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness”

Not only are you and I to avoid laziness, we are to avoid those who live this way. 

Paul offered himself and his companions as the example. The apostle had a practice of refusing gifts from a church during the time he was working to establish it. He often supported himself by working from working as a tentmaker. He exemplified hard work. Only when a church was self-sufficient and Paul had moved to the next mission field, would he accept it’s financial support. We discover this in the Corinthian letters (1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 11:8).

A possible reason for the problem of laziness in Thessalonica was the belief that Jesus’ return was imminent, and therefore there would be no reason to keep on working a job. Each one of us ought to live every day as though it were our last on earth, whether because we “always keep death in mind,” or because we have our “eyes to the sky” looking for the return of Christ. However, that doesn’t mean I retire and do nothing until the Lord returns.

God expects us to be busy with his work and with investing and remaining involved with our communities. Our situation is like the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. Heaven is our home and primary citizenship. We are exiles and dissidents here on earth. Our duty is to work for the prosperity and benefit of our city and community, to say nothing of the fact that we must make a living for ourselves and our families. 

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV)

Sadly, it is far more likely in our time that people are overly focused on this life and take little or no thought for the next. Even so, there is plenty of laziness among some, who want to live idle lives. These seek to “eat, drink and be merry” all the time, but have no desire to work for the means to purchase the food and drink. Some want to live the lifestyle of the idle rich. Here’s a question to test you: What would you do with your life if you won the lotto? With more money available, I would seek to grow this church and put together projects and investments to preach the Gospel. If I had more money available I would be busier than I am now, not building my petty kingdom, but extending God’s!

“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

Paul’s perspective was, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Does that sound harsh to you? The precept to learn is: each of us is responsible for providing for ourselves. The government doesn’t owe you a living. Jesus commands us to give to those who ask, but not to support laziness. If you won’t work, you need to feel the consequences of that. Missing a meal or two would serve only to help many. It seems a contradiction when we observe a person who refuses to work—usually with some excuse—who is obese. 

Everyone should be given an opportunity to be supported equitably for their work. Jesus said, “The worker is worthy of his wages” (Matt. 10:10). However, there should be no government or church welfare for those who will not contribute their labor to support themselves and contribute to their community. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had it right when he started the WPA program during the Great Depression. Many people were out of work, so the President gave them government jobs cleaning up roads and improving the nation’s infrastructure. My experience has been that many people who are on welfare and disability could be doing something, but don’t because they won’t. Their primary handicap is not physical but spiritual. They are lazy. They have convinced themselves that they are incapable of doing anything as justification for this sin. I believe the word “can’t” is the most destructive in a person’s vocabulary. Can’t often just times means won’t.

Socialism (and communism) sounds like it promotes justice. The reality is, socialism doesn’t work because there is no incentive for people to work hard, to produce, innovate, or create. A guaranteed job and income results in mediocrity at best. The following is a quote from Peter Hitchens, brother to the famed late atheist celebrity Christopher Hitchens. Peter is a journalist who spent a significant amount of time in the former United Soviet Socialist Republic.

“For the average citizen it was a life lived at a dismally low level materially, ethically and culturally. The Soviet Union may have been a great power, but it was a great power that had diverted its resources into the hands of the state.” (from Peter Hitchens, Rage Against God).

Let’s be clear, taking someone else’s hard earned income and giving it it to those who will not work is theft. Social welfare programs may be necessary to help those who verifiably cannot help themselves. However, any program that rewards laziness is not social justice: it is both unjust and destructive to a healthy thriving economy, as the current situation in Venezuela illustrates. 

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, ESV)

For doing good we must look to our reward in the next life, for often we may be without in this one. Let the Holy Spirit encourage you to continue doing good and glorifying God. Be satisfied with little, even during times when you have much. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim. 6:6-7)

“and have nothing to do with him that he may be ashamed”

Shun lazy, or immoral, or rebellious supposed Christians (see also Matt. 18:17, 2 Tim. 3:5, 1 Cor. 5:9, 2 Jn. 10). Paul even states we should not eat with such people (1 Cor. 5:11). 

“Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother”

We are not placing ourselves above and beyond those who are walking in sin. The purpose is to highlight their need to change. Be open and forgiving if the person repents or genuinely seeks help to change.

You Can Be Less Fat & More Fit

Fitness is more than how thin you are, but I believe a good start (probably the best place to begin) is with a change in your diet, which results in a leaner body. A lean body is better for many reasons: less prone to heart disease, increased longevity, avoidance of type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, joint problems and a host of other complications which result from hauling around too much body fat every day.

It’s not popular to say this, but neither is it a secret: many people are simply carrying too much body fat. Perhaps you are one of them. Notice, I didn’t say “too heavy.” It’s not about weight; it’s about body fat percentage. The average American carries between 28-40% body fat (and it may be worse today, since that stat is from a study done 15-20 years ago!). That is not healthy. Not at all.

One year ago my body fat was around 23% at a weight of just over 170 lbs. I’m around 71 inches tall. I wasn’t terribly unhealthy, but I was getting there gradually. You see, everything accumulates over time, whether fitness or fatness. In 2012 I had gotten down to 7% body fat, was lifting weights and running regularly. I felt great! Then I broke my clavicle doing incline presses and that slowed the weights down considerably. I was discouraged. I stopped running. My diet gradually got less healthy. I still went to the gym a couple of times per week, but my workouts weren’t enough to burn off the additional calories.

The difference over a five year span was a gain of 16% body fat, which translates to around 20 lbs on my frame. That’s an annual gain of a little over three percent fat, or a mere four pounds each year. Consider, if I had gone another decade I could have been carrying around the high average of 40% body fat. NO THANKS!

I took a look at myself in the mirror at 23% and didn’t like what I saw. I looked like a round, slightly lumpy snowman. I knew what I could look like when healthy and fit. I knew it was going to take some work to get back. It did! I’ve journaled about that process here, so you can look back at those blogs if you’d like. The picture I’ve included in this entry is a screenshot I took this morning from a body fat calculator on my mobile device. To use the app you still need body fat calipers, and, yes, you need to weigh yourself. Currently I weight around 145 and am carrying about 5.5% body fat. Did I mention I’m 56 years old…

If your sex is male, and you’re not an elite athlete, then you should aim for 10-15% body fat. If your sex is female and not competing in some sport, aim for 20-25%. If you need to be leaner for a sport (I am a martial arts instructor), then you may seek to go lower. However, men shouldn’t get below 4% or women below about 9%. You do need some body fat. I am keeping mine between 5-7% because I want to stay at that level of fitness to teach my karate’ class. That, and I like how I look and feel when I’m this lean.

So, what’s the secret? Did I do Keto? Count calories? Fasting? Run an hour a day? Overall friends, although it’s hard at first to apply the self-control, the concept is really very simple: you get fatter when you eat more, and you get thinner when you eat less. You also get fatter when you’re less active, while still eating the same, and you get leaner when you’re more active without increasing the amount you eat. Everything accumulates over time, fitness or fatness.

Duh? Well, why do we read so much disinformation when it comes to this? People want to believe, “You can eat whatever you want and lose the weight!” No, you can’t. Don’t buy it (metaphorically or literally). There are many paths to the goal of losing fat, and there are variables, but the truth is your body carries more fat when it doesn’t burn the excess (yes, I’m going to use a bad word here) CALORIES you’re consuming.

So, do you want to get fit? Start with your diet. You need to establish a healthy diet. If you want less fat, then you need to eat fewer calories. You need to cut out the sugar and starch. You need to schedule your eating.

Next, you need to move more. Find a form of exercise you will do regularly: walk, swim, bike, lift weights, get into an aerobics class, learn and practice a sport like basketball or an art like karate’ or yoga. Aim for 30-40 minutes of vigorous activity five or six days per week.

Do you want help? Coaching? I’m considering doing that for people in the near future, so stay tuned…

The Truth of God’s Word Does Not Change

The Word of God does not change because your culture does. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Heaven and earth will one day pass away, but the truth of Jesus’ words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35)

  1. Marriage is between one man and one woman and is intended to last throughout this lifetime (Matt. 19:4-6).
  2. You are born male or female and that is indicated in your physical sex. It doesn’t change because you seem to have feelings that you believe correspond to another gender (Matt. 19:4-6, 1 Cor. 7:17)
  3. The human being comes into existence at conception, and is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27, Psalm 139:13-16). 
  4. Human persons are special and sacred. Human beings are not animals and animals are not human. Human beings are created in God’s own image. Human life is sacred from conception to grave.
  5. “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, cf. 15:9) He doesn’t discriminate on the basis of citizenship, race, upbringing, sex or personal preferences. 
  6. Jesus will save anyone who comes to him in faith (John 3:16, 7:37, 1 Tim. 2:4-6, 2 Peter 3:9, Rev. 22:17).
  7. We are to treat one another the way each of us would want to be treated, not as we are being treated (Matt. 7:12). 
  8. We are to love our enemies, and this means political opponents and those who believe different religious doctrine, or philosophy. (Matt. 5:43-48)
  9. We are to be sexually pure. Pornography is wrong. Homosexual lust and activity is wrong (Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9). Adultery is wrong, even when it is only a fantasy (Matt. 5:27-30). Any sexual action outside of the sanctified union between man and wife is wrong. Always. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Matt. 5:27-30, Eph. 5:3-5)
  10. Selfishness and greed are wrong. Refusal to share with those in need is a rejection of Jesus himself. (Matt. 25:31-46, Eph. 3:5, James 2:14-17, 5:1-6)
  11. God hates a violence in people (Psalm 11:5), which includes violent entertainment, and the love of weapons. Those who live by violence may well die violently (Matt. 26:52)

American Freedom Revolution

Apropos for July 4th weekend.

deorl

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
-1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
-Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrasing Voltaire

“Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”
-John Leland, “A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia,” The Writings of the Later Elder John Leland…

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Apostasy and the Man of Sin

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, ESV)

The Rebellion

Literally, Apostasy or falling away. The Apostasy or Rebellion is a large scale turning away from God’s Law, and from faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

“Since the reference here is to a world-wide rebellion against divine authority at the end of the age, the ideas of political revolt and religious apostasy are combined.”  -FF Bruce (Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Thessalonians)

“This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future”   -Walvoord/Zuck (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

This is what we are seeing in the USA now, and what has been happening in the Christian lands of the West beginning in the 1700s. There is a great falling away from faith in Jesus Christ, which founded Western Civilization. We re primed for a strongman to take over and change times, laws, morals and values. Academia, the Entertainment Industry, the most powerful corporations, all have turned against Christianity in our time. The most alarming apostasy, however is in the church. Mainline denominations turned away from confidence in the Bible 50-100 years ago. Now those same nominally Christian organizations have turned toward the validation and celebration of sexual immorality and the culture of death (abortion industry). Increasingly they reject the miraculous, acts of Jesus, his resurrection, and even his deity. This last certainly marks them as apostate, not part of God’s chosen people. The essential confession of faith is: Jesus is Lord. Apart from that no one is saved.

Man of Lawlessness

This figure has a several names in the New Testament, two here: Man of Lawlessness (also translated Man of Sin) and Son of Destruction (also Son of Perdition). John calls this figure the Anti-Christ, and in Revelation The Beast. In Daniel, the Little Horn (7:8). Jesus quoted Daniel in calling this leader’s image the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15, cf Dan. 11:31, 36)

There are numerous examples of powerful political leaders who opposed the faithful up to this point and beyond.

Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.” (Daniel 11:31, ESV) This was Antiochus Epiphanes who abolished sacrifices, set up an altar to Zeus, offered pigs blood on it and punished those who circumcised their children.

Antiochus Ephiphanes may be the archetype, and we may read of him in the so called Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, which Roman Catholics and others accept, but which were rejected as canon by the Jews and by most Bible believing Christians.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals,  to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” (1 Maccabees 1:41-50)

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” (1 Maccabees 54-60)

 

Near the time of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica the Emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula was in power. He insisted that he be known as a god. Other emperors, beginning with Augustus were deified after death, but Caligula insisted on being worshiped. He decreed that a statue of him be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, but was assassinated in AD 41 before these orders could be carried out. This would certainly be fresh on the minds of Paul and his readers.

In both of these notorious leaders (Antiochus and Caligula) we find an initial fulfillment of the prophecy about the Abomination of Desolation in the temple (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). Evidently there will be a greater example, and a final fulfillment of this prophecy immediately prior to the return of Christ.

Next there was Nero, who persecuted and martyred Christians in Rome. Coating Christians with pitch and burning them to light his garden.

Then there was Domitian, who insisted on being referred to as “Dominus et Deus,” Lord and God.

The first empire-wide persecution occurred under Decius circa AD 250.

The worst persecution was the last under Diocletian circa AD 300.

Throughout history other anti-Christs like Hitler have murdered millions of Christians and/or Jews.

But none of these has been the ultimate and final fulfillment of Anti-Christ. That one is still to come.

Characteristics of the Anti-Christ to watch out for:

  1. Powerful world leader with absolute global authority (Revelation 13:1-10).
  2. Rejects Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah and God’s Son come in the flesh (1 Jn. 2:22, 3:2-3) 
  3. Exalts him/herself as God or a god, and will demand and receive worship from everyone (above Daniel 11:36, Revelation 13:8).
  4. Opposes the Bible’s revelation of right and wrong.
  5. Changes the calendar and the law to reflect rejection of Christian and Jewish faith (Daniel 7:25)
  6. His image will be set up in the Temple (Daniel 11:31). I believe that this will be his demand for ultimate allegiance from everyone, which amounts to setting up his image in the hearts of people. We see examples of this in Communist N. Korea today, ie Dear Leader Kim Young Un.
  7. He will even be given authority to make war and successfully conquer God’s people for a short time (Rev. 13:7)

Time, Eternity and Hell

Time permits change to occur.

“Time is a friend to no man.”

Ever feel like time is getting away from you, as if you haven’t accomplished what you thought you would by now?

“How did it get so late so soon?

It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June.

My goodness how the time has flewn. (sic)

How did it get so late so soon?

Dr. Seuss

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:

I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of goodwill. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

 (Letters from the Birmingham Jail)

How well do you use time? Are you trapped in the past? Are you waiting for the future? Do you make the most of the time you have today? The greatest thing you can do with the time you have is to change and become more like the person God created you to be. That means become like Christ.

As long as you have breath, you have time to change. It’s not too late. So, perhaps time is a friend to all who will take it seriously.

You and I fail. We make mistakes. We fall short of God’s glory and plan for our lives. However, we are creatures who live in time. In time everything changes constantly, which allows you and I to change too! Now, I don’t pretend to know what eternity will be like, whether there will be any perception of time at all is in question. However, it is difficult to consider how change could occur outside of time.

God is timeless, and God is unchanging. One of the primary attributes of the Self-Existent God is explained with the the Hebrew word aman, (the word Amen is related). It means true, reliable, permanent, and may also mean “believe” God is to be believed because he is trustworthy, faithful and true. 

Human beings are constantly changing because we are subject to time like everything in the created world. Heraclitus, a 5th Century BC Greek philosopher, famously said, “You cannot put your foot in the same river twice.” By this he meant that the current of the river is constantly moving, and everything is changing from moment to moment: water, mud, plants, fish. It is only by virtue of our capacity to perceive and think that we see things as stable. Again, Heraclitus stated that everything changes according to a process, plan or pattern, which he called “Logos”. 

Jesus is called the logos in John’s Gospel (see 1:1-5). Logos is the Greek term for “word”. The world moves according to God’s Word. There is an underlying plan, and Jesus Christ is the eternal embodiment of God’s thought and plan. You and I are changing, but we must choose to change according to the Lord’s plan.

If God had left Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they rebelled against him, the Lord would still have removed his presence, and the Garden would have become less and less a paradise, until it became as it has become, like the rest of earth. If Adam and Eve had been permitted to eat from the tree of Life after they had eaten from the forbidden tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. the result would have been that they, and we, would be petrified in a state of rebellion and separation from God forever.

Eternal Death

Imagine eternal existence apart from God, an unending experience of death. Some theologians hold that every human is in some way immortal and will live for eternity, either with God in heaven, or apart from God in hell. Each person will decide where the reside depending upon whether they choose to believe in and follow Christ, or reject him and follow their own self-will.

Only God Possesses Immortality

I am in agreement with other theologians and Bible interpreters who understand that human beings are inherently mortal. In fact, God alone possesses immortality as an intrinsic attribute of this being. 

“Now to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17 & 6:16, ESV)

Death As Curse and Grace

By sending Adam and Eve out of Paradise and blocking the way to the Tree of Life with a flaming sword, the Lord provides us with a symbol of what fallen humanity lost, and an understanding that death is not merely another kind of life. Death is a curse, and it is a grace, an opportunity. If death is what we see, an end to this life, then there is also an end to sin, suffering and evil. Death is both a curse and a blessing because it means an end to the old fallen life, to corruption and sin and evil. To be sure, everyone will be judged for what they have and have not done in this life, and after a just penalty for sin is paid, an end to existence. 

Athanasius on Return to Non-existence 

“For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again….  but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption.”

Destruction Means Annihilation

So, what about judgment and hell then? Are we making the case that non-believers merely die and that ends it? The Bible doesn’t support such an idea. Jesus taught that all of the dead will be raised: some to life, others to hell. 

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28–29, ESV)

Justice will be done. The unbelieving will pay the penalty for their own sin, but that is all. No eternal life in torment.

Eternal Life Is a Gift from God

God offers the gift of eternal life to everyone who will believe in Jesus Christ and receive it. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Death presents an opportunity because it ends the old, making way for the new. “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Eternal life comes from God alone, through Christ. “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9–10)

You and I are not naturally immortal. However, when we believe in Jesus and keep his word we will transition from this life to the next without perceiving the horror of death. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death” (Romans 8:51). We have no reason to fear because Jesus defeated the devil, who had the power of death. 

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14–15, NIV)

John Stott on Hell

Why would God will to sustain the existence of those who reject him? Does this really bring him glory? I do not believe so. I fervently hope not. I am not alone. There is biblical evidence in support of the belief that the condemned will be ultimately destroyed, their existence blotted out forever. Revered theologian and Bible interpreter John RW Stott stated it this way.

“But will the final destiny of the impenitent be eternal conscious torment, ‘for ever and ever’, or will it be the total annihilation of their being?

… in order to answer this question, we need to survey the biblical material afresh and open our minds (not just our hearts) to the possibility that Scripture points in the direction of annihilation, and that ‘eternal conscious torment’ is a tradition which has to yield to the supreme authority of Scripture… If to kill is to deprive the body of life, hell would seem to be the deprivation of both physical and spiritual life, that is, an extinction of being… It cannot, I think, be replied that it is impossible to destroy human beings because they are immortal, for immortality—and therefore indestructibility—of the soul is a Greek not a biblical concept. According to Scripture only God possesses immortality himself (1 Tim. 1:17, 6:16); he reveals and gives it to us through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10)…

I do not dogmatise about the position to which I have come. I hold it tentatively… the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.”

Justice Requires an End

It is because I believe that eternal life is a gift not a right or an inherent part of human nature that I agree with Stott and others, like Edward Fudge who has made the point in a more dogmatic fashion. God alone is immortal. God cast Adam and Eve from the Garden to prevent eternal existence apart from him. The curse of death is the end of the life of rebellion. God is just. He will judge and repay those who reject his offer of forgiveness in Christ, exactly as their sins deserve, not more. Stott says, “I question whether ‘eternal conscious torment’ is compatible with the biblical revelation of divine justice,” and I would agree. In fact, I would add that it is antithetical to the nature of God as love.

Haven’t you ever considered how unjust it is to burn someone forever and ever in an indestructible body who has simply lived the typical self-centered life full of petty lusts, lies, cursing and anger? Haven’t you ever questioned the preacher who loudly proclaimed that a little white lie is the same as murder to God? Ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, even the most innocuous venal sins may be cause for someone to be separated from God, but that is because of the overriding sin of selfish pride that stands behind petty sins. Every sin is motivated by rebellion, unbelief, or  idolatry. The liar, and all the rest who proudly refuse to repent, will indeed be in hell. 

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 20:8). 

God is just. He is the one who laid down that punishment should be “eye for eye and tooth for tooth,” which is actually a limitation to the punishment that may be imposed for a crime. 

There is a human tendency to “pay them back and then some.” We think, “I’ll teach him to mess with me!” The result is the kind of injustice and foolishness in our culture and our courts today. Someone who is caught with a pound of marijuana may be serving the same sentence as those who have committed rape, armed robbery or murder. Our culture is ruled by adolescent emotionalism. Offending someone often results in gross overreaction. Someone cuts another person off in traffic and a road rage incident results in severe injury or murder. A baseball player flips his bat in one game and is beaned by a pitcher in another game; the same player repays the injury by sliding into an unrelated player, who repays him with a punch in the jaw. 

<Isaiah’s prophecy to his people might well apply to us today.

Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.” (Isaiah 3:12, NIV)>

In Deuteronomy the Law prohibited degrading or shaming someone with excessive punishment. 

“then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.” 

(Deuteronomy 25:2–3, ESV)

Jesus himself taught that in judgment people will be punished commensurate with their crimes. Additionally, the more truth a person knows, the more accountable they are to God.

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

James warned: “Let not many of you become teachers, for we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

God is not like human beings. 

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

God is just. God is love. Trust God to do what is right.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18, NIV)

This Is Our Time to Change

You do not get to go where you want or do whatever you want after death. You don’t get into heaven on your own terms. Those who go to hell aren’t going to a party with all of their drinking buddies.

We have this time on earth to decide to follow God or not. This is our time for change. Between now and the day of death, I have choices and changes to make. Time allows that to happen in a way eternity may not. The situation in which we find ourselves allows for mistakes to be made and grants us opportunity to recover from them. We may make a choice, then change our minds, which makes what the Bible calls repentance possible. Because of Christ we live in an economy of grace. God offers forgiveness for bad choices if we admit to being wrong. Thus, God allows us to repent of (turn away from) all our rebellion, and overcome all of our self-centeredness and unbelief before we face Him in judgment.

“He who conceals his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:19).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God Is Faithful and Just to Forgive

Please note, “God is faithful and just to forgive us”; that is not true because we deserve forgiveness, but because the Son of God received the just punishment our sins deserve when he suffered and died on the cross. God is faithful to his promise to save anyone who will call out to Jesus. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).  When I receive Christ, I receive his righteous life. God looks at me as though I had never sinned. 

“He who knew no sin became our sin that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

“For Christ died for sins, once for all, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us back to God, having been put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18, NASB). 

Robed In Righteousness 

Those who believe and receive this good news also receive the Holy Spirit. They are cleansed by Christ’s blood and robed in his righteousness. 

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10, NIV)

Restored to the Tree of Life

The result is, they are granted access once again to the Tree of Life. 

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14, NIV)

If we know Christ, death is a grace because it brings an end to this life of separation. If we do not, then it is the curse God promised it would be, permanently separating us from his presence and from eternal life.

Will You Change?

You live in the dimension of time, which permits you to change. Will you choose to do so? Change your thinking; change your ways. Put your faith completely in Jesus Christ and obey his teaching. Prepare now for eternal life with God in heaven. Do it while you still have time.

Trust no future, howe’er pleasant!

  Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act, act in the living present!

  Heart within, and God o’erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us

  We can make our lives sublime,

And departing, leave behind us

  Footprints on the sands of time.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (A Psalm of Life)