The Afterlife en What Happens When You Die? <span>What Happens When You Die?</span> <div class="field field--name-field-title field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">What Happens When You Die?</div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">4uwzvo</span></span> <span>Thu, 04/21/2022 - 19:04</span> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-author field--type-list-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">Richard F. Ames</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Media</div> <div class="field__item"><div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden"><a href="">Image</a></div> <div class="field__item"> <a href=""><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/2022-04/wyd_cover_image.jpg?itok=WzBE00bi" alt="cemetery" loading="lazy" typeof="Image" /></a> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tag field--type-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">#Afterlife</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-teaser field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Is death the end of human existence? Will you be reincarnated? Will you “roll around heaven all day” with nothing to do for eternity? The amazing, encouraging truth of the matter is unknown to most people, yet it is found in the pages of your Bible! God has a plan for all of humanity—and a very special reward in store for today’s true Christians! What happens when we die, according to the Bible?</div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><h2>CHAPTER 1<br /> HEIRS TO A PROMISE</h2> <p>You may have seen polls that ask people about their greatest fears. One famous poll found that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. That may seem humorous to us when we are young and healthy, and indeed public speaking is a challenge for which many are unprepared. Few of us, however, would <em>really </em>rather die than speak in public. We probably know what will happen when we finish a speech, but how many people really know what will happen when they die?</p> <p>Will death bring a permanent end to our brief existence? Many people cannot bear the idea of <em>not existing</em>. Instead of living active, vibrant lives, these people waste their time fearing their eventual loss of life. Some, like noted futurist Ray Kurzweil, hope that we are nearing a time when human beings may overcome their biological limitations and “upload” themselves into machines that will “live” forever. A few at the other extreme take measures to preserve their dead bodies through techniques such as cryopreservation—deep-freezing their bodies—in the hope that science may one day be able to restore life to their lifeless flesh and bones.</p> <p>But is the extension of our present lives really the answer to our problems? How many lives are tormented by pain, regret, sadness, loneliness, and heartache? When we read the Bible’s accounts of the lives of the earliest human beings, we see that they lived for many centuries. Adam lived for 930 years; Seth, his son, lived for 912 years; Enosh lived for 905 years; Cainan for 910 years; Mahalaleel for 895 years; his son Jered for 962 years; his grandson Methuselah for 969 years. Did their long lives bring them contentment? Did they live in a world filled with peace and prosperity? <em>No!</em> “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (<a href="">Genesis 6:5–6</a>).</p> <p>No, a longer life doesn’t necessarily mean a fulfilling, purposeful life. And, despite humanity’s best efforts to create eternal life in the flesh, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (<a href="">Hebrews 9:27</a>). Death truly is an enemy of mankind (<a href="">1 Corinthians 15:26</a>) and is truly inevitable: It has come to everyone who has ever lived. Americans may remember the famous quip by founding father Benjamin Franklin: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” A few may have escaped taxes, but death is the one experience common to all.</p> <h3>WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH?</h3> <p>So, what will happen to each of us when death inevitably comes? In the Western world, a majority—albeit a shrinking one—still holds “mainstream” or traditional views about heaven and hell. The Pew Research Center reported in 2015 that 72 percent of Americans believed in heaven, defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded” (“Most Americans believe in heaven and hell,” <em>Pew FacTank</em>, November 10, 2015). Interestingly, just 58 percent expressed belief in a hell “where people who have lived bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.”</p> <p>Or, will death simply mean rebirth in another body? Year after year, pollster George Barna has found that Eastern religious concepts are gaining popularity in America. A few years ago, 18 percent of those surveyed told Barna that they believe in some kind of reincarnation. Some believe that the soul may come back as a human being, or maybe as an animal, depending on our conduct during this life, and that we will only end the cycle of reincarnation when by our own strenuous efforts we achieve perfection. Some describe this perfection as the complete loss of selfhood. Others expect to spend eternity in heaven with one deity or another, or perhaps gazing at a “beatific vision” of God, rapt in eternal worship with no particular work to do, forever and ever.</p> <p>Others say that we live just once, and that if we fail to worship the correct deity, we will spend eternity being tortured by the flames of an ever-burning hellfire. They say that if you happen to be born in a time or place where you never heard of the correct deity, you are predestined for hell. This seems unjust and turns off many who are sincerely seeking to understand.</p> <h3>YOU NEED THE TRUTH!</h3> <p>Is there any way we can know with certainty the truth of what happens when a person dies? The good news is that we <em>can</em> know the truth, and that we can prove it from a source that has proved to be uniquely trustworthy: your Bible! So, what does the Bible say happens when you die?</p> <p>The truth is that those who truly follow Jesus Christ are heirs to a wonderful promise—a promise we shall inherit when we are resurrected from the dead. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (<a href="">Galatians 3:29</a>). The Apostle Peter describes our reward as “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away” (<a href="">1 Peter 1:4</a>). Notice that this reward is an inheritance that is being kept for today’s Christians. We are heirs, not yet inheritors, of a wonderful promise (<a href="">Romans 8:14–17</a>). What is that promise that we are destined to inherit? It is something of such wonder that humanity has not yet experienced anything like it, nor can begin to comprehend that wonder without God’s help. As Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (<a href="">1 Corinthians 2:9</a>). Read on to learn more about this astounding promise and what it will mean for you!</p> <h2>CHAPTER 2<br /> ETERNAL LIFE: A GIFT</h2> <p>Many Bible students are familiar with this very encouraging verse: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (<a href="">Romans 6:23</a>). But how many truly understand what this verse means?</p> <p>As imperfect human beings, we commit sins and then we repent. We understand that God has not killed us “on the spot” because of our sins. Even those unrepentant sinners living carnal and dissolute lives have not yet received the full wages of their sins. We understand that sinners will earn their full wage <strong>after</strong> this lifetime.</p> <p>But what exactly <em>is</em> that wage? Notice that the above scripture does <strong><em>not</em></strong> state, “The wages of sin is immortal life in hellfire.” The wages of sin isn’t any sort of immortal life; it is death—the <em>absence</em> of life. Why then do so many picture the “wages of sin” as being <em>eternal life in torment?</em> Living forever—available only as “the gift of God” according to this same verse—is the very <em>opposite</em> of “death.”</p> <h3>IS THE SOUL IMMORTAL?</h3> <p>The reason many professing Christians do not believe the plain words of God is the common and inaccurate teaching that everyone has an “immortal soul” that will never die—an immortal soul that will live forever, either in the torment of “hell” or the joys of “heaven.” But think: If we <em>already have</em> immortality, we don’t need to receive it as a gift from God!</p> <p>Yes, as strange as this may seem to those of us who grew up hearing only the unbiblical assumptions of mainstream “Christianity,” the truth is that until we have “put on” immortality (<a href="">1 Corinthians 15:52–53</a>) through God’s gift at the resurrection, a soul can <em>die!</em> The prophet Ezekiel made this clear when he wrote, “The soul who sins shall die” (<a href="">Ezekiel 18:4</a>, <a href="">20</a>). The Hebrew word for “soul” is <em>nephesh,</em> which refers to <em>physical</em> life; it is the same word used to describe <em>animal life</em> in <a href="">Genesis 1:21</a>.</p> <p>“But that’s in the Old Testament,” you may be thinking. “What does the New Testament say about the soul?” You may be surprised to learn that Jesus’ teaching was the same: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both <strong><em>soul</em></strong> [Greek <em>psuche</em>, “life”] and body in hell [<em>gehenna</em> fire]” (<a href="">Matthew 10:28</a>). Do you believe your Bible? Do you believe what Jesus said? God is able to <strong><em>destroy</em></strong> both soul and body in “hell”—<em>gehenna</em> fire. Instead of describing the soul as “immortal,” Jesus Christ says plainly that the souls of the wicked will be <em>destroyed</em> along with their bodies!</p> <p>The Bible does teach that there is a human <em>spirit</em>—the spirit in man (<a href="">1 Corinthians 2:11</a>; <a href="">Job 32:8</a>, <a href="">18</a>) that works in conjunction with the brain and empowers the remarkable human intellect. Although this spirit is collected by God upon our deaths (<a href="">Ecclesiastes 3:21</a>), surely containing the record of all we’ve ever known and experienced for God’s future use (as we will see!), Scripture is clear that there is <em>no consciousness</em> after death! The dead do not praise God (<a href="">Psalm 115:17</a>), they do not thank God, nor even think of Him at all (<a href="">Psalm 6:5</a>)—in fact, they “know <em>nothing</em>” (<a href="">Ecclesiastes 9:5</a>)! The soul is, indeed, <em>mortal</em> and until a future resurrection, the dead are plainly that: dead. The popular teaching of the conscious, immortal soul is simply a fallacy, contradicted by multiple statements in your Bible!</p> <h3>MISUNDERSTANDING “PARADISE”</h3> <p>Yet, many people mistakenly believe that they will immediately go to heaven when they die in the faith—that there is no need for a future resurrection for them to be with God. Where do they get that idea? Some base their misunderstanding on an incorrect reading of Jesus’ words to the thief crucified alongside Him: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’” (<a href="">Luke 23:43</a>). Many do not realize that based on the actual Greek text, which has no commas, the word “today” should be with the previous clause of the sentence: “I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Yes, the thief <strong><em>will</em></strong> be with Christ in Paradise. But when? What is Paradise? And where is it?</p> <p>Scripture says that Paul was “caught up into paradise” in a vision (<a href="">2 Corinthians 12:4</a>) and tells us that the tree of life is in Paradise (<a href="">Revelation 2:7</a>). It also tells us that the tree of life is in the New Jerusalem, which Christ says will be coming <em>out</em> of heaven <em>to</em> the earth once its preparation is complete (<a href="">Revelation 3:12</a>; <a href="">21:2</a>; <a href="">22:2</a>). Yet, the New Jerusalem will not be ready until <em>after</em> the saints have reigned on earth for one thousand years, at the conclusion of God’s plan (Revelation 20–22). Paradise is awaiting a future revelation and arrival on earth! The thief, just as Christ promised, will be with Him in Paradise after he is resurrected—but that time is a <em>future</em> time, yet to come.</p> <p>Furthermore, even Christ <em>Himself</em> was not in Paradise—nor did He enter it—on the day when He made that promise! Jesus died, and He then spent three days and three nights unconscious, in the tomb—not in Paradise! Christ was not conscious again until God the Father resurrected Him to life on the third day, in fulfillment of Scripture (<a href="">Matthew 12:40</a>)!</p> <p>The gospel of John confirms the truth that souls do not go to heaven when they die. As the Apostle John wrote, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (<a href="">John 3:13</a>). As the Logos, Christ’s abode had been in heaven before He came to planet Earth as the incarnate Word, Jesus.</p> <p>Although countless patriarchs had lived and died before the Apostle penned those words, only the one divine Personage now known as Jesus Christ had descended <strong><em>from</em></strong> and ascended <strong><em>to</em></strong> heaven! When Peter gave his first sermon, weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he could state plainly, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.… For David did not ascend into the heavens” (<a href="">Acts 2:29</a>, <a href="">34</a>). David is dead in the grave, unconscious, awaiting the resurrection—as are all the other faithful saints!</p> <p>Jesus and His Apostles taught what the Old Testament taught about death. In the book of Ecclesiastes, we read, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten” (<a href="">Ecclesiastes 9:5</a>). What does it mean that they “have no more reward”? We know from Scripture that human beings will receive eternal reward or punishment. What this scripture is telling us is that death isn’t some different kind of conscious state. When we are dead, we “know nothing”—just as if we were in a deep and dreamless sleep.</p> <p>The Apostle Paul confirmed this when he wrote to those in Thessalonica:</p> <blockquote> <p>But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep (<a href="">1 Thessalonians 4:13–15</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>Paul’s words are clear: The dead are dead, but we have a hope for them—that God will bring them back. That hope is not rooted in unbiblical ideas of conscious existence that continues past death—rather, our hope mirrors that of the Apostle Paul, “that there will be a resurrection of the dead” (<a href="">Acts 24:15</a>)! Yes, God will, at the resurrection, <strong><em>give</em></strong> those who died in the faith eternal life—something we do not have as human beings.</p> <h3>IS GOD FAIR?</h3> <p>The above scriptures should make it exceedingly clear that those who are now dead are actually dead—they are not conscious, immortal souls waiting to be put back into human bodies. But who <strong><em>will</em></strong> receive eternal life? The vast majority of people who have lived and died never even heard the name of Jesus Christ. Other billions have heard only a false gospel about a false Christ. Only a relative few have had the opportunity to hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and to act on what they have heard. And yet Scripture tells us that we cannot receive salvation without Jesus Christ: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (<a href="">Acts 4:12</a>). Does this mean that God is arbitrary or unfair?</p> <p>Some religious thinkers, like the Protestant reformer John Calvin, have taught that God created billions of souls whom He knowingly predestined to suffer in hell for eternity. Others say that God wants to save all souls, but that it is up to Christians to reach the world with His message—and, if they fail, the souls who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ will spend eternity being tormented in hell.</p> <p>The Bible, however, assures us that God is just, merciful, and fair. We have seen that the Bible teaches that a dead person remains dead until the resurrection. Both Paul and Jesus referred to death as a “sleep,” and one who is dead has no consciousness—remaining in the grave until he is raised from the dead. Consider Jesus’ words: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (<a href="">John 5:28–29</a>). Other translations use the word “judgment” instead of “condemnation.”</p> <p>Yes, without a resurrection, the soul would be dead forever. Our hope is not on a fictitious eternity in heaven as some disembodied soul, but in a future resurrection to life. Read on to learn what that resurrection—actually, those <em>resurrections</em>—will mean to you and your loved ones!</p> <h2>CHAPTER 3<br /> THREE RESURRECTIONS</h2> <p>Near the end of His first coming, Jesus Christ told His disciples, “I will no longer talk much with you, for <em>the ruler of this world</em> is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (<a href="">John 14:30</a>). The Apostle John told the Christians of his day, “We know that we are of God, and the <em>whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one</em>” (<a href="">1 John 5:19</a>). And Paul wrote, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds <em>the god of this age</em> has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (<a href="">2 Corinthians 4:3–4</a>).</p> <p>Paul calls Satan the “god of this age” because of his immense power and influence, and God allows this for His purpose. In Revelation, the Apostle John calls Satan a deceiver who “deceives the whole world” (<a href="">Revelation 12:9</a>).</p> <h3>A BLINDED WORLD</h3> <p>Were the Apostles making this up? Was Christ exaggerating? Of course not! But if the Bible declares unambiguously that Satan is the ruler of this age and that the <em>whole world</em> is deceived—yet with nearly one-third of the world’s population professing some form of “Christianity”—what does this mean for Christians? The implications are clear. As shocking as this may seem, the <strong><em>vast</em></strong> majority of people who have lived and died in the nearly 6,000 years since Adam have been blinded—unable to understand and live by the true Gospel message that Jesus Christ brought! And that blinded mass of humanity includes the vast majority of those who call themselves “Christian” today!</p> <p>Is this something we can “fix” by ourselves, apart from God’s help? No! For the faith and understanding that lead to salvation, we need the help of God’s Spirit. Paul explains: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (<a href="">1 Corinthians 2:14</a>).</p> <p>The amazing truth is that God is opening the minds of relatively few in this present age. Jesus tells His disciples plainly, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” and that “no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (<a href="">John 6:44</a>, <a href="">65</a>). Peter explains that, in this age, salvation is only extended to “as many as the Lord our God will call” (<a href="">Acts 2:39</a>), and Paul reveals that only a few are being called by God in this life while others are not, according to God’s overall plan and timing (<a href="">1 Corinthians 1:26–29</a>; <a href="">Romans 11:7–8</a>, <a href="">32</a>).</p> <p>Does this surprise you? Think! If the all-good and all-powerful God really wanted to save everyone in this present age, wouldn’t He be able to do so? Even Jesus Christ, at the end of His three-and-a-half-year ministry, had just 120 disciples (<a href="">Acts 1:15</a>). Jesus spoke to the masses, but as He explained, “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (<a href="">Matthew 13:13</a>). Jesus did not speak in parables to make His message <em>clearer</em> to the crowds. Rather, He used parables so that only His chosen <em>few</em> would understand: “And He said to them, ‘To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that “Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them”’” (<a href="">Mark 4:11–12</a>).</p> <p>This truth of the Bible directly contradicts what most of us were taught by mainstream “Christianity”—that Jesus spoke in parables “so everyone would understand.” In fact, the exact opposite is true! Jesus spoke in parables so the general public would <strong><em>not</em></strong> understand! Jesus was not trying to convert the world at that time! He knew that God was calling only a select few believers in this present age, as part of a far larger plan. One of God’s names in Hebrew is <em>El Shaddai</em>—God Almighty. Nothing could stop the Almighty God from converting the whole world <strong><em>right now</em></strong>, if that were His real intention!</p> <p>This is not speculation; even secular historians have acknowledged the historical truth of what the earliest Church members believed and taught about the fact that God has planned different resurrections for different times and different portions of humanity. In <em>The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, </em>noted historian Edward Gibbon wrote the following:</p> <blockquote> <p>The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the Second Coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the Prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy it was inferred that this long period of labour and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death, or who had been miraculously revived, would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection (chap. 15, sec. 2).</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, as Gibbon points out, the first-century Church—the apostolic Church—understood that the saints would first be raised to rule with Christ for a thousand years, preceding a “general resurrection.”</p> <h3>THEY ARE NOT LOST FOREVER!</h3> <p>What does this mean for the billions who lived and died without ever hearing the message of Jesus Christ? Scripture teaches plainly that we cannot receive salvation without Him: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (<a href="">Acts 4:12</a>). How can we reconcile Peter’s plain words with the truth of a loving and just God? Notice what Jesus Christ said to the people of Capernaum who rejected His message: “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (<a href="">Matthew 11:23–24</a>).</p> <p>God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Genesis 19). Yet Jesus Christ said it will be “more tolerable” for Sodom in the day of judgment than for Capernaum. How can that be? Christ said that if Sodom had seen His works, its people would have repented, and God would have spared that wicked and perverse city. If we believe that God is <em>fair</em>, and if we believe Jesus when He says that these people definitely would have repented if they had the same opportunity as His audience did, then we should believe that they will be given that opportunity. But how can this be?</p> <h3>MORE THAN ONE RESURRECTION!</h3> <p>As we will see, God’s word describes <em>multiple resurrections</em>, not just one! Notice how your Bible describes the first group of people resurrected—those who are raised to life when Jesus Christ returns:</p> <blockquote> <p>And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (<a href="">Revelation 20:4–6</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>This <em>first</em> resurrection will include “those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God” (v. 4). These saints included in the first resurrection will be raised to immortality and will reign with Jesus Christ for a thousand years—the time we call the <em>Millennium</em>, which means “one thousand years” (v. 4). These are among the ones Paul referred to in <a href="">1 Thessalonians 4:16</a>, when he said, “the dead in Christ will rise first.”</p> <p>But notice! If there is a “first” resurrection (<a href="">Revelation 20:5</a>), there must be a <em>second</em> resurrection. Indeed, the same verse says that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” (In fact, Scripture also describes a third resurrection, as we shall see.) Elsewhere, Scripture calls this <em>first</em> resurrection a “better resurrection” (<a href="">Hebrews 11:35</a>) compared to the resurrections that follow it. Why? Faithful Christians of our present age who take part in that first resurrection will be born into the Kingdom of God as immortalized, glorified children of God. We will inherit the earth, and rule with Christ on this earth for a thousand years, as kings and priests (<a href="">Revelation 5:10</a>). During the Millennium, Satan will be bound and unable to influence humanity (<a href="">Revelation 20:2</a>). Those whom God is calling <em>today</em> must overcome Satan’s influence—something those in the Millennium won’t need to contend against until Satan is again released at the very end. Unlike today, when only a relative few are called, in the Millennium, all will know and be able to live God’s way (<a href="">Isaiah 11:9</a>). This thousand-year period of peace, prosperity, and spiritual abundance will prepare the earth for the next dramatic step in God’s plan for mankind!</p> <p><a href="">Revelation 20:5</a> tells us that, after the Millennium is complete, the “rest of the dead” will be restored to physical life. You can read a description of that time in Ezekiel 37, which makes plain that this <em>second</em> resurrection is to lives of flesh and bone—not immortal glory, as in the first resurrection. Who are the “rest of the dead”? They are the masses of humanity who never embraced true Christianity. They include, for example, the peoples of Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, and Gomorrah, whom Christ said will receive favor and tolerance, upon repentance, at their time of judgment—that “day of judgment” we read of earlier, mentioned by Jesus in <a href="">Matthew 11:24</a>. They include even the peoples of Israel whom God spiritually blinded (<a href="">Romans 11:25</a>). Indeed, the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived will be resurrected for this period of judgment. They will not be raised as spirit beings like those in the first resurrection, but as physical beings such as Jesus' friend Lazarus was when Christ raised him from the dead (<a href="">John 11:43–44</a>), exactly as described in Ezekiel 37.</p> <h3>THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT</h3> <p>In this remarkable time after the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ and His glorified saints, billions of human beings who were previously spiritually blinded will finally learn from the pain of the past, and God will give them the opportunity to truly repent, believe the Gospel, and eventually inherit the Kingdom of God. As Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (<a href="">2 Peter 3:9</a>).</p> <p>Notice in <a href="">Revelation 20:11–12</a> the description of the time when “the rest of the dead” are raised to physical life:</p> <blockquote> <p>Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Greek word for “books” in verse 12 is <em>biblia</em>. Yes, after the second resurrection, the “books”—the Bible—will for the very first time be opened to the understanding of the billions of human beings who lived and died before the Millennium without hearing and understanding the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. During this Great White Throne Judgment period, billions will have their <em>first</em> real opportunity to learn the truth. And they will have one special benefit we do not have today, as they will be able to remember the results of mankind living its own way in this present age and compare it against the reality of the better world around them, ruled by Jesus Christ. They will look back on today’s modern civilization and see what many today do not: that our system or society is not the one that the Creator God established. Rather, God has given human civilization 6,000 years, under the sway of Satan, to go its <em>own</em> way, to try out its <em>own</em> ideas, and to learn hard lessons through human suffering.</p> <p>Does God want His creation to suffer? Is He not a God of mercy as well as justice? Would He not create a plan capable of reaching all those who have ever lived, leaving none without hope and the opportunity to choose? In these two resurrections, we see God’s mercy, justice, and fairness on glorious display. If you would like more information on this remarkable second resurrection, consider requesting our free booklet <em>Is This the Only Day of Salvation?</em> You can contact any of our regional offices using the information listed at the end of this booklet to obtain your own free copy.</p> <p>Not only do many misunderstand God’s plan to reveal His truth to the world and to reward the saved, however—many also misunderstand His plan to punish those who reject salvation. Read on for the reassuring, encouraging, and inspiring truth about the true nature of the just punishment awaiting those incorrigibly wicked people who knowingly refuse God’s great gift of salvation!</p> <h2>CHAPTER 4<br /> PUNISHMENT OR PUNISHING?</h2> <p>Sadly, throughout history, there are those who have accurately understood God’s grace and salvation, and yet have knowingly, willfully, and utterly rejected it. Even after the Great White Throne Judgment period, there will be those who willfully choose to live in rebellion and who refuse to come under the grace and mercy of God. Although God will give every human being a full and fair opportunity to accept salvation, we understand that there will be some incorrigible people who reject Jesus Christ forever.</p> <p>He won’t force these rebellious people to obey Him. He will destroy them in the Lake of Fire.</p> <p>After the Millennium and the period of the Great White Throne Judgment, all those throughout history who lived and died while <em>both</em> rightly understanding the truth and knowingly casting it aside and rejecting it will be raised for the <em>third</em> resurrection—the resurrection to eternal punishment through death in the Lake of Fire.</p> <p>Yes, God is just. He reminds us, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (<a href="">Hebrews 10:30</a>). Standing before the Lake of Fire and agonizing over the fate that awaits them, the wicked will then be cast into the fire and burned up forever (<a href="">Revelation 21:8</a>). Never again will they live. “For the wages of sin is death [<em>eternal</em> death], but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (<a href="">Romans 6:23</a>).</p> <p>“How cruel,” some may say, “that a just and merciful God would torment sinners for all of eternity because of decisions they made over a hundred years or so!” Are you one of the many who have never understood how Christians could possibly enjoy eternal happiness with God, knowing that at the very same time they are supposed to be feeling divine joy, their unsaved loved ones are roasting in hellish torment, experiencing unimaginable pain, forever? If you are, then you need the comfort that comes from knowing the truth!</p> <h3>THE TRUTH ABOUT “HELL”</h3> <p>For one thing, the Lake of Fire that we read about in Scripture is not the “hell” that most people think of when they think of God’s punishment of the wicked. Today, the vast majority of people in the Western world get their “picture” of divine punishment not from the Bible, but rather from the writings of a 14th century Italian poet. Dante Alighieri, author of <em>La Divina Commedia</em> (or, in English, <em>The Divine Comedy</em>) wrote his lengthy poem as an allegory to comment on the social and political problems of his nation. His depiction of hell featured nine descending regions of ever-greater eternal torment for sinners. In one section of Dante’s poem, titled “Inferno,” we find that lustful sinners receive the mildest punishment in the first circle of hell; the lowest realms of hell are reserved for those whom Dante considered history’s most repugnant traitors—not only Judas Iscariot, but also the Roman traitors Brutus and Cassius, who were implicated in the murder of Julius Caesar.</p> <p>Many are surprised when they discover that Dante’s descriptions bear almost no resemblance to the “hell” described in your Bible.</p> <p>But first, let us ask: What exactly does the Bible mean by “hell”? In the <em>King James Version</em> and <em>New King James Version</em>, the Hebrew word often translated as “hell” is <em>sheol</em>—which simply means “pit” or “grave.” It does <strong><em>not</em></strong> mean a place of ever-burning fire! The word <em>sheol</em> occurs 65 times in the Old Testament, yet in the <em>King James Version</em> it is only translated as “hell” 31 times! It is translated as “grave” another 31 times, and as “pit” three times. If you read the <em>New International Version</em>, you will see that it never translates <em>sheol</em> as “hell”—it simply uses the biblically and linguistically accurate term “grave.” As you can see, no one is burning in <em>sheol!</em></p> <h3>THREE “HELLS” IN THE BIBLE</h3> <p>Your New Testament includes three Greek words that are translated as “hell”—<em>Tartarus</em>, <em>hades</em>, and <em>Gehenna</em>—yet each has a different meaning.</p> <p>The Greek word <em>Tartarus</em> denotes a condition of restraint, and your Bible shows that it applies to fallen angels, not to sinful human beings. Notice: “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [<em>Tartarus</em>] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (<a href="">2 Peter 2:4</a>). As one scholarly source explains, “The verb <em>tartaroo</em>, translated ‘cast down to hell’ in <a href="">2 Pet. 2:4</a>, signifies to consign to Tartarus, which is neither <em>Sheol</em> nor <em>hades</em> nor <em>hell</em>, but the place where those angels whose special sin is referred to in that passage are confined ‘to be reserved unto judgment’; the region is described as ‘pits of darkness.’” (<em>An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words</em>, W.E. Vine, p. 300).</p> <p>The Greek word <em>hades</em>, like the Hebrew <em>sheol</em>, simply means “pit” or “grave.” If you read the <em>New King James Version</em>, you will notice that Hades is often left untranslated. Farmers long ago, speaking Old English, would talk of “helling” their potatoes, which did not mean to burn them—it meant to store them underground.</p> <p>More relevant to our discussion of the Lake of Fire is the Greek word <em>Gehenna</em>, describing the fire that will destroy the souls of the wicked (<a href="">Matthew 10:28</a>). <em>Gehenna</em> is derived from the Hebrew expression <em>Ge Hinnom</em>—referring to the Valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem. Anciently, the Valley of Hinnom was used as a place to dump Jerusalem’s trash. Fires burned continuously, fed by the city’s garbage, which included the dead bodies of condemned criminals. As a result, Gehenna became a symbol of judgment associated with fire.</p> <p>This same word, <em>Gehenna</em>, was also used in <a href="">Matthew 5:22</a>, when Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire”—Gehenna fire. Yes, unrepentant sinners will be cast into a lake of fire. Gehenna fire is a reference to this final fate of the wicked: to be burned into ashes, into non-existence—not to burn forever and without end. Remember the decree of Ezekiel 18, verses 4 and 20: “The soul who sins shall die.” This is the “second death” described in <a href="">Revelation 20:6</a>, from which the firstfruits—Christians raised to immortality in the first resurrection—are exempt.</p> <p>The second death—extinction in the Lake of Fire—is final; it is a death from which there is no resurrection. This is the real “hellfire” of your Bible. After the Great White Throne Judgment, all human beings who have ever lived will have come to one of two ends: they will be glorified children of God, born anew to live forever in the immortalized Family of God, or else they will have been utterly destroyed in the Lake of Fire, never to live again. Each of us will either live forever or die forever. There is no third option. Then Satan himself will be cast into the Lake of Fire and be tormented forever (<a href="">Revelation 20:10</a>). We read, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (<a href="">Revelation 20:14–15</a>).</p> <p>Peter writes that the earth will be totally purged by fire: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (<a href="">2 Peter 3:10</a>).</p> <p>So, with all of this planned for the future of humanity, why has God arranged to have a group of Christians saved in our present age, ahead of all the others? Are you one of those God is now calling? Read on to learn about the reward God has prepared for today’s faithful Christians, and about what they will be doing during the Millennium—and on into eternity!</p> <h2>CHAPTER 5<br /> THE REWARD OF THE SAVED</h2> <p>Most people who call themselves “Christian” have only a vague idea of what their Christian reward will be after death. Perhaps you are one of the many who believe that they will have a “mansion” in heaven, or at least a wonderful room in a mansion. People often get that mistaken idea from a misunderstanding of <a href="">John 14:2</a>, in which Jesus tells us, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”</p> <p>The Greek word <em>mone</em>, translated above as “mansion,” is better translated into modern English as “room” or “chamber.” Jesus’ Father’s house has many rooms. But what <em>is </em>the Father’s house? Notice in Jeremiah 35 that the “house of the Lord”—the temple of God—has a variety of chambers, which correspond to the particular job held by the resident of each chamber (v. 4). The earthly house of God was a type of the Father’s house in heaven (<a href="">Hebrews 8:5</a>). Notice that the Bible nowhere calls heaven itself the Father’s house—the Father’s house is <em>in</em> heaven. When Christ departed from His disciples to prepare them a place, He did not tell them that the place would be in heaven. Rather, He told them that He would go to heaven to prepare their place in the Father’s house! When a cook prepares dinner in the oven, we do not say that the dinner is the oven—and the dinner is certainly not served in the oven! Amazingly, then, we go on to read that when the New Jerusalem comes to planet Earth after the Great White Throne Judgment, <em>it</em> will be the Father’s house. Christ is preparing for today’s faithful Christians their places in the New Jerusalem, which will come to planet Earth! “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God’” (<a href="">Revelation 21:3</a>).</p> <h3>A BRIEF APPEARANCE BEFORE THE FATHER!</h3> <p>Perhaps you have the idea that we will spend eternity sitting on clouds, playing harps, gazing at the face of God forever? This is not true at all! Yes, Scripture <strong><em>does</em></strong> portray a brief, future period in which faithful resurrected Christians stand with harps before God’s throne: “And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God” (<a href="">Revelation 15:2</a>). When we read of ancient King David praising his Lord with music, we can appreciate how music can express our deepening love for our Savior.</p> <p>However, this brief moment is often misunderstood and misinterpreted, and our reward is <strong><em>so much more</em></strong> than that—as revealed in that passage and elsewhere in Revelation! First, notice that these harp players are not floating around on clouds. These musicians—resurrected Christians who have overcome the prophesied “beast” of Revelation—are standing on “the sea of glass.” Saying that it is “the” sea of glass implies it is the very same sea of glass seen by John earlier in his vision. Indeed, earlier in Revelation, after a description of God’s throne, we read, “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal” (<a href="">Revelation 4:6</a>). So, the sea of glass is before God’s throne, but where is God’s throne? We know that after the Millennium, God’s throne will come to planet Earth, when the New Jerusalem descends, “coming down out of heaven” (<a href="">Revelation 21:2</a>).</p> <h3>THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB</h3> <p>Putting these scriptures together, we can see that the resurrected saints will gather on the sea of glass, in front of God’s throne in heaven, for a brief time after their resurrection. But what will the saints be doing there? Will they just be playing music to honor God, or is there something more?</p> <p>The answer can be found in a promise Jesus Christ made to His disciples. During His time on earth, Jesus likened Himself to a bridegroom (<a href="">Matthew 9:15</a>). And truly, that is what He will be!</p> <blockquote> <p>“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God” (<a href="">Revelation 19:7–9</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>How can mere human beings marry the Son of God? Even the simplest look at the world around us will reveal a fundamental fact: Every species reproduces after its own kind. The mating of two dogs doesn’t produce a cat. The mating of two birds doesn’t produce a fish. If God is reproducing Himself, then His offspring will be like Him, and will be full members of His divine Family! Indeed, God is the Father “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (<a href="">Ephesians 3:14–15</a>). And God wants each human being to voluntarily choose to become His son or His daughter! God wants us to come out of the carnal, sinful ways of the world. As the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, quoting the Old Testament, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you,” and “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (<a href="">2 Corinthians 6:17–18</a>).</p> <p>But we do not do this on our own. After we experience genuine repentance, exercise faith, and receive proper baptism in the manner God commands, He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Once we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we become <strong><em>begotten</em></strong> children of God! We become the very heirs of God—co-heirs, or joint-heirs with Christ. Read it for yourself:</p> <blockquote> <p>For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption [or “sonship”], whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (<a href="">Romans 8:14–17</a>, <em>KJV</em>).</p> </blockquote> <h3>A TRANSCENDENT PURPOSE</h3> <p>Please think carefully about the real meaning of Jesus’ final prayer to His Father in John 17. In the most awesome prayer ever recorded in the pages of the Bible, the Son of God asked His Father, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (<a href="">John 17:5</a>). Jesus was with God from the beginning of creation, and we’re told, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (<a href="">John 1:3</a>). Here, Christ asked the Father to restore the full glory that had been His when—acting for the Father—He, as the Old Testament “Logos,” created the entire universe!</p> <p>After praying for His disciples on that final Passover evening before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed for those who would believe in Him after them:</p> <blockquote> <p>I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, <em>that they may be one just as We are one:</em> I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me (<a href="">John 17:20–23</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>Can we fully grasp the awesome request the Son of God made in this prayer? He was asking that we who “believe in Me through their word” share with Him—in the resurrection—the glory He now shares with the Father. Yes, Jesus really meant what He said in this inspired prayer. He was asking that His true followers eventually become <em>full</em> sons of God and enter into the <em>oneness of the God Family!</em> Your Creator and Savior did not die so He could have a “barnyard” of lesser creatures to enjoy. When God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead, He became the <strong><em>firstborn</em></strong> of many <strong><em>brethren</em></strong>—actual “younger siblings” of the “God kind” in the Family of God, able to share a love and fellowship far more intimate than even the happiest human families share today.</p> <p>As members of the God Family, we will indeed bear a family resemblance to our Father, and to the resurrected Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered what Jesus Christ looks like, right now? The Bible reveals His appearance:</p> <blockquote> <p>One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength (<a href="">Revelation 1:13–16</a>).</p> </blockquote> <h3>GLORY BEYOND COMPARE!</h3> <p>Can you picture that? His face shines like the sun! And those of us who are willing to truly surrender our hearts, minds, and wills to our Father in heaven, and come to Him through Jesus Christ in genuine repentance, can look forward to this kind of magnificent glory! For the God of the Bible wants all of us to become real sons—not just lesser beings God merely calls His sons! Remember that after genuine conversion, God puts His very divine nature within true Christians. The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (<a href="">1 John 3:2</a>). Yes, we will literally “look like” Jesus Christ! We will be “glorified” in the resurrection as full sons of God—full brothers of Jesus Christ! For the Bible clearly explains that Christ will be “the firstborn among many brethren” (<a href="">Romans 8:29</a>).</p> <p>After Christ’s resurrection, He appeared to the Apostles and to others several times. They did not always recognize Him at first—He looked a little different from how He had appeared during His human life. Yet the resurrected Christ nearly always appeared to others as a human being, interacting with people in that manner so they would understand what He was saying and would not be afraid. He even demonstrated the ability to manifest the wounds of His crucifixion on His body, which He used to help the doubting Apostle Thomas to believe (<a href="">John 20:14–17</a>).</p> <p>With all of this in mind, we can understand why Peter was inspired to reveal that, by God’s divine power, there “have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” (<a href="">2 Peter 1:3–4</a>). Born again into the Family of God, we will have God’s very own divine nature! But what will we be doing with that nature? Many mistakenly assume that there will be nothing in particular for the resurrected saints to accomplish. But your Bible reveals that the saints, having become literal members of God’s Family, will have a job to do—a joyous and fulfilling job that will not take place in heaven! Read on to learn more about that job!</p> <h2>CHAPTER 6<br /> THE KINGDOM OF GOD</h2> <p>As we have seen, Christians who die in the faith during this present age will, at the first resurrection, become full children of God, able to interact with Christ and the Father and share fully in Their thoughts, plans, and projects. We will be able to join in various future creative projects and activities throughout the vast universe. The prophet Isaiah was inspired to tell us, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (<a href="">Isaiah 9:7</a>).</p> <p>But first, we will have one very important job to do—for a thousand years! When Jesus Christ returns, He will return as King and will establish the Kingdom of God, which will reign right here on planet Earth! And it will be today’s faithful Christians who, as the resurrected saints and members of His Family, will rule under Him during that thousand-year Millennium, which will precede the period of time known as the Great White Throne Judgment.</p> <h3>RULING AND TEACHING ON EARTH</h3> <p>The people of the physical nations of the world will need instruction and guidance. Just as the resurrected Christ appeared to His disciples after His crucifixion, the resurrected saints will be able to manifest themselves to human beings during the Millennium. As kings and priests, we will be governing and teaching. In fact, the priests in ancient Israel were also Israel’s teachers. During the Millennium, we will be teaching God’s way of life—the way of truth, the way of the Bible, the way of living that Christ exemplified and taught. As kings and priests, we will teach the world the way to peace:</p> <blockquote> <p>And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left (<a href="">Isaiah 30:20–21</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t! Scripture tells us that resurrected Christians follow the Lamb—Jesus Christ—wherever He goes (<a href="">Revelation 14:4</a>)! They will follow Him for the marriage of the Lamb in heaven immediately after their resurrection and transformation, as we saw earlier. Then, they will follow Him to planet Earth, where He—and they—will rule in the Kingdom of God. For a thousand years, the work of the resurrected saints will be on earth, <strong><em>not</em></strong> in heaven!</p> <p>Although the fact of the saints’ earthly rule is plainly taught in Scripture, many have been confused on this matter. But the misunderstandings are easily cleared up for those willing to put all of the scriptures together.</p> <p>For example, when Jesus told His disciples, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (<a href="">Matthew 5:12</a>), He was not telling them that their reward would be permanent residence in heaven. Rather, He was emphasizing the greatness of that reward, which—until the resurrection—is being <em>reserved</em> in heaven for Christians. Christ told us He was going to heaven to <em>prepare</em> it (<a href="">John 14:3</a>). The Apostle Peter describes this reward as “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, <em>reserved</em> in heaven for you” (<a href="">1 Peter 1:4</a>). Again, we see that the inheritance is being held in store for today’s Christians, to be brought <em>from</em> heaven by Christ when He returns to earth to reign (<a href="">Isaiah 40:9–10</a>). We are only heirs for now, not yet inheritors (<a href="">Romans 8:14–17</a>). Rather, Jesus tells us, “I am coming quickly and my <em>reward is with me</em>” (<a href="">Revelation 22:12</a>).</p> <p>Interestingly, the Greek word <em>topos</em>, often translated as “place” in <a href="">John 14:3</a>, also has the sense of “opportunity”—and indeed, Christ <strong><em>has</em></strong> prepared a wonderful opportunity for the resurrected saints. That opportunity is to rule on the earth under Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God.</p> <p>Notice, too, what we learn about that reward in the Beatitudes, when Jesus was describing the rewards for His followers whose qualities please Him: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (<a href="">Matthew 5:5</a>). How plain that is! Many are familiar with this verse, but few believe it! We shall inherit <em>the earth</em>. God’s word says clearly to all who will read it and believe it that “we shall reign on the earth” (<a href="">Revelation 5:10</a>)!</p> <h3>FOUR ELEMENTS OF A KINGDOM</h3> <p>To fully understand the reward of the saints, we must comprehend what it means to rule under Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God. First, let us understand what a kingdom actually is. Every kingdom has four basic elements: a <strong>ruler</strong>, a <strong>territory</strong>, <strong>laws</strong>, and <strong>subjects</strong>. How does this apply to the Kingdom of God?</p> <p>First, the Kingdom of God has a <strong>ruler</strong>, as the Bible explains in many places. Notice what John wrote: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself” (<a href="">Revelation 19:11–12</a>). Jesus Christ, wearing many crowns, will return to earth as a conquering King (<a href="">Zechariah 14:3–4</a>).</p> <p>Here is another description of Jesus’ appearance at His Second Coming:</p> <blockquote> <p>He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (<a href="">Revelation 19:13–16</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, the Ruler of the soon-coming Kingdom of God will be Jesus Christ Himself! Are you praying, “Your Kingdom come”? Are you eagerly anticipating Jesus’ return to planet Earth? The Apostle John certainly was. John concluded the next-to-last verse in your Bible with his prayer and fervent hope: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (<a href="">Revelation 22:20</a>).</p> <p>What will be the King’s <strong>territory</strong>? When Jesus Christ comes, His territory will be the whole earth, and His subjects within that territory will be the whole of humanity. Scripture describes the whole world learning the way to peace. Every year, people will come to worship their King in Jerusalem. The whole earth will learn to observe the same biblical Holy Days that Jesus and the Apostles observed. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (<a href="">Zechariah 14:16</a>).</p> <p>Every nation on earth will worship the King—and will keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Many do not realize that the Holy Days are still filled with meaning for Christians today. The New Testament Church was founded on the day of the Feast of Pentecost, though many today have forgotten that Pentecost is one of the biblical Holy Days that God gave to His people. In the book of Acts, we read that throngs of people were gathered together to observe the Feast of Pentecost when the Apostles preached to them and thousands were converted. The people were gathered to observe the day because it was commanded in Scripture! As the <em>NIV Study Bible</em> tells us, “Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks (<a href="">Dt 16:10</a>), the Feast of Harvest (<a href="">Ex 23:16</a>) and the day of firstfruits (<a href="">Nu 28:26</a>)” (p. 1645).</p> <p>True Christians today understand that the Feast of Pentecost commemorates the stage in God’s plan of salvation when He calls the “firstfruits” to salvation in this present age, preparing them to rule under Christ in the Millennium. To learn more about this wonderful truth, request our free booklet <em>The Holy Days: God’s Master Plan</em>.</p> <p>What will be the <strong>law</strong> of the Kingdom? During the Millennium, the resurrected saints will administer God’s law. The prophet Isaiah gives us an inspiring foretaste of what will come:</p> <blockquote> <p>Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (<a href="">Isaiah 2:2–3</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>In Scripture, a mountain is often a symbol of government, including God’s. The government of God will rule on earth, and Jerusalem will be the capital of the world. “Thus says the Lord: ‘I will return to Zion, and <em>dwell in the midst of Jerusalem</em>. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain’” (<a href="">Zechariah 8:3</a>).</p> <p>Under the reign of the Kingdom of God, humanity’s often-contradictory and unjust laws will be no more. God’s laws will be taught and administered from Jerusalem, and the Ten Commandments are the foundation of those laws. Remember, Jesus said, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments,” and then went on to list several of the Ten Commandments (<a href="">Matthew 19:17–19</a>). Moreover, in His “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus actually magnified the Ten Commandments. He made them more comprehensive, and more binding, because Christians need to observe the Ten Commandments in the spirit, not just in the letter!</p> <p>The <strong>subjects</strong> of the Kingdom will be the human beings who survive into the Millennium—living and learning in a world transformed!</p> <p>For those subjects, what will be the impact of having God’s law in effect? The Kingdom of God will be established following several years of terrible devastation and death around the world. Billions of people will have died due to war, famine, and disease. Survivors will be physically and emotionally shattered by the world-shaking events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. Yet, though humanity will have grown used to widespread injustice, corruption, and violence, Christ the King will bring justice and peace: “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (<a href="">Isaiah 2:4</a>). Young men and women will not be taught to fight in wars anymore. Yes, in the Kingdom of God, Christ the King will re-educate the whole world in the way of peace:</p> <blockquote> <p>The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (<a href="">Isaiah 11:7–9</a>).</p> </blockquote> <h3>DESTINED FOR RULERSHIP</h3> <p>Remember that Christ will not do this alone—He will enlist today’s faithful Christians, the resurrected saints in the Millennium to assist Him! In Luke 19, Jesus gave the parable of the minas (or “pounds,” <em>KJV</em>), revealing that faithful Christians will rule over cities—some managing five, some overseeing ten. Jesus also taught that those who overcome would rule over nations (<a href="">Revelation 2:26</a>). Today’s true Christians, born at their resurrection and transformation into God’s glorious, immortalized Family, will be a vital part of the solution to this world’s problems!</p> <p>In God’s Kingdom, King David will be resurrected to rule over both the house of Israel and the house of Judah, as the two nations become one (<a href="">Ezekiel 37:17–19</a>, <a href="">24</a>). Also, Jesus told the Twelve Apostles that they would be ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel:</p> <blockquote> <p>Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life (<a href="">Matthew 19:28–29</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>Those called to be in the first resurrection truly possess a remarkable opportunity!</p> <h3>INTO ETERNITY!</h3> <p>For a thousand years, humanity will experience the benefits of life under the benevolent rulership of Jesus Christ, with the rulership of the saints under Him. Then, for a period afterward—perhaps a 100-year period, as may be implied by <a href="">Isaiah 65:17–20</a>—the Great White Throne Judgment will follow. As discussed in the previous chapter, it is during this period when the <em>second</em> resurrection occurs and the minds of those who died without understanding the truth of God are finally opened so that they, too, may choose to become children of God.</p> <p>Finally, when both the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment have passed, those in God’s Family will receive an even greater inheritance. Notice that God not only gives Christians the earth (<a href="">Matthew 5:5</a>)—He also gives us the entire universe: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (<a href="">Revelation 21:7</a>; <a href="">Romans 8:32</a>). Consider this amazing promise: “For in that He [God] put all in subjection under him [humanity], He left nothing that is not put under him” (<a href="">Hebrews 2:8</a>).</p> <p>“Nothing” not put under him? “All” in subjection? Yes, this is the promise! The Greek phrase translated as “all” in <a href="">Hebrews 2:8</a> is <em>ta panta</em>—which literally means “the all.” As Greek lexicons explain, <em>ta panta</em> in the absolute sense means “the universe.” God wants to give you, along with billions of others, dominion not just over the earth, but over the universe! Yet we can only receive that after we have inherited eternal life—only once we’ve become God’s immortal children to reign with Christ in His Kingdom for all eternity! Our job during the Millennium, vital as it will be, is but a foretaste of what will come afterward. God’s purpose is to prepare us to govern the universe. We will be able to travel instantly to far-off galaxies. We will not be limited by time and space. God wants us to liberate the creation from its decay and corruption. As Paul wrote, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (<a href="">Romans 8:21</a>).</p> <p>Truly, God has an amazing destiny in store for His faithful children. We will be active, fulfilled, and gloriously happy for all eternity. Foretelling the coming of the Messiah and His eternal kingdom, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (<a href="">Isaiah 9:6–7</a>).</p> <p>Do you want to be a part of the glorious future God holds out to you? Do you look forward to the day when God’s throne of grace will come to the earth? Only then, finally, will there be no more pain, suffering, and death. John writes of our inspiring ultimate destiny: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (<a href="">Revelation 21:4</a>).</p> <p>This is the eternity God has prepared for you. May God help you understand His great love and purpose for you, and may He help you prepare for your awesome eternal destiny!</p> <h2>CHAPTER 7<br /> IS GOD CALLING YOU?</h2> <p>As we have seen earlier in this booklet, God is not calling most of mankind to repentance and baptism during this present 6,000-year period in human history. Well-meaning “altar calls” by popular evangelists may stir up human emotions, but unless God Himself stirs people’s spirits and opens their minds to His truth, they will remain fundamentally unconvinced, uncalled, and unconverted. The truth is that most human beings will have their day of salvation at the time of the “second resurrection”—the Great White Throne Judgment. For such individuals, their lives in this present age will one day serve as a powerful “witness” demonstrating the depths of human weakness and depravity in lives cut off from God. The Work of <em>Tomorrow’s World</em> and the Living Church of God is to provide a strong warning to such individuals of the terrible end-time suffering just ahead of us. When that time comes, and planet Earth is in the grip of the Great Tribulation, millions who have heard this message will know where God has been working, and will be all the more ready to embrace His ways joyously in the Great White Throne Judgment.</p> <h3>RESPOND TO GOD’S CALL!</h3> <p>However, the very fact that you are reading this means that God may well be calling you now, to be one of His firstfruits! You may be eligible for what Scripture calls the “better resurrection.” If so, you do not want to reject this call! For most of humanity, salvation will come in the Millennium or the Great White Throne Judgment—when God “‘will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (<a href="">Micah 4:2</a>). Those whom God calls today can, with His help and by His power, resist and overcome the deceptions of Satan, and can live Spirit-filled lives full of peace and joy and deep meaning.</p> <p>If you feel that God may be calling you to repentance and baptism, and you would like to know more about God’s ways, please <a href="">contact the Regional Office nearest you</a>, listed on the <em></em> website and at the back of our printed booklets. One of our representatives will be happy to talk to you, at a time and in a place convenient for you.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Category</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/19" hreflang="en">The Afterlife</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-pdf field--type-file field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet_PDF</div> <div class="field__item"><span class="file file--mime-application-pdf file--application-pdf"><a href="/sites/default/files/2022-08/WYD-E_1.0.4.pdf" type="application/pdf" title="WYD-E_1.0.4.pdf">DOWNLOAD PDF</a></span> <span></span> </div> </div> Thu, 21 Apr 2022 19:04:57 +0000 4uwzvo 56 at What Is The Meaning Of Life? <span>What Is The Meaning Of Life?</span> <div class="field field--name-field-title field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">What Is The Meaning Of Life?</div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">4uwzvo</span></span> <span>Wed, 03/02/2022 - 14:26</span> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-author field--type-list-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">Roderick C. Meredith (1930-2017)</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Media</div> <div class="field__item"><div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden"><a href="">Image</a></div> <div class="field__item"> <a href=""><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/2022-03/wml-cover.jpg?itok=jLtidiFJ" alt="planet earth" loading="lazy" typeof="Image" /></a> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tag field--type-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">#Afterlife</div> <div class="field__item">#Heaven</div> <div class="field__item">#Holy Days</div> <div class="field__item">#Resurrection</div> <div class="field__item">#Salvation</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-teaser field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Why were you born? Why does God allow even dedicated Christians to go through years and decades of trials, tests and persecution? Why is it so important that we all “overcome”? What is the magnificent purpose for all our lives here on planet earth?</div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Why were you born? Why does God allow even dedicated Christians to go through years and decades of trials, tests and persecution? Why is it so important that we all “overcome”? What is the magnificent purpose for all our lives here on planet earth?</p> <p><strong>Most </strong>people never stop to consider their real <em>purpose </em>in life.</p> <p>In fact, most assume there is no real purpose. How about you? Is there any transcendent reason for you to be alive? Can you have a remarkably interesting and fulfilling destiny ahead of you, regardless of your present situation? Can you be <em>100 percent sure </em>of a future rendezvous with happiness, joy and peace?</p> <p>Or, are you living a fleeting, disappointing existence on planet earth with no more purpose for your life than the birds, the bees or, for that matter, the worms that crawl in the dirt? As a human being, you obviously have much higher intelligence than these creatures; you can visualize the future; you have hopes and dreams; and creative imagination far beyond any other form of physical life on this earth. Yet do all these gifts, potentials and dreams rot when you die and “dust returns to dust”?</p> <p>This truly is worth considering. You should think about it! Sure, some religious people may feel they will be wafted off to heaven to sit around for all eternity with <em>nothing to do </em>except “roll around heaven” all day, as the song goes. But you <em>should not assume anything. <strong>Do not </strong></em>be gullible—find out for yourself and prove <strong>what is your ultimate destiny!</strong></p> <p>The real truth of the matter has been revealed in the Creator’s instruction manual for humanity, the Holy Bible. In the Bible, God decrees the fate of nations and empires. He prophesies of world-shaking, future events that are to happen. And these prophecies are unfolding before the eyes of this generation!</p> <p>However, in a more quiet yet profound way, your Creator also reveals the ultimate destiny of mankind—the real purpose for your life and my life. In a number of places, it is called the “mystery” of God. Indeed, it is a mystery to the vast majority of people—even to most of the supposed “Christian” world. For it goes far beyond what most humans have ever visualized or imagined. Yet it is so obvious, so simple, so powerful in its logic that you may wonder why you did not understand it all along.</p> <p>So, again, <strong>what is your ultimate destiny? Why were you born?</strong></p> <h2>A PURPOSE in Humanity’s Creation</h2> <p>You did not just “happen.” Human beings are not the product of blind chance. By common sense, most people realize that a fine Swiss watch was not the result of slow, evolutionary processes which took place over millions of years in a mineral-rich, primordial sea, as silica and metallic elements washed back and forth while being charged by lightning strikes. Even though the sand and the elements washed back and forth for billions of years, a delicately fashioned, accurate Swiss watch would <em>never </em>be the result of unplanned, blind happenstance.</p> <p>Yet some intelligent, “educated” individuals prefer to be “politically correct” and subscribe to the evolutionary theory that <em>your mind—</em>with a complexity far surpassing any watch or computer ever designed and produced—somehow came together, with your body, as an “accident” of the evolutionary process.</p> <p>If you believe that, you had better <em>stop </em>reading right here because, until God Himself wakes you up, you are not going to understand anything about your ultimate destiny or any other spiritual thing. As it is written, “The things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).</p> <p>The revealed Word of the Creator shows us that man was <em>purposefully created. </em>In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, God describes how He designed each creature “according to its kind” (Genesis 1:21, 24–25). Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (v. 26).</p> <p>Here we discover two vital points. First, God said, “Let Us make man in <em>Our </em>image, according to <em>Our </em>likeness.” So there were two different personalities here discussing the creation of man in Their image. These were obviously God the Father and the Logos or “Word” (Spokesman) who was later born in the human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1–2, 14).</p> <p>The second vital point is conveyed by the rest of the verse, “let them have <em>dominion </em>over the fish… birds… cattle.” So, from the beginning, mankind was ordained to have dominion, to <em>rule, </em>to be in charge over all the physical creation here on earth. He was immediately given the responsibility and the opportunity to use creative imagination and judgment.</p> <p>Notice these inspired words of David: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels (Hebrew <em>Elohim</em>), and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:4–6). Here we see that God has a special purpose for man. Man is made a “little lower” than the “<em>Elohim</em>“—a Hebrew term denoting God! Yet man is crowned with glory and honor and given “dominion” over the work of God’s hands (v. 6).</p> <h2>Remarkably Unique Abilities</h2> <p>From the beginning, man was given a <em>mind, which </em>is remarkably distinct from any animal brain. Unlike any other creature on earth, man has creative imagination and the capacity even to analyze himself. He can laugh at himself or reason between right and wrong, enabling him to make judgments—to a limited degree— like God Himself!</p> <p>At the time of the building of the tower of Babel, God said: “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (Genesis 11:6). The clear indication here is that, unless restrained by God, man might have “progressed,” even back at that time, to the point of being able to destroy himself from off the face of the earth!</p> <p>Today, as the abilities of different nations and races are once again being utilized in a worldwide scientific community, humanity has indeed progressed to the point where we could destroy ourselves. Man is able to launch huge, complicated rockets into outer space. He is able to store and then instantly recall billions of pieces of information in marvelous computer systems. And he is also able to break matter down to its smallest components, and to detonate the hydrogen atom in a blinding, searing <em>explosion. ˙</em></p> <p>Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ specifically prophesied this situation when He warned: “For then [when certain foreseen events take place] there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21–22).</p> <p>Yes, unless the Creator intervenes to save His own creation from self-destruction, mankind would <em>obliterate </em>all human life from planet earth! But, as we shall see, God gave man this great intelligence for a purpose—and <strong>God’s purpose shall stand.</strong></p> <h2>Created to Rule</h2> <p>From the beginning, man was placed over the physical creation on earth. He was given the capacity and responsibility to help direct and judge his fellow man under God (cf. Exodus 18:13–26). Humanity was given God-like responsibility from the beginning.</p> <p>Then, when Jesus Christ came to earth in human flesh to bring the Gospel, He continually preached about the coming government of God: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'” (Mark 1:14–15). This coming world-ruling government was predicted by most of the Old Testament prophets as well as Jesus Christ, Peter, Paul and John.</p> <p>After describing the four great, world-ruling kingdoms that would govern the world until the end of this age, the prophet Daniel stated: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).</p> <p>Most of Jesus’ parables concern the Kingdom of God. In Mark 4:30–32, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a grain of mustard seed. Jesus shows that the Kingdom of God, though starting out extremely small, will eventually grow to tremendous size. In the parable of the nobleman (Luke 19:12–19), Jesus clearly states that those who “overcome” and use their talents, as God intends, will be given authority in Christ’s soon-coming government to rule over cities. To the servant who had increased his money ten times, Jesus said, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, <strong>have authority over ten cities” </strong>(v. 17). To the servant who had increased his money five times, Jesus said, “You also <strong>be over five cities” </strong>(v. 19).</p> <p>Then, on the night just before His death, Jesus promised the Apostles: “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and <strong>sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” </strong>(Luke 22:29–30). If we believe that Jesus meant what He said, then we know that the Son of God specifically promised that “overcoming” Christians will join Him at His Second Coming in <strong><em>ruling </em></strong>over the cities and nations on this earth!</p> <p>Notice these direct statements by Jesus, the Christ, as recorded in the book of Revelation: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— ‘He shall <strong><em>rule </em></strong>them with a rod of iron; as the potter’s vessels shall be broken to pieces’—as I also have received from My Father” (Revelation 2:26–27). “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). Then note the prayer of the saints as recorded in Revelation 5:10, “[You] have made us kings and priests to our God; and <strong>we shall reign on the earth.”</strong></p> <p>Finally, notice Revelation 20:6: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the <em>first </em>resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall <strong>reign with Him a thousand years.” </strong>Yes, the true saints are called of God and are being trained through an entire lifetime of overcoming to join Jesus Christ in <em>ruling </em>over the cities and nations on this earth! Could anything be plainer than that?</p> <p>Yet, somehow, many misguided people, even theologians, still believe in the idea of “doing nothing” for all eternity. They do not remotely realize that true Christians are called for a wonderful, exciting, awe-inspiring <em>purpose.</em></p> <h2>Only Overcomers Need Apply</h2> <p>God says only overcomers will be in His kingdom. Only overcomers will join Christ in ruling this earth. We are told throughout the New Testament to <em>become like </em>God. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Again, Jesus instructed, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).</p> <p>The Apostle Peter instructed Christians: “But as He who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:15–16). The Apostle John exhorted God’s faithful, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The Apostle James wrote, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).</p> <p>So there it is! True Christians are to overcome their own human vanities and passions, overcome the world and its temptations, and finally resist Satan himself. Peter concludes his last letter with this searching admonition, “But <em>grow </em>in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).</p> <p>Now, in the human flesh, we are subject to all sorts of weaknesses and sin. But by regular, diligent <em>study </em>of the Holy Bible; by constant, fervent <em>prayer </em>on our knees, and by continually yielding and actively surrendering ourselves to God, we are to <em>overcome </em>our sinful ways and let God, through His Holy Spirit, build within us the holy, righteous character of God.</p> <p>We know that we will not achieve perfection in this life, but we must be making real progress. For we are to <em>grow </em>in the very nature and character of God Himself. Therefore true Christians are ensured of constant trials, tests and persecution.</p> <p>The Apostle Paul predicted, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34–36). The Apostle Peter warned, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).</p> <p>It is clear that the true Christian is required to overcome himself, the world and the assaults of Satan. He will be harassed, persecuted and perhaps even martyred by the enemies of God.</p> <h2>WHY We Must Build Righteous Character</h2> <p>Is a Christian to go through life’s difficulties just so he can take a very long celestial vacation to “roll around heaven” all day and be bored watching the clouds pass by while plunking out harp music? Or, perhaps, is he to serve God as a messenger like the angels? After all the remarkable trials, tests, tears and perhaps even the agony of overcoming physical sufferings, is our reward to be no greater than that of the multiple millions of created beings in the angelic host? No way!</p> <p><strong>The truly awesome purpose of human existence goes far beyond even what the righteous angels and archangels will experience! </strong>Why do we go through trials? Why are we tested time and again? God wants to see if we are willing to <em>totally surrender </em>to Him. His ultimate purpose is to reproduce in us His mind, His love and His character. <strong>God is reproducing Himself!</strong></p> <p>Yes, you read it right. At this point, I should exhort all of you who read this <strong><em>not </em></strong>to tune out. Ask God for an open, inquiring mind—do not make assumptions. Spiritual safety rests with a sincere desire to “prove all things” according to the words in your own Bible. For the great purpose for human life, which truly makes sense, has clearly been inspired and placed in the pages of the Holy Bible for centuries!</p> <p>Now go back to Genesis and review again what God did in the beginning. Each animal was created “according to its kind” (Genesis 1:24). So cattle reproduce cattle. Lions reproduce lions, and so on. This was God’s mind or pattern as He created each creature. Then God said, “Let Us make man in <em>Our </em>image, according to <em>Our </em>likeness (Genesis 1:26). In plain language, God was indicating that they—the God Family now known as the Father and His Son Jesus Christ—would begin to reproduce themselves, adding more members to the “God Family”! Does it sound blasphemous to you to think that God planned to reproduce “after His kind”?</p> <p>Some of the self-appointed religious leaders during Jesus’ day thought so. You might be surprised to learn that this matter of God having a family was a big issue of debate between Jesus and that day’s religious authorities. For Jesus had said to them, “I and My Father are <strong><em>one</em></strong>” (John 10:30). This statement by Jesus angered the religious leaders enough that they considered Him a heretic worthy of death.</p> <p>When Jesus asked them why they were trying to kill Him, these honored religious authorities retorted, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and <strong>because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” </strong>(v. 33).</p> <p>Notice <em>carefully </em>what Jesus said to defend Himself against this charge of blasphemy, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, <strong>“you are gods”‘? </strong>If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture <em>cannot </em>be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (vv. 34–36).</p> <p>The passage Jesus referred to is Psalm 82:6. The Hebrew word translated as “gods” is <em>Elohim. </em>It is the same word translated “God” in Genesis 1:1, and is used <em>hundreds </em>of times throughout the Old Testament to denote the divine Being. Many modern religious scholars maintain that this word just means “mighty judges.” But this is not a valid understanding of the usage of the Hebrew word <em>Elohim. </em>Otherwise Jesus would not have been so quick to pick this passage in a life or death situation. Jesus used this passage in the Psalms to clearly show that <strong>man does have God-like potential, </strong>that humanity is truly “made in the image” of God. Obviously those incensed religious authorities recognized that Jesus was flesh and blood just as they were. Further, since Jesus was the “Son of God,” He was <em>not </em>blaspheming by making Himself equal with God when He called God His Father!</p> <p>In fact, this issue came up earlier in John’s gospel when these same religious authorities sought to kill Jesus because they accused Him of breaking the Sabbath, and also because He “said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). They obviously recognized that a <em>real </em>son is, in fact, <strong>equal to his father.</strong></p> <p>I am a father myself. I am privileged to have four sons and two daughters. As God has ordained, I have reproduced “according to my kind.” My sons and daughters are <em>fully human </em>just as I am human. Though I may be greater in experience and wisdom, and am the patriarch of my family, my children are as fully of the human family as I am, and have completely the same human capacity, potential and dignity that I do.</p> <p>What about God’s <em>sons? </em>Are we so accustomed to the modern religionists using religious-sounding “fluff words” that we no longer have real <em>understanding </em>as to the <em>meaning </em>of the words we use? Do we fail to recognize that a literal “son” of God would <strong>truly be like God?</strong></p> <h2>Biblical Meaning of “Elohim”</h2> <p>The very first name that God applies to Himself in the Old Testament is <em>“Elohim.” </em>“In the beginning God [Hebrew <em>Elohim</em>] created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). <em>Elohim </em>is used 31 times in the first chapter of Genesis—and clearly identifies “God” as the <strong><em>Creator</em>. </strong>But what does <em>Elohim </em>mean?</p> <p>All authorities are agreed that this Hebrew name (<em>Elohim</em>) for “God” is plural in form. Some think this plural name of God <em>proves </em>that the Old Testament “God” is comprised of more than “one Being.” Others <em>deny </em>this, but there can be no question that the plural ending <em>-im </em>of this Hebrew word clearly <em>allows for a “plurality of Beings” </em>in the concept of the Hebrew God as mentioned in the Old Testament.</p> <p>Grammatically, the form ‘Elohim’ contains the plural ending <em>-im</em>. The function of ‘Elohim’ as <em>a true plural </em>(“gods”) is reflected in numerous biblical texts (Exodus</p> <p>12:12: ‘all the gods of Egypt’). In this function ‘Elohim’ can be preceded by a definite article (‘the gods,’ Exodus 18:11, ‘now I know that Yahweh is greater than all the gods’). In Hebrew ‘Elohim’ can be accompanied by <em>plural adjectives </em>(very frequently in Deuteronomy: ‘other gods’) and construed with <em>plural verbal forms </em>(Psalm 97:7: ‘all gods bow down before him [Yahweh]’). The striking feature of the OT text lies in the use of this <em>plural form </em>‘Elohim’ in order to designate the one God of Israel (“Names of God in the Old Testament”, <em>The Anchor Bible Dictionary, </em>vol. 4, p. 1006).</p> <p>There is irrefutable biblical proof that this plural noun (<em>Elohim</em>) is to be understood as conveying, not the sense of a dual or a triune God, but of a “God Family” with more than one member. If God were to be forever limited to only Father and Son, then presumably, they would have used another Hebrew word to convey such a limited, two-member Godhead. The Hebrew word <strong><em>Elohaim </em></strong>does connote duality; however God (Hebrew <em>Elohim</em>) did not use <strong><em>Elohaim </em></strong>(conveying <em>duality</em>), but used <strong><em>Elohim</em></strong>, indicating <em>plurality. Why </em>did God use <strong><em>Elohim</em></strong>? Simply because <em>Elohim </em>is a divine family of Beings—a family into which many divine sons and daughters will later be added, as revealed in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:18).</p> <p>One of the greatest proofs that <em>Elohim </em>is to be understood as being plural in actual meaning is the undeniable fact of <em>how </em>the Creator used that word in the Bible, “Then God said, ‘Let <strong><em>Us </em></strong>make man in <strong><em>Our </em></strong>image, according to <strong><em>Our </em></strong>likeness'” (Genesis 1:26). Clearly, God did <em>not </em>say, “Let <strong><em>Me </em></strong>make man in <strong><em>My </em></strong>image, according to <strong><em>My </em></strong>likeness.” God nowhere says the angels are creators, but always speaks as though only God is Creator.</p> <p>Proof that <em>Elohim </em>is to be understood as plural in meaning is found in numerous other scriptures:</p> <blockquote> <p>1) Christ said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Clearly, though there is only <strong><em>“one God,” </em></strong>it is <em>un</em>scriptural to say that God is “one Being” or “one Entity.” If the Father and His Son were not two distinct Persons (Beings/Entities), Christ could not have said that His Father was “greater than” He.</p> <p>2) In Matthew 22:41–46, Jesus revealed that Psalm 110:1 refers to Himself and His Father, “The LORD [Hebrew <em>Yahweh, </em>the Father] said to My Lord [Hebrew <em>Adonai, </em>the Son], ‘Sit at My [the Father’s] right hand, till I make Your [the Son’s] enemies Your footstool.'” Many scriptures reveal that only two Persons—the Father and His Son—now comprise the divine Family. The Trinity is nowhere taught in the Bible—it is not so much as even once mentioned in either the Old or the New Testaments. Rather, God Almighty reveals that all who become His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18) by a new <em>spiritual begettal</em>—at the resurrection of the just—will be born of the spirit as immortal, glorified spirit beings in the very God Family (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 1 Corinthians 15:50–57).</p> </blockquote> <p>Such glorified saints will then be changed from human into divine—from mortal into immortal beings. As immortal sons and daughters of God, they will then be higher than the angels (whom they will then judge—1 Corinthians 6:3), and will at that time be worthy of receiving the worship of mortal humans (Revelation 3:9)!</p> <p><em>Elohim </em>is a plural noun which denotes that God is a Family of divine Beings—not a closed Trinity, which could never admit other sons and daughters of God into the God-plane <strong><em>Family </em>of <em>divine beings. </em></strong><em>Elohim can </em>and <em>does </em>allow for a <strong>plurality of divine Beings in the Family of God; </strong>the Hebrew Scriptures clearly prove that this word, <em>Elohim, </em>is to be taken quite literally. Can we believe the plain Word of God? God meant what He said, “Let Us make man in Our image”!</p> <h2>“Born” of the Resurrection</h2> <p>In this life, we are “begotten” or regenerated through conversion and the impregnation of God’s Spirit. This Spirit is the Spirit “of <em>power </em>and of <em>love </em>and of a <em>sound mind</em>” (2 Timothy 1:7). The Spirit of God imparts to us the very nature of God.</p> <p>As we surrender our wills to God, yield to His Holy Spirit and drink in of it through regular Bible study and prayer, we <em>grow </em>in spiritual maturity until it is time to be fully “born of God” at the resurrection of the dead!</p> <p>Jesus Christ is our example and forerunner. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the <em>resurrection </em>from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Later, in Romans, Paul was inspired to write that true Christians are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the <strong>firstborn among <em>many </em>brethren” </strong>(Romans 8:29).</p> <p>Notice! All who truly yield themselves to God will become like Christ, so that He, then, will become the <em>firstborn </em>of many other sons of God—literal sons just like Jesus Christ, the firstborn and Captain of our salvation.</p> <p>Again Paul states, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the <em>firstborn from the dead</em>, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).</p> <p>So, for the second time, God shows clearly that to be ultimately “born again” like Christ, the <em>firstborn from the dead, </em>we must finally be “born” into the <em>very family of God </em>by the <em>resurrection </em>from the dead!</p> <p>In Revelation 1:5, the Apostle John was also inspired by God to describe Christ as “the <em>firstborn </em>from the <em>dead.” </em>If Christ is the “firstborn,” there must be others. If the “firstborn” of God is very <em>God, </em>then those later born of the <em>very same Father </em>must also become full members of the God Family!</p> <p>The entire Bible is clear on the fact that you do not leave the state of death <em>except </em>by the <em>resurrection. </em>We have just discussed three scriptures showing clearly that those truly “born again” are born of the resurrection from the dead, and that they become full members of the “God Family”—the God level of existence—just as Jesus did.</p> <h2>Who Will Always Be in Charge?</h2> <p>The Bible indicates the Father will <em>always </em>be greater in power and authority. Obviously, God the Father will never get old or retire or die. So He will <em>always </em>be the unquestioned Head of the God Family. Even Jesus Christ said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).</p> <p>Similarly, the Bible clearly shows that Jesus Christ will <em>always </em>be greater than the other sons to be born into the God Family. He is to sit at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 8:1). He is to be “King of kings” (Revelation 19:16). He will <em>always </em>be our High Priest (Hebrews 6:20).</p> <p>It is obvious that the major purpose of the Christian life is to reconcile man to God. The Holy Spirit guides a person through an entire process of <em>total surrender </em>to God and to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Through the Spirit, a person <em>grows </em>in the grace and knowledge—the very character—of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). With God’s help, this process involves overcoming and learning to “live… by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). For a person to draw near to God, he must deeply study the Bible, “eating” of the spiritual bread of life (John 6:56–63), so that it literally becomes the way he thinks and acts. Overcoming involves regular, heartfelt prayer to God every day of one’s life—often several times a day and always being in a spirit of prayer. It involves constantly meditating on God’s Word and purpose, and occasionally fasting to draw closer than ever to God.</p> <p>In all this, and then in daily, active yielding to <strong>let Christ live His very life within us </strong>through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20), the true Christian learns to walk with God. Month by month, and year by year, the totally surrendered Christian becomes increasingly like God. Indeed, a person with genuine faith should live this way, for Jesus instructed us, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Apostle Peter exhorted Christians, “But as He who called you is holy, <strong>you also be holy in all your conduct” </strong>(1 Peter 1:15).</p> <p>In his final letter, Peter described how God’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… that through these [promises] you may be partakers of the <em>divine nature, </em>having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3–4).</p> <p>Do all these scriptures mean what they say? Can we honestly “spiritualize away” the many, many inspired scriptures that tell us to be holy, to be like God, and to yield to Him so He can place within us His own <em>divine </em>nature? Consequently, it is logical to consider the idea that it has been God’s plan all along to reproduce Himself. This <em>is </em>what the God Family (<em>Elohim</em>) had in mind when they said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).</p> <p>“Born Again”—But Are We to Be INFERIOR Sons?</p> <p>We have already seen that Jesus Christ was “the <em>firstborn </em>among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Will the younger brothers yet to be born have far less glory than Christ?</p> <p>Although, as just explained, Christ will always be greater in power and authority, yet the Bible clearly indicates that the Spirit-born sons of God will share the same level of glory and majesty as their Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. Notice Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Throughout the Bible, there are literally dozens of verses that indicate our sufferings, our trials and our tests—the whole process of overcoming—are to help fashion and mold us into God’s image. They prepare us to be born at the resurrection from the dead and to be glorified as Christ was glorified.</p> <p>Of course, the truly converted Christian is regenerated or “begotten” of God in this present life. But the final, <em>ultimate birth </em>is to be born into the very Family of God at the resurrection.</p> <p>As the Apostle Paul wrote: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive…. And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven…. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22, 45–47, 49).</p> <p>Yes, we are to be sons of the resurrection—not falsely “born again” in front of an emotional crowd of people in some “revival meeting”! The <em>true </em>“born again” experience will so far surpass these counterfeit emotional outpourings which confuse today’s religious world that there is no room for comparison! For, at the “last trumpet,” Christ will return to this earth as King of kings, and those found worthy will find themselves surging upward toward the clouds to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). They will have <em>spirit bodies </em>and will be glorified as newly “born” members of the divine Family! They will not be regarded as “adopted,” or merely “created” beings. Rather, these Spirit-born sons will <em>come right out from God, </em>having His very <em>divine nature </em>just as surely as we in this life have the human nature and characteristics imparted by our human parents.</p> <p>Using a human analogy, we are now “begotten” children of God, still in our Mother’s womb (Jerusalem above, Galatians 4:26), but growing in grace and knowledge so that we may be born of God at the resurrection (cf. Romans 1:4; 8:29). The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, <strong>we shall be like Him, </strong>for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Yes, we shall look “like” Christ at that time!</p> <p>How does the living Christ look? We find His present appearance described in Revelation 1:13–16. Now, following His resurrection, Jesus’ eyes are like “a flame of fire.” His face is like the “sun shining” in full strength! He is glorified, as we <em>shall </em>be <em>glorified, </em>according to the marvelous purpose of the Great God who made us in His own image!</p> <h2>What a Future for Those Who Overcome!</h2> <p>Let’s turn to 1 John 3 for a moment. After describing how we shall be “like” Christ and be able to look right into the face of that blinding glory, John writes, <strong>“And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” </strong>(v. 3). Once we grasp the ultimate <em>purpose </em>of God, the truly incredible human potential that our Creator has planned for us, we have every reason to want to be “pure,” to live a righteous and holy life.</p> <p>Our true reward is not some vague and nebulous “pie in the sky” concept of “rolling around heaven” all day, with nothing to do. Rather, it involves becoming “sons of the resurrection” and joining Christ in actively ruling this planet for at least the next 1,000 years. What will Christ’s saints be doing? They will be cleaning up pollution, stamping out pornography and war and healing the sick. The saints’ job will be to bring indescribable joy to a shell-shocked world. Could anything be more personally rewarding?</p> <p>We shall not merely rule over humans, but over the mighty angels of God! Notice 1 Corinthians 6:2–3: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? <strong>Do you not know that we shall <em>judge angels? </em></strong>How much more, things that pertain to this life?” Our whole Christian experience of developing Christ’s mind (Philippians 2:5) and character is for this supreme purpose.</p> <p>It will be an exciting, stimulating, productive, and incredibly fulfilling experience. It is real!</p> <p>What comes after this? Read Paul’s inspired statements in Hebrews 2:5–7: “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: ‘What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands.'” Notice man’s ultimate superiority to the angels. For man was made a “little,” or as many scholars translate it, “a little while” lower than the angels. Ultimately, God plans to put “all things” in subjection under man.</p> <p>Even now, man is creating computer systems that can almost rival the human mind in their astonishing capacities, and he is also capable of annihilating all human life from this earth through atomic and hydrogen bombs and other weapons of mass destruction! Yet because of the need for food, water and oxygen to sustain human life and because of the exceedingly vast distances between the planets—man could not conceivably explore the entire universe even <em>if </em>he could travel at the incredible speed of light.</p> <h2>Inheriting a Universe</h2> <p>But, describing Tomorrow’s World, God indicates that “all things” will be put under man. The Greek word here used for “all things” may correctly be understood as <strong>“the entire universe”! </strong>In fact, in the <em>Weymouth Version</em>, Hebrews 2:8 is translated, “For this subjecting of the universe to man.”</p> <p>Immediately after that, Paul wrote: “For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:8). Notice that nothing is excluded from being under man’s dominion. But it is not yet accomplished. Commenting on those verses, Eerdmans’ <em>Critical and Experimental Commentary </em>states, “As no limitation occurs in the Scripture, the ‘all things’ must include heavenly as well as earthly things” (vol. VI, 1948, pp. 530–531).</p> <p><em>The New Bible Commentary: Revised </em>also comments on this passage, “Further, these verses indicate that not only Jesus, but men— through Jesus as their High Priest and Author of Salvation—are called to inherit a destiny of <strong><em>glory </em></strong>and dominion” (ed., Guthrie, et al., 1975, pp. 1196–1197).</p> <p>In plain language, then, it is clear that God created man to be truly <em>like Him. </em>We who overcome are destined to be real Sons of God—not “pseudo-sons” of a much lower rank and level of existence.</p> <p>Speaking of the “sons of the resurrection,” the book of Hebrews says, “He [God] left nothing that is not put under him” (Hebrews 2:8). Our ultimate destiny, then, is to become <strong>full-fledged Sons of God </strong>and help rule the entire universe under the direction of our Elder Brother and High Priest, Jesus Christ!</p> <p>Then we will have glorified spirit bodies that will not be subject to physical laws, as we know them now. We will be able to hurtle throughout the universe far faster than the speed of light, for we will be full members of the Creator Family—the Family of God—able to move at the speed of thought!</p> <p>Serving our Father and Jesus Christ in the <em>perfect </em>government of God, we will undoubtedly be challenged in ages to come to rejuvenate and beautify vast portions of the universe that are now bleak, lifeless and desolate. No doubt there will be further creative activities and exciting projects of all kinds to contemplate. As the scripture says: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6–7).</p> <p>Once this awesome purpose for mankind is fully understood, then many other things involving human life and the true Christian way of life begin to make a lot more sense.</p> <p>Notice Romans 8:17, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and <strong>joint heirs with Christ, </strong>if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be <em>glorified together.” </em>When we grasp what that supreme “glory” really involves—the very <em>glory </em>of <em>God</em>—then our human trials do truly seem less formidable. Philippians 3:21 speaks of the returning Jesus Christ, “who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”</p> <h2>Spirit Beings Will Teach God’s Way to Mankind</h2> <p>Speaking of the ultimate “born again” experience, Jesus Christ told Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and <strong>that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. </strong>Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. <strong>So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” </strong>(John 3:6–8).</p> <p>In the resurrection, the Spirit-born saints will be like Christ was after His resurrection. We will be able to simply pass through walls, (John 20:19), and disappear into thin air (Luke 24:31).</p> <p>At the same time, the resurrected saints, like Christ, will also be able to appear in human form, visit with, eat with and teach human beings during Christ’s millennial reign on earth. John 21 describes the risen Christ preparing an outdoor fish barbecue (v. 9) for the disciples and then teaching them.</p> <p>Of course, many interesting, exciting and even amusing situations may be envisioned when the resurrected sons of God may surprise or even temporarily frighten (“It’s one of them, again!”) unsuspecting human beings in Tomorrow’s World.</p> <p>Isaiah 30 describes the time when the whole nation of Israel is brought back from its coming captivity to be governed and taught by divine Beings: “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (vv. 20–21).</p> <p>During the soon-coming millennial rule of Christ and the resurrected saints, those millions of humans still living on earth will be taught the <strong><em>way </em></strong>to peace, prosperity and true happiness. “Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:2–3).</p> <p>Now notice verse 5, “For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.” The people each walk in the name of “his god”? What is this inspired prophet talking about?</p> <p>Possibly, Micah is describing the relationship of people in various cities or provinces to their particular Ruler or Judge—a “born-again” member of the God Family assigned to rule their city or state (Luke 19:17–19).</p> <p>God’s great purpose in giving us life and breath is that we may join Him and His “firstborn” Son, Jesus, in a <em>real family relationship </em>based on love, service and obedience to the way that produces peace and happiness—the spiritual law of God as revealed in the Ten Commandments and teachings of Christ.</p> <h2>A Stupendous Truth Explained!</h2> <p>Before we are even “converted” in this present life, we must deeply repent of “sin”—which is simply the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4, <em>KJV</em>). Then we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) which God gives to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).</p> <p>Then, we must overcome through the strength and help of God’s Spirit within us and grow in the <em>grace </em>and <em>knowledge </em>of Christ, in the very character of God. For our heavenly Father, through this process, puts <em>His very nature </em>within us. So, in that way, we are not merely “adopted.” But we are literally begotten and finally born of God, having been impregnated with the divine nature and continuing to grow spiritually until we are ready to be “born of God” at the resurrection!</p> <p>As Supreme Ruler over all that is, God is taking no chances that His sons would ever rebel against Him! Only those who have totally surrendered their lives and wills to God and to their Savior and coming King, Jesus Christ, will be considered worthy of becoming members of the divine Family—the ruling Kingdom of God.</p> <p>The above analysis should thoroughly disprove one objection which some have voiced against this marvelous truth. Some people think that if the resurrected saints were to become truly God— with the power of God—then there would be a grave danger that they would rebel against God the Father and perhaps start a spirit war as Lucifer did (Isaiah 14:12–15). But this objection reveals an almost <strong>total lack of understanding of what <em>real </em>conversion is all about! </strong>For after we have surrendered to our Creator, “walked with God” in our Christian lives over years while suffering trials, tests and persecutions (the expected lot that befalls every true Christian), and in spite of these trials, hung in there and endured faithfully to the end (Matthew 24:13)—there is no way we would ever turn aside and fight our own heavenly Father!</p> <p>As “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), we will be like God. Remember, “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13). God will not sin—because of His very divine character, which is eternally and naturally faithful and righteous. So the idea of a full member of the God Family rebelling or sinning is a <em>contradiction in terms.</em></p> <p>Another objection is the idea that since God the Father is uncreated and has always existed, we could never be like Him. But this neglects the wonderful truth that, at the resurrection, we are to be literally <em>born </em>of God! We will <em>not</em>—at that time—be merely “created.” Rather, we will <strong>come right out from God, </strong>being literally filled with and <strong>composed of the Holy Spirit, </strong>like God Himself.</p> <p>For, again, God is reproducing after His kind just as surely as we humans do! His Spirit-born sons, in the resurrection, are <strong><em>not </em></strong>“lesser” types of spirit beings any more than your children turn out to be something less than human!</p> <p>Another vital point to remember in this connection is that Christ is to “marry” the church at His second coming (2 Corinthians 11:1–2; Revelation 19:7). Is the bride of Christ to be something inferior to Him—a completely different class of being? Will the glorified saints exist on some lower plane of existence from God like a pet dog compared to a human? Think about it!</p> <p>Some people are sincerely shocked, at first, by this stupendous truth involving our ultimate destiny. But there are others who seem interested only in playing word games to try to confuse the issue and obscure one of the most <em>vital </em>and magnificent truths revealed in the entire Bible—the awesome, inspiring, supreme purpose of our Creator in giving us life and breath and making us “in His image”!</p> <p>As I have already said, and I repeat once more lest someone try to twist these words, God the Father and Jesus our Head and Savior will always be greater in power and authority than we will be. But, as “sons of the resurrection,” the saints will be on the <strong>same level of existence, </strong>just as your sons and daughters are on the same <em>human level </em>as you are. Truly, God the Father and Jesus will always have existed longer and done more in the past than any of the resurrected saints. But you and I have lived longer and done more in the past than our human children. Yet they are <em>fully human </em>just as we are!</p> <p>We need to realize that the continuum of “eternity” goes on and on and that, as full members of the Creator Family, the saints will also join God in ruling, creating and accomplishing awesome projects throughout the universe in ages to come (Isaiah 9:7).</p> <h2>God Is Eternal</h2> <p>One false argument against the truth of our ultimate destiny goes like this: “We can never become fully like God because God has <em>eternally </em>existed and has been the Creator of all that is—and we have not.”</p> <p>Is there an answer? Part of the real answer is found in Romans</p> <p>4:17. Here Paul notes that God called Abraham “a father of many nations.” God stated this as a fact <strong><em>long </em></strong><em>before </em>it ever occurred! So Paul was inspired to write, “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist <em>as though </em>they did.”</p> <p>The <em>ultimate reality </em>is God’s will. God had already willed that Abraham was to be “a father of many nations.” So, in God’s mind, it was a fact because God had <em>willed </em>it so!</p> <p>In like manner, God must have planned from the beginning to reproduce Himself “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). Again, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).</p> <p>God’s plan is to bring more full sons of God into His Family so that Christ might be “the firstborn among many brethren.” All this was predestinated—willed—by the mind of God “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). So, in the terms of the will of God—we who overcome are already eternal, have <em>already </em>been given the gift of eternal life through the immutable will of God!</p> <p>Another clear indication that this is the way God thinks of things is found in Hebrews 7:9–10: Notice this scripture, “Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.”</p> <p>So God says that Levi “paid tithes through Abraham” even though Levi did not <em>yet </em>exist! As Levi was “in the loins” of his great grandfather, Abraham, so we—so to speak—have certainly been in the spiritual “loins” of our heavenly Father who has <em>willed </em>that we become His full sons! So in that way—the way God Himself thinks and acts—the true saints who remain faithful and overcome <strong>have always existed </strong>in the mind of God.</p> <p>We were in the “loins” of God when He created the angels, later created the earth and put mankind upon it, and still later when He sent His Son to make possible our entrance into the Eternal Family of God.</p> <p>Jesus said, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). And again, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). When we are truly “born of God” and become “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), we will have the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). So we will be <em>composed </em>of the Holy Spirit as God and Christ are composed of that same Spirit. The Holy Spirit <em>is </em>eternal and has always existed and will always exist.</p> <p>Therefore, although we will be new personalities added to the Family of God by a literal spiritual birth in the resurrection, we will <em>always </em>have existed in the mind and will of God. We will have been in the “loins” of our Father from eternity, and we will then be <em>composed </em>of the Spirit, which <em>is </em>eternal.</p> <p>So our spiritual birth as <strong>full sons of God </strong>is merely part of the spiritual continuum of God’s will. And once we (<em>if </em>we are overcomers!) are members of the extended Family or Kingdom of God, we also will then join with the Father and our older Brother in creating, recreating, building, working and improving this vast universe. For truly, as God’s Word tells us, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).</p> <p>True Christians have an absolutely awesome opportunity and future ahead. A billion years from now, when we have been working and creating for an “eternity” under the direction of our Father—the specious arguments and word games employed by the blinded theologians of this world who deny the clear intent of God to make us His genuine sons—will seem trite indeed.</p> <p>Jesus said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14).</p> <h2>God’s Awesome LOVE</h2> <p>God has created humans so that, after a young man and woman marry, they most sincerely desire children. They want to <em>share </em>their home, <em>share </em>their lives and <em>share </em>their love with a little human being made in their image. They look forward to having a baby—a child who, as a full human being, will develop, learn and grow to fully <em>share </em>its life, its plans, hopes and dreams with its parents and other brothers and sisters in a loving family relationship.</p> <p>So it is with God. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). And because God <em>is </em>love, He wants to share His love, His glory, His eternity, with billions of others who will become His <em>genuine </em>Sons in the resurrection! If God the Father and Christ were selfish, aloof, or lacking in love and out-flowing concern, perhaps they would want to keep to themselves and not make it possible for others to join their Family in a complete God-plane relationship by literally reproducing themselves.</p> <p>But in the transcendent spiritual love that motivates our Father and our Lord (<em>Elohim</em>—the God Family), they have chosen to reproduce themselves by placing within surrendered Christians their <em>very own “divine nature.” </em>Then, God nurtures these “begotten” sons through this physical life of overcoming until they, like Christ—”the <em>firstborn </em>from the dead”—are also literally “born” of God as “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36).</p> <p>How great is the love of Christ? The inspired Apostle Paul prayed that Christians, “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the <em>love </em>of Christ which passes knowledge; <strong>that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” </strong>(Ephesians 3:18–19). How can you be filled with <strong><em>all </em></strong>of the “fullness of God” and not <em>be </em>God?</p> <p>The love of Christ, and of our Heavenly Father, impels them to share with us their eternal glory as full sons of the kingdom, or Family, of God. In the future, when you read passages in the New Testament concerning the resurrected saints inheriting God’s glory—perhaps they will now have much deeper meaning. For this “mystery, which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26–27).</p> <p>Yes, men have always wondered, <em>“Why </em>was I born? What is the purpose of life? If there is a real God, <em>why </em>does he try and test mankind so much and allow so much suffering to occur?”</p> <p>Now, the mystery is solved! If your mind and heart are open, you now <em>know </em>the answer to these profound questions that have puzzled philosophers and scholars for centuries. You should be everlastingly grateful and thankful to our God and our Savior, Jesus the Christ, for making us “after their kind.”</p> <h2>Jesus’ Fervent Prayer</h2> <p>In the final 24 hours of His life, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus offered to God His most complete prayer recorded in the Bible. Let us review some highlights of that inspired prayer, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). Here we find Christ specifically asking that the stupendous glory He had shared with the Father from eternity be restored to Him—He who was to be “the firstborn among <em>many </em>brethren” (Romans 8:29).</p> <p>In verse 11 of John 17, Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.” Christ and the Father are <em>one </em>God, <em>one </em>Family, <em>one </em>level of existence above all other creatures. Jesus prayed that the saints become one in the <em>same way!</em></p> <p>Notice John 17:20–23: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. <strong>And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: </strong>I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”</p> <p>These words of out-flowing love are inspiring and magnificent. They certainly make clear that those of us willing to utterly surrender to God and let Christ live His life in us through the Holy Spirit will attain to the same type of glory that He attained. We will be completely <em>one </em>with God (as Christ is one with the Father) and therefore obviously <em>be </em>God. This will be the supreme fulfillment of God’s own purpose in giving us life and then calling us to spiritual understanding! “That the world may know that You have sent Me, and have <em>loved them as </em>You have loved Me” (v. 23).</p> <p>The indescribable love of our Father is somewhat beyond full human comprehension. Yet we who understand must respond to that love with deep reverence, thankfulness and obedience to our great God. We must strive to “live… by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). And we must learn to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7)— keeping our eyes always on the magnificent goal our God has set for us.</p> <p>“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). And how great is that reward!</p> <p>With all my heart and all my being, I encourage all of you who read this to truly “<em>seek Him</em>“—diligently. Do not allow yourself to put <em>anything </em>ahead of God and His truly wonderful purpose for your life. Learn to truly study the Bible as never before. Learn to get down on your knees before the Supreme Governor of the universe and literally pour out your heart in prayer to Him for the love, the wisdom, and the strength to truly be an overcomer and to become His <em>real son </em>in a world-ruling kingdom soon to be set up on this earth.</p> <p>Nothing is more exciting. And, when you really understand, nothing is more “real” than what the Great God says will happen! This is the final fulfillment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the ultimate good news—that man can be born into the God kingdom, the God-level of existence.</p> <p>The ancient patriarch Jacob had 12 sons. They collectively had sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren—millions and millions of descendants—and so became the nation or the “Kingdom of Israel.” So, as Christ assists the Father in “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10), they are bringing into being an entire Spirit-composed nation. It is a spiritual “Kingdom” of God, comprised of real sons of God—who have been literally born of God by the resurrection, and are possessed of the full nature and character of God. Again, I say, this is the ultimate meaning of the “Gospel,” the ultimate good news and transcendent purpose for your life!</p> <p>“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2–3). Now that you understand <em>your ultimate destiny, </em>you know why God wants you to let Him and His Son build within you their holy, righteous character.</p> <p>God the Father is not a “nicey-nice” wimp, or a stern, unsmiling puritan or an impractical philosopher. He and His firstborn Son, like a loving family, are preparing other sons to join with them in ruling this world and, later, the entire universe. So go out under the stars some clear night—try counting as many stars as you can see and think of the billions of stars scattered across the vast universe which you <em>cannot </em>see—and then <em>meditate </em>on this awe-inspiring purpose for your life and thank God for it! Then, get down on your knees and begin to zealously do <em>your part </em>to make it all possible!</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Category</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/16" hreflang="en">Doctrine</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/17" hreflang="en">God</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/19" hreflang="en">The Afterlife</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-pdf field--type-file field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet_PDF</div> <div class="field__item"><span class="file file--mime-application-pdf file--application-pdf"><a href="/sites/default/files/2023-02/WML-EN_1.0.3.pdf" type="application/pdf" title="WML-EN_1.0.3.pdf">DOWNLOAD PDF</a></span> <span></span> </div> </div> Wed, 02 Mar 2022 14:26:02 +0000 4uwzvo 47 at Revelation: The Mystery Unveiled! <span>Revelation: The Mystery Unveiled!</span> <div class="field field--name-field-title field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Revelation: The Mystery Unveiled!</div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">4uwzvo</span></span> <span>Mon, 02/28/2022 - 21:20</span> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-author field--type-list-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">John H. Ogwyn (1949-2005)</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Media</div> <div class="field__item"><div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden">Image</div> <div class="field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/2022-02/ru-2.0.4-cover.jpg?itok=HhZogjwR" alt="Horsemen" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tag field--type-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">#Beast of Revelation</div> <div class="field__item">#False Christianity</div> <div class="field__item">#Revelation</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-teaser field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Many consider Revelation the most difficult-to-understand book in the Bible. Some dismiss its complicated narrative and vivid descriptions as mere allegory. Others assume that it recounts past history. The truth, however, is far more remarkable: if you understand Revelation, you can know the future of our world!</div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><h2>Can You Know the Future?</h2> <p>Can you <em>really </em><strong><em>know </em></strong>what the future holds? Many people are beset with anxiety and uncertainty about the years ahead. Are you? Our world is filled with widely varying predictions of what lies ahead in this 21st century. Whose predictions are correct? How can you possibly be sure?</p> <p>Did you know that One claiming to be the Almighty Creator dares to proclaim the future <strong>in advance</strong>? God asserts that He declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and that His purpose shall stand. The Bible declares that human life is not a purposeless existence caused by blind chance or evolution. We are part of a planned creation, and there is a great <em><strong>purpose </strong></em>being worked out in our world. <em><strong>You </strong></em>can understand that purpose!</p> <p>Today, terrorist threats grip the Western world and preoccupy many people’s thinking. Many worry about “rogue states” that may possess nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction. Will we face the ravaging ecological disasters predicted by many environmentalists, or will dazzling futuristic technology finally solve mankind’s age-old problems?</p> <p>Politicians regularly describe what they think lies ahead. Think tanks and analysts seek to point the way to the future, though disagreeing widely in their conclusions. Add to that the best-selling religious novels that claim to tell you what the Bible foretells. How can you possibly <em><strong>know </strong></em>what the future holds?</p> <p>The book of Revelation is undoubtedly the most mysterious book in the Bible. Shrouded in symbols, it is a book that is absolutely closed to most people. Yet, over the years, readers have purported to find just about <em>anything </em>currently happening around them <em>somewhere</em> in its pages.</p> <p>Is it true, as some claim, that you can prove virtually anything by the Bible? The answer is emphatically <em><strong>“No!”</strong></em>—<em>if </em>you take it in context and let the Bible interpret itself.</p> <p>The ancient prophet Daniel was given an outline of what the future held, from his day (in the sixth century BC) until the time when Christ would finally establish the Kingdom of God on earth (cf. Daniel 2, 7). In addition, Daniel was given several specific prophecies that related to “the time of the end.” Daniel greatly desired to understand the meaning of those intriguing prophecies, <strong>yet he could not</strong>. They were sealed up until “the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4, 9).</p> <p>God’s time for us to understand these prophecies <em><strong>has arrived</strong></em>! We are now in the <em>time of the end</em>—described as a time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” In the last century, and especially since World War II, we have seen a <strong>transportation revolution </strong>and a <strong>knowledge explosion</strong>. In just 66 years, mankind went from the Wright brothers’ first flight to Neil Armstrong walking on the moon!</p> <p>The Old Testament book of Daniel reveals prophecies of the end-time—recorded, but <em>sealed</em>. The New Testament book of Revelation depicts Jesus Christ <em>opening </em>the seals to <em>reveal </em>the future to His true servants (Revelation 1:1; 5:5). In other words, it is <em><strong>now </strong></em>possible to understand the future with clarity.</p> <p>Millions have wondered if they will perish in a terrible world war. Others have wondered whether Christ might come at <em>any </em>time, and they may find themselves “left behind.” Do you <em>know </em>the answers to these questions? You <em><strong>can </strong></em>know! The answers to these and other questions are recorded in the final book of your Bible—the book of Revelation. This mysterious book, understood by very few, can become <em><strong>clear </strong></em>to you. There are vital keys that will make it possible for <em>you </em>to understand what even many of the prophets of old desired to know, but were denied.</p> <p>Does that sound incredible? Well, it is <em><strong>true</strong></em>! If you really want to <em><strong>know </strong></em>what lies ahead in the 21st century, then read on.</p> <h2>Seven Keys to Understanding</h2> <p>Most scholars, surprisingly, do not truly understand the Bible. All you have to do is to read some articles in theological journals, or read some of the many books in print on religious and theological subjects, to see the utter confusion that abounds. Holding widely divergent views, religious authors contradict one another in a way and to an extent seen among writers on virtually no other subject. Do you know why?</p> <p>The most important single key to understanding the Bible is the <em>attitude </em>in which you approach it. The Bible is God’s book, and only those who approach it as God’s book have any real hope of understanding its message. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor [humble] and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). The Creator claims that His word is generally hidden from the “wise and prudent” but is revealed to “babes” (Matthew 11:25). God is not talking about babies in age or understanding, but rather those with a simple, humble, teachable attitude that one might call “childlike.”</p> <p>Along with this humble and teachable outlook must be a willingness to actually <em><strong>obey </strong></em>God. “A good understanding have all those who do His commandments,” the psalmist declares (Psalm 111:10). The natural or carnal mind is “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). It is rebellious against God’s law and wants its own way. Many religious people <em>talk </em>about “knowing the Lord” but, as Paul told Timothy, have a mere <em>form </em>of religion, while denying the Bible’s authority to <em>rule </em>and <em>regulate </em>their lives (2 Timothy 3:5).</p> <p>If you will approach the Bible in a humble and teachable way, and are truly willing to <em><strong>obey </strong></em>God and <em>keep His commandments</em>, the following keys will make the book of Revelation <em><strong>come alive </strong></em>before your very eyes. You can have this seemingly mysterious book’s message open up to you in a way you probably never thought possible.</p> <h2>Key 1—Christ Is the Revelator</h2> <p>In some Bibles, the book of Revelation is titled “The Revelation of Saint John the Divine.” It is important to remember that this title was added by men, and is not in the original text. In fact, the very first verse flatly contradicts this humanly devised title, explaining that this book is the direct revelation of Jesus Himself, which He received from the Father.</p> <p>When Jesus Christ walked the earth, He frequently talked about the future. However, He never did so in a speculative or wishful sense. He spoke authoritatively, because He had come directly from the Father and spoke the words that the Father gave Him, not mere human ideas (John 14:24).</p> <p>Jesus Christ came with a message: the good news about God’s coming kingdom and how we could become part of that kingdom (Mark 1:14–15). Yet when He was here on earth almost 2,000 years ago, He did not establish that kingdom. Only days before His crucifixion, as He traveled to Jerusalem one last time, He spoke a parable to His disciples, who mistakenly thought that the kingdom would immediately appear. Jesus told a story about a young nobleman who first had to go away into a far country to be invested with kingly power, before returning to possess his kingdom (Luke 19:11–12).</p> <p>How excited would <em>you </em>be if you had the opportunity to ask Jesus Christ <em>in person</em>about the events that would precede His return and the establishment of His kingdom? Some of the 12 apostles <em>did have</em> exactly that opportunity! Jesus’ answer is preserved in the parallel accounts of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, in what is often called the Olivet Prophecy. Seated privately with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, a hill just east of Jerusalem, Jesus described the signs of His future coming, and the end of this current age. In this Olivet Prophecy, Jesus used plain language to describe many events that would later figure in the apostle John’s symbolic visions, when he opened Revelation’s seven seals. In Revelation, as in the Gospels, it is vital to remember that <em>Christ </em>is the Revelator.</p> <h2>Key 2—Start With the Text</h2> <p>Many who study Bible prophecy will first look at the world around them, then look at certain Bible symbols or descriptions in order to find something that “fits.” In doing so, they have simply read their world’s current events back into Scripture. This is a backwards approach.</p> <p>If we want to understand God’s revelation to mankind, we must start with Scripture and understand the story flow that God lays out. We cannot understand John’s description of a mysterious “beast” in Revelation 13, unless we look at what else Scripture has to say on the matter. We need to look at the earlier inspired information on this subject, given in the book of Daniel. Daniel, after all, recorded the divinely inspired foretelling of the rise and fall of great powers between his day (the sixth century BC) and the final establishment of the Kingdom of God on this earth.</p> <p>We have to let the Bible interpret itself, rather than trying to read our own preconceived notions or current world events back into the text. Only in this way can we see Bible prophecies in their proper context.</p> <h2>Key 3—The Purpose of Revelation</h2> <p>Modern scholars disagree about what they consider the purpose of the book of Revelation. However, careful Bible students will see that the book’s very first verse describes its purpose! Jesus Christ gave Revelation to John so that he might <strong>show the servants of God the things that must shortly come to pass</strong> (Revelation 1:1). It was intended as a <em>revealing </em>or <em>unveiling </em>of the future. It was given so that God’s true servants could understand where world events are headed, and could know what the future holds. It was a message of encouragement to God’s people, showing that—even in the midst of turmoil and persecution—they need not become anxious about the future. God the Father allowed Christ to unveil, through John, the final culmination of future world events.</p> <p>Therefore, it is wrong to think that Revelation is merely a vague allegory about good versus evil, or that it simply describes the historical circumstances and difficulties faced by first-century Christians. The entire book must be understood as laying out the future in advance.</p> <h2>Key 4—The Day of the Lord</h2> <p>Most commentators completely misunderstand Revelation 1:10. As a result, they do not understand the perspective from which the entire book was written. When John declared that he was in the Spirit in the Lord’s Day (Note that, elsewhere in the New Testament, the Greek word <em>en </em>is almost always translated “in,” though many wrongly render it here as “on”), he was not talking about the day of the week on which he received the prophecy. Rather, he was describing the future prophetic time that he saw in vision—a time when God will intervene powerfully in end-time world affairs. John’s perspective in writing Revelation was this vision of the future.</p> <p>The Bible nowhere defines the first day of the week as “the Lord’s Day.” That usage developed among the early Roman Catholic “church fathers,” decades after Revelation was written. However, more than 30 times in the Old Testament, the future time of God’s judgment is called the “Day of the Lord.” When you look at the contents of Revelation, it is clear that the time of Christ’s coming is the focal point of the visions John saw.</p> <p>The <em>time of God’s future intervention and judgment</em> is the theme that runs throughout Revelation. John wrote from that future perspective. Notice that in Revelation 1:12, when John saw the lampstands representing God’s Church through the ages, he looked <em>behind </em>him to do so. From the perspective of John’s vision, Church history was almost completely in the past.</p> <h2>Key 5—What John Recorded</h2> <p>Revelation 1:2 shows us that John wove together three strands of vital information—the “word of God… the testimony of Jesus Christ, and… all the things that he saw.”</p> <p>The Old Testament authors used, as a standard phrase, “the word of the LORD came, saying” or “the word of God came, saying” (cf. 1 Kings 12:22; 13:9). When Revelation was written, “the word of God” primarily referred to what we now call the Old Testament.</p> <p>More than 100 times throughout Revelation—more often than in any other New Testament book—John either quotes or paraphrases verses from the Old Testament. Most Old Testament prophets simply recorded God’s messages in the order that they received them. If you only had the Old Testament, you would be totally at a loss to fit many of the Old Testament prophecies into a clear time frame. But by weaving references throughout, John enables us to see <em>where </em>these different messages, previously recorded by the prophets, fit into God’s plan for the future.</p> <p>The “testimony of Jesus Christ” describes the good news that Jesus brought from heaven. His “testimony” is simply what He bore witness to. In the book of Revelation, Christ’s direct testimony is primarily found in the messages to the seven churches.</p> <p>Revelation 19:10 tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” This means that the <em><strong>gospel message </strong></em>gives life and breath to prophecy. If you do not understand the <em><strong>gospel message</strong></em> that Jesus taught, then you certainly cannot understand prophecy. As we read through Revelation, we find John alluding to Jesus’ words in the Gospels, and also recording what he heard Jesus say during his visions.</p> <p>In addition to weaving together strands from both the Old and New Testaments, John recorded a series of visions of the future. Some visions were filled with mysterious symbols, while others pictured events and weapons so far beyond his day that John struggled to find words to describe what he saw. For example, he could only compare futuristic weapons to first-century objects with which he and his readers were familiar.</p> <h2>Key 6—The Bible Interprets Its Own Symbols</h2> <p>To properly understand Scripture, we must let the Bible interpret itself. Most of the Bible is written as a straightforward narrative account, though some parts—such as Psalms and Proverbs—rely on poetic imagery. Revelation and some of the Old Testament prophets, particularly Daniel and Zechariah, describe symbolic visions. However—and this is a vital key—<strong>the Bible interprets its own symbols</strong>. When John saw the seven lampstands and seven stars recorded in Revelation 1, for instance, he was told that the seven lampstands represented seven churches and that the stars represented angels (v. 20).</p> <p>Daniel not only recorded symbolic visions of a great image (Daniel 2) and of creatures emerging from the sea (Daniel 7), but he also gave the interpretation of these symbols. He explained to King Nebuchadnezzar that the great image with a head of gold, chest of silver, thighs of brass and legs of iron represented four successive world-ruling empires that would stretch from the days of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon all the way down to the future time when the God of heaven would set up a kingdom that would endure forever (2:31–44). The nightmarish creatures Daniel saw in Daniel 7 are also interpreted to represent the same succession of world-ruling governments that will conclude with the future establishment of the Kingdom of God (7:17, 23–27).</p> <p>Elsewhere in Revelation, we read of symbols such as a dragon, a lamb, women, mountains and horns. Again the Bible interprets its own symbols. Revelation 12:9 identifies the dragon as a symbol of Satan the devil. This hearkens back to Genesis 3, which records Satan’s appearance in the guise of a serpent. In John 1:29, John identifies the “lamb” as symbolic of Jesus Christ. The Bible pictures the true Church as a woman—Christ’s virgin bride (2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 19:7–8)—so a harlot, or “fallen woman,” represents a false church that has not been faithful to Christ. Mountains represent kingdoms or governments (17:9–10), while horns represent kings or rulers (vv. 12–13). We will never properly understand Revelation unless we are willing to let the Bible explain its own symbols rather than relying on human imagination.</p> <h2>Key 7—The Book of Revelation Is Primarily in Time Sequence</h2> <p>In Revelation 5, John saw a vision of One (clearly God the Father) sitting upon the throne in heaven, holding a scroll sealed with seven seals. The only One authorized to open the seals, and therefore to reveal the contents, was Jesus Christ. A scroll must be unrolled sequentially, and the seals must be broken one at a time to reveal what comes next. This vital key, when properly understood, makes plain that the book of Revelation is written in chronological order. While there are a few “insets” that go back and let a reader “catch up” on certain events, Revelation’s narrative flows chronologically.</p> <p>The opening of the seven seals begins in Revelation 6. When the seventh seal is opened in Revelation 8, the seven trumpets begin to sound. After the seventh trumpet is blown, seven angels are given seven bowls containing God’s wrath to pour out.</p> <p>Understanding this key point clears up many issues. It also sheds light on events such as the mysterious sealing of the 144,000 recorded in Revelation 7. In context, we can understand that this is a yet future event—not something that happened in the past. The book of Revelation allows us to view all the prophecies of the Bible in their proper time sequence, and to have an overview of God’s plan from start to finish.</p> <p>With these keys in mind, we can proceed to examine the contents of Revelation itself.</p> <h2>A Final Vision for the End of an Era</h2> <p>The close of the first century was a bewildering and discouraging time for many of God’s people. Years earlier, after the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the Church of God had begun in a very dramatic fashion on Pentecost, 31AD. Three thousand people were baptized on that day. In the months that followed, the number of disciples multiplied greatly. God’s miraculous intervention was evident on a regular basis.</p> <p>Three decades later, however, the situation seemed to have changed. God’s people were discouraged and confused by events both in the Church and on the world scene. In 62AD, Jesus’ brother James, who served as leader of the Jerusalem Church, was killed by a mob in Jerusalem. A few years later, the Roman government arrested Paul and transported him to Rome a second time, this time to be executed. Soon after, the Jerusalem Church had to flee the city to escape advancing Roman armies. By 70AD, both Jerusalem and its magnificent temple lay in ruins, destroyed by General Titus and his army. Nearly all the original leaders of the Church were dead. The only original apostle still alive was the aged John. After 70AD he made Ephesus, located in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) near the Mediterranean coast, his primary base of operations.</p> <p>Around 96AD, the Roman government arrested this elderly apostle and banished him to the isle of Patmos, off the coast of Asia Minor (Revelation 1:9). Patmos was a place where political prisoners were exiled, and from which few ever returned. For someone of John’s advanced age, exile to a prison island must have seemed like a sentence of certain death. But it was in this context that John was given the visions that were to be recorded in the final book of the Bible.</p> <p>God used John, almost 30 years after the deaths of the other original leaders of the Church, to complete the New Testament. John carried out this commission by writing a fourth Gospel and three letters, all probably completed before his Patmos exile, and finally by writing the book of Revelation. As such, John was responsible for putting the New Testament into its final form.</p> <h2>The Final Message</h2> <p>God the Father has reserved authority over the times and seasons of human history (Acts 1:7). The ebb and flow of the tide of world events is <em><strong>not </strong></em>simply a matter of chance. The rise and fall of great powers is <em><strong>not </strong></em>just determined by human decisions. Rather, God established limits for the roles of various nations. These limits include both length of time on the world stage and the extent of their geographic dominance (17:26).</p> <p>Though God the Father has determined the nations’ roles in advance, how can we possibly understand unless <em><strong>He </strong></em>chooses to reveal them? It was precisely at the end of the first century that the Father did just that. He gave Jesus Christ an <em>unveiling </em>of what had previously been hidden, that Christ in turn would reveal to the Church. Christ did this by sending an angel to the aged apostle on Patmos (Revelation 1:1). Through a series of visions at the end of an era, John was allowed to see the future—and to record it in advance.</p> <p>The book of Revelation is an <strong>unveiling</strong>. The English word “revelation” comes from the Greek word we also render as “apocalypse”—literally meaning a “revealing” or an “unveiling.” While the future is veiled and mysterious to human beings, it is plain to God. Man tries in vain to look through the mists of time to perceive what the future might bring. But while men can only guess, the great God who inhabits eternity is able to declare, from the very beginning, what the end will be.</p> <p>As an elderly man, in exile on Patmos, John had the most remarkable experience of his long life. In a vision, he saw himself transported into the future, to the time of God’s impending intervention and judgment, which the Old Testament calls “the Day of the Lord.” Hearing a powerful voice behind him, John turned to gaze upon seven golden lampstands, then saw One, whose face shone like the sun in its full strength, standing in the midst of those lampstands. Absolutely overwhelmed by what he saw, John collapsed in a faint. The One he saw standing there was the very One with whom he had walked and talked as a young man; the One beside whom he had sat and upon whom he had leaned at their last Passover meal together. John had last seen Him about 65 years earlier, when he stood with the other disciples on the Mount of Olives, gazing up and watching Him disappear into the clouds. As John lay collapsed, that One reached down and touched him gently with His hand. “Do not be afraid, John,” He declared, “It is Me.” Christ went on to reveal Himself to John as the One who is the first and the last, the One who was dead but is now alive forevermore. John was then told to write down what he had seen and what would yet be shown to him.</p> <p>This final book in your New Testament, then, is <strong>Jesus Christ’s </strong><em><strong>unveiling </strong></em><strong>of the future—</strong><em><strong>your </strong></em><strong>future! </strong>It is a book written as Christ’s final message to His Church, showing what will happen. Though most people have considered it a mysterious and closed book, it can now be open to <em>your </em>understanding. If you really want to know what lies ahead, then keep reading!</p> <h2>Setting the Scene</h2> <p>Revelation’s first chapter sets the scene, and provides an introduction to the book. As we have already seen, the Day of the Lord (Revelation 1:10) is the time setting from which events in the book are viewed. From this standpoint, John saw <em><strong>behind him </strong></em>the lampstands representing the seven churches, symbolizing God’s Church down through the ages.</p> <p>Remember, Revelation was given as a prophecy to show God’s servants what would come to pass. Therefore, the messages to the seven congregations (Revelation 2–3) are far more than a mere historical account of circumstances extant in the last decade of the first century. These seven churches in Asia Minor represent the stages (or eras) through which the true Church would pass before Christ’s return.</p> <p>After receiving the messages to the seven congregations, John received in Revelation 4—<em><strong>in vision</strong></em>—an invitation to come up to heaven. He described God’s throne in heaven, and noted that the One sitting on it held a sealed scroll in His hand. There was no one worthy to break the seals and open the book except Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah. As Christ, the Revelator, opened the seals one by one, John was invited to come and look. Beginning in Revelation 6, he described what he saw when each seal was opened.</p> <p>The first six of the seven seals are opened in Revelation 6. Revelation 7 tells of a pause before the opening of the seventh seal. During that pause in the action, 144,000 servants of God are sealed to ensure their protection from the plagues of the Day of the Lord that would follow.</p> <p>The story continues in Revelation 8 with the opening of the seventh seal. When that seal is opened, John watches as seven angels are given seven trumpets, which they sound one after another. The first four trumpet blasts are revealed as ecological disasters. Revelation 9 describes the blowing of the fifth and sixth trumpets, and the dramatic military events that unfold in their aftermath.</p> <p>Revelation 10 recounts a pause in the action before the seventh and final trumpet is sounded. At this point John is given a small scroll, which he is symbolically to eat, and he is told that more prophecies concerning nations and rulers must be delivered. Revelation 11 opens by describing what the Two Witnesses—special servants of God at the time of the Great Tribulation—are doing during the three-and-a-half years leading up to Christ’s return.</p> <p>The seventh trumpet, described in Revelation 11:15, is central to Revelation both in the book’s length and in its importance. It is the “last trump”—the time of the saints’ resurrection to immortality. This verse is vital for understanding the rest of Revelation, because it marks the point at which the saints come out of their graves to enter into glory. The events from this point through the beginning of Revelation 20 all occur within a very short time. Except for inset accounts, the entire period covered by these chapters is <em><strong>after </strong>the first resurrection </em>and <em><strong>before </strong>the onset of the Millennium</em><strong>.</strong></p> <p>An inset in the story flow occurs in Revelation 12 and 13. These chapters pick up the story at an earlier period, and bring it up to date, presenting the stories of the Church (Revelation 12) and of the beast (Revelation 13). These contrasting stories of the persecuted and the persecutors need to be understood as the background to the events surrounding Jesus Christ’s return as King of kings.</p> <p>Revelation 14 and 15 contrast the newly resurrected saints rejoicing in glory, with the final preparation for God’s wrath to be poured out upon rebellious mankind. God will need to punish severely the “sons of disobedience” (cf. Colossians 3:6) and the system that has persecuted His faithful servants through the centuries, because they have refused to respond to previous calls to repentance. Then, in Revelation 16, we learn the details of the pouring out of the seven bowls that contain the fullness of God’s wrath.</p> <p>Revelation 17 and 18 provide another inset into the story flow, giving an overview of the end-time system called Babylon the Great. This is an alliance of false religion, military-political power and commercial dominance that will hold sway before Christ’s return. Revelation 18 describes this entire system’s absolute destruction.</p> <p>The first verses of Revelation 19 reveal a celebration at God’s throne. This is the prelude to both the marriage supper of Christ and the Church, and the actual arrival on earth of the all-conquering Jesus Christ to destroy the leaders and armies of Satan-inspired human rebellion against God.</p> <p>Satan the devil is then placed under restraint for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2) and the remainder of Revelation 20 introduces Christ’s and the saints’ millennial rule on the earth. At the Millennium’s end, the rest of mankind will be resurrected (vv. 11–15).</p> <p>After reading, at the close of Revelation 20, about the destruction of the incorrigibly wicked in the lake of fire, we learn in Revelation 21 and 22 about the new heaven and new earth that God promises to create. The new Jerusalem will come down to the earth and will be the dwelling place of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Church. The book of Revelation ends with a look at what God has in store for those who love Him. It leaves us standing on the threshold of eternity with an assurance of the certainty of Christ’s return and the fulfillment of God’s promises.</p> <p>Having completed this brief overview of the book, we can now examine the story in greater detail, to understand what lies ahead for us and for all mankind.</p> <h2>The Seven Churches</h2> <p>Jesus Christ, the great Revelator, inspired John to record a message to His Church. While there were other Christian congregations in Asia Minor at the first century’s close, seven particular congregations were singled out. The Bible frequently uses numbers in a significant way, and this is certainly true in the book of Revelation.</p> <p>In the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—we see particular emphasis on two numbers—seven and 12. The number seven denotes completion and perfection, as in the Genesis account of creation, where the seventh day of the week was hallowed and set apart as the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2–3; Exodus 20:11). Later, in Leviticus 23, God gave Israel seven annual festivals that outlined His plan of salvation. Even the economic life of ancient Israel was regulated by cycles of seven years. The sabbatical year came every seventh year, during which the land was to lie fallow and personal debt was to be forgiven (Leviticus 25:1–4). The 50-year jubilee cycle came at the end of seven cycles of seven years, marking the time when slaves were to be set free and land was to revert to its original owners (vv. 9–10). Throughout the book of Revelation, the number seven is used over and over. As just some of the many examples, there are seven lampstands, seven churches, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath and seven heads on the beast.</p> <p>Genesis introduces the number 12 with Jacob’s 12 sons who gave rise to the 12 tribes of Israel. Throughout the Torah, 12 is used as the number indicating “organizational beginnings.” When we look at Revelation, we again see this same pattern. Revelation 7 recounts the sealing of the 144,000 with 12,000 selected from each of the 12 tribes. It also reveals the New Jerusalem with 12 foundations, named after Jesus’ 12 apostles, and 12 gates named for the 12 tribes. Even the measurements of the city are based on the number 12.</p> <p>We should take special note when Revelation uses numbers such as seven and 12. The descriptions of seven churches are not coincidental, but are clearly used in a symbolic way to represent the Church in its entirety. Jesus Christ is pictured as standing in the midst of the seven lampstands, which represent far more than a handful of first-century congregations. The cities in which those congregations were located were linked by Roman roads, and were successive stops on an ancient Roman mail route. Each of these seven congregations was used to typify or represent one of the seven successive stages or eras through which the true Church of God would pass from the time of the first century until the time just before Christ’s return. The church at Ephesus, for instance, represented the early Apostolic Church, from its beginnings on Pentecost 31AD until shortly after John’s death. Using this prophecy, the true Church’s story can be traced through the centuries, step by step.</p> <p>It is beyond the scope of this booklet to offer a detailed history of the seven stages of the Church, but we encourage you to write for our free booklet, <em>God’s Church Through the Ages</em>, to help you understand this important subject. It is fully documented with historical sources to help you see how this remarkable prophecy has been fulfilled. Most commentators are unable to understand this prophecy properly, because they are looking at the <em>wrong </em>church! Not realizing that the Church that Jesus built was never to grow into a large worldly organization, entering into political intrigues and alliances—but was to remain a “little flock” separated from the world—most do not recognize the striking fulfillment of these prophecies.</p> <p>We should especially note Christ’s words to the last two congregations: Philadelphia and Laodicea. These represent Christ’s true Church at the end time, and understanding His message to them will help make sense of a key prophecy recorded in Revelation 12. In Revelation 3:8, the living Christ tells the Church at Philadelphia that He has set before them “an open door.” Scripture uses the term “open door” to describe an opportunity to proclaim the gospel (cf. Colossians 4:3). Because of their faithful endurance, Philadelphians are promised protection from the great time of severe trial that will come upon the whole world in the end time (Revelation 3:10). By contrast, Christ rebukes the Church at Laodicea, representing the final era, for its lukewarm spirit. Lacking in zeal, Laodicea is beset by compromise with the world, unaware that it is spiritually impoverished and naked. Because of its attitude, the living Christ will have to spew Laodiceans out of His mouth and right into the Great Tribulation, to wake them up and bring them to ultimate repentance and complete surrender to Him. Understanding this distinction between the final two eras allows us to understand prophecies in Revelation 12 that describe Satan’s attempt to make war with the “woman”—the true Church.</p> <h2>At the Throne of God</h2> <p>Beginning in Revelation 4, John is given an astounding privilege. <em><strong>In vision</strong></em>, he is actually invited into the heaven of God’s abode, and is allowed to record some of what he saw. Obviously, pen and paper cannot adequately convey the glory and grandeur of God’s heavenly court, but several features of John’s description do stand out. John does not try to describe the appearance of the great Being on the throne, but does mention the beautiful colors and light surrounding the throne. The lightning and thunder that proceed from the throne are reminiscent of Exodus 19, in which the glory of God came down and settled on Mount Sinai before the giving of the Law.</p> <p>We then find a description of the vastness of the heavenly court, including the presence of millions of angels (Revelation 5:11). There is a great crystalline expanse upon which the throne sits. From Revelation 15:2, we will learn that the expanse, called a sea of glass, has the appearance of fire embedded within it. Also present are four strange-looking creatures with six wings and the faces of a man, an ox, a lion and an eagle (4:6–8). John’s readers, familiar with the Old Testament, would recognize the similarity of the description of the seraphim recorded in Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6:1–2).</p> <p>There are 24 elders who sit on 24 smaller thrones surrounding God’s throne. Many have tried to imagine who these elders are and some have tried to identify them with certain men mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, however, these elders are part of the <em>angelic </em>realm. They play an important part in God’s government (the number 24—12 doubled—makes this plain), probably in managing the millions of angels. God is not the author of confusion, and in heaven has a highly organized realm that is responsive to His will.</p> <p>Revelation 4:5 mentions “seven lamps” before the throne, defined as the seven spirits of God, whom we are told in Revelation 5:6 are sent forth into all the earth. The ancient prophet Zechariah alluded to the same in Zechariah 4:10, referring to the seven “eyes” that God sends to run to and fro throughout the entire earth. Hebrews 1:7, referring to this created angelic realm, tells us that God “makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” In some way that we cannot fully fathom, God uses these spirit creatures, which looked to John like flames of fire, to gather information from all over the earth.</p> <p>Next, John describes Jesus Christ standing before the throne in the midst of this great assembly (Revelation 5:5–6). Here, Christ is described by two symbols: a Lamb who was slain, and the Lion of Judah. The Lamb of God describes Jesus Christ in His sacrificial role, taking our place and dying in our stead. The Lion of Judah describes Him in His kingly role, as the One who will conquer rebellious mankind and sit on the throne of David, ruling over the earth.</p> <p>Revelation 4 and 5 also allude to an aspect of John’s vision which is developed more fully in later chapters: the heavenly connection with the earthly temple. Remember, the earthly sanctuary was modeled after a heavenly reality (Hebrews 9:24). So, as we go through the book of Revelation and read about the altar of sacrifice, the altar of incense and the heavenly Ark of the Covenant, we should realize that these were the heavenly originals after which the furniture of the tabernacle—and later of the temple—were modeled.</p> <h2>The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse</h2> <p>One of the best-known images from the book of Revelation is of “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” Though most have heard the term, hardly anyone actually knows who or what it describes. Yet Christ is the Revelator, so in order to understand these symbols we must find where, in Scripture, He explained in plain language the events portrayed here. Is there such a place? Absolutely! It is Christ’s famous response when He was asked what would be the signs of His coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3–31).</p> <p>In Matthew 24, outlining a scenario that begins with false prophets and proceeds on through war, famine, disease, tribulation and dramatic heavenly signs, Christ describes the events leading up to His return from heaven. The parallel with Revelation 6 is remarkably clear. Notice what John records. He first sees Jesus Christ take the scroll from the Father and open the first seal. When this occurs, an angel tells John to come and look. John then sees a rider on a white horse wearing a crown and holding a bow (Revelation 6:1–2). Many have carelessly assumed that the rider is Christ, since Revelation 19 describes the returned Christ riding a white horse. This assumption could not be more wrong! In Matthew 24, and in the parallel accounts of Mark 13 and Luke 21, Jesus talks about <em><strong>false </strong></em>“Christs.” He says that some “will come in <em>My name</em>” and say that Jesus is the Christ, yet will deceive many. How can someone use Christ’s name, yet deceive people? By substituting <strong>a different message </strong>in place of the one He actually taught (Mark 7:7)!</p> <p>History shows that there have been false teachers, wars, diseases, famines and religious persecutions throughout the almost 2,000 years since Jesus Christ spoke those words on the Mount of Olives. What is different about the events occurring after the seals are opened? Revelation 6 reveals that, in the end time, mankind will experience these age-old scourges occurring with far <strong>greater magnitude </strong>than ever before.</p> <p>Notice what Paul taught regarding the Day of the Lord and the events surrounding the time of Christ’s return. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, he explained that the Day of the Lord “will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” Who is that “man of sin”? Down through the centuries, there have been many men of sin and many antichrists (1 John 2:18; 2 John 7). However, the one of whom Paul speaks in 2 Thessalonians is the specific one whom Christ will destroy at His coming (v. 8). This connects him with the one labeled the False Prophet, whom Christ will destroy at His return (Revelation 19:20).</p> <p>2 Thessalonians 2 tells us more about this end-time False Prophet. He will make blasphemous claims, proclaiming his divinity and demanding worship (v. 4), and will work miraculous signs through satanic power (v. 9; cf. Matthew 24:24; Revelation 13:13–14). This <em>final </em>false religious leader, undoubtedly a very smooth and charismatic individual, will cut a dramatic swath on the world scene. He will <em><strong>not </strong></em>label himself as “antichrist,” but rather will present himself as the leader of the entire Christian church.</p> <p>Remember, Jesus said that individuals would come <em><strong>in His name </strong></em>saying that Jesus is the Christ, not in the name of some false gods or merely in their own names (Matthew 24:5). Paul also explained that Satan appears as an “angel of light,” and that his ministers seek to appear as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14–15). The religious system that will yet produce this end-time man of sin was already at work in Paul’s day. Paul called this system the “mystery of lawlessness”—an outgrowth of the old Babylonian mystery religion that promoted the false idea that God’s law was “done away” and no longer need be kept. Though this system of false Christianity was already beginning in the first century, the final man of sin would not be allowed to emerge until the proper time (2 Thessalonians 2:6–7).</p> <p>When this final False Prophet arises on the world scene, true Christians will be able to recognize exactly where we are in the scope of prophecy. The first seal will have been opened, and its end-time fulfillment will have been manifested. The opening of the other seals will follow quickly thereafter.</p> <h2>Tribulation and Trumpets</h2> <p>Revelation 6:3 records the opening of the second seal, revealing a rider on a red horse. This rider is given a great sword, the symbol of powerful war-making ability. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 shows us that this seal portends regional wars and world wars. As we near the end of the age, a great military power will emerge.</p> <p>Just as the rider on the white horse reminds us of the role that the end-time False Prophet will play, so the rider on the red horse may remind us of the crafty military-political leader who will emerge on the scene in Europe—undoubtedly claiming to be a man of peace. In the name of “peace” he will launch preemptive strikes and wars in the Middle East and even against America and our allies in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In close alliance with the False Prophet, this great military-political leader (called “the Beast” in Revelation 13 and elsewhere) will seek to dominate and control all nations. He will bear responsibility for a final round of warfare that will conclude only in the aftermath of the armies of the world gathering at Armageddon.</p> <p>Soon after this dramatic upsurge in global strife and warfare, these events will combine with terrible weather upsets to produce massive food shortages and famine. This is pictured by the opening of the third seal, and a rider astride a black horse holding a set of balance scales. While basic foodstuffs (symbolized by barley and wheat) will be sold only in small amounts for vastly inflated prices, luxury items (symbolized by the wine and oil) will still be available for the wealthy. The denarius, or “penny” (<em>KJV</em>), was a day’s wages for laborers in the first century, showing that many ordinary people will be spending all of their earnings just trying to feed themselves and their families.</p> <p>Disease and pestilential death will follow in the wake of food shortages, symbolized by the rider on the pale horse, revealed at the opening of the fourth seal. This grim rider is pictured as holding sway over a quarter of the earth when he emerges for his end-time ride. The events symbolized by the seals are cumulative and the seals, once opened, remain open.</p> <h2>The Great Tribulation</h2> <p>Jesus warned us of the Great Tribulation—a time unique in all history (Matthew 24:21–22). The Great Tribulation begins shortly after the “abomination of desolation” (v. 15), and is the result of the final end-time fulfillment, in rapid succession, of the first five seals. After the first four seals were opened and John saw the “four horsemen” ride forth for their end-time fulfillment, the fifth seal was opened and he was again called to come and watch. He saw a strange vision that, when properly understood, was the harbinger of terrible religious persecution on a scale that is almost unimaginable to us in the modern Western world. John described seeing “souls under the altar” and hearing them cry out asking God “how long” until they would be avenged. The answer is that the time of God’s judgment on their oppressors will not come until the number of martyrs is filled up. There is to be an end-time martyrdom that must yet take place.</p> <p>Notice the symbols that John described. As is often the case in Revelation, it is important to understand the symbolism of the Jerusalem temple. What is meant by “souls under the altar”? The Bible uses the term soul (<em>nephesh </em>in Hebrew and <em>psuche </em>in Greek) to refer to creatures with life—both human and animal. Leviticus 17:11 states that the life is in the blood. The blood of sacrificial animals was poured out at the base of the altar of sacrifice, one of two altars in the temple. The altar of sacrifice was outside the sanctuary, and the altar of incense was inside, directly in front of the mercy seat. (In the temple at Jerusalem, before the earthquake that followed Christ’s death, a veil separated the altar of incense from the mercy seat). The altar of sacrifice is the basis of the symbolism used in Revelation 6.</p> <p>In Genesis 4:10, we are told that the blood of righteous Abel figuratively “cried out” from the ground, demanding retribution from a God of righteous judgment. If the blood of one martyr cried out, with how much louder voice would the collective blood of <em><strong>all </strong></em>the righteous martyrs down through time cry out? In the vision, John heard them being told that they must continue to rest in their graves. More martyrs would die before the time would come for God’s judgment to be poured out.</p> <p>This future time of trouble will clearly be a time of intense religious persecution, when all will be forced to conform to false religious practices that will be portrayed as “Christian.” All will be required to give their devotion to the great false church and its hierarchy, labeled in Revelation 13:15 the “image of the beast.” An outward sign of conformity called the “mark of the beast” will identify those whom Scripture labels as the children of disobedience.</p> <p>There is another aspect of this coming Great Tribulation that is often overlooked. It is not only a time of religious persecution but it is also identified as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jeremiah 30:7. We know that this is identical with the time of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 24:21, because in both places we are told that it is a unique time, a time such as never was before nor ever again shall be. <em>There cannot be two separate times like that!</em></p> <p>If you are not familiar with the identity of Jacob’s end-time descendants, we invite you to write in for our free booklet, <em>The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. </em>This will give detailed explanation and proof that is beyond the scope of this current booklet. The coming Great Tribulation will be a time of intense pressure and persecution directed against both spiritual Israel (the true Church of God) and physical Israel, which includes not only the Jews, but also the modern descendants of the so-called “lost ten tribes.” It represents Satan’s wrath and begins in deadly earnest once he is cast back to earth for the final time (Revelation 12:12–13).</p> <h2>Prelude to the Day of the Lord</h2> <p>When the sixth seal is opened, John sees dramatic signs in the heavens. He describes great meteor showers—so intense that it appears that the very stars are falling out of the sky! He also describes events, resembling eclipses, involving the sun and the moon. The sun becomes dark, just as during a solar eclipse, and the moon takes on a reddish hue, just as it often does during a lunar eclipse. These dramatic and frightening events, accompanied by massive volcanic and earthquake activity (cf. Joel 2:30–31), are the prelude to the time of the Creator’s intervention, called throughout Scripture “the Day of the Lord.”</p> <p>At this point, there is a pause in the action before John sees the seventh seal opened. Revelation 7:1–4 makes plain that this pause is for a very specific purpose. Before the outpouring of God’s wrath, 144,000 saints from the 12 tribes of Israel are to be sealed so that they might be spared from what God is preparing to pour out on rebellious mankind.</p> <p>A parallel can be found in Ezekiel 9, where Ezekiel saw a vision about God’s punishment on the rebellious people of Jerusalem. In the vision, he saw an angel clothed in linen with a writer’s inkhorn by his side standing beside the altar in front of the temple. The angel was told to go throughout the city, putting a mark on the foreheads of those who “sighed and cried” for all of the abominations of Jerusalem. In the wake of the angel with the writer’s inkhorn, the other angels were to go out as avenging angels to slay the rebellious and ungodly. In the same way, Revelation 7 describes that a remnant of Israel will respond to God’s grace with repentance. They are servants of God, and are to be set apart so that they might be spared God’s wrath that will be poured upon the children of disobedience during the coming Day of the Lord.</p> <p>In the closing verses of Revelation 13, and the opening verses of Revelation 14, we see a contrast drawn between those who accept the mark of the Beast in their foreheads and the 144,000 who have the Father’s name in their foreheads. The forehead is the seat of intellect, and this pictures our choice of obedience—either to God or to Satan.</p> <p>Many fail to notice that Revelation 7 records two different groups. They are both introduced by the same phrase, “after this I saw,” recorded in verses 1 and 9. The 144,000 drawn from the 12 tribes precede the description of a multitude of indefinite number drawn from every nation and people. This great multitude is described in a victory celebration before the throne of God, an event that is future to the time sequence that John has been describing. In the course of seeing the remnant of Israel sealed before the Day of the Lord, he also was allowed to look even further into the future. Who is this great multitude? Revelation 7:14 defines them as coming out of “the Great Tribulation.” Even though they may have perished as martyrs during that hellish time, thereby representing a completion of the martyrdom foretold in Revelation 6:11, they are actually victors. They will be resurrected in glory and will receive comfort and blessing from the Father and from Christ.</p> <p>One other observation about the 144,000 should be made. We need to understand that the Day of the Lord is primarily the time of the seventh seal and the year-long period (Isaiah 34:8; 61:2) leading up to Christ’s second coming. But, in another sense, it stretches on into the future to include not only the year of God’s wrath, but also the thousand-year reign of the Messiah, the Great White Throne Judgment period and the introduction of the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:10–13). There will ultimately be a great harvest, numbering into the billions, brought in during this extended Day of the Lord, but these 144,000 from Israel will represent a firstfruits of those redeemed to their Creator during that time. 144,000 is the number of organized beginnings squared and multiplied a thousandfold. It represents the starting point of the Creator’s harvest of the nations after He has begun His direct intervention in judgment.</p> <h2>The First Four Trumpets Sound</h2> <p>Revelation 8 continues the flow of events that began with the opening of the first seal. In verse 1, John sees the seventh seal opened, as seven angels standing before God are given seven trumpets to be sounded, one by one, signaling God’s judgments. The seventh seal consists of these seven trumpets.</p> <p>Note the symbolism in Revelation 8:3–5. Ceremonies carried out in the earthly sanctuary from the days of Moses were patterned after this heavenly reality, providing a key to understanding what is being described. In the earthly sanctuary, every morning and every evening after the daily sacrifice had been offered, the priest took fire from the altar of sacrifice and proceeded into the sanctuary to offer incense on the golden altar in the holy place, located “before the mercy seat”—from which it was separated by a veil (Exodus 30:6). As this account and other scriptures show, the incense offering represented the prayers of the saints coming up before God. The mercy seat, located inside the Holy of Holies and over the Ark of the Covenant, was symbolic of God’s throne.</p> <p>In Revelation 6, we saw that the blood of those martyred down through time called out to God for vengeance. God did not answer that plea earlier, because it was not yet the proper time. In Revelation 8, however, fire from the altar is symbolically slung out upon the earth, and God instructs the seven angelic trumpeters to announce His retribution.</p> <p>The remainder of Revelation 8 describes the trumpet blasts sounded by the first four angels. Remember, Isaiah 34:8 and Isaiah 61:2 equate the Day of the Lord with the year of God’s recompense. This period begins with the first trumpet and concludes with the last, or seventh, trump. When God gave ancient Israel His Holy Days, He ushered in the entire fall festival season by designating the first day of the seventh month as “a memorial of the blowing of trumpets.” Since other of God’s festivals received their fulfillment on the very day (note Christ’s being offered as the Lamb of God on the day of Passover and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost), it seems likely that the year of God’s recompense will begin and end on the Feast of Trumpets.</p> <p>As each of the first four angels sound, terrible ecological disasters take place on earth. When the first angel sounds, terrible fires break out, ultimately consuming a third of the green vegetation. Next, a great meteor-like object lands in the ocean and causes one-third of the seas to become red like blood. This causes a third of sea life to die and greatly disrupts shipping and commerce. After the third trumpet, John sees another meteor-like object fall upon one-third of the fresh water rivers and lakes, turning them to poison and causing massive water shortages. When the fourth angel sounds, there follows disruption in the very sky above. Evidently, belts of smoke and debris will block out sight of the sky for one-third of every day. Perhaps this will be caused by massive amounts of smoke from the great fires that engulf virtually one-third of the earth, as well as from debris thrown into the air during increased volcanic eruptions.</p> <h2>The First Two Woes</h2> <p>If these ecological disasters in the opening months of the year of God’s recompense sound devastating, think about the even greater devastation that occurs when the final three angels sound. These last of the seven angels are said to announce the “three woes.” This involves mankind’s unleashing weapons of mass destruction that will imperil the world so severely that if Christ did not return, no flesh would be saved alive (Matthew 24:22).</p> <p>When the fifth angel sounds his trumpet in Revelation 9:1–2, we find the great abyss opened and demonically inspired forces unleashed. Revelation 17:8 shows us that from this abyss the Beast power symbolically emerges. The forces that are unleashed are first compared to locusts, because John did not have the words to describe modern weapons of mass destruction. Notice that these “locusts” do not harm natural vegetation (which physical locusts would devour), but instead for five months cause incapacitating but not deadly pain—rather like that of scorpions. This describes an attack by the European-led Beast power on the nations of the east, as mentioned in Daniel 11:44.</p> <p>This surprise attack will provoke a massive Asian retaliation against Europe. This retaliation, signaled by the sixth angel blowing his trumpet, is pictured as spewing out fire, smoke and brimstone, and destroying one-third of humanity (Revelation 9:17–18). This description fits well with modern nuclear weapons and the devastation they can bring.</p> <p>At the fifth and sixth trumpet blasts, we see that God has removed restraints previously imposed on Satan and his demons. Abaddon or Apollyon, a name for the devil that means “destroyer,” is the one who precipitates the Beast power’s attack with futuristic weapons. Also, we are told that demonic spirits have been associated with the eastern powers that were previously restrained at the Euphrates River. Evidently, the Euphrates will be the dividing line between the eastern and western spheres of influence.</p> <p>When the sixth angel sounds, two events occur. One is the unleashing of a nuclear attack on Europe, and likely on its Latin American allies as well. The other is the massing of the largest army ever assembled on the east bank of the Euphrates—200 million men (vv. 15–16). At this point, it will have been almost a year since the trumpets began to sound. The earth and its inhabitants will be reeling in what seem to be the very death throes of the planet itself. But this is <em><strong>not </strong></em>the end of the story.</p> <h2>Witnesses and Wrath</h2> <p>Revelation 10 opens with another short pause in the flow of action. After the sixth trumpet, but before the sounding of the final seventh trumpet, John sees an angel come down from heaven to give him a small scroll to eat. This is very similar to the Old Testament passages where Ezekiel is told to ingest the contents of a scroll so that he can deliver its message (Ezekiel 2:8–10; 3:1–3). The angel tells John to eat the contents of this little scroll and deliver yet another prophetic message to the nations and rulers of this world. What is that message? Before the abomination of desolation and the onset of the Great Tribulation, the Philadelphia era of the Church of God will <em><strong>for decades </strong></em>have gone through the “open door” provided by Christ, proclaiming the gospel and the end-time warning message. Near the time when the Church’s organized proclamation of the gospel is shut down, the Two Witnesses will boldly deliver God’s message, and will die in Jerusalem. Yes, there will still remain a message to be delivered to the world in the waning days of Satan’s rule! That is why John is told, after the sixth trumpet has been blown and just before the seventh trumpet sounds (Revelation 10:7), that there yet remains a message to be delivered to nations and rulers. The Two Witnesses, who “prophesy” (Revelation 11:3) and “finish their testimony” (v. 7), along with three angels whom God dispatches after the sounding of the seventh trumpet (14:6–9), all “prophesy again” after John receives the “little book” from the mighty angel.</p> <p>Matthew 24:15–21 and Luke 21:20–24 make plain that the multinational army described in Zechariah 14:1–2 will have occupied Jerusalem at the onset of the Great Tribulation. By comparing Luke 21:24 with Revelation 11:2, we see that the Beast power will occupy and control Jerusalem for 42 months, or three-and-a-half years. It is right after the False Prophet desecrates the holy place, revealing his idolatrous symbols and blasphemous claims, that God will empower two of His servants, known as the Two Witnesses, to make their public appearance in Jerusalem, two-and-a-half years before the Day of the Lord begins. God will empower them to deliver His message to a world dominated by the power of the Beast and mesmerized by the illusions of the False Prophet.</p> <p>God will use these two men to perform miracles similar to those performed by Moses and Elijah. They will announce God’s judgments to a world in rebellion against Him, and will confront the power of the Beast and the False Prophet. Throughout the three-and-a-half years of their prophetic career, they will receive God’s supernatural protection, just as Elijah did many centuries earlier (cf. 2 Kings 1:9–14). Finally, God will allow them to be killed. Many will celebrate at their deaths, since the False Prophet will have accused them of causing all of the world’s troubles. Their unburied bodies will lie in Jerusalem’s streets for three-and-a-half days, then they will be restored to life and will rise in the air, disappearing into the clouds while their enemies watch in shocked amazement (Revelation 11:11–12).</p> <h2>The Last Trumpet Sounds</h2> <p>We now come to the mid-point of the book of Revelation and the defining moment of end-time events. What exactly happens when the seventh and final trumpet blast is sounded? Revelation 11:15 states: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'” According to verse 18, this final trumpet blast signals the time when the final wrath of God will be poured out and when God will begin to judge the dead and give reward to His true servants.</p> <p>Paul tells us that this event will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). It is a time when the dead in Christ, along with those Christians still alive on earth, will undergo an instantaneous change from mortal to immortal and death will be completely swallowed up in victory. It is called the “first resurrection” in Revelation 20:6, and those who are part of it are called “blessed and holy.” They need never worry about death again, but will rule and reign under Christ Himself as He establishes His thousand-year reign on the earth.</p> <p>At this point, we should note that those who propound the so-called “rapture” theory do not understand Scripture correctly. The Lord will descend from heaven, and the resurrected saints will be caught up to meet Him in the air, <em>at the seventh and final trump</em>. As we have seen from the story flow of Revelation, this can only occur <em><strong>after </strong></em>all the previously described events have transpired, and is <em><strong>not </strong></em>something that could happen “at any moment” as some mistakenly believe.</p> <h2>The Woman and the Dragon</h2> <p>Having described Christ’s opening of all seven seals, John next provides, in Revelation 12, an inset describing the conflict between the woman and the dragon.</p> <p>John describes a vision of a woman clothed with the sun, the moon and 12 stars. This description hearkens back to Genesis 37:9, where in a dream Joseph had seen the family of Israel depicted by the sun, moon and stars. As we have seen earlier, the Bible uses a woman to symbolize a church. In a few brief verses, the entire history of the Church is traced from the time of the Congregation of Israel—the Church in the wilderness—to the end of the Great Tribulation. The woman is said to have brought forth the man child who was to rule all nations—a clear reference to Christ, who sprang out of Israel. The dragon, defined in verse 9 as Satan the devil, attempts to destroy Jesus Christ—who was taken back to heaven after His resurrection.</p> <p>In verse 6, we read of the woman having to flee to the wilderness to be protected during a period of 1,260 prophetic “days”—1,260 literal years. Since this occurs after Christ’s ascension, it clearly refers to the New Testament Church. Indeed, in the early fourth century AD, after the Roman emperor Constantine allied with the bishop of Rome, the true Church had to flee to remote areas. Historically, a 1,260-year period can be traced from after the Council of Nicea in 325AD, down to about 1585, when the true Church began to emerge openly once again. You can read this entire remarkable story in our free booklet, <em>God’s Church Through the Ages.</em></p> <p>Also, it should be noted that Revelation 12 describes two different rebellions of Satan. Verse 4 reminds us of the archangel Lucifer’s original rebellion (cf. Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28), in which he drew one-third of the angels with him before Adam was created. He was cast to earth, and his name was changed from “light bearer” (the meaning of “Lucifer”) to “adversary” (the meaning of “Satan”). In context, verses 7–12—placed in the story flow after the time of the Church in the wilderness (historically the medieval period)—refer to a yet future attempt of Satan to seize power in heaven, just before the final Great Tribulation.</p> <p>After this future and final casting down of Satan, God will take the “woman”—His true Church—into a special place in the wilderness, to be nourished and protected during this final three-and-a-half-year period. A remnant will be left behind, however, which the devil will go to attack. Scripture shows the Church at Philadelphia being kept from this hour of severe trial, but Christ will <em>spew out </em>the Church at Laodicea into the Great Tribulation, because of its <em>unwillingness </em>to repent of—<em>or even recognize</em>—its lukewarm complacency, materialism, self-righteousness and spiritual blindness and nakedness!</p> <h2>The Beast</h2> <p>Having been given an overview of the history of the true Church in Revelation 12, John was shown another vision in Revelation 13 that gave him an overview of the Beast system. The Beast is first referred to in Revelation 11:7, seeking to destroy the Two Witnesses. It is not further defined until we come to Revelation 13. In this chapter, John saw a vision that hearkened back to what Daniel recorded in Daniel 7.</p> <p>Daniel had seen four creatures emerge one after another from the sea: a lion, a bear, a four-headed leopard and a terrible creature with iron teeth and ten horns. These are defined in Daniel 7:23 as four kingdoms. When the vision in Daniel 2 is compared to that in Daniel 7, it is evident that this progression of four world-ruling kingdoms started in Daniel’s day with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire and continued down through the successive kingdoms of Persia, Greece and Rome. By the time of John’s vision in the book of Revelation, the empires of ancient Babylon, Persia and Greece had passed into history and the fourth kingdom—the Roman Empire—dominated the world scene.</p> <p>In Revelation 13, John described the Roman Empire as having the characteristics of the earlier empires whose remnants it had absorbed. A detailed study of all the scriptures relating to this and the historical references that prove their fulfillment is given in our booklet, <em>The Beast of Revelation</em>. It will give you much detail that is beyond the scope of this present booklet.</p> <p>John saw the Beast receive a deadly wound. Historically this was the fall of the Roman Empire in 476. Then John saw that the deadly wound was healed, as occurred with the Imperial Restoration by Justinian in 554. The Beast then continued for 1,260 prophetic “days,” the duration from Justinian until the fall of Napoleon in 1814. This was the period of the so-called Holy Roman Empire and its alliance with the Roman pontiff. John also saw a second beast, this one looking like a lamb but actually serving as the mouthpiece of Satan, the dragon (Revelation 13:11). Clearly this is symbolic of a religious system that claims to be Christian but actually proclaims the devil’s message rather than Christ’s gospel. This false religious system is pictured as constructing a model, or an image, based upon the institutions of the old Roman Empire. Ancient pagan Rome was the model upon which papal Rome and its political structure was built. There was an alliance of church and state that continued down through the medieval period. The church used the state to enforce conformity with religious edicts and in turn required its adherents to be loyal to the state.</p> <p>The mark of the beast, a brand that advertises disobedience to the law of God, is something that goes back to antiquity. It has been insisted upon ever since this unholy alliance of church and state took place in the days of Emperor Constantine.</p> <p>The number of the beast, 666, is derived from numeric values anciently assigned to letters of the alphabet, in lieu of separate numerals as we commonly use today. Hebrew, Greek and Latin all used such a system, so all names in those languages had a numerical value. See our booklet, <em>The Beast of Revelation, </em>for further information on the mark of the Beast, and the detailed proof that the Roman system is branded by the number 666—the number of a name.</p> <p>It is also vitally important to realize that this medieval alliance of church and state is once again to rear its head. In the days soon ahead of us, the final appearance of the Beast system will emerge once more from out of the abyss. Will you give in to the pressures to fit in with this powerful system that will hold a brief sway over all the earth in the near future? You need to understand this subject for your own sake and for that of your family.</p> <h2>Triumph and Wrath</h2> <p>After these brief insets to bring the story of the persecuted and the persecutors from the time of antiquity down to the time when the seventh trumpet will blow, the story switches to focus on the aftermath of the final trumpet. It will be a time of wonderful triumph for the saints of God. Persecuted and derided down through the centuries, the saints of God are described in glory rejoicing before God the Father and Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the remainder of rebellious mankind is about to receive the undiluted wrath of God Almighty.</p> <p>The 144,000 whom we had earlier seen sealed to protect them from the wrath of the Day of the Lord are now pictured in glory and are singing a new song as they stand before the throne of God praising Him for their redemption (Revelation 14:1–5). All the while this celebration is taking place, three angels go through the earth proclaiming God’s final message for mankind as He prepares to pour out His final wrath (vv. 6–11).</p> <p>As the glorified saints rejoice and the three angels proclaim God’s final warning, preparation is made for rebellious mankind to be cast into the winepress of the wrath of God (v. 19).</p> <p>Here we should note that Scripture identifies the true saints as those who actually obey God and <em><strong>keep His commandments</strong></em>. Revelation 14:12 emphasizes this point by describing the saints in comparison to those who will receive God’s punishment. Also, it should be noted that <em><strong>both </strong></em>the song of Moses and that of Christ (the Lamb) are sung before the throne (15:3). The messages of the Old and New Testaments are not contradictory or discordant; rather, they are in harmony, as shown by the singing of the glorified saints.</p> <p>In Revelation 15, John records a vision of seven angels, with seven golden bowls that pour out seven final plagues, one after another. This pouring occurs rather quickly, as we see when we examine the nature of the plagues. If the second and third plagues, for instance, lasted more than a few days, all life would perish from the planet.</p> <p>When the first bowl is poured out, a grievous sore comes upon those who had disregarded the third angel’s message and were still loyal to the Beast system. Then, when the second angel pours out his bowl, <strong>all the oceans </strong>become like “the blood of a dead man” (16:3). All sea life dies. With the pouring out of the third bowl, <strong>all the fresh water turns to blood, </strong>and sources of drinking water are destroyed. Then, the fourth angel pours his bowl, and scorching heat from the sun punishes rebellious mankind. Next, great darkness comes upon Europe (“the seat of the Beast”) and its people are in agonizing pain and heat, engulfed in total darkness and lacking usable water all at the same time. The darkness results from the bowl poured out by the fifth angel.</p> <p>After this, John sees the sixth angel pour his bowl upon the Euphrates. Demon spirits go forth to bring all the armies together north of Jerusalem. The huge Asiatic army that had previously been massed on the east bank of the Euphrates pours into the land of Israel, and converges in the area of <em>Armageddon </em>(Hebrew for “mount of Megiddo”). Megiddo is a hill that stands overlooking the Valley of Jezreel, about 55 miles north of Jerusalem. When the final seventh bowl is poured out, there will be a tremendous earthquake so massive that the very topography of the earth itself will be altered (vv. 18–20). Very likely this earthquake is the same one that is described in Zechariah 14:4, when the feet of Jesus Christ finally stand once more upon the Mount of Olives, located just east of Jerusalem.</p> <h2>Babylon the Great Is Fallen</h2> <p>Following his vision of the seven last plagues being poured out, John is shown two more visions that represent an inset into the story flow of Revelation. These visions describe Babylon the Great and the final destruction that will come upon that terrible system. In Revelation 17 the focus is upon the religious and political alliance that once again—in the not-too-distant future of you who are reading this booklet—will come to dominate the world. The political system is described as ridden by a woman, but a woman very unlike the chaste virgin bride of Christ. This is a church that is described as a great whore, one that has entered into illicit liaisons with various national leaders. These unions have spawned what the Bible labels as harlot daughters. This whole religious system is defined as an outgrowth of the ancient pagan Babylonian mystery religion.</p> <p>In Revelation 18, John was shown in vision the announcement of the fall and total destruction of modern Babylon. This chapter reveals that in addition to being a religious and political system, as is emphasized in Revelation 17, Babylon is also a commercial system that seeks to dominate the world economically. Many details of the prophecies recorded in these two chapters are covered in our free booklet, <em>The Beast of Revelation</em>.</p> <p>It is important that we realize now, and in the crucial years ahead, that <strong>God’s victory is certain</strong>. This history has already been written <em>in advance</em>! Therefore, it is imperative that we <em><strong>come out </strong></em>of this world’s Babylonish system (18:4) and give our total and true allegiance to Jesus Christ and the <em><strong>message </strong></em>that He taught!</p> <h2>Beyond the Chaos</h2> <p>Much of Revelation describes the chaos that results from mankind following Satan and seeking to build its own civilization apart from Almighty God. But neither that chaos, nor God’s victory over Satan, is the climax of the book. Rather, Revelation ends with the living Christ showing John what would take place <em>beyond </em>the chaos.</p> <p>After seeing, in vision, the cataclysmic destruction of Babylon the Great, John sees another vision of heaven, and of a celebration before the very throne of God. Babylon’s fall is noted in Revelation 19:2, and verse 6 depicts the rejoicing of those before God’s throne: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!”</p> <p>John then learns that the time has finally arrived for the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Church, changed from flesh and blood to immortal spirit at the resurrection, is now ready to marry Christ. The bride—collectively the Church—is pictured as being arrayed in wedding garments of clean white linen, representing the righteousness of the saints.</p> <p>Understanding ancient Jewish marriage customs may give us some insight into what is being described. The marriage ceremony had three major components, each taking place at a different time, as we know from secular history as well as Scripture. These three components share some of the symbolism of the three festival seasons that God gave to ancient Israel, by which he revealed His great plan of salvation (If you do not already have our free booklet on the Holy Days, then please request your free copy of <em>The Holy Days: God’s Master Plan</em>).</p> <p>The first part of the wedding ceremony was the bride price, normally paid by the father of the bridegroom. We see this in Genesis 24, where Abraham offered gifts when arranging to seek a wife for his son Isaac. This parallels the Passover season. The bride price that God the Father offered was the life of His only begotten Son (John 3:16).</p> <p>The second phase of the wedding ceremony was the espousal, or signing of the marriage covenant. Once this formal agreement was made, the couple was considered married, even before they had celebrated or consummated their marriage. Joseph and Mary were in this espousal stage when it was discovered that Mary had supernaturally conceived Jesus Christ. This second stage of the wedding ceremony parallels the second festival season: Pentecost, the time of the covenants (see Jeremiah 2:2, where the time of Israel in the wilderness was likened to the time of espousal).</p> <p>The third phase of the wedding ceremony was the celebration of the marriage feast. Normally a week in duration (cf. Genesis 29:27), it was characterized by festivity and celebration (John 2:1–10). This phase usually began with a procession. The bridegroom would go to claim his bride, and the bridal party would go out to meet him (cf. Matthew 25:6). Usually the bride would proceed, together with the bridegroom, from her father’s house to the home that her husband had prepared. This was followed by seven days of feasting with friends and family. This final stage of the wedding ceremony parallels the Feast of Tabernacles—seven days of feasting that represent the millennial reign of the Messiah, when He will make a “feast of choice pieces” to the whole world (Isaiah 25:6).</p> <h2>The Kingdom Established</h2> <p>As Revelation 19 concludes, John sees heaven opened and the triumphant Jesus Christ returning to the earth in power and glory, astride a white horse, followed by the armies of heaven. Mankind’s armies, which had previously gathered at Armageddon, are destroyed on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The Beast and the False Prophet are taken and thrown into a fiery, molten lake where they are burned up. The blasphemous claims of divinity that they had made are thus shown to be empty and false.</p> <p>When Christ’s feet stand once more on the very Mount of Olives from which He ascended into heaven about 2,000 years ago, the mount will split in two. At that point, a stream will break forth from beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It will flow eastward through the newly divided Mount of Olives, and westward into the Mediterranean Sea. Spreading quickly, this “living water” will supernaturally heal all of the dead waters that had become like blood a few days earlier (Revelation 16:3–4), when the second and third bowls of wrath were poured out. Abundant sea life will be restored (Ezekiel 47:1, 8–9).</p> <p>The returning King of kings will immediately dispatch a mighty angel to seize Satan the devil and lock him away for a thousand years. This sets the stage for the reign of the Kingdom of God on earth. The symbolism of the Holy Days, which God gave to Israel, can help us understand the meaning of the sequence of events. Just as the Feast of Trumpets represents the time of God’s intervention and judgment, so the Day of Atonement—coming nine days later—pictures the time when Satan will be banished and made to bear his responsibility for sin. The fulfillment of what this day symbolized is described in Revelation 20:1–3. Most likely, the action that is described in the book of Revelation as occurring between the blowing of the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15 and the putting away of Satan in Revelation 20:2 will take place in a nine day span between Trumpets and Atonement. Satan being put away will represent the liberation of mankind. This is the fulfillment of the symbolism of the ancient year of Jubilee, when freedom was proclaimed (Leviticus 25:9–10). Note that the Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement, the day that symbolized Satan’s banishment. At this point, the remnants of all 12 tribes of Israel will begin to be regathered from their captivity to the land of Israel (Isaiah 27:1, 13).</p> <p>In his vision of the future, John described the resurrected and glorified saints carrying out governmental responsibilities (Revelation 2:26–27; 5:10). They will reign on earth carrying out their functions as kings and priests under Jesus Christ. Other scriptures, such as Isaiah 2 and Isaiah 11, describe how God’s government will go forth from a rebuilt Jerusalem to encompass all nations. There will be a thousand years of healing and rebuilding, and all mankind will have the opportunity to learn God’s ways. It will be a time of abundance and prosperity, when “everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).</p> <p>During the last generation living at the end of the Millennium, Satan will be released for a short time, and he will immediately go out to deceive the nations once more (Revelation 20:7–10). Why will God release him, knowing what he will do? God has always given mankind a choice, desiring us both to choose the right and to reject the wrong. Some, even after experiencing the benefits and blessings of God’s government, will allow themselves to fall under Satan’s sway. Satan will gather armies, from many nations around the earth, that bear the same rebellious attitude as Gog and Magog—two of the nations that fought against God in the beginning years of the Millennium (cf. Ezekiel 38). These armies will converge on Jerusalem, but will quickly be destroyed, and Satan will be put away forever.</p> <h2>New Heavens and a New Earth</h2> <p>At the close of this period of judgment, when every human being who has ever lived will have had a genuine opportunity to receive God’s salvation, there will be a time of reckoning for those who have rejected that free gift. As the earth and the very universe itself appear to dissolve in a fiery cosmic conflagration (cf. 2 Peter 3:10–13), all of the wicked will be burned up completely and for eternity. After the passing of this sin-tainted realm will come new heavens and a new earth.</p> <p>That new earth will become the dwelling place for God the Father and the family that He has built. John saw the New Jerusalem, which had been under preparation in heaven, descend to the new earth. God the Father will dwell there, with His children, forever.</p> <p>Near the end of the book of Revelation, John describes the glory of this great city with its 12 foundations and 12 gates. The streets are of gold and the gates are each made of a single pearl. There is brilliant color, and light pervading everywhere, because of the presence of the Father and Christ. Those who are part of Christ’s bride will actually dwell <em>in </em>the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1–3), while those who came later—during the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment—will inhabit the remainder of the new earth. The rest of God’s glorified family—”the nations of those who are saved”—will have unfettered access to the Father and Christ, as the gates of the city will remain open by day and there will be no night there (vv. 23–26). They will have complete access to the tree of life that grows in the city, and to the river of the water of life (22:1–2).</p> <p>Death, pain and tears will finally be banished forever. The curse will be removed that came upon mankind, and even upon the earth itself, after the sins of Adam and Eve. Sin and its consequences will at last be totally gone. Whoever desires will be able to take of the water of life freely.</p> <p>“And behold, I am coming quickly,” Jesus declared to John, “and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.… Blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (vv. 12, 14).</p> <p>The book of Revelation tells us of <em>the end of history </em>and <em>the beginning of forever</em>. It leaves us standing upon the very brink of eternity, with the assurance that Jesus Christ <em><strong>really will </strong></em>return soon. The promises that John was inspired to record are absolutely sure—and <em>they apply to you and to your family</em>! “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (1:3).</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Category</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/6" hreflang="en">False Religion</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/17" hreflang="en">God</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/7" hreflang="en">Prophecy</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/19" hreflang="en">The Afterlife</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 28 Feb 2022 21:20:46 +0000 4uwzvo 31 at Is This the ONLY Day of Salvation? <span>Is This the ONLY Day of Salvation?</span> <div class="field field--name-field-title field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Is This the ONLY Day of Salvation?</div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">4uwzvo</span></span> <span>Mon, 02/28/2022 - 20:43</span> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-author field--type-list-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">Roderick C. Meredith (1930-2017)</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Media</div> <div class="field__item"><div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden"><a href="">Image</a></div> <div class="field__item"> <a href=""><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/2022-02/ods-is_this_the_only_day_of_salvation_3-cover.png?itok=0rRQWu9X" alt="Earth in flames" loading="lazy" typeof="Image" /></a> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tag field--type-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">#Afterlife</div> <div class="field__item">#Holy Days</div> <div class="field__item">#Resurrection</div> <div class="field__item">#Salvation</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-teaser field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">What will happen to the billions of human beings who have never known the true God—who have never accepted any form of Christianity? Are they forever doomed to a burning Hell or an eternity in outer darkness? What is the real answer to these questions?</div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>You, through no fault of your own, may be <strong><em>blinded </em></strong>to the information this booklet contains.</p> <p>But you <strong><em>can </em></strong>understand <em>if </em>you are genuinely willing to <em>believe what God says </em>in His inspired word, the Holy Bible. The real <em>answers </em>have been there all along. But Satan the Devil is the “god” of this present world or society (2 Corinthians 4:3–4). Satan is described in your Bible as the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now <strong><em>works </em></strong>in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).</p> <p>Satan the Devil “broadcasts” wrong ideas and attitudes in this world’s atmosphere. As seen above, he is the “prince” of this world’s atmosphere and influences human society and human behavior <strong><em>far more </em></strong>than most people even begin to realize. Satan confuses people about the <em>plan </em>and <strong><em>purpose </em></strong>of the Great God. The Apostle John was inspired to write: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who <strong><em>deceives </em></strong>the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9).</p> <p>And so even the professing Christian world—all divided into more than 400 sects and denominations—has been deceivedabout the very nature of salvation, and about whe<em>n </em>God is truly going to convert the vast majority of humanity.</p> <p><em>Think of it!</em></p> <p>Think of the <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of humans—all made in God’s image— who have <em>never </em>believed in <em>any form </em>of Christianity. Today, only a tiny handful of the 1.4 billion people living in China profess to believe in Christianity. The same goes for the more than 1 billion people of India. Then consider the 240 million people of Indonesia and the people of Japan, Pakistan and other heavily populated nations who are all in roughly the same situation! And in the Arab world, <em>extremely few </em>people claim Christianity as their religion.</p> <p>Then consider the untold <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of people who lived and died in these and in other nations in earlier centuries who <em>never even heard </em>the name “Jesus Christ” during their human lifetimes!</p> <p>Of course, liberal, modernist preachers and theologians— many of whom do not really believe that Christ was truly God anyway—reason their way around the problem with all kinds of human and philosophical arguments about God “saving” these people some other way. But they <strong><em>cannot </em></strong>quote the direct words of the Bible to back up their human reasoning, because the Bible itself is <em>very clear </em>about who will be granted salvation and eternal life.</p> <h2>God’s Word is CLEAR</h2> <p>Speaking about the dramatic healing of a lame man, the Apostle Peter stated: “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is n<strong><em>o </em></strong>othe<strong><em>r </em></strong>nam<strong><em>e </em></strong>under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:10–12). Now would you not call that a pretty clea<em>r </em>statement? Does that leave a lot of room for theologians to reason around and say: “Well, if these people from past ages were basically good people who practiced their religion sincerely, then surely a loving God would grant them eternal life”?</p> <p>But that bypasses the whole point made by the Apostles and Christ Himself, that eternal life is granted <strong><em>only </em></strong>to those who have come to the true God of creation through a unique relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Through that understanding and that relationship, they come to understand <em>who </em>the true God is and <em>what </em>He requires of humans who wish to enter His everlasting Kingdom. <em>Without </em>that unique understanding and relationship, the people of this world are wandering around in utter blindness and confusion and are <strong><em>not </em></strong>at this time fulfilling their ultimate purpose at all. They may be sincere pagans or heathens, but they are definitely pagans nonetheless!</p> <p>Again, notice Paul’s inspired instruction to the Ephesian Christians, most of whom may have been sincere worshippers of the local goddess, Diana of the Ephesians. Here is what Paul bluntly told these people: “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having <strong><em>no hope </em></strong>and <strong><em>without God </em></strong>in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11–13).</p> <p>Since the inspired Apostle Paul told the sincere pagans that they had “no hope,” why should we assume that others who have practiced non-Christian religions would have any real hope for eternal life and salvation? <strong><em>Why</em></strong>?</p> <p>Notice now what Jesus Christ Himself said in John 10:1–2: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Clearly, any who try to obtain salvation some other way are in bi<strong><em>g </em></strong>trouble! Now read verses 7–8: “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.'” These words of the Son of God make it ver<em>y </em>clea<em>r </em>that— according to Christ’s teaching—”all” who came before Christ claiming to be saviors or enlightened ones were frauds or imposters!</p> <p>Again, notice John 6:44. “No one CAN come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” <em>Only </em>those whom God expressly calls are able to understand and respond to the true message of Jesus Christ! And Jesus repeats essentially the same teaching in John 6:65. “Therefore I have said to you that <strong><em>no one </em></strong>can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”</p> <p>With all these straightforward scriptures in mind, <strong><em>how dare </em></strong>any self-respecting minister or theologian teach otherwise? How could they dare to imply or indicate that there is some other way to eternal life besides being called by God and <strong><em>surrendering </em></strong>oneself to the God of creation through the true Jesus Christ of the Bible?</p> <h2>What Is God Doing NOW?</h2> <p>“Well,” you may ask: “if God is <strong><em>not </em></strong>trying to save all peoples of the earth now, then <em>just what is His plan and purpose </em>in all of this delay?” <strong><em>Why </em></strong>are the multitudes of the earth not being called now?</p> <p>The <em>answer </em>is that God is working out His plan in dealing with humanity over a 7,000-year period. For the first 6,000 years, God is allowing humanity to experiment with various forms of religion, education, government and culture. Through spiritual emptiness and physical and emotional agony, humanity is now <em>writing the lesson </em>in human <strong><em>suffering </em></strong>that man’s ways always turn out to be <strong><em>wrong</em></strong>. Having learned this lesson, humanity will be far more ready to listen genuinely when God does open their minds and hearts to His Truth.</p> <p>“How cruel!” some may say. “<em>Why </em>didn’t God just send a perfect teacher, and show us the <em>right ways </em>in a positive and loving manner?”</p> <p>My friends, He <strong><em>did </em></strong>do just that!</p> <p>God <em>did </em>send His Son to this earth as a kind, merciful, loving Teacher who healed the sick, comforted the downtrodden and taught the <strong><em>way </em></strong>to eternal life. Did humanity embrace Him, believe Him and joyously follow His teachings?</p> <p>No. Instead they <strong><em>killed </em></strong>Him in one of the most slow, painful, agonizing forms of death ever devised by a depraved humanity under the influence of Satan the Devil.</p> <p>Remember, it was the <em>religious </em>leaders who stirred up the masses to ask for Christ’s death. They wanted to preserve the religious establishment of their day. After all, their <strong><em>jobs </em></strong>were on the line! Even Pilate, the secular Roman governor, perceived the real issue: “For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of <strong><em>envy</em></strong>” (Mark 15:10).</p> <p>Additionally, God sent prophet after prophet into the world— especially to teach and warn His people, Israel. Were they warmly received? Notice what God said through Jeremiah: “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers” (Jeremiah 7:25–26).</p> <p>So—except for calling a comparatively few dedicated individuals in each age to understand His Truth and to do His Work— God is indeed allowing humanity to go its own way. And where does that way lead? “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of <strong><em>death</em></strong>” (Proverbs 14:12).</p> <h2>Salvation Is Preparation for ETERNITY</h2> <p>The Great Creator, who gives mankind life and breath and all things, wants <em>everyone </em>to be in His Family someday. But being “saved”—and becoming <em>full </em>sons of God in His everlasting Kingdom—goes <strong><em>way beyond </em></strong>what most people understand!</p> <p>It is no<strong><em>t </em></strong>just a matter of “accepting Jesus” in some emotion-filled revival meeting. It is no<strong><em>t </em></strong>a matter of just “joining a church.” Rather, it is a matter of being fully surrendere<strong><em>d </em></strong>to the God of the Bible through a personal relationship with the tru<em>e </em>Jesus Christ. It is a matter of a person genuinely yieldin<em>g </em>heart, mind and will so that the Living Jesus Christ—as High Priest—can fully liv<strong><em>e </em></strong>His life inside the individual. As the inspired Apostle Paul tells us: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, <em>KJV</em>).</p> <p>Through completely surrendering to let the true Christ live within us, we can develop—over time—the very <strong><em>character </em></strong>of God! Through Christ within, the true Christian is enabled to “<strong><em>grow </em></strong>in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). In that God-ordained manner, the Christian becomes a genuine “overcomer.” For—through Christ living within—Christians gradually overcome themselves, the world and Satan the Devil. Such Christians are <strong><em>far more </em></strong>prepared for eternal life in Christ’s Kingdom than if they just “got saved” or “joined a church” in the traditional sense of this deceived world!</p> <p>The living Christ said: “And he who <strong><em>overcomes</em></strong>, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’; as I also have received from My Father” (Revelation 2:26–27). Again, Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the <strong><em>will </em></strong>of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). And it is clearly God’s revealed will that <em>true </em>Christians are those who overcome and allow Christ—through the Holy Spirit—to live His life within them, the <strong><em>same kind </em></strong>of surrendered, obedient life that He lived while in the human flesh.</p> <p>In <em>that way </em>God’s Kingdom will be populated—<strong><em>not </em></strong>by selfish, rebellious, disobedient malcontents who would make <em>everyone</em>, including themselves, <strong><em>miserable </em></strong>for all eternity—but by individuals who freely responded to God’s call and have allowed Him to build within them <em>His very nature </em>and <strong><em>character</em></strong>. As the Apostle Peter wrote, God’s promises—including the promised Holy Spirit—enable us to “be partakers of the <strong><em>divine nature</em></strong>” (2 Peter 1:4).</p> <p>God does not just metaphorically say that we are His children. Rather, He puts <em>His very <strong>nature </strong></em>within us through the Holy Spirit. Then, we can reflect <em>His </em>nature in <em>everything </em>that we think, say and do. He can and will build within us a nature and character fit for eternal life in His soon-coming Kingdom!</p> <h2>Building Holy, Righteous Character</h2> <p>How does God build His character in us? He knows that sometimes we will only learn a lesson if we “suffer.”</p> <p>If we are tempted to become discouraged by some obstacle that we face, we can keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).</p> <p>We know from history that true Christians have been persecuted since the very first days of the Church. If we “suffer” now, it is as preparation for an eternity of joy and peace and love as a part of God’s family! So we should not be surprised by suffering—we should welcome it as a tool through which God will build our character, and through which we may come to empathize, and even understand in some small measure, what Jesus Christ went through when He suffered for us. The Apostle Peter was aware of this very important point. He wrote: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12–14).</p> <p>Yes, we know that we may face many tribulations on our way to God’s Kingdom (Acts 14:22), but we can welcome these tribulations as opportunities to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (2 Peter 3:18).</p> <h2>God Desires EVERYONE to be Saved</h2> <p>Again, God desires ever<em>y </em>huma<em>n being</em>—all made in His image—to be in His Kingdom some day. God created mankind “in His image” (Genesis 1:26). He made us free moral agents—able to choos<strong><em>e </em></strong>between life and death and between good and evil. God tells us in His word: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choos<strong><em>e </em></strong>life<strong><em>, </em></strong>that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).</p> <p>In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God “desires <strong><em>all men </em></strong>to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” God does not force all men to be saved. Free moral agency is involved, and there are plenty of scriptures to show that some few, at least, will be cast into the “Lake of Fire” (Revelation 19:20), which <em>is </em>the <strong><em>second death” </em></strong>(Revelation 20:14).</p> <p>Yes, some few will <strong><em>choose </em></strong>to be extinguished for eternity rather than to love and serve God. How can God reconcile His perfect love with His perfect justice? He cannot allow a rebellious spirit into His family, but neither is He a sadist who delights in the torment of His creation. He will not condemn to destruction someone who never was given a chance to hear His Truth, but He expects much of those who have accepted the Truth and the sacrifice made by His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. We read in the book of Hebrews: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26–27).</p> <p>Yes, if we sin willfully after God has revealed His Truth to us, then unless we repent we become His “adversaries” deserving of judgment and “fiery indignation.” What is that fiery indignation? It is the Lake of Fire, described in the book of Malachi: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch'” (Malachi 4:1).</p> <p>Those who reject God will become “stubble.” They will be burned up forever. They will cease to exist! Who will suffer this fate? The Apostle John tells us in the book of Revelation: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).</p> <h2>Everyone Will Come To UNDERSTANDING</h2> <p>God <em>will <strong>not </strong></em>allow anyone to suffer such a fate without having made a deliberate choice. He will see to it that every individual who was ever born has a chance to be faced with the real <strong><em>truth </em></strong>of God’s will and His purpose. For the word “knowledge” used in 1 Timothy 2:4 is translated from the Greek <em>epignosis, </em>which means “an overview” of the Truth. So, again, <em>every </em>human who has ever lived must be clearly presented with this <em>fundamental knowledge </em>about God and His plan. Each one must have a chance to either accept or reject eternal life on <em>God’s </em>terms. Otherwise, God would indeed be a respecter of persons by allowing <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of humans to live and die without ever learning about the <strong><em>plan </em></strong>of the Creator God and His Son Jesus Christ.</p> <p>We learn more about God’s will in 2 Peter 3:8–9. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”</p> <p>God counts time in <em>thousands of years</em>. So He is not in a hurry to save everyone until mankind has written indelible lessons in human suffering by going the wrong way. So even though countless preachers have implored their revival crowds to “give your heart to the Lord tonight! This may be your <strong><em>last chance!” </em></strong>—the very preachers uttering these words are showing that they have <strong><em>no idea </em></strong>about the real <em>plan </em>and <strong><em>purpose </em></strong>the Creator God is working out here below.</p> <p>One scripture that ministers have misused in this way for generations is found in 2 Corinthians 6:2, where God says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”</p> <p>Does the above scripture mean that this is “the” day of salvation and that there is no other? The answer is simply a matte<em>r </em>o<em>f </em>correc<em>t </em>translation<em>! </em>Scholars acknowledge that the first part of this passage is an exact quote from Isaiah 49:8. This is correctly translated: “In a<strong><em>n </em></strong>acceptable time I have answered thee, and in <strong><em>a </em></strong>day of salvation I have helped thee” (<em>The </em>Hol<em>y </em>Scriptures<em>, </em>The Jewish Publication Society of America; emphasis ours). Applying the principl<em>e </em>of Isaiah 49, Paul is, in fact, urging the Corinthian Church members no<strong><em>t </em></strong>to receive God’s grace in vain (v. 1). These people were alread<em>y </em>called—<em>already </em>in God’s Church. So this passage is certainly not telling us that this is the onl<strong><em>y </em></strong>day of salvation for all mankind. Rather, even as many Bible commentaries acknowledge, it is urging the already converted believers to “work out” their salvation to the end (see <em>A </em>Commentar<em>y </em>o<em>n </em>th<em>e </em>Paulin<em>e </em>Epistles<em>, </em>Charles B. Williams, Moody, 1953).</p> <p>As we have seen, God wants “all” to come to the knowledge of salvation. But He is definitely <em>not </em>trying to save everyone <strong><em>now</em></strong>. Otherwise, since most humans have never believed in <strong><em>any </em></strong>form of “Christianity,” we would have to assume that God is somehow helpless—<strong><em>unable </em></strong>to accomplish what He intends to do!</p> <h2>Did Jesus Try to “Save” People?</h2> <p>A very common misconception—based on a <strong><em>misunderstanding </em></strong>of the very subject of this booklet—is that Jesus Christ came to “save” people during His ministry on earth. <em>But He did not! </em>Rather, Jesus—through His atoning death—made it <em>possible </em>for those whom the Father “calls” to be reconciled to God <strong><em>after </em></strong>His death and resurrection.</p> <p>Near the end of His life in the human flesh, Jesus told His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). Even Jesus’ disciples did <em>not yet </em>have the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. They were <strong><em>not </em></strong>yet converted! As Jesus told Peter, “When thou art <strong><em>converted</em></strong>, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32, <em>KJV</em>). And, speaking of Jesus’ lifetime, John was inspired to write, “The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).</p> <p>So, in a technical sense, n<em>o </em>on<em>e </em>was “converted” during Jesus’ human ministry. N<em>o </em>on<em>e </em>received the Holy Spirit until the Day of Pentecost afte<em>r </em>Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 2). And, surprising to some, Jesus di<em>d </em>no<em>t </em>eve<em>n </em>tr<em>y </em>to convert the multitudes during His ministry. Jesus was no<strong><em>t </em></strong>“trying” to save all humanity back then anymore than God is trying to save all humanity now!</p> <p><strong><em>Think.</em></strong></p> <p>Many were taught in Sunday School—just as I was— that Jesus spoke in parables to “make the meaning more clear.” To this day I can clearly remember my Sunday School class being taught that since most of Jesus’ listeners were farmers, fishermen or shepherds, He taught in parables using agricultural illustrations so that these common working folks would be able to understand better.</p> <p>But, <em>what does the Bible actually say? </em>Exactly the <strong><em>opposite! </em></strong>For Jesus told His Apostles, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and <strong><em>not </em></strong>perceive, and hearing they may hear and <strong><em>not understand; </em></strong>lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them'” (Mark 4:11–12). Again, Jesus was <strong><em>not </em></strong>trying to “save” these people—<em>at that time!</em></p> <p>That is hard for many professing Christians to understand. For they have been taught over and over that Christ, the Apostles and all true Christians are engaged in a sort of “soul-saving” mission! And it is at least implied that if people do not “get saved” in this present lifetime then they are “lost” <strong><em>forever</em></strong>.</p> <p>Yet, if you carefully read the four Gospels and the book of Acts, it becomes obvious that the <strong><em>vast majority </em></strong>of people alive during the lifetimes of Jesus and the Apostles were <strong><em>never </em></strong>converted to <em>any </em>form of Christianity! Were they all mean and nasty people? Were they all in direct rebellion against God? Are they all “doomed” forever? Was the Work of Jesus and the Apostles a <strong><em>total failure?</em></strong></p> <p>Of course not!</p> <p>Just like most of the philosophers with whom Paul reasoned at the Areopagus (Acts 17:18–34), most people of that time never had <strong><em>any idea </em></strong>about the true Creator God. They just did not know. And God did <strong><em>not </em></strong>try to “call” them—<em>at that time. </em>Again, it is all a matter of <strong><em>timing</em></strong>—a matter of <em>when </em>God decides to call these <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of people who have lived apart from the true God for these past 6,000 years.</p> <h2>Even Israel Has Been BLINDED</h2> <p>As we have seen, God uses Israel as a type of <em>all </em>humanity. In several different passages God’s Word reveals the <em>principle: </em>“First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles” (John 4:22; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; 2:9). So Christ and the Apostles first preached to the Jews. Later, in Acts 10, we find the story of how God led Peter to open up salvation to the Gentiles—beginning with the household of Cornelius.</p> <p>So <strong><em>why </em></strong>are the Jewish people—and the vast majority of those descended from the “lost ten tribes”—not all converted Christians? Because—as with the rest of humanity—God has absolutely <strong><em>blinded </em></strong>them so <em>they cannot understand!</em></p> <p>In the book of Romans, Paul was inspired to explain this about the people of Israel: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Notice, however, that these people were and are “ignorant” of the righteousness of God. For God has <em>not yet “called” them.</em></p> <p>Notice Paul’s explanation: “What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day'” (Romans 11:7–8). The <em>King James Version </em>has verse 7 translated this way: “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were <strong><em>blinded.”</em></strong></p> <p>But has God “blinded” these people <strong><em>forever? </em></strong><em>Of course not. </em>As we have explained, God is a just God. He will call each class of people in <em>His </em>own time. That is precisely what mainstream Christianity does <strong><em>not </em></strong>understand. Here is <em>God’s </em>answer to this puzzle: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob'” (vv. 25–26).</p> <p>So “all” Israel wil<strong><em>l </em></strong>be saved! As we will show you in a moment, there is a time coming—a “day of <strong><em>judgment”</em></strong>—when al<strong><em>l </em></strong>human beings who have been blinded down through the ages will have the scales removed from their eyes. The old prejudices and old falsehoods will finally be banished. Then they will see<strong><em>. </em></strong>They will see and understand clearly, at last, the great purpos<strong><em>e </em></strong>God has been working out here on earth. They will understand wh<strong><em>y </em></strong>God has let mankind, as a whole, go its own way in spiritual “blindness” these past 6,000 years.</p> <h2>A Time of JUDGMENT</h2> <p>Remember that Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). And the Apostle Paul was inspired to write: “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Does this mean that the “great” men and women of this world down through the ages have been <strong><em>doomed? </em></strong>That they are <strong><em>not </em></strong>to be given a chance for salvation?</p> <p><em>Of course not!</em></p> <p>Again, what about the arrogant leaders of past worldly kingdoms who killed, raped and abused untold millions of people? Yet they <strong><em>never heard </em></strong>of the true Jesus Christ or His Message. Interestingly, Jesus Himself gives us the answer: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:21–22). The “day of judgment”—as we shall see—is <strong><em>not </em></strong>merely a time of sentencing. Rather, it is a coming time or age when God will resurrect from the dead these <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of people and open their minds and hearts to His purpose. They will <em>then </em>be judged by how they respond—once they have a <em>genuine opportunity </em>to really understand!</p> <p>Continuing in Matthew 11:23–24, notice Jesus’ startling statement: “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” Thin<em>k </em>abou<em>t </em>it<em>! </em>Even the sexual perverts of ancient Sodom will find it “tolerable in the da<strong><em>y </em></strong>o<strong><em>f </em></strong>judgment<strong><em>” </em></strong>compared with those Capernians who personally kne<em>w </em>Jesus and rejected Him!</p> <p>How can this be?</p> <p>Again, the answer is that these ancient peoples—<strong><em>sinful </em></strong>though they were—had <strong><em>no knowledge </em></strong>of the true God or His ways. Christ was not to appear as Savior for hundreds of years. Yet, as we have seen, there is <strong><em>no other name </em></strong>whereby we must be saved.</p> <p>As we have also seen, Satan—the “god” of this age—has <strong><em>blinded </em></strong>those who do not believe! Most people in this age <strong><em>cannot </em></strong>understand the Bible or God’s plan. They have <em>not yet been called.</em></p> <p>Again, Satan the Devil is the powerful spirit being “<em>who deceives the <strong>whole world” </strong></em>(Revelation 12:9). In His prophecies, God speaks about the veil of spiritual <strong><em>blindness </em></strong>that is upon the vast majority of human beings. Then He speaks about a time when He will <strong><em>destroy </em></strong>this veil of blindness after Christ’s return to earth. “And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the <strong><em>veil </em></strong>that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:7–8).</p> <p><em>When </em>will that veil be <em>destroyed? When </em>will the “day of judgment” come for the <strong><em>billions </em></strong>over the centuries who never had a <strong><em>genuine </em></strong>opportunity to know God’s will and to accept the true Jesus Christ of the Bible as their Savior?</p> <h2>The “White Throne Judgment”</h2> <p>The book of Revelation gives the time sequence of prophetic events more clearly than any other book in the Bible. Revelation 19:11–21 describes Christ’s return in full glory as King of kings (vv. 14–16). Then, after crushing the armies of the coming European dictator called “the Beast,” Christ casts him and the coming false religious leader into the “Lake of Fire” (v. 20).</p> <p>Then, in Revelation 20:1, God describes a mighty angel coming down to earth: “He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while” (vv. 2–3). Note that these verses also tell us that Satan has been <strong><em>deceiving </em></strong>the nations of this earth!</p> <p>After Satan is bound, the glorious Millennial rule of Christ on earth will begin. Speaking of that time, Revelation shows that the true saints “lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (v. 4). Then we are told: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall <strong><em>reign </em></strong>with Him a thousand years” (v. 6).</p> <p>True Christians who have been genuinely called by God <em>understand His purpose</em>. They know that they are now in training to become kings and priests in the coming reign of Christ on earth—<em>that they will rule even over <strong>angels! </strong></em>(1 Corinthians 6:1–3). The coming Millennial rule of Christ and the saints (Daniel 7:26–27) will be a magnificent opportunity to help, to encourage and to teach the confused multitudes of people on earth God’s true ways.</p> <p>But, again, what happens to the untold <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of “blinded” people who do <strong><em>not </em></strong>live on over into the Millennium—who have <strong><em>never </em></strong>known the true God and His plan?</p> <p>Keep right on reading Revelation 20! After describing a relatively brief time when Satan is loosed from his prison and—once again—quickly <strong><em>deceives </em></strong>a multitude of people (vv. 7–10), God’s Word begins to tell us about the Great White Throne Judgment period. But before reading this, jump for a moment back to verse 5. Here, inserted as a parenthetical comment after describing the thousand-year rule of the saints, God’s word says: “But the <strong><em>rest </em></strong>of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”</p> <p>The “rest” of the dead? Yes! Those <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of people from ages past who were <strong><em>never </em></strong>called to salvation and therefore obviously had <strong><em>no chance </em></strong>to be in the first resurrection.</p> <p>Notice Revelation 20:11–12: “Then I saw a <strong><em>great white throne </em></strong>and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were <strong><em>judged </em></strong>according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”</p> <h2>A Truly AWESOME Event</h2> <p>Here we find described perhaps the most <strong><em>awesome </em></strong>event in human history, a time when <strong><em>all </em></strong>people—the unknown, the famous and the infamous—will really come to understand why they were born! These formerly dead people, certainly including many of <em>your own </em>ancestors, are seen “standing before God”—obviously in a <strong><em>resurrection</em></strong>. Then the “books” are opened. The term “books” here is translated from the Greek word <em>biblion, </em>which is the same word translated “Bible”—meaning the <em>books of the Bible!</em></p> <p>So finally these formerly blinded people <em>from all ages past</em>— including our own time—have the books of the Bible “opened” to their understanding. The veil which had been over them in the past is now <strong><em>destroyed. </em></strong>Now, at last, these people have their first <em>genuine </em>opportunity to <em>know </em>God, and to decide whether to repent and accept the true Christ as Lord and Savior, or to go their own way.</p> <p>“Another book is opened”—the “book of life.” Paul describes the saints as having their names written in the “Book of Life” (Philippians 4:3). Revelation 21:27 describes the New Jerusalem as inhabited by “only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”</p> <p>The opportunity for eternal life is at last presented to these multitudes of people “small and great.” They are resurrected back to physica<em>l </em>lif<em>e </em>for perhaps a period of 100 years—long enough for a thorough opportunity for them to learn, grow and be tried and tested as to their willingness to live eternal life God’<strong><em>s </em></strong>way (Isaiah 65:20). They will be called and have a chance to stud<em>y </em>and to understan<em>d </em>the Bible. Then—and onl<strong><em>y </em></strong>then—God says that these resurrected people will be “judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). Now, after being given a genuin<em>e </em>chanc<strong><em>e </em></strong>to know and to act upon the Truth, these people are judged by how they respond to and obey the teachings of the books of the Bible. James was inspired to tell us: “Faith without works is dead<strong><em>” </em></strong>(James 2:17–26).</p> <p>Make no mistake: <strong><em>if </em></strong>these untold billions of formerly <strong><em>blinded </em></strong>individuals are merely judged by the works they did in their former lifetimes—many of them as thieves, prostitutes, dictators and false prophets—then they will <strong><em>all </em></strong>surely <strong><em>perish </em></strong>in the Lake of Fire! For in their past lives they did <strong><em>not </em></strong>accept the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved. They did <strong><em>not </em></strong>truly repent (Acts 2:38) of their wrong ways and <strong><em>surrender </em></strong>their life to Christ and allow Him—through the Holy Spirit—to fashion and mold them and help them to “<strong><em>grow </em></strong>in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).</p> <p>God does <strong><em>not </em></strong>have a double standard! These countless individuals deserve to have a <strong><em>real </em></strong>chance—and to be judged on what they do <strong><em>after </em></strong>they have known the Truth of God! Yet countless theologians and ministers—deceived themselves—try to imagine that God will somehow save many of our unrepentant friends and relatives, and multitudes from ages past, <strong><em>without </em></strong>them ever coming to <em>real <strong>repentance </strong></em>and true <strong><em>surrender </em></strong>to the Living Christ. These theologians <em>could not be more <strong>wrong!</strong></em></p> <p>May God help you, however, to understand the truth about the “unsaved” <strong><em>billions </em></strong>this age and of ages past. They <strong><em>never </em></strong>had a real opportunity to accept Jesus Christ. Nor did all the additional <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of people from both the present and past who may only have known about a <em>false Christ </em>(2 Corinthians 11:4), but who never <strong><em>really </em></strong><em>surrendered </em>to let the Christ of the Bible <strong><em>rule </em></strong>their lives!</p> <p><strong><em>No other explanation </em></strong>for this <em>religious dilemma </em>truly makes sense! And the answer has been in <em>your own Bible </em>all along. This is <strong><em>not </em></strong>talking about a second chance. Again, we are only talking about a <strong><em>genuine </em></strong>opportunity to learn about and obey the Truth that a <em>fair </em>and <em>just </em>God is going to reveal to these multitudes of peoples in His time.</p> <h2>The Valley of Dry Bones</h2> <p>Another key scripture that explains this part of God’s plan is found in Ezekiel 37. Here we read the famous story of the “dry bones.” But—<em>wait just a minute!—</em>this is <strong><em>not </em></strong>just a “story.” Rather, this is describing one of the most moving and <strong><em>awesome </em></strong>events in human history.</p> <p>Let us understand.</p> <p>Although this passage of scripture is no doubt referring <em>typically </em>to the lost ten tribes of Israel being restored and later <em>reunited </em>with Judah (vv. 15–22), it is also speaking literally about what is going to happen to the <em>untold millions </em>of people of the house of Israel. Realize it or not, these modern-day descendants of the lost ten tribes are now the American and British-descended peoples and the peace-loving, democratic nations of Northwestern Europe. Be sure to <em>study </em>our eye-opening booklet, <em>The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy, </em>for <strong><em>proof </em></strong>of their national origins.</p> <p>What happens to these people—most of whom have been <strong><em>deceived </em></strong>down through the ages?</p> <p>First of all, remember a <em>key principle </em>defining the way God works. It is mentioned several times—in different ways in the Bible. Notice Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew <strong><em>first </em></strong>and also for the Greek.” Note also Romans 2:9–10, which says the same thing. And read verse 11 carefully: “For there is <strong><em>no partiality </em></strong>with God.” The <em>King James Version </em>translates this verse: “For there is <strong><em>no respect </em></strong>of <strong><em>persons </em></strong>with God.” Therefore, in <em>His </em>time, God must give <em>everyone </em>a <em>genuine </em>opportunity for salvation if He is to be fair and is to be <em>no respecter of persons. </em>It is only a matter of <strong><em>timing.</em></strong></p> <p>In Ezekiel 37, God reveals that the countless millions of Israelites, formerly blinde<strong><em>d </em></strong>to His Truth, will be in a specia<em>l resurrection—<strong>not </strong></em>to condemnation—but to receive God’s Holy Spirit and then be able to understan<em>d </em>and obe<em>y </em>the Truth. Stud<em>y </em>Ezekiel 37 carefully, verse by verse. Note that God gives Ezekiel a vision of a massive valley of “dry bones.” He is asked: “Can these bones live?<strong><em>” </em></strong>(v. 3). God then begins to answer this rhetorical question by stating to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live<strong><em>” </em></strong>(v. 5). Then God continues: “I will put sinew<em>s </em>on you and bring fles<em>h </em>upon you, cover you with skin and put breat<strong><em>h </em></strong>in you; and you shall live. Then you shall kno<strong><em>w </em></strong>that I am the LORD” (v. 6).</p> <p>God deals <em>first </em>with the Israelites—His chosen people—as a <em>type </em>of how He will deal with <strong><em>all </em></strong>humanity. For, again, God is <strong><em>not </em></strong>a respecter of persons! God is obviously planning to <em>resurrect </em>the blinded Israelites and give them a real chance to know Him and His great plan for humanity.</p> <p>As these vast multitudes are resurrected in this momentous vision, they are described as “an exceeding great army” (v. 10). And <em>who are they? </em>God Himself tells us: “Son of man, these bones <em>are </em>the <strong><em>whole house </em></strong>of Israel” (v. 11). So this army of dry bones must include not only those formerly blinded people of the lost ten tribes of Israel, but also the <em>Jewish </em>people who have also been blinded to the message of the <em>true </em>Messiah, and the magnificent plan that He and God the Father have for all mankind.</p> <p>All these Israelites have been sinners—as has <em>all humanity </em>(Romans 3:23). So, in this resurrection, they are at first afraid and feel guilty: “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off” (v. 11). But God says: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put <strong><em>My Spirit </em></strong>in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall <strong><em>know </em></strong>that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it” (vv. 12–14). As a <em>type </em>of all humanity, these uncounted <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of people will then be given a <strong><em>real </em></strong>chance to <em>understand</em>, to <em>obey </em>their God and be <em>converted </em>and be filled with <strong><em>His Spirit.</em></strong></p> <h2>Awesome BLESSINGS Through God’s PLAN</h2> <p>Most of us have a loved one, a friend or an “old Uncle Joe” who perhaps was an alcoholic, regularly took God’s name in vain and seldom went to Church. Yet “Uncle Joe” or “Aunt Millie” were often very “nice” people, friendly and helpful. But perhaps they made no profession whatever of Christianity. Are they doome<strong><em>d </em></strong>forever<em>?</em></p> <p><em>Think about it!</em></p> <p>As you come to a full understanding of God’s Truth, you will increasingly grasp the fact that even most professing Christians have very little idea of what <em>true </em>Christianity is all about. Along with the rest of humanity, they are simply <em>writing </em>the lessons of human experience during their lifetimes. They will truly <strong><em>need </em></strong>this special resurrection during the Great White Throne Judgment to actually <em>learn </em>these lessons they have been writing in human suffering and experience.</p> <p>Perhaps you have heard the joke about the religious fellow who called his friend who had “dropped out” of church: “Come on back to church, George. Everyone still likes you and you might even enjoy some of Pastor Boring’s sermons.” But George makes excuses and then says, “I don’t want to go back and fellowship with all of those <em>hypocrites!”</em></p> <p>“Oh, that’s all right,” his friend answers him, “there’s always room for one more!”</p> <p>We may laugh at the truth of this story. But, deep down, most of us <strong><em>know </em></strong>that a whole lot of churchgoers and professing Christians are, in fact, <em>hypocrites</em>. They just attend church as a social convenience, or because it is another tool to help them get ahead in their business or profession, or for some other non-religious reason. And their lives do <strong><em>not </em></strong>reflect the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit at all.</p> <p>Yet, as we have seen, God’s inspired Word tells us, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is <strong><em>not </em></strong>His” (Romans 8:9). Such a person is <strong><em>not </em></strong>a true Christian!</p> <p>Are all of these “backsliders,” or weak and often hypocritical individuals, “lost” <em>forever? </em>The only way most religionists can try to think their way around this dilemma is to come up with a solution that directly <strong><em>contradicts </em></strong>the plain words of Scripture. But an understanding of the awesome plan of God—involving this Truth about the Great White Throne Judgment—is the <strong><em>only </em></strong>solution that makes sense both logically and biblically. That is because it happens to be the <em>Truth</em>.</p> <p>Perhaps most touching of all, think about the <em>countless millions </em>of people down through the ages whose lives were cut short by senseless tragedy—<strong><em>never </em></strong>having fully understood the Gospel of Christ or having a genuine opportunity to learn the Truth of God’s Word, to <em>repent </em>of their sins and accept the <em>real </em>Jesus Christ of the Bible both as Savior and Master. Are all of these darling little children, mentally impaired individuals or others with various handicaps or mitigating circumstances <strong><em>cut off </em></strong>from eternal life?</p> <p><em>No way!</em></p> <p>These people will be granted a genuine opportunity for salvation in the Great White Throne Judgment period. They will then be given real <em>understanding </em>of God and His awesome <strong><em>plan. </em></strong>The vast majority of them will no doubt choose to obey their Creator and accept eternal life on <em>His </em>terms when they have this opportunity.</p> <h2>Senseless Tragedies or Learning Experiences?</h2> <p>Again my friends, we need to be realistic. The Word of God makes it clear that most people have <strong><em>never </em></strong>been “called” during this age—even most people in so-called “Christian” societies. Millions may know <em>about </em>God. But they do not truly “know” God. For God tells us, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). And again, <strong><em>“Why </em></strong>do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).</p> <p>Millions of people in the United States, Canada, Britain and Europe <em>talk </em>about God. But they do not remotely <em>do what God commands. </em>Jesus Christ commands, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, <strong><em>love </em></strong>your enemies, <strong><em>bless </em></strong>those who curse you, <strong><em>do good </em></strong>to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43–44). Yet most of the horrifying wars and butcheries have been launched <em>in Europe </em>over the past several hundred years. <strong><em>Why? </em></strong>Because—even in the “heart” of so-called “Christendom”—people really do not “know” the true God of the Bible.</p> <p>Literally <em>hundreds </em>of illustrations could be used to prove this point. But one very memorable one comes to mind. It is in the form of a personal letter which was later made public and verified to be authentic. Some of you may have seen it before. This letter was written by a German soldier to his clergyman father during the Battle of Stalingrad, in which 91,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner by the Russians (only 5,000 survived to return to Germany) in January 1943:</p> <blockquote> <p>“…In Stalingrad to question God means to deny Him. I must tell you that, dear Father, and I am doubly sorry for it. You brought me up, because I had no mother, and you always kept God before my eyes and my soul. And I doubly regret my words, for they will be my last. After this I will be able to speak no others which could compensate or reconcile.</p> <p>You are a clergyman, Father. In one’s last letter one says only what is true or what he believes to be true. I have looked for God in every shell crater, in every destroyed house, in every corner, among all my comrades when I lay in my hole, and in the sky. God did not show Himself, when my heart cried out for Him. Houses were destroyed. My comrades were as brave or as cowardly as I. Hunger and murder were on the earth. Bombs and fire came from the heavens. But God was not there. No, Father, there is no God. I write it again, and know that it is terrible and that I cannot make amends for it. And if in spite of all there should be a God, then it will be only with you, in the hymn-books and prayers, the pious sayings of priests and pastors, the ringing of chimes, and the smell of incense. But not in Stalingrad. (Letter 17, <em>Last Letters from Stalingrad, </em>Translated by John E. Vetter, Coronet Press, 1955.)</p> </blockquote> <p>What profound hurt that professing Christian minister must have felt when he read his son’s letter: “But God was no<strong><em>t </em></strong>there. No, Father, there i<strong><em>s </em></strong>n<strong><em>o </em></strong>God<strong><em>” </em></strong>[Emphasis ours]. If that young man had understood the Truth about God’s Plan, he would at least have realized that all those around him butchering one another were spiritually blinded<strong><em>. </em></strong>The professing ministers and priests who blessed them and sent them into battle were also probably blinded<strong><em>. </em></strong>Later on, in a special resurrection, they will be given a genuin<em>e </em>chance—their firs<strong><em>t </em></strong>real chance—to know God and to d<strong><em>o </em></strong>His will!</p> <p>As we think of the <strong><em>billions </em></strong>of men and women down through the ages who died tragic, seemingly senseless deaths, it should be extremely comforting and even inspiring to realize that those tragic deaths at Stalingrad, in Hitler’s concentration camps, on the “killing fields” of Cambodia, in the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami and in millions of other gruesome situations—those deaths were <strong><em>not </em></strong>the “end” for those involved.</p> <p>For the God of total love and understanding has awesome plans for those countless millions of human beings made in His image. He is <strong><em>not </em></strong>going to forget them. But, again, He is <strong><em>not </em></strong>going to “sneak” them into His Kingdom through some “side door” apart from <em>real repentance </em>and a genuine acceptance of the true Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. Rather, in the magnificent Great White Throne Judgment they will have their eyes opened to the transcendent <strong><em>purpose </em></strong>God has in mind for all of humanity.</p> <p>The suffering these people have gone through, the experiences that have broadened their vision, the <em>lessons </em>they have “written” through those sometimes traumatic experiences—all of this will <strong><em>not </em></strong>have been in vain. For they will <strong><em>live </em></strong>again. They will <strong><em>love </em></strong>again. If their hearts are right, they will experience <strong><em>joy </em></strong>again. An inspiring scripture comes to mind which certainly applies to this “special” resurrection just as surely as it does to the first resurrection: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57).</p> <h2>God’s Purpose STANDS</h2> <p>If Hollywood and the music industry would <strong><em>truly </em></strong>portray the enormous wave of <strong><em>joy </em></strong>and <strong><em>exaltation </em></strong>felt by these multitudes as they finally come to life again and come to <strong><em>know their God, </em></strong>it would really “knock your socks off” as is said in the vernacular! Songwriters could write absolutely <strong><em>thrilling </em></strong>songs of <em>praise </em>and <strong><em>rejoicing </em></strong>about this most stupendous event in the long saga of mankind. And someday, perhaps, in the Kingdom of God, <em>they will!</em></p> <p><em>So there you have it!</em></p> <p>God Almighty is <strong><em>not </em></strong>trying to save everyone now. Rather, God is allowing humanity to go its own way for this 6,000 years of human history—under the evil influence of Satan the Devil (Ephesians 2:2). God now intervenes occasionally, when He wishes to, in order to bring about His major purposes in the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms. He also intervenes to call certain individuals to be part of His Church—the “little flock” (Luke 12:32) and to prepare them to be the kings and priests under Christ in the coming Kingdom of God on earth (Revelation 2:26–27; 5:9–10).</p> <p>But the vast majority of all humanity has been <strong><em>blinded </em></strong>by God Himself. They <em>need </em>the opportunity to learn by human suffering <em>that their ways do not turn out well at all!</em></p> <p>Then, in His time, in the transcendent Great White Throne Judgment, God will bring them back to physical life, call them to spiritual understanding and will fill those who are willing with His Holy Spirit. Finally, He will grant them salvation in the Kingdom of God. Yes, I suppose God <em>could </em>have done it another way. But most people must learn by <em>hard human experience </em>that man’s ways are <strong><em>wrong </em></strong>Then, when the opportunity for true understanding comes, they can appreciate <strong><em>God’s ways </em></strong>infinitely more.</p> <p>After describing how God is going to finally convert “all Israel” in His time (Romans 11:26), the Apostle Paul was inspired by our Creator to tell us: “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (vv. 32–36).</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Category</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/16" hreflang="en">Doctrine</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/19" hreflang="en">The Afterlife</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 28 Feb 2022 20:43:19 +0000 4uwzvo 27 at John 3:16 <span>John 3:16</span> <div class="field field--name-field-title field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">John 3:16</div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">4uwzvo</span></span> <span>Mon, 02/28/2022 - 20:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-author field--type-list-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">Gerald E. Weston</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Media</div> <div class="field__item"><div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden"><a href="">Image</a></div> <div class="field__item"> <a href=""><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/2022-02/j316-john_3-16_1.0_cover.png?itok=lsfn2QNd" alt="Clouds with light of the sun reflecting on them" loading="lazy" typeof="Image" /></a> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tag field--type-string field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item">#Afterlife</div> <div class="field__item">#God</div> <div class="field__item">#golden verse</div> <div class="field__item">#Jesus Christ</div> <div class="field__item">#John 3:16</div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-teaser field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">How does God’s love for the world, and for you individually, affect His Eternal promise for you and all mankind? You can understand John 3:16 in a much more profound way than you might ever have!</div> <div class="field field--name-field-booklet-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Booklet Category</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/16" hreflang="en">Doctrine</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/17" hreflang="en">God</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/19" hreflang="en">The Afterlife</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 28 Feb 2022 20:54:49 +0000 4uwzvo 28 at