Life and Death Confusion-The End and The Beginning

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

Here is a well-known verse that most can recite from memory, but have you looked closely at the words and the context?

First, let’s consider the context.  We find it in verse 1:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away

Revelation 21:1

Did you catch that?  The earth we live on now is the first earth, but there is coming a time when God will create a new earth and a new heaven (the atmosphere)

This was prophesied from long ago, even before Jesus came to this earth the first time.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Isaiah 65:17

“For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.”

Isaiah 66:22

So, we can be certain that this earth we now stand on, will be destroyed and a new one created.  The tainted air we breath will also be changed.

As I look at the pollution of this world on the earth, in the air, and in the sea it is no wonder that God must use fire to melt all the filth and disease.  The fire is a cleansing act of God before creating a new heaven and earth.

Peter describes the day when the Lord will burn up this earth.

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.

2 Peter 3:10

Even the elements will melt! All the “works” man has created will come to an end and be reduced to ashes.  Malachi had a similar vision of this day when he said,

“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,

Malachi 4:1 (Partial)

What all is burned up? If we continue on with this verse in Malachi, we will discover something about the fate of those who reject the appeal of a loving God to repent and turn from evil ways.

“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 (Complete)

The fate of this earth with its sin and rebellion come to ashes.  Continuing with Malachi, we read these words:

“You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,”
Says the Lord of hosts.”

Malachi 4:3

Last night, my wife cleaned our oven by using the self-clean feature which sets the oven temperature very high.  This intense heat over a 4 hour period brings all the crud in the oven to ashes.  She then wiped out the ashes and the oven looked like new.  The fires God sends will cleanse the earth of all the “crud”

Peter saw  this “strange act” of God and used the example of the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate the destiny of those who “live ungodly.”

“…turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly

2 Peter 2:6

Look closely at these verses.  Just as Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to ashes, so will be those who are lost.  Sodom and Gomorrah is the example!

Even Satan himself has a destiny with eternal destruction:

I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.
 All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever.”’

Ezekiel 28: 18-19

The fire God sends reduces all the “elements” and “works of earth to ashes.  This is a final work and not a continuous work of torture as many have tried to claim.

In the book of Revelation, a very literal depiction is given to help the reader understand that sin, death, and everything evil come to an end.

“They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them”

Revelation 20:9

Just as a hungry dog devours its food and leaves an empty bowl, so does the work of the fire.  This devouring fire is what destroys Satan as described in Ezekiel 28:18-19

This fire that is devouring the earth, the atmosphere, and all the elements is huge! It is world-wide and is described as a lake of fire in Revelation.

The fire is the end of everything we know, including the life and death struggle of this world.  Notice what is thrown into the lake of fire:

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Revelation 20:14

Here John uses the concept many do not understand.  It is the second death.

How can there be a second death caused by the lake of fire?

As we discussed last time.  All of us, saved or lost are destined to die.  This is the first death.  But, those who are lost die a second death that is eternal.  They “perish” and, like Satan, will never be anymore.

Like a brother of mine said, “If you have been born once, you will die twice and if you are born twice, you will die once.”

Life or eternal death is at the heart of the bad news/good news found in John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

There is a simple truth in this powerful verse that is often missed:

Believe = eternal life

Don’t Believe = Perish

Here is the simple formula to understand and clear up the confusion about life and death.

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The first death, the one all must experience, is the opposite of life.  When God created life, he used to elements to produce the soul.  Here is the verse and the formula:

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:7″

The formula:

Dust (elements) + breath of life (God’s spirit) = Living Soul

The first death is the opposite of life:

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

Ecclesiastes 12:7

The formula:

Dust – spirit (breath of life) = Dead Soul

Moses described it this way:

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Genesis 3:19

David also said about the living:

You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

Psalm 104:29

Now don’t let this upset you because even though we turn to dust, that time period is as fast as you can blink your eye.  For our Lord will raise us from the grave or wherever our dust may be.  As Job said, our flesh can be destroyed, but the next moment we will see our Redeemer:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19: 25-27

We saw last time that it is the resurrection that is to give us hope of receiving eternal life.  After we are dead we brought back to life.  To the sleeping in Christ, this change is like the time it takes to blink or twinkle your eye.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

1 Corinthians 15: 51-53

How my heart yearns for the day Jesus will return and re-unite us as described by Paul,

 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 the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Corinthians 4: 16-18

What a great reunion day that will be! Those long separated by death will experience the creation of life all over again.  The dust will have God’s breath of life (Spirit) breathed back into their nostrils and we will become incorruptible living souls again!  Glory!

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But the lost will not have this experience.  Although they died once like all of us the will die a second time.  Let’s let the Bible explain it.

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power.” 

Revelation 20:6

The lost also have a resurrection, but it not the joyful one.

Let’s follow some simple logic.  If there is a first resurrection, there must be at least a 2nd one.  Right?  If there is a first death, there must be a 2nd one.  Right?

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.

John 5:28-29

That is right!  All who are in the grave will be resurrected and the lost will experience the 2nd resurrection and the 2nd death that is eternal.  How does this happen?

“They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”

Revelation 20:9

Those who are part of the 2nd resurrection go upon the breadth of the earth.  They are deceived by Satan. The “breadth” of the earth refers to the wide expanse.  There are literally millions! He convinces them that if they attack the city, they will have access to the tree of life which is located in the holy city (New Jerusalem) that has descended from heaven after the 1,000 years.  It is next to the river of life.  They certainly have a vast number of people for

“…wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” Matthew 7:13

Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,…Between the street of the city and the river there was a tree of life visible from both sides.

Revelation  21:2 and 22:2

Notice that Jesus talks about the “many” lost being destroyed in Matthew 7:13 .

This fire that the Lord uses to cleanse the earth and create a new one also destroys the disease of sin and death.  For it is also cast into the lake of fire.

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

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The first and second resurrection and the 1st death and 2nd death are separated by 1,000 years.

“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”

Revelation 20:5

Here is a summary of what we have learned in this series on Life and Death confusion:

1.)  Death is real. It is the end of life.

2.)  It is compared to sleep even by Jesus himself.

3.) The sleep of death is quick.  The dead don’t know anything and it passes quickly like a blink of the eye.

4.) Those who are in Christ are resurrected first and meet the Lord in the air with those who are alive at the second coming. All are taken where Jesus is now.

5.) The saved are in heaven for 1,000 years.  To learn more about this, see the post called, “Part 4-Second Coming Predictions-1,000 years?”)

6.) At the end of the 1,000 years, the lost are raised from the dead and face the White Throne judgment (Revelation 20).  They are then deceived by Satan to attack the holy city New Jerusalem.

7.)  God sends fire out of heaven and the disease of sin is destroyed.

8.)  God creates a new heaven and a new earth with the New Jerusalem as its capital.

The idea that the unsaved suffer non-ending suffering and torment in white hot fire for eternity does not make sense in the light of these many verses.

I have run out of time.  I had promised to talk about the verses that seem to indicate the unsaved suffer throughout eternity and that the flames never go out.  I have the material nearly ready and it is rather lengthy.  I hope you don’t mind if I save it for next time.

Blessings!  May you have a wonderful God day!

Life and Death Confusion-Part 2

When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

Isaiah 8:19

In today’s society, mediums and spiritiists do not whisper and mutter, they shout at us.  Their voice is heard on the TV, Movies, and small homes along a busy street!  The council from Isaiah is to inquire of God rather than looking to the dead for answers.  Moses confirms Isaiah’s council,

“Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:31

These spirits lie and deceive people about life and death.

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A popular TV series called the “Walking Dead,” is based on a comic book series by Robert Kirkman.   Should a comic book written by one man tell us more about the dead than the 40 writers of the Bible?

The walking dead (We use to call them Zombies) are those who have “died,” but somehow are able to walk, move, and eat human flesh.  This is a contradiction in terms; dead VS alive.  It echos of the first lie recorded in the Bible and told by Satan himself while disguised as a snake.

“You shall not surely die.”

Genesis 3:4

This was the first form of spiritualism meant to mystify and deceive the first couple.

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The “Walking Dead” is in its fifth season and has approximately 17 million viewers.  It is the most watch drama series in cable history.

There have been other TV series about life and death such as “Resurrection” and many movies such as “What Dreams Might Come’ and “The Sixth Sense.”  This is but just a few that give a writer’s view of death.

Unfortunately, this type of entertainment has contributed to confusion about Life and Death.  It is one the Dirty Dozen that confuse people about the truth as found in the time-tested word of God.  (“What to Do With Doubt-Dirty Dozen” from a previous blog.)

To further add to the confusion are well-meaning people and pastors who speculate that our dearly departed are “looking-down” at those who are still alive while enjoying the reward of heaven.  How could that be heaven if they see the pain and suffering we go through on planet earth?  God has a better plan even on the topic of death.

Then there are movies and experiences that tell of a  person who died on the operating table and went to a light in the sky or walked the streets of gold.  There is a popular movie about a young boy who died and saw heaven and family.  It is called, “Heaven is For Real.”

This sounds good, but is it truth?

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The only source for truth about what happens at death is found in God’s word,  Wouldn’t you agree?  Anything else is speculation, deceit, misinterpretation of scripture, or perhaps the mind imagining things due to the chemical reactions taking place during life and death situations.

The following verse proceeds our opening verse.  Not only are we instructed to consult God, but it is His word that is to be consulted for light and understanding.

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Isaiah 8:20

Let us spend a few moments seeing what the Bible has to say about death that comes to all people, whether counted among the save or counted among the lost.  _____________________________________________________________

The first recorded lie came through Satan disguised as a snake and it was about death!  He said,

“You will not surely die.”

The lie directly contradicted the plain words of the Lord, cautioning them about disobeying,

“You will surely die.”

Ever since then, the lie and contradiction of God’s word has grown into man forms so that most people (even Christians) think that no one really dies.  Their soul lives forever in one place or another.  Some believe that the person is reincarnated and come back in another form.

Paul tells us because of this first seed of disobedience, it grew into a world full of sin, death and dying:

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Romans 5:12

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Notice that death is the payment to all men because of the sin that began thousands of years before. It is not eternal life in another form or even eternal life in a place of torment.

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Death means exactly what it says and it comes upon all mankind whether wealthy or  poor;  king or servant; male or female.

There are many passages from inspired men in the Bible who underscore the fact that when death comes there is no more life nor activity:

Solomon, who was given great wisdom and wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and most of Proverbs described death as follows:

“Whatever you are capable of doing, do with all your might because there’s no work, thought, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave, which is where you are headed.”

Ecclesiastes 9:10 CB

“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.”

Ecclesiastes 9:5 NKJV

Summary:

No work

No thought, knowledge or wisdom in the grave

Dead don’t know anything

After enough time, the memory of them is forgotten.

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David, the father of Solomon, wrote about death in this manner:

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 146: 3-4

The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.

Psalm 115:17

For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?

Psalm 6:5

Summary:

The thoughts of a person perish

No one praises the Lord while dead

The dead have no remembrance of anyone including God and the dead do not give God thanks.

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Job who spoke “what is right” about God (Job 42:7) described death in the same way as Solomon. But he also mentioned death as waiting for a change.

His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; They are brought low, and he does not perceive it.

Job 14:21

If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes.

Job 14:14

He knew that one day he would be resurrected and see his Redeemer (Jesus) at the last day on earth…a very longtime after his skin is destroyed.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19: 25-27

When will his change come?  Paul agrees with Job though they are separated by thousands of years:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

1 Corinthians 15:50

Don’t you like the satisfaction of understanding something that has been a mystery?  My wife and I enjoy mysteries on TV and in books.  We are always guessing at how the mystery will be solved.  In this passage and others, we see the mystery solved about death. Paul says, he is telling us a mystery that is now understood.   Job understood that he would be in the grave until his change came.  The change occurs “at the last trumpet.”  When this occurs, the righteous dead will be raised incorruptible (no longer subject to death and decay) and or mortality (subject to death) will be changed to immortality (no longer subject to death.)

Paul further reveals the mystery of death when he wrote his letter to the church at Thessalonica.  He was encouraging those who were waiting for the return of Jesus.  This is the clearest picture of what happens to those who have died “in Christ”

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Why do we not comfort each other with the words Paul encouraged us to do rather than the fanciful and imaginative scenarios of men?  What a joy to know that one day Jesus himself will return to our sinful planet and there will be a loud sound of a trumpet and those who rise first will be those who have died “in Christ.”  How about those who rise second?  More on that later.

These along with those who are alive “in Christ” will meet them in the air and the Lord will take us to where He is now.  They will never be a separated from the Lord again.  What a comfort to know that those who died “in Christ” will be reunited with loved ones “in Christ” when Christ returns!  What a grand reunion day that will be!

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Jesus also helps us understand death and the passage of time by referring to it as sleep.  There is a real example of the experience of death.  Lazarus, who was a friend of Jesus and brother to Martha and Mary, got sick and died.  He was dead four days.  At four days, the body will have had enough time to decay and smell.  The story is in John 11.

Jesus told his disciples,

“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up. Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”  However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.  Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”

Why did Jesus refer to Lazarus’ death as sleep if it was not an important lesson for them (and us) to know?

Lazarus was truly dead.  His spirit was not in heaven enjoying his reward.  He was dead just like Job, Solomon, and Paul described.

Jesus gave Mary hope by reminding her,

 “Your brother will rise again.”

John 11: 23

 Mary had her understanding of death correct when she acknowledged to Jesus,

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

John 11:24

 Her hope, as is Job, Paul’s, and all others is in the return of Christ and the resurrection.  It is not that they are in heaven somewhere already enjoying the reward of being with Jesus.

 Then Jesus tells her something that we all should know about the mystery of life and death,

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

John 11:25, 26

Standing there before Martha is the one who will resurrect those “in Christ” at the “last day.”  Although we die, we will live again and never die again.

This is not the case for those who are not “in Christ.”  We will see in the next study that they will die like all do, but then they will “perish.”  Perish is eternal death. It is the opposite of the reward of eternal life as described in the world’s favorite verse:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not PERISH, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16

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Another time, Jesus referred to the death of a 12-year old child as sleep.  It is found in Mark 5: 35-43.

“Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

Mark 5:38, 39

This idea of resting or sleeping until Jesus returns is not a new teaching.  It has been taught as such since the beginning of time.  If you have ever been in an old grave yard, you will often see the initials RIP.  This means rest in peace.  When did all this change?  Why do people believe we have an immortal soul that never dies and must live somewhere for eternity.  We will explore more in our next study.

A few years ago, I had to go into the hospital for surgery.  When the doctors and nurses put me to sleep, I knew nothing, felt no pain, and did not dream.  I did not feel or have any worries about my chest being open up and repairs made to my heart. I was not aware of the passage of time.  It had been almost 4 hours since they put me to sleep, but it felt like the passage of time was instant.

So it will be with Job and all those who died as believers.  Whether it is a thousand years or just a few hours, the passage of time will be instant.  So when your loved one dies in Christ, the next thing they will see will be the beautiful return of Jesus.  They will be given flesh like Jesus gave to Adam when he created them of the dust of the ground. They will be changed instantly in perfect heath with the gift of immortality.  Then they will rise in the air to meet Jesus and go to the place He has prepared for us.

 “I (Jesus) go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

John 14:2, 3

 Our hope is in the resurrection, not in dying so our soul can go to heaven. Until then, our body returns to dust and our Spirit returns to God who gave it.  The passage of time is but for a twinkling of an eye then we shall be changed and begin eternity with those redeemed by the Lord Jesus.

But what about those verses that seem to paint a different story like “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” or the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

This we will study next time. Until then, put your hope and faith in Jesus who proclaims:

I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

Revelation 1:18

A Sheet Full of Animals-A Lesson on Prejudice

Based on Acts 10 and 11.  I urge you to read it!

“If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God? When they heard these things they become silent and they glorified God. saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.

Acts 11: 17-19

Peter was not much different than the typical Jew of the day.  He had prejudices against non-Jews.  This prejudice, if retained by Peter and the growing group of believers, would greatly impede (or stop) the work Jesus had commissioned to his disciples to “carry the gospel to the entire world for a witness.”  If they remained separated from the Gentiles, the believers would have imploded by focusing only on their own experience with Jesus.  They would have likely created a commune of believers keeping to themselves, congregating for themselves; keeping clear of those who would make them common and unclean.

Jesus’ example had taught them better.  They had seen Him break down barriers by talking with “sinners” and those of other cultures.

Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.

Mark 2:15

When Jesus stopped to talk with the Samaritan woman at the well, he showed he did not discriminate against this racially mixed group of people who were not of the main-stream Jewish faith. Further, he did not care that she was a woman.  He did not subscribe to the typical prejudices of those who made themselves more righteous than others.

The woman said,

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

John 4:20

Jesus response to her revealed the character of God.  He  does not limit the value of a person related to sex, race, or culture.  What matters are those who worship in spirit and truth.

 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4: 23, 24

Later on Paul would agree with this when he stated,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 3:28, 29

The lessons Jesus taught on tolerance and acceptance came hard for the Apostles, especially to Peter. This time, as shown in our opening text, Peter appears to be on the “cutting edge” of this new way of thinking and “world view.”

The inner circle of believers, the Apostles, and other believers in Jerusalem heard that Peter had been eating with “uncircumcised men”

This created one of the first controversies in the church and involved the Apostles themselves who appeared to have similar prejudices against Gentiles.  Peter and the Apostles had something to learn and it started with a man named Cornelius,

“…a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always.”

Acts 10:1,2

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At about 3:00 PM (9th hour) Cornelius, this “non-Jew” of Italian decent was visited by an Angel.  It was commonly believed among the Jews that angels did not associate themselves with Gentiles.

Nevertheless, the angel appeared and gave directions to him to

“…send men to Joppa and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.”

Acts 10: 5

Cornelius obeyed as directed by the angel.  He sent three of those employed by him: two of his household male servants and a devout soldier from those who waited on him continually.  

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The journey from Caesarea to Joppa was a long journey by foot of about 30 to 36 miles. Walking at a purposeful, but easy pace of 2.5 miles an hour, it would have been a trip of about 12-15 hours  If they left shortly after Cornelius’ vision,  let’s say about 5:00 PM, that would be about 19 hours until they arrived at Joppa.  Time enough for a short sleep of 4 to 7 hours.  “The next day as they were on their journey and drew near the city,” Peter was on a rooftop praying.  He was very hungry and while he waited for lunch to be prepared, he went on the rooftop at noon (6th hour)

Peter fell into a trance and saw a strange vision that he did not understand.

“…he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.  And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”

 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

And a voice spoke to him again the second time, What God has cleansed you must not call common. This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.”

Acts 10: 11-16

The term “common” was used by the Jews whenever something clean came in contact with something unclean.  The clean became “common.”

Following the words of Moses to the children of Israel,  Peter and the Jews obeyed the diet laws by refraining from eating any animal considered as unclean and eating only those God proclaimed as clean. The description of clean and unclean animals can be found in Leviticus 11.

Many people are surprised to find in the story about the animals going on to the ark by two were “unclean animals.” The “clean” animals went into the ark by seven.

You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female;

Genesis 7:2 

Despite the command to slay and eat, Peter would not and did not do as directed.

Despite an apparent easy message, Peter did not understand the meaning of this vision.  Was this a vision about diet?  Was God telling him it was OK to eat unclean animals because God had made them clean now?

A cursory reading of this is used by many as a vision about diet, but we will see that Peter understood it differently after going through a period of wonder about its meaning.

“Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.”

Acts 10:17

Notice that the sheet was let down three times.  This is a significant number to Peter because he had denied the Lord three times and the Lord asked Peter three times if he loved him.  Then Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

The fact that the sheet was let down three times seems to indicate Peter’s need to fully understand the significance of the repetitive act.  Peter like many of us tend to be a little hard-headed and need the repetition before we “get it.”  Often when something is repeated by the Lord, it means it is very important.  Was a change in diet an important event?

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Peter greets the messengers sent from Cornelius. They stay the night with Peter and they all leave the next day to see Cornelius. Peter invites some of the disciples with him. They travel the long trip back to Caesarea where Cornelius is waiting for them.

Somewhere along the way, the meaning of the vision becomes clear to Peter.  When Peter greets Cornelius, he discloses (almost immediately)  the meaning of the sheet with the many different creatures:

“You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Acts 10:28

The barriers set up by mankind and their religion was beginning to break down under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The vision was not about diet, but a very important message of acceptance of all people so the message could go to everyone in the world.  It taught Peter something different than how he was raised. It was a message the early church needed to hear and know so their commission to go into all the world was not slowed by petty prejudices.

When Peter tells the story of Jesus to Cornelius and his household, they believe and they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Those who came with Peter were astonished that the Holy Spirit was given to these Gentile believers! Like Peter, they needed to understand that God does not discriminate.

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”

Acts 10: 44-46

Then Peter does something very much prohibited by the laws of the Jews.  He stays with them a few days!

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In the next Chapter of Acts (Acts 11), Peter is in Judea with the Apostles (those originally with Jesus) and other believers.  They all are astonished like those who were with Peter at Cornelius’ house.  You can hear in their exclamation of disdain for what Peter had done!

You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

Acts 11: 3

Peter then explained his vision to them.  At the end, Peter asks a serious question about the lesson he learned about prejudice and acceptance,

“….who was I that I could withstand God?”

When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

Acts 11:17, 18

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Prejudice toward the Gentile slowly gave way. In this story, it gave way quickly…or did it? The believers were beginning to see that “….there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ….”The separation of Jew and Gentile had been a tradition for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They were looked upon as “inferior” in many ways. Also, the laws contained in ordinances would give way. Their job as the School Master to bring people to Christ was finished. Type had met anti-type. We now have the reality of Christ in the shadows that pointed forward to the work of Jesus.

“…which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

Colossians 2:17

Later in Galatians 2: 11-16, Paul calls out Peter for being hypocritical in his understanding about the separation of Jews and Gentiles.  I’ll save that story for another time.  But,  it points out that old prejudices are hard to break.

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How tough it must have been for tradition to be overcome, especially among those older and set in their ways, But, as Peter explained his vision of the sheet, many were convicted and “glorified God.” by changing their way of thinking.

Truth never changes, but are there traditions in the church that need to give way? Are there prejudices against women for example. Do we believe, “there is neither male nor female in Christ…”

For hundreds, if not thousands, of years there has been traditions in the church about women….Do those traditions need to give way? Can the holy spirit and the burden of pastoral ministry be laid on the heart of a female?  Will their ordination help speed up the spreading of the gospel to the entire world or will it impede its progress?  Let us trust God with our prejudices.

Maybe the Lord needs to send us a vision of the sheet? Maybe we should ask the same question as Peter, “Who am I that I should withstand God?”

This I know,

if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,..” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Brothers and sisters, we need to hear from heaven. Is not God calling us to pull out all the stops to reach this dying world?

Father, please hear our prayer for wisdom and guidance. Not our will, but Yours be done. Let us not withstand you if you are calling us to put away traditions and prejudices that prohibit the spreading of the gospel.

What To Do With Doubt-Part 4 (The Dirty Dozen)

It is OK to doubt.

Sometimes the Bible equates doubt with the concept of confusion (both willingly or unwillingly).  Let’s explore doubt through this idea and see if it makes sense.  If it does, we will also discover what to do with doubt.

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There was a time after Jesus left the earth and early days of the church when God’s spirit came upon the disciples (As Jesus said it would) and they began to preach in the language of the many different people who were in Jerusalem

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Acts 2:5-6

This remarkable event had a purpose.  It was to ignite and spread the truth, the good news about Jesus.  The early church went from a hand full who had been with Jesus to thousands in one day!  It was just the beginning.  The new converts (or simply those who had been there) would hear the message about Christ and take it back to their homeland.  This migration of the message would lay the ground work for the travels and preaching of the disciples by preparing the hearts of those who would hear the story of Jesus confirmed by those who had been with Jesus.  They did a similar work of John the Baptist by preparing their friends and loved ones for the reception of the gospel.

 ‘“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth”

Isaiah 40:3 (The Message)

But, for now, there was a bit of confusion by those who heard the disciples speaking in their own language.  Despite this miracle, there were some who doubted.

 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

Acts 2:12

Since they could not explain what was going on, they were confused and it led to doubt.

Not much has changed over the thousands of years.  When man cannot understand or explain something, they doubt.  It is OK to doubt, but to refuse to seek answers and truth is a mistake.

If you are having doubts about Jesus, it might be that you have not sought the answers.  For this study, let’s try to understand why there is so much confusion regarding the truth about God, Jesus, and our purpose on earth.

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If you think about it, your religious preference, world-view, denomination, and thoughts about truth are often “preset” for you based where you were born and your parents.  If you are born in North America, you are likely a Christian, either Protestant or Catholic.  If you were born in the Mid-East, you are likely Islāmic in your beliefs.  Are your parents Chinese? Then likely you would subscribe to some sort of Buddhism.

As a child, you were trained up in the preference of your parents.  If your parents never attended church or sought truth, then you too likely have done the same.

With all of us, from different backgrounds, confusion reigns.  A simple answer is to say that all are just different paths to the same place.  Some might say, there is no “path”; there is no “place.”

But Jesus makes a claim that cuts across this:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6

Now if Jesus made this claim, He better be able to support it.  Either this is an absolute truth or it is an absolute lie.  It (and He) cannot be both.

It is tempting to go down the path of talking about the reality of absolute truth at this point, but I will save it for another time.  Instead let’s think about the things that would cloud our thinking and bring confusion and doubt about truth.

Here is a list of 12 items that can bring confusion and doubt in a person’s experience.  Before you read this list and think about it, know that there is a loving God who does not want us to be “ignorant” about truth regardless of how we got to a state of confusion.

“…I do not want you to be ignorant…”

1 Corinthians 12:1

  1.  Family religious ancestry (If Grandma’s beliefs were good enough for her, it must be right!)
  2. Popularity (If the masses believe this way, it must be right!)
  3. Tradition (It has always been believed this way)
  4. Dogma (Blindly following a set of creeds and rules for points with God.)
  5. Shallow study (Not only a cursory approach, but studying to prove a point rather than discovery of truth)
  6. No study (Gathering around us speakers we like and who support our un-researched beliefs.)
  7. Education (Especially denominational education) and Science explained with a humanistic agenda.  Remember, God is the author of all science!
  8. Closed-mindedness (Don’t want to know the truth.  Might interfere with my lifestyle)
  9. Feelings (My heart tells me what is truth)
  10. Good looking, articulate, entertaining ministers (Someone that is good looking and charismatic can’t be wrong!)
  11. Entertainment and Entertainers (These famous people are smarter than most. Aren’t they?)
  12. Actual deception from Satan himself (Don’t forget, he can appear as an angel of light. II Corinthians 11:14)

Let’s call these the “Dirty Dozen” for future reference.  Notice what is missing in all of these:  A personal knowledge and experience with God and his word! What do you think would happen if we earnestly asked Jesus, directly, for truth from His word through the work of the Holy Spirit?  What would happen if we honestly wanted to know truth, regardless of the presence of the Dirty Dozen?  How many Christians do this?  How many search like their lives depended on it?  Has church attendance become a routine and social event rather than worship and search for truth.

It should not be a surprise that the enemy of mankind can (and does) use the “Dirty Dozen” to keep truth from doing its work of introducing the lost to Jesus; building up the body of Christ; and enriching our experience with God.  Is that a fair statement?  He is the father of all lies

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

John 8:44

Actually, the Dirty Dozen is on automatic pilot in a world of sin.  Our sinful nature and those 12 items listed above can do their work on their own without Satan being just over your shoulder. He is not omnipresent, like God, is he?

So much to overcome in the pursuit of truth!  But, take heart!  God is working to draw every person on planet earth towards the one and only true God; towards truth about Him and His life saving teachings!  He does not want anyone to perish.  That is why the gospel must go to the whole world for a witness.  Yes, to the Chinese, the Japanese, the Asians, the Latino, the African, the English, Americans….everyone! Christianity is not an just for King James English speaking people. God and his written word is greater than the dirty dozen and greater than the boundaries of language, space, and culture!  He draws every person born onto the planet towards him…inviting us to search for truth.  If we search, we will find it!

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 1:9

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”

John 12:32

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

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Most Important Truth

At the very core of every doctrine is the character of God.  It is often overlooked that the reason Jesus came to this earth was not only to live a sinless life; pay for our sins by his death on the cross; and to reveal the power of God through his resurrection, but to reveal the true character of God and therefore draw people into salvation.  By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, the truth about the character of God had been turned into a lie.  Would you agree with that?  How had it turned into a lie?  Well meaning followers were influenced by the “professional” religious leaders (Scribes and Pharisees) in the interpretation of God’s word and character.  There were so many rules and misunderstandings that the creator God, they professed to know, was in their presence and he was not even recognized.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

John 1:10 

Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

John 8:19

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

John 14:8-9

It is so important that we “know” the true character of God the Father and Jesus our Creator, that Jesus equates it with salvation and having eternal life:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17:3 (New King James Version)

He goes on further in explaining this important concept of knowing God as the basis of salvation.  In the following text, he discloses that there are many who think they know God and even have the works to prove it (or do they), but they are lost, because of this lack of knowledge!

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Matthew 7:21-23

Interesting that these people look like Christians and even have some of the spiritual gifts and works, but they practice lawlessness.  In other words, they have the form of godliness but deny its power. 2 Timothy 3:5.

If we “know” him, we know not only about him, but we know his character, his motives, and his feelings.  We find out about him through: His word, the life of Jesus, other born-again Christians, His work though other people, nature, even through working with him and doing his will.  Very important that we are willing to do his biding, because if we are not willing to follow, not only will we fail to get to  know him better, but we will become confused about his teaching:

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

John 7:17

The power of the dirty dozen is not to be underestimated.  Any one of them can, at the least, can prove to hinder a relationship with Jesus and at the worse lead to making “Christ of no effect” Galatians 5:4 (King James Version).  In the end, a true knowledge of God is not just facts or an understanding of his historical actions, but a present personal relationship with him.  When you do know him, you will know that he is forgiving, slow to anger, has your best interest in mind, etc.

The only way to overcome confusion is through a personal study and application of the powerful word of God created by a desire to find out the truth about God.  In the end, however, it is not how much you know that saves you, but how well you know Jesus.  Today, He invites you to:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 11:29

How about it?  Are you ready to start your Jesus Journey?

A Lame Man Walks-Why Do You Wonder?

Please read Acts Chapter 3

“Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?”

Acts 3:12

It is tempting to let the story of the lame man overshadow the “meat” of Acts 3. In fact, Peter seems to down-play this miracle of healing when he says,

“Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?”

Acts 3:12

Peter immediately directs the eyes of the people towards Jesus and away from himself and even the lame man!

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The book of Acts is a continuation of the book of Luke (Both written by Luke).  As a physician, Luke must have been impressed by this healing. No doubt he had seen many people with similar problems, but could do little about it.  Perhaps he only prescribed something for the pain.  But, in a moment, this man’s ankles, legs, and feet became strong and he began to leap in his joy!

What a feeling it must have been to both walk and jump after spending his entire life on a dirty mat, assisted by family and strangers!  Despite this miracle, Peter points the people to something even more fantastic.  They are about to hear things they have never heard before!  It will change their lives and they will be able to walk too!

There is a powerful theme in this chapter that is eternal.  Its teaching is a critical part of the command of Jesus to:

“Go into all the world and preach the GOSPEL to every creature…” Mark 16: 15.

What is the good news? All its elements are found in Peter’s short sermon. Sadly, some of these elements are left out by many gospel workers today and, therefore, the power of the gospel is left incomplete.

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Peter begins to tell the crowd who wondered at the healing of the lame man the bad news. He reminds them that their sin crucified the “Prince of Life.”  But, there is good news:

They did it out of ignorance and the Lord knew it would happen and revealed it ahead of time through His prophets!

“But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.”

Acts 3: 18

At the end of the first letter to Theophilus (Book of Luke), Luke told the story of how Jesus explained to the disciples about Himself as found in the Tanakh (what we call the Old Testament) See Luke 24. This was the day after the Resurrection and, perhaps, took Jesus hours to explain because there was so much material.

 Jesus’s Bible study along with His resurrection from the dead, made the disciples bold and full of faith. They were no longer afraid and almost all of them would die proclaiming the message of Jesus.  It is in this type of Bible study given by Jesus where people are first educated on the scripture and then converted.  It is the most effective method of turning non-believers unto believers.

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True conversion comes from a knowledge of Jesus through God’s word!  Conversion should come in this order:  Facts about Jesus, Faith  in Jesus, then Feelings of joy and peace in Jesus.

  Facts (God’s word) give the basis for Faith (Trust) and Faith gives the basis for Feeling (conviction, joy, desire to obey) that comes last.  Now it is not to say that some tragic event or feeling will lead someone to begin to look for facts about Jesus, but a knowledge of Jesus is the first step in true conversion.  Wouldn’t you agree?  How often has this order been shuffled resulting in a confused and weak convert?

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Conviction and spiritual eyesight will arise when people hear the story of Jesus and how it was foretold through the

“Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms”

(Luke 24:44)

In this chapter, Peter “connects the dots” for these people who are in wonder of the lame man being healed. Peter reminds the people about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and God’s promise to bless the entire earth through Abraham’s seed. Then he reminds them how Pilate wanted to let Jesus go, but they chose a murderer over the “Holy and Righteous One.” Peter gives them hope by acknowledging the prayer of Jesus as He hung on the cross,

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

Peter concurs with that prayer, which he heard from a distance….The people, as well as the rulers, did their dirty deeds out of “ignorance!”

Then Peter begins to tell them the good news.  He  tells them the same thing Jesus told them,

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.”

Acts 3: 18

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Now it is decision time. Peter has an alter call. A sermon like this needs a response.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus…”

Acts 3:29

Peter is offering them an opportunity to respond to what they just heard and to rid themselves of the ugly acts of sin. Their scarlet sins can be blotted out and Jesus will refresh them by coming into their lives (the new birth). Then he reminds them that although Jesus has gone away, He will come again and “restore all things.”

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The good news is simple, but it should always contain the 10 elements that Peter used here in the 3rd chapter and in his sermon in the 2nd chapter where 3,000 were added to the church:

1.) All of us are sinners and we will die eternally. (Bad news)

2.) Our sins (out of ignorance of the word) sent Jesus to the cross to die. (Bad news).  The good news is that His word is available to all.

3.) Jesus is found in the Old Testament as well as the new. (Prophecy).

4.) God foretold that that Jesus must suffer. He did it willingly for us. (Justification)

5.) Jesus was raised. Without this, we have no hope. (Resurrection)

6.) Repent for your sins and be converted. Refreshing (new birth) will come. Your life will be changed! (Sanctification)

7.) Be baptized as a public acknowledgment of your desire to follow Jesus (Obedience).  

8.) Rise to walk in newness of your new life in Christ. (Change your lifestyle)

9.) Depend on Jesus daily.  Heaven has received Jesus (Ongoing ministry of Jesus in Heaven. See Hebrews)

10.) Jesus is coming again to restore all things. The redeemed will all live in a new heaven and a new earth!  See Isaiah 66:22-23

When the gospel is presented (it may take some time) and people hear the entire story of Jesus, they will feel the pull of the Holy Spirit to make a decision for Christ.

“If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.”

John 12:32

Today if you hear His voice and feel the knocking at the door to your heart, yield to the pull and do not resist.  Ask Him to take over your life….a life that has been marked by bad decisions and mistakes.  He will give you rest and peace.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Revelation 3:20

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30