A Clean Pig Returns to the Mud-Part 1

A personal testimony of the reality of God’s grace….in three parts…

But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

2 Peter 2:22 

A Pig and His Mud

These words came to mind and knocked the wind of me.  How could I ever find my way back to God?  It had been 10 years of riotous living and discouragement.  Having read these verses before, I took a deep breath and indulged in my hopelessness:

“…for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

2 Peter 2:19-22

Peter’s words described me perfectly.  Like knives they jumped off the page into my heart:

a slave being mastered…

escaped corruption by knowing Jesus…

entangled and overcome…

worse off at the end than at the beginning….

better to not have know the way of righteousness…

turned my back on the sacred command passed on to me.

a sow washed and going back to the mud and getting dirty again.

How had I gotten to this point in my earthly experience? This passage was clear.  It needed no interpretation from the Greek or some fanciful twisting of its words to make it say something else.

I had also heard the phrase or idea in another passage saying my situation was worse at the end than at the beginning:

And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.

Matthew 12: 45

The very words of Jesus Himself!  He talks about a house (a person’s life) that is swept clean of the evil, but 7 spirits more evil than the first one occupy the empty house (life).

That was me! I left God and had indulged in sin including alcohol, women, and poor judgment. I WAS more evil now than ever before in my life.  It was not always so. In this Part 1 I will describe my conversion from Atheism to a full-blown believer in Jesus.  In part 2, I will talk about my falling away and the hopelessness I felt, but how God cleaned up the pig yet one more time. Part 3 is my second conversion and the strength I gained from the experience.

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Divorce and a Grandmother’s Influence

My parents divorced when I was 6 years old and I remember crying many nights because I missed my dad.  Once, while looking at the big pictures in my grandmother’s Bible, I came across a photograph of dad between its pages.  He was with friends and had a big smile on his face.

Dad was like John Wayne to me.  Big and tough, but a very likable person.  When I saw the photo of him playing cards with friends, I began to feel the pain of being lonely for his presence in my life and the tears flowed freely.  My dear grandmother saw me with my head down and sobbing.  She gently took the old photo from me.  I never saw it again.

My Mom worked hard and even as a young boy I knew money must have been tight  because we moved in with my grandmother. When I started first grade, it was my grandmother who walked me to school and returned for me when school let out.  I slept in her bedroom on a little cot next to a unused fireplace.  She made my meals, gave me a bath, and talked to me about God.

My Mom was working hard making a living for her two boys.  I clung to her and my grandmother or mamaw, as we called her,…hoping they would never leave my brother and me like dad had done.

At night, mamaw knelt beside her bed and prayed for me.  It was her habit to say her prayers softly, but if anyone was close by  they could hear her in the quietness and darkness of bedtime.  As I lay there listening, I remember her prayers being like a conversation.  In my mind, I was sure that if I looked in her part of the room, I would see her and Jesus having a cup of tea and talking there on the floor. I could see Jesus sitting with His legs bent and arms around his knees looking at my grandmother.

She prayed for everyone in the family and saved my name for last…the oldest grandchild.  As she spoke my name, I could see it floating like vapor to the very throne room of God where His eyes and  attention would quickly shift to me.  It was a good and awesome feeling.  I felt secure.

Mamaw was my Sunday school teacher. She taught me about God in those early years. She based her feelings and practical living on the words of her beloved Bible.

We lived in a mixed neighborhood and my best friend next door was black.  I didn’t even think about his color until I heard someone else mention it.  I knew he was different, but different like bigger, older, and more smart.

Later as I became more aware of color and culture differences, I asked mamaw about a mixed couple I had seen.   “What does God think about a black person and a white person being married?” I asked.

Her response was very simple.  “Well, Moses married an Ethiopian.” Now, I didn’t know much about Moses or Ethiopians, but I knew by the way she answered that she was saying God was OK with it.

From that time on and to this day, I have viewed people….”yellow, black, and white” as “precious in his sight.”  People are good or bad, not based on their color, but by the choices they make and the influences in their life. None of us on planet earth made a decision about our birth place, our color, or our sex.  We all came into this world the same way, but we didn’t choose to be poor, rich, black, or white, or anything else that is unique to who we are. My grandmother taught me that all of us are built the same and have the same value in God’s eyes.

The God of my grandmother was approachable and understanding, but my mind and thoughts about God were soon to  change as I learned of the God  taught by an elder of the church.

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Childhood and Hell

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my grandmother sent me to Vacation Bible School.  It was a wonderful time with songs, food, and Bible stories.  But, my favorite part of the day was craft time, where we made things.  I made a jewelry box for my sweet mother who I didn’t see often because she was always working or out on a date.

I carefully painted a cigar box an elegant color and after it dried I placed decals of butterflies on it and pasted shells on the top.  I just knew my Mom would love it and she did.  Our last day at VBS was Friday and that is when the parents would come visit us.  We would give them our creations.  I was excited.

But, early Friday morning, the teachers invited a church elder to talk with us about the Sunday service and how we would be part of it.  The man’s name was appropriately called Mr. Hale.

His stern demeanor made me nervous and afraid. He began to tell us about Jesus and what He had done for us.  He also mentioned that there would be a baptism  on Sunday for any of us who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior.

All of this sounded good and I thought it would be good to be baptized so I could be saved.  It would please my grandmother.

Then Mr. Hale began to tell us what would happen to us if we were not baptized.

He said, when we died we would go to hell where our flesh would burn forever without stop.  He went on to describe how our blood would boil like hot water.  It was at this point that my mind went blank and I could not hear any more.  This was not the God who I heard my grandmother talk to every night.

That night, I told my grandmother,  I wanted to be baptized so I would not go to hell.  I thought she would smile and tell me how happy she was about my decision, but I saw a different expression of concern on her sweet face.

She told me I was too young to understand about sin and repentance.  Her words were often short and to the point, but very powerful and understandable.  So when Sunday came, I did not go forward when the altar call was made and I was not baptized because I trusted my grandmother and her God.

From the point Mr Hale describe hell to me, I began to be confused about God.  Over time, I viewed God as angry at me.  With arms crossed and looking down from heaven, I was certain he was waiting for me to make a big enough mistake so He could condemn me to an eternity in stinging, melting, suffocating flames and smoke. I imagined him keeping me alive so I could suffer more.

When I entered college, I took a freshman history class taught by a professor who was an Atheist.  He blended into the course of history the idea of how stupid people were to believe in a supreme being.  I was an easy target to accept these ideas because of my youth and suspicion about religion.  I knew little of the Bible and little of history to think otherwise.

Despite all this, there were times when I felt convicted about how I thought as an Atheist.  Sometimes, I would listen to Billy Graham on TV with the idea of making fun of him and Christians, but I would feel like crying for some reason.

Somewhere I knew that my little grandmother was praying there on her floor with Jesus.  To me, Jesus was a good character, but God the Father was an angry vindictive old man.

My experience in college with the professor and “higher education” left me an unbeliever.  While I was not a card-carrying militant Atheist, I was nevertheless a committed unbeliever and a seeker of pleasure and good times. It seemed logical that God was man’s creation used to both control and comfort people. Evolution made sense to me and Genesis did not.  We were just one big cosmic accident evolving into more complex life forms.  Life had little meaning or purpose to me.  My wish was to enjoy what I could, while I could.

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Atheism and Life

I got married early.  I was only a few weeks from my 19th birthday.  I worked full-time and went to college at night.  For two years I endured this routine and finally burned out.

My wife and I moved to Los Angeles where I intended to pursue an acting career.  But, after a year of enjoying a different environment, we moved back home in the south and I went back to school and my routine.

My wife and I separated for a short time.  We were so young and didn’t have any direction in our lives.  I had no purpose except for athletics.  Basketball was my game and I began to run and bike to get in shape.  After a few weeks, it became obvious that I had a talent for running and cycling.

Over the next several years, I ran 8 marathons including two trips to Boston and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington. It was fairly easy for me to keep up a sub-7 minute mile for 26.2 miles.

As I got stronger at cycling, my bikes became more expensive.  I raced often with the club or against myself through time trials to work.  I often ran to and from work as well.  I began to win races and was featured on the front page of the local newspaper for a 3-month competition of running at the YMCA.  I was also running to and from work at the bank every day…a round trip of 10 miles.  This was just a few months before I attempted a cross-country ride from Los Angeles to my home in the Southeast (Over 2,000 miles).

So I had found my niche in life and felt I could go faster and farther with the right diet and training.  All of this was the most important thing in my life.  More important than relationships including my wife and my family.

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Desert Encounter

It was on the desert between the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff that I began to use some logic about life and God. As I rode my bike in the cool of the summer morning and took in the magnificent view of the mountains in the distance, I was overcome with the beauty of the day, the strength in my legs, and the power of my lungs.  I began to connect the dots of life.

The logic seemed too simple.  Suppose, I had never seen a clock before and had not idea of its purpose. But, as I began to explore it closer, I could see that the wheels were precise and they moved the hands, which had numbers.  The movement of the hands across the  numbers corresponded to the length of a day.

 I could not dismiss the logic and the simple complexity of a clock. Then came the comparison of the clock to only one element of the human body i.e., the eye.  The human eye with its connection to the brain and the resulting actions was far more complex than a watch or clock.  This led me to conclude: the  simple clock must have a “clock maker.”  Someone with intelligence made it!  So, in turn, there must be a “human maker”….someone with intelligence who could make all the parts of the body work together.  To deny this was simply illogical.

 I said my first meaningful prayer as I cycled along the desert floor on that hot summer day.  “God, if you are out there, please reveal yourself to me.”

Later in the day, I peddled a loaded bike up the cool mountain and flew down the other side at over 50 mph.  My prayer was quickly forgotten.  But, only a few months later, God would show Himself to me in the most clear way possible.

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Making Fun of My Wife’s Beliefs

My trip was cut short by delays related to the sickness of one of the riders.  The dust storm in Two Guns Arizona was the final straw.  I was running out of time and felt like this whole trip was a waste of time. So I climbed off my bike and jumped in the van with one of the remaining riders that followed me each day and we drove back home….I was upset that I had quit, but I felt the pressure of getting back to work.

When I arrived back at my home, I discovered my wife was attending  evangelistic meetings which continued for several weeks.  This religious meeting was different from the tent meetings normally associated with such gatherings.  It was more like a big Bible study with a notebook.  The setting seemed to be more like a classroom than a church with all its emotion and loud preaching.

It sounded interesting, but I was a committed unbeliever and felt like my wife was being tricked by the teacher/preacher.  I made fun of her new-found faith and spiritual excitement.

My wife attended the meetings 5 nights a week.  I didn’t care if she went to them; it made no difference to me. I enjoyed being at home alone and watching TV or listening to my rock albums.  My life was all about getting in the best shape possible to compete and break records.  I wanted to live long. Exercise and diet was going to get me there!

But, God was about to answer my short desert prayer to reveal himself in an unusual way.  The prayers of my grandmother, mother, and wife were also soon to be answered in a powerful way.

One night, when my wife came home from the meetings, I continued to make fun of her.  She looked at me and said,

“If I am wrong, then take this material and tell me where I am not understanding.”

She handed me what appeared to be a notebook in question-and-answer format on different Bible topics; starting with the Jesus.  I told her,

“Sure! I will take look at it and let you know how stupid you are to believe this stuff. “

I was positive and confident I could dismantle the pastor’s material rather easily.

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Proving The Bible Wrong?

I was surprised to discover in the first study that Jesus was not just a new testament character.  He claimed to be in the Old Testament as well.

Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Luke 24: 25-27

This was new to me.  Also new was that Jesus and his disciples claimed  He was God and He existed from the beginning even before Abraham. He even claimed the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush i.e. I AM.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:1-5

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

John 8:58

“Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”   Exodus 3:14

Everything I was reading began to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

But, when I started studying the prophecies about Jesus and the world starting in Daniel 2, I became more and more hungry to learn as much as I could about the Bible and Jesus.

 Daniel began to share his knowledge of a dream given to the king of Babylon. As he told the king of his dream and gave him the interpretation, my mind went back to the history I was taught from the atheistic professor.  Daniel described the four great powers that arose and were to arise in the ancient world before the events i.e., Babylon, Medio-Persia empire, Greece, and then Rome (the period in which Jesus lived.).  But then Daniel went further into the future in his description and described the 10 divisions of Rome and how they would never be united again.

But, it was his final words that really sent shivers up my spine:

And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.  As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. 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. In as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”

Daniel 2:44-45

The “stone” (Jesus ) was going to come again in the “days of these kings”  the 10 divisions of Rome.  That is modern Europe!  Many, including Hitler,  have tried to reunite those divisions, even through inter-marriage of the kings and queens (mingling of seed), but God’s word has stood the test of time.

For the next several weeks, I was like a thirsty man on the desert who could not get enough to drink.  Everything I read was new to me and most satisfying.  I studied everything about Jesus, the state of the dead, heaven, and finally I hit on the topic that the elder of the church described in detail to my Vacation Bible School class when I was 8 years old.  HELL

The pastor/teacher made a good case for the penalty of sin being eternal death and not some place in the corner of the universe where people are living in sun-hot fire, being blistered by the heat and the skin melting away.  To be alive in hell, he reasoned,  meant that the great “merciful” Creator God had to continue  to supply the nutrients of life so the person can suffer more and more….desiring the sleep of death, but not finding it.  So man had changed the penalty of sin as being death to being eternal life….in flames!

I have written extensively about HELL.  Click here for more information:

Hell Part 1

Hell Part 2

Did Jesus Teach More About Hell Than Heaven?

No!  A God of mercy would supply mercy not unquenchable anger.  As I read about death and the fate of the lost, I could see a loving God….the God that my grandmother talked with every night. The destruction of sin and sinner in the last days was described as His strange act.  In fact, God took no pleasure in even the death of the wicked.

‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

Exodus 33:11

God was calling to me to turn from my wicked ways and not die forever.  He wanted me to be part of the first resurrection so clearly taught in the Bible:

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

Revelation 20:6

 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

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Inviting Him Into My Life

One weekend, I agreed to go to church with my wife.  This is the same church who had called in the evangelist/teacher.  I was impressed by the kindness and intelligence of the Bible class and the pastor’s sermon.

A few weeks later as I set in the pew, I felt the convicting power of God’s Spirit and I yielded to that familiar pull and tearful lump in my throat that I felt when I listened to Billy Graham years earlier.  Now the pull was a result of knowing what I knew and wanting others to know it too.

So, I had the second prayer of my life,

“Lord I invite you into my life. Please forgive me of my sins.  But, put me to work to help others know what I know.  I don’t want to be a pew warmer.”

Then peace came to my soul.  After the service, I told the pastor of my prayer and my desire to be baptized.  After Baptism, the Lord put me to work and the pew never got too warm.

I found myself involved in Prison Ministry,  the Billy Graham Crusade, Bible teaching, Sermons, and Radio Ministry (This blog site is named after the radio program presented by a friend and myself years ago i.e., Answers From Scripture)

For almost 20 years, I could not get enough of God’s word and  sharing it to all who would listen.  God had given me a gift to communicate what I read from the Bible into simple terms.  Many came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the ministries the Lord gave me.  The Lord sent many people in my path who needed to know what I knew.

During this time, I was blessed with three beautiful children.  I wanted them to know Jesus, so I continued the tradition of praying and talking with Jesus on my knees like my grandmother.

Answer to Grandmother’s Prayer and Her Prophecy

My dear grandmother died from Parkinson’s disease a few months after my conversion.

Before she died, my wife and I went to her house one night to tell her that her prayers had been answered.  My desire was to tell her every detail, but her mind would come and go. I didn’t know when would be the right moment to tell her.

As I sat next to her on the floor, she rocked back and forth sewing an imaginary piece of cloth. My wife and my aunt talked and joked while I was praying about how to talk to my beloved prayer partner.

I put my arm on her shaking arm and the shaking stopped.  I took this as my opportunity to tell her of my experience, but could not find the words for the lump in my throat, so I made my words short, just like she would have done.

“Mamaw, I want you to know that I have decided to follow Jesus.  He is all that He has claimed to be.”

She looked at me and said some prophetical words.  “Eddie, don’t ever leave him.  He will sustain you.”  Somehow, she must have known there was danger and pain for me on the horizon, because I would indeed leave Him.  But, for now, we shared the joy and fruit of her many years of prayer.  I stood up, bent over and wrapped my arms around her as she sat.  We both began to weep which alarmed my aunt.

My wife calmed my aunt and told her I was telling Mamaw about my conversion.  We were left to cry together while my wife and aunt cried tears of joy too.

As we left the house and got in the car, the Lord gave me a quick vision or picture in my mind.  I saw Mamaw in a white robe sitting on a rock with Jesus standing beside her, also in a white robe.  His words brought comfort and immediate sobbing happy tears,  “Eddie, don’t worry about her. She is mine.”

Over the next several months, I was able to share more with her.  Her mind would come clear when we talked about Jesus and the Bible. She would quote verse after verse with me.  I told her about the second coming, the resurrection, and how Jesus taught about death being like a sleep. She said, “You know, that makes sense.”

Three months later on Christmas Eve, I sat with her in the hospital. She was dying and I was praying that God would let her sleep.  She fell asleep in Jesus while I was on my way home. These words came to my mind as I looked forward to seeing her again,

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

How I looked forward to that great reunion day when we all went to heaven at the same time!

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The Enemy and Me

But, here is another Bible truth that God warned me about through my grandmother. There is an enemy to the soul.  His name is Satan.  There is also another enemy to us…It is our own carnal nature.

We are warned and encouraged throughout scripture to “put on the whole Armour of God”   We are told to watch and to pray.  Why?

“…because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

It is the adversary that works hard especially on those who are active for him.  I was to be no different.  I once heard a man of God say that the enemy does not waste his time on those who are not active for God.  It is the ones who are following Christ sincerely and talking to others about Him that are the object of his wrath.

I would soon feel the wrath of both Satan and my own sinful nature. Many people do not understand that when someone receives Christ and is given the Spirit of God, the two natures (spiritual and carnal) exist together until we are changed when Christ returns.  Whichever of the two we feed the most daily becomes the one that grows the most.  Because many think that salvation is a one-time trip down the aisle of a church, many will fail Christ and move back to a lost state of following the flesh if they  choose to do so.  No one can pluck us out of  His hand, but we can choose to go back to our “wallowing in the mud.”

This was the verse I quoted at the start of this blog:

“…for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

2 Peter 2:19-22

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A Pig And His Mud…Again

In 1994 a series of events led me to shake my fist at God. That was my year of testing and I failed.  Like the prodigal son, I took my inheritance and left the Father.

My testimony is in three parts because my experience is in three parts.  You have just read how the Lord moved me from an unbeliever to an active tool in  His hand. I started by looking back from the end of my second experience. But, the second part is not about belief, it is about rebellion….and returning to the mud like a pig that was washed.

Next time, I will talk about how God saved me a second time.  Until then, stay close to the One who made you.  Grandmother was right.  He will never leave you. He is able to “save you to the uttermost.” But you CAN walk away and tell Him to go away. I did.  But, He won’t give up….only you can do that…

The Story Jesus Wanted To Tell, But Couldn’t

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
 Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Isaiah 60: 1-3

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The following account is based on Luke 15 and as told by Pastor Melvin K. Eisele.  The message of the story is recalled and painted as I heard it.

You are familiar with the story of Luke, but there is a twist.  If you catch it, what is the message for us as individuals and as a church?  You write the ending.

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A wealthy man had two sons and a daughter. The father gave the son a colorful coat which the son wore almost all the time.  He was so proud of its looks and the cost of the coat.  One day the younger son came to his father and asked him if he could have his inheritance now instead of waiting until later.

The father went to the bank with his son and calculated in his head how much the inheritance would be.  Then he withdrew the money from the bank and gave it to is son.  The father walked slowly and sorrowfully back to his farm as tears flowed down his face.  His beloved son Johnny was leaving home and the father knew that the world had many dangers waiting for him.  But, this was what Johnny wanted.

The day was wasting away. The father returned to his duties and the older son and daughter to theirs.  Before long Johnny came riding up on a bright shiny black stallion that pranced in high steps to show off his beauty.  The son was dressed like a king.  His posture was erect and proud.

Johnny had come back to quickly say his farewells before he headed out to the waiting world and its opportunities.  The older brother and sister helped him pack his few remaining things; all the while trying to tell Johnny that he was making a mistake.  They told him that the father was hurt and troubled over his wish to leave the safety and comfort of his home.

The son pompously  departed the property down the long road leading out into the world. The father, the older son, and the sister waved goodbye.  A remaining tear fell down the father’s face.

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Weeks went by.  Very early each morning the older son heard the opening and closing of the door to the house, but thought little of it.

Each day, the older son would see his father stop his work in the field and look down the long road as if expecting someone.  The opening and closing of the door in the early morning also continued.  Curiosity finally grew strong enough to push him out of bed.  The son walked downstairs and looked through the front window and on to the porch.  There kneeling on the porch in the dark of the young day and looking down the road was his father.  His words were soft, but his sobbing was strong.

Often when caravans would come near the property, the father would rush out to them.  He would eagerly ask if they had seen Johnny.

 “Yes, we have seen him in Babylon.  He is the life of the party! People like him and he is very popular and well-known.”

Occasionally, the father would get reports of the younger son and his eyes would grow bright knowing he is alive and well.

Then one day, another caravan came by and the father, the older son, and the daughter rushed out to ask about Johnny.

“Have you seen my son Johnny?”

“Uh, I am not sure.  He was in the city for a while, but as we passed the outskirts of town near a pig farmer, we saw someone who looked like Johnny feeding the pigs.”

The father and his small family were troubled.  The next day the older son and the daughter went searching for Johnny.  It took them several weeks to find Johnny on the outskirts of Babylon feeding the pigs.  They both encouraged Johnny to come back home, but he was too ashamed to return with them.

“Johnny,  father wants you to come back.  He is greatly troubled. Please reconsider.”

“I have many friends here and cannot return with you. My life is good. Please leave me alone.”

So with heavy hearts the brother and sister began the long ride home to their father and went about their work on the family farm.

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The father began to build houses on the property.  As the builders finished one, he would start them on another.  Much time passed and the father stopped every day to look down the road.  Each dark morning the older brother heard the opening and closing of the door downstairs.  Pretty soon the caravans had no report on Johnny.

The family was worried about Johnny.  The brother and sister thought he would never come home. Their appeal to him had failed. So the long days continued, but the father routinely continued to look.

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One day as they were working under the hot sun, the son and daughter saw their father running towards a small dot off in the distance.  They, too, began to run towards the dot anticipating it to be Johnny.  They youngsters passed their father and reached Johnny first.  He was tattered and the colors of his coat had faded.  He was skinny and dirty.  With his head down cast, he put his head on the shoulders of his brother and sister.  They were overjoyed despite the smell and the feeling of Johnny’s skinny body under the worn-out coat.

As the father came running up to Johnny, he almost fell with excitement.  His face was wet with tears of joy!

“Oh my Johnny.  My dear son!  How I have missed you!”

The strong tanned arms of the father wrapped his arms around the frail Johnny.  He pulled the  dirty smelly head of his younger son to his breast and wept aloud with his son.

The brother and father stepped back to see the scene and wept with them.  Then they rushed back to farm to instruct the workers to prepare a great feast with food and song.

Johnny had returned home!

Johnny said to his father,

“Dad, I missed you.  I have spent all the money you gave me.  I am hungry and ashamed. I have done things that has dishonored you.  I will understand if you want me to continue on.”

The father put his arm around him as they walked the long road back to the farm and the many houses he had built.

“Johnny, you are my son.  All I have is yours.”

“Dad, you are all I have or want. The world was fun for a while, but I now know that your love for me is better than anything money can buy.

After Johnny showered, the father, the older brother, and sister came to his room.  The father laid out a new and even more expensive set of clothing on the bed.  The father gently helped his weak son dress.  Johnny felt the warmth of the robe and the great feeling of being clean. But, most of all, his the sight of his father overcame the hunger from not eating a good meal in months.

That night, the family rejoiced and laughed as they ate the best food around the fire.  Johnny, had come home!  He was dead, but now he is alive!

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Let us take this message to the world.  The love and acceptance of the Father and his family.  The world is dark.  We are to let the glory of the father be upon us.  When the world sees this light, kings will come to us.

Everlasting-Effect VS Duration

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4.

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During this series on life and death confusion, we have read many passages from different inspired writers of the Bible, including  Jesus, about the end of all things.  It does not include life for the wicked and torturous flames.

Recently, a Jordanian pilot was burned alive by the evil ISIS.  The man with a family suffered and died within minutes.  The world abhorred the act.  This act of torture was inconceivable and demonstrated merciless cruelty. It brought intense anger to people regardless of nationality or belief.

Yet, many of these same angry people will preach from the pulpit and in Bible classes that God’s flames of torture called “hell” will be even more tortuous.  The flames of God according to them, will be non-stop!  Just as the flames begin to consume the flesh and blood and begin to melt, God will miraculously bring the flesh back so the flames will have more fuel for the torture of every nerve ending in their body.

According to them, this happens to all who reject Jesus.  70 years of life by those who did not have a choice for the time or place of their birth will be exchanged for trillions of years of torture by a God that so loved the world..  All this non-ending suffering because they did not accept Jesus and chose to live their own life.  They may have   belonged to another religion and were taught to not believe in Jesus.

The hardworking young man with a wife in China who did not believe in  Christ and instead worship the philosophy of Buddha is condemned to non-ending torture just like Hitler or the animals of ISIS.  Is that the type of God Jesus came to reveal?  Jesus told Philip,

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father”

John 14:9

Did Jesus promise to torture those who rejected them?  As we have seen in previous studies, the wages of sin is death…eternal death….the second death….

Jesus came to give life

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Many point to passages in the Bible that appear to contradict the plain words we have studied thus far.  If you have been introduced to Answers From Scripture Online and this is your first blog to read.  Stop and read the following blogs first.

Life and Death Confusion Part 1

Life and Death Confusion Part 2

Life and Death Confusion-The End and The Beginning

Did Jesus teach more on hell than heaven?

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To be fair, we will look at the passages that seem to indicate the fires of hell never go out.

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Unquenchable Fire

 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Mark 9: 42-44

Here is the supposed proof text about a never ending place of torture.  But, lets start with a simple question:  “Does a fire that is “not quenched” never go out?

Ask a fireman if he (or she) has ever seen an fire that can’t be quenched.  Of course they have.  Is it still burning?  No!  It must burn itself out after there is no more substance to burn.  Unquenchable fire is a fire that can’t be put out (extinguished) rather than one that keeps on burning non-stop.  

 Isaiah gives us a picture of an unquenchable fire that goes out:

“Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor a fire to sit before it.”

Isaiah 47:14.

After the fire has accomplished its work of destruction, that fire will go out. No one can deliver themselves from its flame by putting it out, but finally not a coal will be left.

Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would burn with a fire that could not be quenched

The Prophecy

“…then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”

Jeremiah 17:27

But, it burned down and was destroyed.

Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions.

2 Chronicles 36:19

Effect not Duration….

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But, how about the expression of “where the worm never dies.”

Some believe that Jesus refers to sinners as worms and says that those people would never die but would live on in agonizing torment. Those who say this fail to notice that Jesus does not call wicked people “worms,” but speaks of “their worm.” The original Greek word for worm means “grub” or “maggot.”

Jesus refers to a local method of garbage disposal to emphasize the permanent consequences of unrepented sins. The margins of some Bibles show that the words “hell fire” in Mark 9:47 should be translated “Gehenna fire.” Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, is located outside Jerusalem. Trash, refuse, animal carcasses, and even the dead bodies of despised criminals were thrown there to be destroyed by the fires that burned perpetually on the valley floor. If some animal or vegetable matter fell on one of the ledges below the rim, escaping the fire, it would instead be devoured by maggots.

Jesus’ point is that whatever was thrown into the valley never came out again; it was totally consumed, either by fire or by worms or maggots. In other words, just as nothing and no one exterminated the maggots or extinguished the flames in the valley of Gehenna, so there will be no escape from the certain fate that God has decreed for all unrepentant sinners—death in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 22:14).

Some of these same principles apply to Isaiah 66:24.

“And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

Isaiah 66:24

The meaning is not that unrepentant sinners or worms live forever. In fact, the opposite is the point of the passage. If the worms that infest a dead body are not killed, the rotting flesh will be consumed until none remains. Maggots, which are simply larval flies, go through a process known as pupation and turn into adult flies. These, in turn, deposit additional eggs, and the process is repeated until nothing is left for maggots to feed on. Similarly, any fire which is not quenched—not deliberately put out—will last only as long as there is fuel to keep it burning and then go out. The whole point is that, when a person does not repent of sin, the results are absolute and permanent—eternal oblivion!

Again, effect not duration.

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And what can we say about the expressions “eternal” “everlasting” which are used to describe the fires of hell? There is absolutely no confusion or contradiction when we allow the Bible to supply its own definition of terms. Many make the mistake of applying modern definitions to those biblical words without reference to their an- cient contextual usage. This violates one of the most fundamental rules of interpretation.

The fact is that eternal fire does not mean a fire that will never go out. The same expression is used in Jude 7 concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha.

“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

Jude 7

It is quite obvious that Sodom is not still burning today. The Dead Sea rolls over the place where those ancient cities once stood. Yet they burned with “eternal fire,” and we are told that it was an example of something. What is it an example of?

“And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” 

2 Peter 2:6.

There it is! That eternal fire which brought Sodom to ashes is an example of what will finally happen to the wicked. If this text is true, the same kind of fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha will also burn the wicked in the lake of fire. It will have to be eternal fire.

Does that mean it will also burn the wicked to ashes? The Bible says Yes.

“For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch ... And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Malachi 4:1, 3.

No words of any language could make it more forceful or clear. This eternal fire burns up eternally. Even Satan, the root, is finally consumed. How consistent the whole picture appears as we let the Bible explain its own terms. What devious manipulation of words would be required to evade the obvious meaning of these words. Yet those who have been prejudiced by a lifetime of tradition can read those words “burn them up … they shall be ashes” and still insist that the wicked are alive and suffering. Admittedly, there are some ambiguous verses on this subject, but we are finding that they all harmonize when the context is considered, and the Bible is allowed to be its own commentary.

Even Christ’s words in Matthew 25:46 are not confusing when we the obvious meaning.

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

Matthew 25:46

Many are troubled over the expression, “everlasting punishment,” but notice that it does not say “everlasting punishing.” Whatever the punishment is, it will last eternally. Does the Bible tell us what the punishment is? Of course. “

The wages of sin is death.

Romans 6:23

So Jesus was simply saying that the death would be everlasting. It would never end. It would never be broken by a resurrection.

Paul simplifies it further with these words:

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished … “

2 Thessalonians 1:8

Now, listen, Paul is going to tell us what the punishment is.

“Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”

2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9.

So the punishment is everlasting destruction – a destruction that is everlasting. From it there will be no resurrection or hope of life.

The destruction is everlasting in its effect not in its duration.

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Perhaps the most easily misconstrued text about hell is John’s allusion to the smoke ascending “for ever and ever.” For those who are unfamiliar with other uses of this phrase in the Bible, it can be very confusing indeed. But a comparison of verses in both Old and New Testaments reveal that the words “for ever” are used 57 times in the Bible in reference to something that has already come to an end. In other words, “for ever” does not always mean “without end.”

Many notable examples could be cited, but two or three are noteworthy. In Exodus 21, the conditions are laid down concerning the law of servitude. If a servant chose to continue serving the master he loved rather than his freedom when it came due, then his ear was to be pierced with an awl and the Scripture declares, “He shall serve him for ever.” Verse 6. But how long would that servant serve his human master? Only as long as he lived, of course. So the words “for ever” did not mean without end.

Hannah took her son Samuel to God’s temple, where he would “there abide for ever.” 1 Samuel 1:22. Yet in verse 28 we are plainly told, “As long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.” The original meaning of the term “for ever” indicates an indefinite period of time. Generally it defines the period of time in which something can continue to exist under the circumstances prevailing. Even Jonah’s stay in the whale’s belly is described by him as “for ever.” Jonah 2:6.

Someone may object that this could also limit the life of the righteous in heaven, because they are described as glorifying God forever. The terms are the same for both the saved and the lost. But there is one tremendous difference in the circumstances involved.

The saints have received the gift of immortality when Jesus returns (and not before).

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

Note: immortality is not “put on” until the last trumpet when Jesus will come with shout and the trumpet of God.  See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Their life (those who died in Christ and are resurrected) now measures with the life of God. Immortality means “not subject to death.” The words “for ever” used in reference to them could only mean “without end,” because they are immortal subjects already. But when “for ever” is used to describe the wicked, we are talking about mortal creatures who can die and must die. Their “for ever” is only as long as their mortal nature can survive in the fire which punishes them according to their works.

Forever, must be taken in its context.

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Soul and Body Destroyed

This brings us to the final fact concerning the fate of the wicked. After the unsaved are punished according to their sins, they will be wiped out of existence, both body and soul. Jesus states it very simply,

“And fear not them which kill the body … but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Matthew 10:28.

In the light of this statement, how can anyone continue to claim immortality for the wicked? Jesus, the only One who can bestow the gift of life, rejects the possibility that those in hell can continue to live in any form whatsoever. The life will be snuffed out for eternity, and the body will be annihilated in the flames.

The psalmist wrote:

“But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.”

Psalm 37:20.

“For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.”

Verse 10

The most powerful, definitive words in human language are used to describe the destruction in hell, but people still insist that the writers do not really mean what their words express. “Destroy,” “consume,” “burn up,” “devour,” “death”-do these words have some mysterious, opposite meaning in the Bible than they have in other books? We have no reason to think so.

The fact is that theology has made an ogre out of our great God of love. He has been portrayed as more cruel than Hitler. Even though Hitler tortured people and experimented with them, finally he allowed them to die. But God will keep these deathless souls alive for the purpose of seeing them writhe and scream throughout eternity, so the theologians claim.

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God’s Justice Vindicated

Not only is such a picture  a misrepresentation of God’s love, it also distorts His justice. Think for a moment about the implications of a doctrine that would consign every lost soul to an immediate, never-ending hell at the time of death. Suppose a man died 5,000 years ago with one cherished sin in his life. His soul would go instantly into the fire to be tormented for eternity. Then picture another death; that of Adolph Hitler, who supervised the deaths of millions of people. According to the popular doctrine, his soul also would immediately enter hell to suffer eternally. But the man who was lost because of only one sin, will burn 5,000 years longer than Hitler. How could that be just? Would God deal in such a manner? It would contradict the Bible statement that each one must be punished according to his works.

There are two extreme views in current circulation concerning the punishment of the wicked. One is Universalism, which contends that God is too good to allow anyone to be lost. The other is the awful doctrine of endless torment which would perpetuate for all eternity a dark abyss of anguish and suffering. Both are wrong. The truth lies in between. God will punish the wicked according to their works, but He will not immortalize evil in the process.

I truly believe that many honest souls have been turned away from God because of their revulsion at this misrepresentation of His character. They can’t love someone who would arbitrarily keep evil people in endless torment with no purpose in view. No rehabilitation is possible. Only a vindictive spirit of revenge could be served by such an unspeakable arrangement. Is God like that?

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No More Pain Or Death

Someday soon God will have a clean universe. All the effects of sin will be banished forever. There will be no sin, no sinners and no devil to tempt. It will be just exactly like God planned it in the beginning.

John described that future home in these words,

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4.

Can you find any room in those precious words for any suffering on the part of anybody in the whole recreated universe? God said crying and pain would be no more. Do you believe His Word or do you choose to believe man’s surmising? Just four verses before writing this promise, John described how the wicked would be cast into the lake of fire.

“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.”

Revelation 20:15; 21:1.

That lake of fire is right here on planet earth according to Revelation 20:9. But please notice that this place where the wicked burn will pass away, and God will re-create the new earth in its stead. The new Jerusalem descends before that fire devours the wicked, and afterwards, according to verse 4, there will be no more sorrow, pain, crying, or death. In order for no more pain to exist, there can be no eternal hell existing either. The two things are mutually exclusive of each other. We should thank God every day that His plan will finally bring an end to suffering. Satan will not be here to cause pain, and God promises that His new kingdom will not even contain a shadow of a pain.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16.

Much thanks to Doug Batchelor (Amazing Facts) for his contribution on this topic.