Heaven on Earth

While the children of Israel were camped at Mount Sinai, Moses was called up to the mount. God said to him, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). A sanctuary is God’s house, a place where He longs to be. He desires that each home be a sanctuary, for He longs to be part of each one’s life and be present in every house.

In the book, Education, 258, we read this inspired comment: “It was in the mount with God that Moses beheld the pattern of that wonderful building which was to be the abiding place of His glory. It is in the mount with God—in the secret place of communion—that we are to contemplate His glorious ideal for humanity. Thus we shall be enabled so to fashion our character building that to us may be fulfilled His promise, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people’ ” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

We are called up into the mount, as Moses was, to behold the heavenly, because we also have something to build on earth that is like the heavenly pattern – the home, God’s masterpiece as far as an earthly temple is concerned. In the sanctuary of the home God wants to reveal His purpose to dwell with men.

In this mount with God, we are to contemplate His glorious ideal for humanity, but what is humanity made up of? “Society is composed of families.” The Adventist Home, 15. Often we think of the world as a whole, but it is divided up among nations. Most governments have their territory broken down into different divisions. We have the states, the counties, the smaller divisions, but as God looks at society, He thinks of it as grouped in families and those families are what the heads of families make them. “ ‘Out of the heart are the issues of life’  (Proverbs 4:23); and the heart of the community, of the church, and of the nation is the household.” Ibid. When we are dealing with the family, we are dealing with something very important and very precious to God.

When Moses was called up to the mount, he saw the temple of God and was told to make a copy of it here in this world. He accomplished that task. God recognized it and dwelt with His people during their wilderness wanderings and His presence was made manifest in that earthly copy of the heavenly sanctuary.

“Home should be made all that the word implies. It should be a little heaven upon earth.” Ibid.

Unfortunately that is not always the case and frequently, too many homes are a hell on earth. Then there are multitudes of homes that in a sense are neither heaven nor hell. The parents are ill-equipped and don’t know the best way to raise their children. Many of these homes are far from hell, but they are a long way from heaven.

We are told it is possible to experience a little heaven on earth; so why not take hold of it. After all, it has been bought and paid for by the death of Jesus. He rose and went back to heaven and is pleading for us in the heavenly sanctuary. Someday those who are faithful are going to heaven, but it will be enjoyed only by those who have already enjoyed heavenly principles on this earth. God offers us a little sample of it here if we would just taste and see whether we like it or not. If we do like it, He lets us have some more. His grace can provide an endless supply of heavenly principles. No fictitious manifestation from Hollywood or anything that money can buy can help us get there, for no eye has seen what the Lord has prepared for His people.

Though Moses spent many years in Egypt being educated the world’s way, it took another 40 years for God to prepare him to lead the children of Israel out of bondage. Pray that God will make us capable of and willing to cast much of what we have learned into the garbage can where it belongs and have that mountain top experience with Jesus and listen while He speaks and points out the right way. Our pattern is in heaven; that is the pattern of the Christian home. “Home should be made all that the word implies.”

“Every family in the home life should be a church, a beautiful symbol of the church of God in heaven.” Child Guidance, 480.

Fathers and mothers and children alike are to experience in each home a church life like the church of God in heaven. “All His [God’s] biddings are enablings.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 333. This experience doesn’t come naturally. It takes effort. To make our home like the pattern, we must behold it and then build just as Moses did. First he beheld and then went to work and built.

God said, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8), if God dwells in the sanctuary, love abides there.

“Every home should be a place of love, a place where the angels of God abide.” The Adventist Home, 18.

On the veil at the entrance of the sanctuary that Moses built, as well as on the veil between the holy and the most holy, were embroidered angels. Angels were represented throughout the sanctuary. Your home also is to be a place where the angels of God abide. The more you sense the presence of the angel watchers, the more you will love what they love and hate what they hate.

God’s great purpose in our reproducing the heavenly plan here on earth is to enable us to know Him better. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). To know God is to have life eternal. We get to know Him through His word, the Bible; we know Him through the life of Jesus, and we know Him through His creation.

There is yet another way to know Him. One of the sweetest statements in Inspiration is in Steps to Christ, page 10: “Through … the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He [God] has sought to reveal Himself to us.” Think of the different human relationships we have. The relationship between parents and children is one of the best. If you had a wonderful mother and father, you would have many good memories. If somehow that pattern was marred through human frailty, remember God’s ideal still stands and can be revealed to you. The close relationship between parents and children is designed to reveal God.

“His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6). God is our Father. God gave the relationship between a father and his child for two reasons. The first is so the child growing up could learn to love his father and thus learn to know God. The second reason is so the father, in loving and training the little child, could learn to know how God feels.

Remember there was a man in the Bible who was especially set forth in that connection. The Bible says that Enoch walked with God 300 years after he begat Methuselah. It is not only the children who learn to know God through being in the home; it is also the parents, both the father and the mother, who learn to know God by being parents. All of us, whether we are men or women, as we think back to our childhood, can appreciate this verse in Isaiah 66:13: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” That verse sparks memories of my own mother who so lovingly attended to my hurts with salve and a kiss.

God says, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” He uses that picture to reveal Himself to us, using father love and mother love, not just the receiving of it on the part of the children, but the giving of it on the part of the father and mother. Dear parents, every time your heart goes out to your children, every time you are concerned about their behavior, every time you seek to comfort them in sorrow or to guide them in counsel, remember, you are not only to reveal God to that child; in that experience a revelation of God is to come to you. That is the great purpose of families.

This same purpose is true also with other relationships. Take the relationships between brothers and sisters. There are so many precious things in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy about the relation of brother and brother and sister and sister and brother and sister and sister and brother – precious relationships. “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus is set forth as our elder brother and those who know the joy of sharing in loving fellowship as brothers and sisters have a revelation of the character of God.

However, there is one relationship that is more intimate than any other—the relationship between husband and wife. Basic to the whole pattern of human life, the core and center of every successful family is the relationship between husband and wife. The relationship between parents and children is not the primary relationship. Neither is the sibling relationship. Primary to all other relationships is that between a husband and wife. It was the first relationship that God established on this planet between two individuals, Adam and Eve, who were joined in wedlock by the Creator Himself. The purpose of marriage was, “… to reveal Himself to us through the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know.”

Dear husbands, have you thought it through that the purpose of the marriage relation is to reveal God to you? Do you know that the purpose of the marriage relation is to reveal God to your wife through you? The purpose of marriage is that the husband and the wife shall know God as they could know Him in no other way. There are views of the character of God that you can get as a married man, a married woman, that cannot be understood in any other way. No matter how far up the ladder of achievement in successful married life you are, there is something glorious beyond. I tell you this from experience. I know that this is true.

As I think of my own experience and enter into the experience of any other people in the 40 years I have been in the ministry, this statement sums it up so wonderfully. “To gain a proper understanding of the marriage relation is the work of a lifetime. Those who marry enter a school from which they are never in this life to be graduated.” The Adventist Home, 105. You can never graduate from this course while you are alive. We are dealing with infinite riches with tremendous possibilities.

This relationship is not mere sentimentalism as is often expressed in many poems and love songs where most are dealing with people who have not made a serious commitment to each other. Today, many people are unable to weather the storms and trials that may arrive and are on their second, third or even fourth marriage. We surely need the guidance of the Lord in choosing our spouse. We need to come up into the mount with God and look at the pattern. After all, how could a carpenter put up a stable building if he never looked at the blueprint?

A healthy marriage takes work and prayer. Both partners must climb the mount and study for themselves what the Lord requires, then go together. Take time down on your knees to behold and then arise and build according to the pattern and you can experience heaven on earth.

Inspiration tells us, “There is not one marriage in one hundred that results happily, that bears the sanction of God, and places the parties in a position better to glorify Him.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 504.

Reading this can be discouraging, especially when the devil then whispers, Well that’s the trouble, you got the wrong mate. But friends, there is good news. There are glorious possibilities with the companion you have. Do not listen to the devil, for he is a liar.

Inspiration writes about a young woman beloved of God who was held in bondage to a godless youth. Her nervous system was shattered. “Her marriage was a deception of the devil. Yet now she should make the best of it.” The Adventist Home, 351. Here was a woman who had the word of the living God that her marriage was a deception of the devil, yet now she is to make the best of it. If she could do this, don’t you think you can make the best of your situation?

Many people become infatuated and are thus allured into marriage. Very soon they find out that they are incompatible, not realizing that almost everybody who has ever been married since Adam and Eve came out of Eden has been incompatible. One of the great purposes of marriage is to help people learn how to be compatible.

“Though difficulties, perplexities, and discouragements may arise, let neither husband nor wife harbor the thought that their union is a mistake or a disappointment.” Ibid., 106.

Martin Luther used to say, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head but you can prevent them from making nests in your hair.” The devil may say that your problem is that you married the wrong person, but never harbor that thought. Don’t let it in even if it hollers around outside. Don’t open the door and argue with it or pay it any attention. Here is what to do instead.

“Determine to be all that it is possible to be to each other.” Ibid. What we learn in marriage is the science of love. Love is not selfishness, but is unselfishness. In marriage we are not to dwell on what I wish my companion would do for me, but how I can be all that is possible to be to my companion. The greater the incompatibility, the more need there is to get down to business and work at this job. This is how to make the best of it.

We are living in an age where it is easy to just throw up things to our partner and complain, but that is from the devil. Make the best of it. This best is not some second-rate thing, but the best. No matter how big a mess you have made of things, or what a miserable failure you or your companion are, the two of you together can have heaven on earth. God guarantees it. “Determine to be all that it is possible to be to each other. Continue the early attentions. … Study to advance the happiness of each other. … Then marriage, instead of being the end of love, will be as it were the very beginning of love. The warmth of true friendship, the love that binds heart to heart, is a foretaste of the joys of heaven.” Ibid.

“Remember, my dear brother and sister, that God is love and that by His grace you can succeed in making each other happy, as in your marriage pledge you promised to do.” Ibid., 112. God guarantees that you can succeed in making each other happy, but it will take the two of you together.

Men and women can reach God’s ideal for them if they will take Christ as their helper. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children.” Education, 18. “What human wisdom cannot do, His grace will accomplish for those who give themselves to Him in loving trust. His providence can unite hearts in bonds that are of heavenly origin. … Heart will be bound to heart in the golden bonds of a love that is enduring.” The Adventist Home, 112, 113.

Even for those couples who have experienced heaven on earth from the day they were married to the present hour, there is still something more wonderful ahead. Remember, no one graduates from this school of marriage. It is the work of a lifetime.

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:1, 2). Again this is the language of the sanctuary—the fragrant incense. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (verse 25). When husbands love their wives, the wives will know better how to fit in to the part they are to play in the relationship. Christ’s love to each other is to be manifest in the home.

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is the great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (verses 28–33). These verses are clearly referring to Christ and His church and husbands and wives.

“In early Christian usage, the term ‘mystery’ did not mean something that could not be understood, as it does today, but something that could be understood only by those who were initiated; that is, those who had the right to know.” A Commentary on Daniel and Revelation from The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 740.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:31, 32, first part).

Only married people can understand this mystery, but just being married does not automatically initiate you and reveal this mystery to you. The successful marriage is one in a hundred, so 99 out of 100 couples that get married still do not know the mystery. Many get caught up with the fluff and bubble of the ceremony and then become disappointed, not realizing that the mystery is only unlocked by having a heart connection.

The challenge is, just as there is something more to the union with Christ than baptism, although it includes baptism, there is something more to the union of marriage than the physical experience of man and woman joined together. Certainly, it includes that, but if all people know is the physical side of marriage then they will miss the greatest blessing.

Jesus said, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). If any two people on earth have the right to claim this wonderful promise, it is the husband and wife.

Alone with God and each other get down on your knees and take this verse. Read it to each other and say, What is it that we want? What is it that we desire? Pick out your hardest problem and your greatest need, pick out your deepest longing and agree together to ask God for a miracle. For it is a miracle when two people can live together in happiness and love and that is what it takes to have heaven on earth. No matter how much you have already been blessed, why not reach up to get the richer gift and the larger blessing that is being offered and know what it means to be fully, completely blended. For each of us there are heights above that we have never yet reached.

Dear Lord, teach us the science of love, teach us the art of love. We need it for we are naturally selfish but teach us this wonderful experience, not just so we can get along together but so that we can know You, so that we can understand God, so that we can reveal God to our children and to others. Amen.

Elder W.D. Frazee studied the Medical Missionary Course at the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. He was called to Utah as a gospel medical evangelist. During the Great Depression, when the church could not afford to hire any assistants, Elder Frazee began inviting professionals to join him as volunteers. Thus began a faith ministry that would become the foundation for the establishment of the Wildwood Medical Missionary Institute in 1942. He believed that each person is unique, specially designed by the Lord, of infinite value, and has a special place and mission in this world which only he can fill. His life followed this principle and he encouraged others to do the same.

Bible Study Guides – “CONTRARY TO SOUND DOCTRINE”

By Gordon Anderson

MEMORY VERSE: “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1.

STUDY HELP: Testimonies, vol. 1, 23–40.

INTRODUCTION: “God sets before man life and death. He can have his choice. Many desire life, but still continue to walk in the broad road. They choose to rebel against God’s government, notwithstanding His great mercy and compassion in giving His Son to die for them. Those who do not choose to accept of the salvation so dearly purchased, must be punished. But I saw that God would not shut them up in hell to endure endless misery, neither will He take them to heaven; for to bring them into the company of the pure and holy would make them exceedingly miserable. But He will destroy them utterly and cause them to be as if they had not been; then His justice will be satisfied. He formed man out of the dust of the earth, and the disobedient and unholy will be consumed by fire and return to dust again. I saw that the benevolence and compassion of God in this matter should lead all to admire His character and to adore His holy name. After the wicked are destroyed from off the earth, all the heavenly host will say, ‘Amen!’” Early Writings, 221.

“ETERNAL FIRE”

  1. On what verses is the doctrine based of the eternally burning hell where the wicked suffer forever? Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43, 47.

NOTE: In the New Testament, both Jesus and John the Baptist spoke of the fire that could not be quenched. The expressions “inextinguishable” or “cannot be quenched” have been interpreted to mean “eternal” or “everlasting,” but it simply means unquenchable, describing a fire that no one can put out. It will burn so long as there is anything to burn. Both testaments contain examples of everlasting,” unquenchable fire. Jude 7 describes the fires that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah as “everlasting.” Yet these fires are not burning today. They were unquenchable; no man could extinguish them and they burned so long as there was anything to burn. Jeremiah 17:27 describes the fires which would destroy Jerusalem as unquenchable but these fires of destruction have long ceased.

  1. What did Jesus mean by “everlasting fire” and “everlasting punishment”? Matthew 25:41, 46.

NOTE: In both verses, the word “everlasting” derives from a Greek word “aionios.” Some would interpret “everlasting punishment” to mean everlasting punishing. Thus they claim that it is not the sentence that is eternal but the infliction of suffering. In other words, they believe that men will take eternity to die, rather than suffer eternal death. But 2 Thessalonians 1:9 makes clear that it is the destruction, not the suffering that is everlasting. The corresponding Hebrew word is “olam.” The following verses show the use of ‘olam’ (everlasting, eternal) in the Old Testament. Genesis 17:7, 8, 13, 19, Exodus 40:15, Numbers 25:13, Deuteronomy 33:27. The meaning depends on the context. If applied to God, it means “without end.” If applied to men, the context shows how long it will last.

  1. What words are translated as hell in the old King James Version of the Bible?

Sheol: Psalm 9:17. Throughout the Old Testament, the word mistranslated as “hell” is the Hebrew word “Sheol.” It is also translated as “grave” (around 30 times e.g. Psalm 6:5) or “pit” (once in Job 17:16). Sheol means the place or abode of the dead, the grave. The Old Testament writers had no concept of a place in which the dead are still conscious and are suffering eternally.

Hades: Matthew 16:18. This is one of the Greek words that is mistranslated as hell in the New Testament. It is also translated as ‘grave’. This would be a better translation. In classical Greek or in Greek mythology, Hades is the name of the god of the underworld. Many believe that Jesus used the word in this sense in Matthew 16:18, but there is no evidence that the word is ever used in the New Testament other that the common everyday [Koire] meaning the place of the dead, namely the grave.

Gehenna: Mark 9:43–48. “Gehenna” is the Greek word for the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem, also called Tophet. (See Jeremiah 19:2, 6, 11, 12.) It was once used for the worship of Moloch and became a rubbish dump into which the bodies of animals and criminals were thrown. To prevent pestilences, constant fires were kept burning to consume the corrupting material. Tartarus. 2 Peter 2:4. In Greek mythology Tartarus was a place lower than Hades (the place of the dead or the grave) where divine punishment was meted out. In 2 Peter 2:4, the apostle says “For God did not spare the angels who sinned but in chains of darkness having cast them down to tartarus [or symbolically into the deepest abyss] delivered them unto judgment having been kept.” The SDA Bible Commentary, on page 605 of volume 7, comments on this as follows: “Writing to people who lived in a Hellenistic atmosphere, Peter employs a Greek term to convey his thought, but does not thereby endorse either the Greek idea of Tartarus or the popular Jewish concept of Gehenna. Here, Tartarus refers simply to the place of abode to which the evil angels are restricted until the day of judgment.”

NOTE: “God’s word, rightly understood and applied, is a safeguard against spiritualism. An eternally burning hell preached from the pulpit, and kept before the people, does injustice to the benevolent character of God. It presents Him as the veriest tyrant in the universe. This widespread dogma has turned thousands to universalism, infidelity, and atheism. The word of God is plain. It is a straight chain of truth, and will prove an anchor to those who are willing to receive it, even if they have to sacrifice their cherished fables. It will save them from the terrible delusions of these perilous times. Satan has led the minds of the ministers of different churches to cling tenaciously to their popular errors, as he led the Jews in their blindness to cling to their sacrifices, and crucify Christ. The rejection of light and truth leaves men captives, the subjects of Satan’s deception. The greater the light they reject, the greater will be the power of deception and darkness which will come upon them.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 344.

  1. How does the Bible describe the ultimate fate of the wicked? Revelation 20:11–15, Nahum 1:6–9.

NOTE: See Great Controversy, 673.

“GOD SHALL BRING EVERY WORK INTO JUDGEMENT”

  1. Does the Bible teach that people are judged at death as to whether they go to heaven or hell? Acts 17:31.

NOTE: See Great Controversy, 548, 549.

  1. What clear indications are we given that our eternal destiny depends on our thoughts, words and actions? Ecclesiastics 12:13, 14, Matthew 12:36, 37.

NOTE: “Avoid anything in look or gesture, word or tone, that savors of pride or self-sufficiency. Guard yourself against a word or look that would exalt yourself, or place your goodness and righteousness in contrast with their failings. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With care avoid every appearance of anger; and though you use plainness of speech, let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of warmth but that of earnest love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or ill will, no bitterness or sourness of expression. Nothing but kindness and gentleness can flow from a heart of love. Yet all these precious fruits need not hinder you from speaking in the most serious, solemn manner, as though angels were directing their eyes upon you, and you were acting in reference to the coming judgement.” Testimonies, vol. 2, pages 52, 53.

SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DO RIGHT?

  1. How does God ensure that all men have the opportunity to know of Him? John 1:9, Romans 1: 19, 20.

NOTE: “Wherever there is an impulse of love and sympathy, wherever the heart reaches out to bless and uplift others, there is revealed the working of God’s Holy Spirit. In the depths of heathenism, men who have had no knowledge of the written law of God, who have never even heard the name of Christ, have been kind to His servants, protecting them at the risk of their own lives. Their acts show the working of a divine power. The Holy Spirit has implanted the grace of Christ in the heart of the savage, quickening his sympathies contrary to his nature, contrary to his education. The ‘Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (John 1:9), is shining in his soul; and this light, if heeded, will guide his feet to the kingdom of God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 385.

  1. On what basis will God judge people? Romans 2:12–16, Acts 17:30.

NOTE: “Many thousand who have accepted the change made in the day of rest have done so ignorantly, and unwittingly have placed themselves under the banner of the prince of darkness. The Christian church has accepted the false sabbath, but the day of light has now dawned. The times of their ignorance God winked at, but now He commandeth men everywhere to repent. It is demonstrated that no change is necessary in the law of God. Were there a change needed in the law of God, and could such a change be made, the rebellion of Satan would be justified, and the universe would have to concede that Satan was wiser than God, and had a right to supreme authority. But Jesus came to magnify the law and to make it honorable, and His death on Calvary in the sinner’s behalf, proves the immutability of the law of heaven.” Signs of the Times, November 19, 1894.

“THE JUDGEMENT WAS SET”

  1. How was the judgement pictured to Daniel? Daniel 7:9, 10.

NOTE: “As we near the judgement, all will manifest their true character, and it will be made plain to what company they belong. The sieve is moving. Let us not say: Stay Thy hand, O God. The church must be purged, and it will be. God reigns; let the people praise Him. I have not the most distant thought of sinking down. I mean to be right and do right. The judgement is to set, the books are to be opened, and we are to be judged according to our deeds. All the falsehoods that may be framed against me will not make me any worse, nor any better unless they have a tendency to drive me nearer my Redeemer.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 100.

  1. How does the Word of God make clear that God’s judgement begins while the everlasting gospel is still being preached? Revelation 14:6, 7.

NOTE: See Great Controversy, 435, 436.

“THE THOUSAND YEARS”

  1. What does the Bible reveal as the fate of the wicked when Jesus returns? 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9, Revelation 19:19–20.

NOTE: “At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth, consumed with the spirit of His mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of His glory. Christ takes His people to the city of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants. ‘Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.’ ‘The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled; for the Lord hath spoken this word.’ ‘Because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance,broken the everlasting covenant, therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned.’[Isaiah 24:1, 3, 5, 6.]” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 474.

  1. How does the Bible show that there will be no future second chance for mankind? Revelation 22:11–12.

NOTE: Among the differing concepts of the millennium is the view that Christ will reign on earth and world conditions will improve. Human life span will lengthen though people will still die. Those living during this time will hear and accept the gospel until the final rebellion when God will intervene and take control. See Great Controversy, 321.

  1. Will Christ reign over an improved earth or make all things new? Revelation 21:1–4, Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13.

NOTE: “This same earth, freed from the curse of sin, is to be man’s eternal home. Of the earth the Scripture says, that God ‘created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited.’ Isaiah 45:18. And ‘whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever.’ Ecclesiastes 3:14. So in the Sermon on the Mount the Saviour declared, ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.’ Matthew 5:5. So the psalmist long before had written, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.’ Psalm 37:11. With this agree the words of the Scripture, ‘The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth.’ They ‘shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.’ Proverbs 11:31; Psalm 37:29. The fires of the last day are to destroy ‘the heavens and the earth, which are now;’ but there shall come forth ‘new heavens and a new earth.’ 2 Peter 3:7, 13. The heavens and the earth will be made new.” Story of Jesus, 183, 184.

Obedience Determines Destiny

Among Christians today, a frequently debated question is, Do we really have to obey God exactly? Some people say that it is impossible to obey God exactly and completely, so we should just try to be as good as we can. Others think that we do not even need to try, since God will save us just the way we are. What is the Bible’s answer to this important question? There are several Bible stories that we will examine to help us discover that answer.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve did not think that it was really very important that she obey God exactly, so she ate a piece of fruit that God said not to eat. As a result of this seemingly small deviation from God’s command, the floodgates of misery, woe, sickness, suffering, death, strife, and war were opened up for all of her descendents.

Cain was another person who did not think it was important to obey God exactly. He thought that he could choose the part of God’s command he wanted to follow, so when God instructed them to bring a lamb as a sacrifice, he brought a sacrifice, but instead of a lamb, he brought the fruit of his own hands to offer to God. What response did he receive from God? “And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So God said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is at the door.’ ” Genesis 4:4-7. Cain was worshipping the Lord. He was even bringing an offering to the Lord, but he did not follow the divine instructions. His obedience was not exact.

A Rebellious People

This failure of the human race since the time of Adam to recognize that God means what He says is also seen in the story of the children of Israel in the wilderness. When God worked a miracle every day to provide manna for their food, He gave them special instructions about its preparation and use. In Exodus 16:19, 20, we read, “And Moses said, ‘Let no one leave any of it [the manna] till morning.’ ” Did they follow these simple instructions? “Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.” They refused to listen to God’s counsel through Moses. They did not think it was important to obey exactly.

When they disobeyed God, they saw the results. And it would seem logical that they would have learned to obey God when He gave them instruction, but when He told them to gather a double portion for the Sabbath day and not go out on the Sabbath to gather food, they again tested God. “Now it happened [that some] of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day.” Exodus 16:27–30.

Human beings seem to have a hard time learning that God means what He says even though His requirements are few. There are only Ten Commandments in the whole moral law. There is not an encyclopedia or books and books of laws. His Law is simple enough for a child to understand, but God is particular as to whether or not His Word is obeyed.

It is important to obey God exactly. In fact, your eternal destiny is determined by whether or not you obey God exactly. Exact obedience does not earn salvation, but the gift of salvation is not given to those who are rebellious against God and are not particular to obey Him.

A Disobedient Prophet

The story of the prophet sent to rebuke king Jeroboam and to prophesy what was going to happen to him because of his idolatry adds to our understanding of the seriousness of this point. After the prophet gave His message, the king was so angry that he ordered his seizure. As he pointed his finger toward the prophet, his whole hand withered up, and he could not move it—his hand was paralyzed. In terror, he pled with the prophet, “Oh, please, pray for me!” So the prophet prayed for him, and the Lord worked a miracle and restored his arm to perfect function.

Here he had very plain evidence, in his own body, that the Lord had spoken to him through this prophet. He realized that it would only be wise to listen to this prophet, so he said to him, “Come home with me and eat with me.” But the prophet said, “No!” “ ‘If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, “You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.” ’ So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.

“Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, ‘Which way did he go?’ For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah. Then he said to his sons, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it, and went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak.

“Then he said to him, ‘[Are] you the man of God who came from Judah?’ And he said, ‘I [am].’ Then he said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat bread.’ And he said, ‘I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the Lord, “You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.” ’

“He said to him, ‘I too [am] a prophet as you [are], and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, “Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.” ’ (He was lying to him.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

“Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which [the] Lord said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water,’ your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.” ’

“So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.

“Now when the prophet who had brought him back by the way heard [it], he said, ‘It [is] the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him.’ And he spoke to his sons, saying, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ So they saddled [it].

“Then he went and found his corpse thrown on the road, and the donkey and the lion standing by the corpse. The lion had not eaten the corpse nor torn the donkey. And the prophet took up the corpse of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back. So the old prophet came to the city to mourn, and to bury him. Then he laid the corpse in his own tomb; and they mourned over him, [saying], ‘Alas, my brother!’ ” 1 Kings 13:7–30.

To Whom Do You Listen?

The problem for this prophet was that he listened to another prophet who lied to him, claiming to have a message from an angel. Do you realize that when God speaks, even if an angel should tell you to do something different, you are going to lose your soul if you disobey the Lord?

The apostle Paul makes this clear: “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8. When God speaks, you will lose your soul if you listen to anybody else and disobey—even if it is an angel.

We need to learn this lesson today, for many people are going to eternal destruction who could be saved if they understood that whether you obey or disobey makes the difference between whether you will have eternal life or eternal death.

Notice what Moses said to the children of Israel about this very point. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong [your] days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendents may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He [is] your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:15–20.

New Covenant Obedience

Moses said, “I am setting before you life and death determined by your obedience.” However, some will say, “But, I am living in the new covenant today.” Do you realize that the requirements of the new covenant are even stricter than the requirements of the old covenant? (Read the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7.)

In the new covenant, Jesus said that it is not enough to keep the Law of God on the outside; you have to keep it from your heart. He declared the necessity of obedience in John 5:28, 29: “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.” Jesus links the type of life that you live to your eternal destiny. Obedience or disobedience determines your eternal destiny.

The apostle Paul repeats the same warning as he speaks concerning God, “Who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law [are] just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; . . .).” Romans 2:6–13.

Another New Testament writer speaks to the same subject: “If you really fulfill [the] royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:8–12.

It is clear that James is talking about the moral law, the Ten Commandments. Breaking one of these commandments makes you guilty of breaking them all. Obedience or disobedience will determine the eternal destiny of men and women, boys and girls.

The Bible predicts that obedience will distinguish God’s true people from His professed followers in the last days, when Jesus predicted that “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:12. God’s last day people are described in Revelation 12:17: “And the dragon was enraged with the woman [the symbol of a church], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring [the last of God’s people], who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Commandment Keepers

God’s people in the last days will be commandment keepers. Again, in Revelation 14:12, we read: “Here is the patience of the saints; here [are] those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” God’s people are here contrasted with the disobedient, those who receive the mark of the beast. (See Revelation 14:9–11.)

The last chapter of the Bible says again, “Blessed [are] those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14. The next verse describes those who do not obey God’s commandments. Three times in the last three chapters of Revelation God contrasts the obedient with the disobedient, so we will not make a mistake. Eternal destiny is determined by whether you obey God exactly.

But today there is a worldwide deception concerning the Law of God. Some people think that you cannot keep it. Others think that you do not need to keep it. But the worst deception of all is when people think that they can change or adjust the requirements of God’s Law, and that then they are keeping it when actually they are breaking it. This is especially true when people claim to be keeping God’s Law while they are breaking the fourth commandment, the Sabbath commandment mentioned in Exodus 20:8–11.

Through Jesus, God’s mercy has been manifested to men, but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character, and not one jot or tittle of it can be set aside to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His Law. He sacrificed Himself in Christ to redeem man from the curse of the law.

The law requires righteousness, a righteous life, and a perfect character. But this man does not have, so he cannot give it. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law, but Christ came down to earth as a man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers to give to man as a free gift, if man will receive it.

More than this, Christ imbues a man with the attributes of God’s own character, so He can develop, within this human being, the attributes of the divine character, that the principles of the law might be fulfilled in the life of the Christian. (Romans 8.) By His life and death, Christ proved that God’s justice did not destroy His mercy, as the devil’s deception claims. He showed that sin could be forgiven, that the law is righteous and can be perfectly obeyed. The law was not abrogated, which would immortalize sin and place the whole world under Satan’s control.

Because the law could not be changed, Jesus died on the cross and established the law. However, Christ’s death on the cross is the very act which the devil claims destroyed the law. He has led men to believe that the moral law, the Ten Commandments, was nailed to the cross, when, in fact, Christ came to do just the opposite.

Since the beginning of the great controversy, Satan has claimed that the law, spoken by God’s own voice, is faulty and that some specification can be set aside. The last great deception that Satan will bring upon the world will be on this same point. Bible prophecy foretells that in the last days Satan will assail one of God’s commandments, and lead men to keep a man-made law instead of God’s Law. Will the devil need to make you break the whole law? No, he knows that those who keep the whole law but offend in one point are guilty of all. (James 2:10.) He knows that if you consent deliberately to break one precept, that brings you under his control. So, the devil will work on the minds of men so that they will set up their laws to counterwork the Law of God and seek to compel the consciences of others to enforce their man-made laws.

This warfare against God’s Law will continue until the end of time. Every man is going to be tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. Every single human being is going to choose between the Law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing line will be drawn. There will only be two classes. Every character will be fully developed, every person will demonstrate whether or not he will keep all the Law of God. What will your decision be?

Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Editorial – Heretics in Heaven; Orthodox in Hell

The word heretic comes from a Greek word that means, “a person who is factious or causing divisions or dissension, and holding to a certain dogma or teaching that has these characteristics.” (See Titus 3:10.) Orthodox is a composite Greek word referring to those who believe or teach straight or right doctrines or teachings.

It is paradoxical that millions of people who have been considered heretics will be in heaven, while other millions who were considered orthodox will be in hell after the end of the millennium. During the Dark Ages, millions of people were murdered (martyred) by the orthodox for heresy.

Today, people in Protestant churches consider themselves to be orthodox. Seventh-day Adventists consider themselves to be orthodox. The various groups that have developed out of Adventism consider themselves to be the ones holding to correct teachings. This includes not only those who call themselves historic Adventists, but those who have rejected Ellen White as a prophet, and who have subsequently rejected the biblical doctrines that Adventists teach about the sanctuary. Many of these individuals now keep Sunday instead of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. As our Sunday-keeping friends do, they relegate the Sabbath to the Old Covenant that has been abolished, not distinguishing between the temporary ritual law and the moral law of ten commandments. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees considered themselves to be orthodox and engaged in bitter debates trying to prove the other party wrong, just as we see within Adventism today.

The character you develop in this life, not the doctrines you believe to be most accurate and true, will determine your destiny in the judgment. This is the big point that many orthodox fail to see, and that the professed people in Jesus’ day seemed to overlook too. This is the bottom line reason that millions of heretics will be in heaven and countless millions of the orthodox will not.

God’s messenger, Ellen G. White, wrote: “Profession is as nothing in the scale. It is character that decides destiny.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 74. “The harvest of life is character, and it is this that determines destiny, both for this life and for the life to come.” Education, 108. “We are daily determining our destiny in the future life by the character we develop in this.” Review and Herald, January 11, 1898. “Character cannot be changed when Christ comes, nor just as a man is about to die. Character building must be done in this life.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 430.

Are you praying to God daily, pleading for a pure, holy, righteous character?

Inspiration – Some Who Will Not Be There

CAIN—Notwithstanding that Cain had by his crimes merited the sentence of death, a merciful Creator still spared his life, and granted him opportunity for repentance. But Cain lived only to harden his heart, to encourage rebellion against the divine authority, and to become the head of a line of bold, abandoned sinners. This one apostate, led on by Satan, became a tempter to others; and his example and influence exerted their demoralizing power, until the earth became so corrupt and filled with violence as to call for its destruction.

LOT’S WIFE—If Lot himself had manifested no hesitancy to obey the angels’ warning, but had earnestly fled toward the mountains, without one word of pleading or remonstrance, his wife also would have made her escape. The influence of his example would have saved her from the sin that sealed her doom. But his hesitancy and delay caused her to lightly regard the divine warning. While her body was upon the plain, her heart clung to Sodom, and she perished with it. She rebelled against God because His judgments involved her possessions and her children in the ruin. Although so greatly favored in being called out from the wicked city, she felt that she was severely dealt with, because the wealth that it had taken years to accumulate must be left to destruction. Instead of thankfully accepting deliverance, she presumptuously looked back to desire the life of those who had rejected the divine warning. Her sin showed her to be unworthy of life, for the preservation of which she felt so little gratitude.

KING SAUL—Saul knew that in this last act, of consulting the witch of Endor, he cut the last shred which held him to God. He knew that if he had not before willfully separated himself from God, this act sealed that separation, and made it final. He had made an agreement with death, and a covenant with hell. The cup of his iniquity was full.

JUDAS—God has appointed means, if we will use them diligently and prayerfully, that no vessel shall be shipwrecked, but outride the tempest and storm, and anchor in the haven of bliss at last. But if we despise and neglect these appointments and privileges, God will not work a miracle to save any of us, and we will be lost as were Judas and Satan.

HEROD, HERODIAS, PILATE, AND INDIVIDUALS DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN JESUS’ CRUCIFIXION—And now before the swaying multitude are revealed the final scenes—the patient Sufferer treading the path to Calvary; the Prince of heaven hanging upon the cross; the haughty priests and the jeering rabble deriding His expiring agony; the supernatural darkness; the heaving earth, the rent rocks, the open graves, marking the moment when the world’s Redeemer yielded up His life.

The awful spectacle appears just as it was. Satan, his angels, and his subjects have no power to turn from the picture of their own work. Each actor recalls the part which he performed. Herod, who slew the innocent children of Bethlehem that he might destroy the King of Israel; the base Herodias, upon whose guilty soul rests the blood of John the Baptist; the weak, timeserving Pilate; the mocking soldiers; the priests and rulers and the maddened throng who cried, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25)! all behold the enormity of their guilt. They vainly seek to hide from the divine majesty of His countenance, outshining the glory of the sun, while the redeemed cast their crowns at the Saviour’s feet, exclaiming: “He died for me!”

Those who derided His claim to be the Son of God are speechless now. There is the haughty Herod who jeered at His royal title and bade the mocking soldiers crown Him king. There are the very men who with impious hands placed upon His form the purple robe, upon His sacred brow the thorny crown, and in His unresisting hand the mimic scepter, and bowed before Him in blasphemous mockery. The men who smote and spit upon the Prince of life now turn from His piercing gaze and seek to flee from the overpowering glory of His presence. Those who drove the nails through His hands and feet, the soldier who pierced His side, behold these marks with terror and remorse.

With awful distinctness do priests and rulers recall the events of Calvary. With shuddering horror they remember how, wagging their heads in satanic exultation, they exclaimed: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him.” Matthew 27:42, 43.

Vividly they recall the Saviour’s parable of the husbandmen who refused to render to their lord the fruit of the vineyard, who abused his servants and slew his son. They remember, too, the sentence which they themselves pronounced: The lord of the vineyard “will miserably destroy those wicked men” (Matthew 21:41). In the sin and punishment of those unfaithful men the priests and elders see their own course and their own just doom. And now there rises a cry of mortal agony. Louder than the shout, “Crucify Him, crucify Him” (John 19:15), which rang through the streets of Jerusalem, swells the awful, despairing wail, “He is the Son of God! He is the true Messiah!” They seek to flee from the presence of the King of kings. In the deep caverns of the earth, rent asunder by the warring of the elements, they vainly attempt to hide.

NERO AND HIS MOTHER; PAPAL PRIESTS AND PONTIFFS—Amid the ransomed throng are the apostles of Christ, the heroic Paul, the ardent Peter, the loved and loving John, and their truehearted brethren, and with them the vast host of martyrs; while outside the walls, with every vile and abominable thing, are those by whom they were persecuted, imprisoned, and slain. There is Nero, that monster of cruelty and vice, beholding the joy and exaltation of those whom he once tortured, and in whose extremest anguish he found satanic delight. His mother is there to witness the result of her own work; to see how the evil stamp of character transmitted to her son, the passions encouraged and developed by her influence and example, have borne fruit in crimes that caused the world to shudder.

There are papist priests and prelates, who claimed to be Christ’s ambassadors, yet employed the rack, the dungeon, and the stake to control the consciences of His people. There are the proud pontiffs who exalted themselves above God and presumed to change the law of the Most High. Those pretended fathers of the church have an account to render to God from which they would fain be excused. Too late they are made to see that the Omniscient One is jealous of His law and that He will in no wise clear the guilty. They learn now that Christ identifies His interest with that of His suffering people; and they feel the force of His own words: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25:40).

Heaven, 106–110.

The Two Destinies

by Cody Francis

The Two DestiniesAs I walk down the crowded city streets or go into a store with people rushing all around, bumping into one another, my thoughts turn to the fact that most are racing to their eternal destiny unprepared. Billions go through life as in a dream. Eating, working, sleeping, drinking, consumes the mind. They plunge through the mundane duties of life scarcely giving a thought to eternal realities, but although they know it not, their destiny is stealthily encroaching upon them. As Jerusalem of old, they are not considering their destiny. “Her uncleanness is in her skirts; She did not consider her destiny; Therefore her collapse was awesome; She had no comforter. ‘O LORD, behold my affliction, For the enemy is exalted!'” Lamentations 1:9. The inhabitants of this world think not of things to come. The cares of this life consume the thoughts and attentions, but unknowingly they are sealing their destiny, for there are only two destinies in this world. These two destinies are two of the most important subjects to understand in all of the Bible, for if they are not understood, inevitably you will end up with the wrong destiny. Regarding the wicked man, we read from the book of Job, “He dwells in desolate cities, In houses which no one inhabits, Which are destined to become ruins.” Job 15:28. Those who do not consider well their destiny are destined to ruin. Do you understand the most important subject of the two destinies? Do you know which destiny awaits you? Do you know what the two destinies are? Do you know which supper you are destined to attend? As we investigate these questions from Scripture, you will know how to choose the destiny you desire.

The Destiny of the Faithful

The first and most pleasant study, is the destiny of the faithful. Revelation spends much time on the destiny of those who choose to follow Jesus all of the way, and what a destiny it is! “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'” Revelation 21:1-5. In John’s panoramic view of the history of the world from his time until the close of all things, he is carried away into the consummation of the hopes and dreams of the faithful of all ages. He sees all of the calamities and catastrophes of this wicked world wiped away, never more to rise again. He sees all things new. How great the thought! Humans seem to like new things, no matter what they are. To some, there could be nothing better than driving a new car off the lot. To others, bringing home a new outfit will make their day a delight. Others still, can get great enjoyment out of little things such as new tools or kitchen decorations. Both men and women love new things, but John sees the greatest new thing of all time-an entirely new world. Not just a new house, car, or dress, but absolutely everything is new! The great destiny of the faithful is an entirely new inheritance.

In order to endure the trials and difficulties that we encounter here, it is necessary to keep our mind focused on this final destiny of the faithful. Jesus did this, and it was this very thing that enabled him to endure the terrible anguish through which He passed. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2. When Jesus was in the midnight darkness of the cross, He focused on the joy that was to come. He thought of the millions of souls who would be saved as a result of His sacrifice. With the precious thoughts of victory in the future, He was braced to endure the superhuman agony. It is the same in our trials. If we are going to endure the crosses that we are called to bear, our minds must be focused on the blessed destiny of the faithful. When Paul was heavily pressed with temptations and trials, his thoughts turned upward and enabled him to manfully fight the battles of the Lord. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18. His mind anticipated the glory to come, and he realized that the sufferings and trials of this life were nothing in comparison. So we, if we are going to experience that glorious destiny, must turn the channel of our thoughts to the spectacular age to come.

There are some individuals who simply do not have a desire to take part in the destiny of the saved. I have talked with individuals who have said that it sounds like a good idea, but they would rather have this poor, sinful world. Others do not care about religion because they have no desire to go to such a boring place as heaven. They can see no enjoyment in sitting on imaginary clouds, listening to imaginary music, with imaginary ears, played from imaginary harps. It sounds more like a torture chamber than a blessed destiny. Others feel that they will be twiddling their thumbs from boredom, so have no desire to deny themselves here in order to experience an eternity of inactivity later on. In all truthfulness, I do not think that I would enjoy such a land either; but that does NOT correctly portray the destiny of the faithful!

“‘For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind…. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands…. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord.” Isaiah 65:17, 21, 22, 25. Far from a land of boredom and inactivity, it will be the most joyous fulfillment of our brightest imaginations and the consummation of all our desires. It will not be a place of idle indifference. Never will an inhabitant say, “I am bored.” The Lord has provided thousands of things to interest our mind and give delight to our hands here on this earth. How much better will it be when the Lord recreates this earth. It will not be an imaginary land of clouds. The Bible teaches that it is going to be a real place with real things. If you enjoy hiking, there will be unmapped territory to explore. If you enjoy gardening, there will be the most fertile land you have ever worked with to cultivate. If you enjoy traveling, there will be hitherto unknown worlds to which you may journey. If you enjoy music, there will be the finest choirs with whom to sing, and instruments that emit the most beautiful chords. If you enjoy history, there will be the eyewitnesses and God’s unerring records to consult. If you enjoy socializing, there will be millions of the most wonderful Christians you have ever met to socialize with. If you enjoy worshipping the Lord, there will be countless hours spent in giving praise and honor to our everlasting King. Indeed, the blessed destiny of the faithful is the choice to make.

“And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.” Micah 4:8, KJV. The Lord has promised the restoration of the first dominion to the faithful. What is the first dominion? “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air; and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’… Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'” Genesis 1:26, 28. The first dominion is none other than the beautiful garden that God prepared for mankind in the beginning. It is this dominion that God is going to restore! It is not a make believe world, but a restoration of what man lost in the beginning, only with added benefits! The Garden of Eden was not an imaginary place with imaginary beautification; it was a real, physical world. “So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…. And God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Genesis 1:21, 25, 31. As you look around the world today, it all came from the hand of God. The trees and flowers come through a long line from the very plants that sprung forth at the Creator’s command. The rocks along the rivers and oceans are the very rocks that God created. The waters that moisten our ground, and gurgle through the streams, and rush through the flowing rivers into the mighty oceans are the very waters that our Lord created. The animals that play in grasses and frolic in the forests are descended from the very animals that God lovingly gave to Adam and Eve, and if a person were to trace it back he would find that Adam and Eve were his great, great, etc. grandparents. By looking around at the beautiful world that God has so graciously given to us, we can see that He is a lover of the real. In the beginning God created a real, physical, tangible world, and when He restores the first dominion, it will be a real, physical, tangible world.

In this great destiny, the afflictions that are so common here will all be passed away. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing…. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 35:5, 6, 10. All the physical ailments and pain shall be passed away. All will be joy and gladness. Tears will be turned into rejoicing and sorrow will give way to joy. Imagine the choir that the dumb will form. I am sure that they will sing the loudest hosannas to our King. Think of the lame dancing for joy to the glory of God. The pain and suffering of this old, wicked world will be forever passed away. “And the inhabitant will not say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity.” Isaiah 33:24. There will be no doctor’s clinics, no hospitals, and no funeral homes. Never once will you hear someone say that he is not feeling well; that he has a headache, that his joints are bothering him. All sickness and physical affliction will be forever gone.

The beauty of the final destiny of the righteous is indescribable. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. And her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel… and the construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:10-12, 18-21. The Lord is a lover of the beautiful. He created the delicate flowers and the colorful birds for the delight of our eyes. The rivers, hills, valleys, and mountains all testify of God’s great love of the beautiful. God created a beautiful world for His people, and when He redeems His faithful from the earth, He spares no effort to recreate the most beautiful habitation ever known to the universe.

The greatest fact of all about the destiny of the faithful is that they shall see their Lord and Saviour for themselves. The faithful have spent hours learning of their Maker from His Word. They have spent entire nights in prayer talking with their Redeemer and Friend. They have told all their acquaintances about Him. They have grown to know Him more closely than any earthly friend, for “This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3. They have eternal life because they are intimately connected with Him; but for the first time they shall see Him face to face. “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on there foreheads.” Revelation 22:3, 4. The greatest thing of all is that the faithful shall look upon the face of their Lord. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” I Corinthians 13:12. Through our long pilgrimage here on this earth, we have seen Him dimly and in part, but then it shall be face to face. How great the destiny of the faithful!

Although the Bible gives the most vivid descriptions, and our minds anticipate with brightest expectations, it will infinitely exceed our grandest hopes and dreams. “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'” I Corinthians 2:9. Eye has not seen, nor will not see, the beauty that shall be revealed in the inheritance of the faithful. Ears will never hear, in this life, the beautiful strains which shall meet the faithful. The mind can never come close to grasping the unending splendor of the greatest destiny imaginable. Is there anything in this world that can compare with the reward of the saints? Do the things of this world hold any attraction when we see the destiny that is coming? Is there anything that we will allow to hold us back from following Jesus all the way to the gates of the Holy City? Let us remember the destiny that the Lord has promised to those who are willing to give up anything and everything for Him and press on the upward way regardless of the cost.

The Supper of the Faithful

With each of the two destinies, there is a supper to usher the destiny in. There is a supper for the faithful and there is a supper for the unfaithful as well, but the difference between these two suppers is as far as the east is from the west.

The supper of the faithful is referred to in Scripture as the marriage supper of the Lamb. “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!‘ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.'” Revelation 19:6-9. The faithful are going to be a part of the greatest wedding feast of all time. Everyone enjoys weddings, and for most people it is the happiest day of their lives. But this marriage feast will far exceed even the most elaborate wedding here on this earth. This wedding feast will be the great celebration of the heavenly marriage between Christ and His church. It will be the grand opening of eternity.

In our weddings, the bride and groom are married and then the reception follows. So the marriage supper of the Lamb immediately follows the marriage of the Lamb. The bridegroom in this great wedding in none other than Jesus Himself. “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” John 3:28, 29. John the Baptist recognized who the true Bridegroom was. He said it was Jesus whom his disciples were complaining about. If Christ then is the bridegroom, who is He married to? Surely there can be no wedding without a bride. “Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth,” “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” II Corinthians 1:1; 11:2. This great marriage, that is so soon to take place, is the marriage between Christ and His church! What a marriage and what a marriage supper that will be! Surely, there could be no greater marriage and there could certainly be no greater celebration and rejoicing than will take place at that marriage supper.

Why has this marriage not already taken place? “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7. We are not waiting on Him; the Lord Jesus is waiting for us, His church, to get ready. As soon as the church is ready for the greatest marriage of all time, it will come. In order for the church to be ready, she must have on her wedding garment. If she presumes to come to the wedding without the wedding garment that her groom has provided for her, she shall be a part of a much worse supper and destiny. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:11-14. Christ’s bride must be clad in that precious wedding garment of character that Christ Himself has provided. Many claim to be Christians. Many claim to be the bride of Christ, but few are chosen. Why are few chosen? Because few consent to wear the wedding garment of Christ’s character. They cling to their own ideas, and their own ways, and do not let the Lord change them into His likeness. The wedding garment that the true church will wear is not spotted with sin and selfishness, but it is completely cleansed from all of sin’s defilement. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27. Never does a bride come to the wedding in a gown that is wrinkled, smudged, and torn; and the Lamb’s bride is not going to come to her wedding like that either. She must have allowed Christ to cleanse and sanctify her from all sin so that she may be pure and undefiled on her great wedding day. All who submit to the cleansing process will be a part of the bride of Christ and partake of the great marriage supper, but all who refuse to be joined to the Lord (I Corinthians 6:17) are destined for a much less desirable supper.

“Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Revelation 19:9. Indeed, blessed are those who are called and are ready for this great marriage. Only those who have allowed Christ to cleanse and purify their characters will partake of this joyous supper, for without holiness, “no one shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14. “And I say to you that many will come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 8:11. For those who have put on the wedding garment of Christ’s spotless character, will come and sit down with the prophets, apostles, and holy men and women of all ages. They will then sit down and eat and drink at Jesus table. (See Luke 22:30.) Christ has been waiting for this great reunion supper for millennia. Shortly before Jesus was taken from His disciples, He promised them, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29. He has been waiting nearly two thousand years to drink of the pure grape juice with His children at the great marriage supper of the Lamb. I imagine, that just as He did at the Lord’s Supper, He will again serve His faithful children with His own hand. What a supper that will be! The church perfected and all the trials and heartaches passed away. Sitting as one big, happy, united family at the table of God in the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus with His own hand serving the precious bounties of the heavenly kingdom. What a supper! What a destiny!

The Destiny of the Disobedient

There is more than just one destiny, though. As there are two marks, two choices and two suppers, there are two destinies, as well. The destiny of the faithful and obedient, is the best destiny imaginable, but not so for the disobedient. The destiny of the disobedient is as fearful as the destiny of the obedient is joyous.

“For the wicked are reserved for the day of doom; They shall be brought out on the day of wrath.” Job 21:30. The day of doom is coming for those who have turned from God’s holy Law and gone after their own way. A day of doom and a day of wrath is the destiny that is stealthily creeping in upon them. Fearful was the account given by the prophets when they saw this day. So fearful that they could hardly give utterance to their words. When Ezekiel saw this fearful day of doom, he exclaimed, “A disaster, a singular disaster; Behold, it has come! An end has come, the end has come; it has dawned for you; behold, it has come! Doom has come to you, you who dwell in the land; The time has come, a day of trouble is near, and not of rejoicing in the mountains. Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury, and spend My anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will repay you for all your abominations. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will repay you according to your ways, and your abominations will be in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord who strikes.” Ezekiel 7:5-9. For the disobedient, their destiny is far from a day of rejoicing. It is a day of sorrowful lamentation. The destiny of doom is soon to fall upon the despisers of God’s grace. They may put it off. They may think that it will not fall on them, but their hopes are in vain. “Woe to you who put far off the day of doom,” Amos 6:3. Millions today are saying, “It will not come, or if it does come it will be many years in the future.” The Bible says, “Woe to you who say such things, Woe to you who put off the day of doom. It will come; it will surely come. God has sworn and will not relent, the day of wrath is coming.”

When does this day of wrath begin? “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” Revelation 15:1. The day of wrath and doom begins with the pouring out of the seven last plagues. Those who have persisted in following their own course of disobedience to God’s Word and His Law begin to experience the destiny that they have purchased for themselves, and far from sweet it is. “The way of transgressors is hard.” Proverbs. 13:15, KJV. Now transgression seems easy. Now the road of disobedience appears to be the road to riches and honor, but the day of doom will reveal the true character of each path. The day of doom will reveal how hard the destiny of the disobedient really is.

“So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” Revelation 16:2. Notice who it is that receives of the dreadful seven last plagues? It is those who have the mark of the beast. Those who have been obedient to all of God’s Law have the seal of the Living God and are preserved from these terrible plagues. (In Steps to Life’s booklet Two Marks both the mark of the beast and the seal of God are positively identified.) The faithful have a different destiny than the day of wrath and doom. They are present during the day of wrath and doom, but God mercifully shields them and gives them another better destiny.

God holds before us two destinies. The one so full of joy and contentment that it surpasses our brightest imaginations. The other more terrible than man can describe, but tragically the majority chooses the dreadful destiny of doom. Jesus has warned us, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14. Because of the cross involved in following Jesus, few go by the narrow way. The vast majority of the world takes the broad easy way, but too late they find out that they have gone the hard way. Even though there are the most solemn warnings in all of the Bible against following the beast, yet prophecy tells us that all of the world will follow the beast power. “I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Revelation 13:3. Although it is only those who were deceived into following the beast power that receive of the seven last plagues, that is almost the entire world. It is just a small but obedient group that are delivered from these dreadful scourges.

No human can describe the terrible consequences of these seven final plagues. These plagues are the final retribution to those who have refused to follow the Lord all the way. There are terrible sores worse than any human has ever experienced before that will befall upon those who receive the mark of the beast. (Revelation 16:2.) Then the Lord will give those who are seeking to kill His people blood to drink. (Revelation 16:3-7.) Next the sun scorches them with heat hotter than the hottest place on this earth. After the sun scorches with white hot heat, the Lord turns off the sun and the men gnaw their tongues for the great darkness. (Revelation 16:10.) The support of the beast dries up under the sixth plague. (Revelation 16:12-16.) Then the final plague finishes the destructive judgments by pelting the earth with sixty pound hail. (Revelation 16:17-21.) The destiny of the disobedient is far from pleasant, but this is not the end, there is more and worse still to come.

“Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the might men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'” Revelation 6:14-17. The seventh plague is none other than the second coming of Jesus, and what a day of terror it is for those who have received the mark of the beast. Instead of Jesus’ appearing being a day of joy and gladness, it is one of gloom and sadness for those who have turned their backs on Jesus and taken the “easy way.” “The day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains.” Joel 2:1, 2. (KJV.) Those who have not loved Jesus enough to keep His words (John 14:23) are filled with terror as they see the One whom they know they have rejected. “She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.” Nahum 2:10. (KJV.) The horror is irrepressible. It shows in the countenance and the knees knock for fright. It is a day of hopeless agony. They recognize the Lord. They know His voice, but they have refused to heed His call. “That voice which penetrates the ear of the dead, they know. How often have its plaintive, tender tones called them to repentance. How often has it been heard in the touching entreaties of a friend, a brother, a Redeemer. To the rejecters of His grace no other could be so full of condemnation, so burdened with denunciation, as that voice which has so long pleaded: “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” Ezekiel 33:11. (KJV.) Oh, that it were to them the voice of a stranger! Says Jesus: “I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof.” Proverbs 1:24, 25. (KJV.) That voice awakens memories which they would fain blot out–warnings despised, invitations refused, privileges slighted.” The Great Controversy, 642. The second coming which delivers the righteous strikes abject terror into those who have refused to keep all of God’s commandments.

The glory that is revealed from heaven as Jesus comes in His own glory and in the glory of His Father and in the glory of all the holy angels (Luke 9:26) not only fills the disobedient with terror, but the glory is as a flame of fire devouring them. “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” II Thessalonians 1:7-9. The glory that fills the sky is so much brighter than the sun that it slays those who have neglected to follow Jesus all the way. “And the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” II Thessalonians 2:8. Those who have persisted in breaking God’s Law are unfit to stand in God’s presence and are smitten by the brightness and the glory as it is revealed from heaven. There will be those who have thought that they were keeping the Law, but find out too late, and they too will share in the same fate. “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 form Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Matthew 7:21-23. There will be those who pick an argument with the Lord, but they will share in the same fate as those who called for the rocks to fall upon them. They thought that they were saved. They thought that they were saved so much so that they appealed the decision that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords has made, but they were sadly deceived. They thought that they had a one way ticket to heaven, but too late they find out that there name was blotted from the records and there is nothing that they or anyone else can do. They are counted with the unbelievers and are destroyed by the brightness of the Lord’s coming. What a day of terror! What a day of destiny!

The fate of all those who have refused to follow all of the Lord’s commandments is awful indeed. Most people agree with most of the commandments, but usually there is one or two that cut directly across their path, and they decide that it isn’t important to keep all of them, but that decision if stubbornly held to will fix their destiny on the wrong side. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:10-12. If a person keeps most of the Law, yet refuses to keep one part of it, it is just as if he has disregarded the entire Law. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13. It is the whole duty of man to keep all ten of God’s holy commandments, for in reality they are ten simple promises of love. Jesus puts it as simply as possible, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15. Tragically the entire world is breaking at least one of the commandments and is destined in the wrong direction. They will go on thinking everything is all right, but find out too late that they have been duped and will be consumed by the brightness of Jesus’ second coming. Then will be fulfilled the words of Jeremiah, “And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground.” Jeremiah 25:33. The righteous will rise to meet their precious Saviour in the clouds of glory, but the disobedient will be slain by the brightness of Jesus’ second coming and be as refuse upon the ground. Then commences the awful supper of the disobedient.

The Supper of the Disobedient

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.” Revelation 19:11-21. As awful as it is, it is the Word of God. Jesus is pictured as returning to earth as a King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No more does he wear the crown of thorns. No more is He cradled in a lowly manger. He returns as who he rightfully is, the conquering King. Then the angel makes the most awful pronouncement. He tells the birds that it is supper time. It is the supper of the great God. Those who have refused to wear the robe woven in the loom of heaven for them, those who have refused to make the necessary preparations to come to the marriage supper of the Lamb receive their part in the supper of the great God. Instead of being fed by Jesus’ own right hand, instead of sitting at the table of God with the holy men of old, they become supper for the birds of heaven. They have refused to keep God’s Law, and so consequently they have received the most awful visitations of God’s wrath imaginable, and now they become food for the vultures and scavengers of the earth. How awful and terrible a fate, but “it is their just due.” Revelation 16:6. They have “counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace,” (Hebrews 10:29) and now they receive the reward of their works. How careful we need to be that we have chosen the right supper and the right destiny.

The Decision of Destiny

Reader, you have a decision to make. Every person alive today has a choice to make. Which choice will you make? There are two choices and two destinies. Your decision will determine which supper you are a part of, whether you eat with the saved of all ages, or if you are eaten by the birds of heaven. It is a gruesome thought, but it is better to think about it now before it is too late. A time is coming in which it will be too late. A time in which every decision will have been made for or against eternity. “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Revelation 22:11. Very soon this decree will be made and it will be forever too late to change sides. You will then be on one side or the other and your destiny will be sealed. It is sooner than you think; it is sooner than I think. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2. Do you hear His voice calling you? Please don’t put it off. I have talked with many precious souls who are hoping and desiring to be saved. They believe the Word of God. They believe His Law, but they have difficulty following one commandment. It may be their job. It may be their family. It may be their own desires that they have to deny. When it gets a little easier, then they say they will keep all of the Law. When they get their house paid off, after they retire, then they will follow Jesus all of the way. I have appealed and appealed to such, but to no avail. They really want to be saved. They know what they need to do, but they do it not. Friend, don’t make that mistake. You know what you need to do. Are you going to do it? You have a decision to make. Are you going to make it? Which supper do you want to be in? Which destiny do you prefer? Is there any part of God’s holy Law that you are ignoring? Don’t delay! Delay is from the devil. Which mark will you receive? It will determine which destiny you will find. It will determine which supper you attend. The last generation will attend one or the other, that is not the question. The question is, which one will you be in? Contemplate the glories of the heavenly destiny. Consider the fate of the destiny of the disobedient. Is there anything in this world that holds you back? Is there anything that keeps you from making the leap of faith to keeping all of God’s Law? Is it worth it in the end? Is whatever the hindrance may be, more important to you than your final destiny?

Are you with the multitudes still in the valley of decision? “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” Joel 3:13. Brother or Sister, not one soul will be saved in the valley of decision. Not one soul! Those who hang around the valley of decision too long, end up being pushed over the precipice of destruction. Have you weighed the Bible evidence for your faith? You know what the Bible says. Will you make the choice to leave the valley of decision and dwell in the secret place of the Most High? Will you be certain that the seal of the Living God is placed in your forehead? Will you have His name written in the tables of your mind? You must make a decision, whether you want to or not. All who do not make a decision will be counted with the unbelievers. Which side will you be on? “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19.

All emphasis is the author’s, unless otherwise stated.

All texts from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

  • The Great Controversy, Ellen G. White, 1911.

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Bible Facts on Hell

by Cody Francis

Bible Facts on HellThere may be no other subject in the Bible that has led to so much anxiety as the topic of hellfire. Many have been driven to despair and hopelessness contemplating a never ending torture chamber of fire. It can be hard for us to understand. How could a God of love torment sinners in hellfire forever? It does not seem consistent with His beneficent dealings with mankind. If the Bible tells us that this is indeed what a God of love does, we must accept it for the Bible is God’s inspired Word, but is this really what it says? What are the Bible facts on hell?

Hell is frequently thought of, and portrayed, as a blazing inferno manned by the devil himself. Is the devil really in charge of hell? Did God create the devil to be the overlord of hell? Is hell in the center of the earth, on some planet in the outer reaches of the universe, or somewhere else? Are there souls writhing in anguish there right now? What are the clear Bible facts on Hell?

Our God of Love

There is a fundamental truth that needs to be kept foremost in our minds with whatever it is that we may be studying. This is found in I John 4:8,16, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love…. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” John, dwelling upon his favorite theme, tells us unequivocally that God is love. God equals love. Everything that is true about love is true about God, for God is love. Everything that God has done, is doing or will do is because He loves us “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

A simple glance at His dealings with mankind is sufficient to show us that everything that He does is because He loves us. God created a perfect, beautiful world because He loves us and wants us to be happy. When man fell, God provided a ransom, an escape through His own Son, Jesus. He commanded an ark to be built so that in His love He could save the faithful and still slow down the increase of sin. He called Abraham to another country because of His love. He has given us the Bible to study from because in His love, He wants to communicate with us. He has given us the Law of love, knowing that if we keep it we will be happier. He has sent Jesus to die for us and take our place that we might be reconciled to Him. Jesus has promised that He is coming back because He loves us and wants us to be with Him. Yes, there is no doubt that absolutely everything God does is because of His great love and mercy for us. In the 136th Psalm this is reiterated again and again. In each of the twenty-six verses is repeated, “for His mercy endureth for ever.” In all of God’s dealings with man, His love and mercy are exemplified. This is also true with the subject of hell. God’s love must clearly be seen in the punishment of the wicked, or else it would not be true that God is indeed a God of love.

It is possible, though, to take this to an extreme. There are some that have told me that since God is love, He will not punish the wicked, that God’s love would not do such a thing. This stems from a false belief of what true love is. God’s love is not the false sentimental feeling that is in the world today, but God’s love is a firm principle. Even though God is a God of love, He is also just. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” Psalms 97:2. “For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4. Justice is the foundation of His throne and there is no injustice in Him. God still must be just even though He is a God of love. It is only through Jesus’ sacrifice that He can be, “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:26. Justification comes only to the one who has faith in Jesus, and for those who refuse to fully accept and believe on Jesus, God can do no more. He has given all heaven in the gift of His Son, and if we are unwilling to follow Him, the only thing that can remain is, “a certain fearful expectation of judgment.” Hebrews 10:27. “The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” Numbers 14:18. The Lord is unquestionably longsuffering, merciful, full of love. Although He is all of these things, it is impossible for Him to forgive the unrepentant guilty. It would be inconsistent with the principles of His throne and government. He bears long with the children of men, calling them to repentance, but once His limit of love is reached, there is no other option but to execute judgment. And how true it is, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” For He says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” Hebrews 10:31, 30. There is no question about it, God is love, but His love will not excuse and pass over those who have rejected our Saviour.

Is Hell Going on Right Now?

Jesus himself gives us the answer, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:… Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:… And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46. Jesus is showing the separation that will occur at the Second Coming, and in so doing He answers very plainly that hell is not going on right now. It is not until He comes in His glory and sits on the throne of His glory that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished. This obviously cannot be now, for He is on the throne of grace now. (See Hebrews 4:14-16).

At present no one is suffering from the flames of this fire. “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;” Jude 6. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” II Peter 2:9 KJV. “But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” II Pet. 3:7. Obviously from these verses none have been punished, not even the fallen angels are being punished right now. The fallen angels, the unjust, and the ungodly are all being reserved until the day of judgment and perdition.

All upon this earth who have died, are now sleeping in the graves until their respective resurrection. (For a detailed study on this subject see Steps to Life’s booklet, The Race to Contact the Dead.) Jesus said, “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. It is not until the resurrection of condemnation that the wicked come forward to receive their punishment. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2. Those who awake at the first resurrection, the resurrection of life, will receive everlasting life, but those who awake at the second resurrection, the resurrection of condemnation, will receive shame and everlasting contempt. It only takes common sense to tell us that the wicked will not receive their punishment until this resurrection of condemnation, and since that has not happened yet, hell cannot be going on right now.

If hellfire were going on right now with the unrighteous souls soaring to a burning spirit world, this would be a mockery of God’s justice. Just think of the person who lived five thousand years ago. He was a very good person and all who knew him really loved him, but tragically there was just one little thing in his life that he loved more than God. He just could not seem to give up that one thing. God gave him chances, but still he clung to this cherished idol. For this one thing in his life, that he valued more than Heaven, he lost his soul. (One thing is enough to bar us from eternal life. Jesus said to the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful, “One thing you lack.” Mark 10:17-22.) If hell were going on now, and a person went directly to hell at death, he would be burning for thousands of years. Then along comes a man like Adolph Hitler, a man responsible for the death of millions of innocent people, at his death he went to hell as well. That would mean that the man who only lacked one thing would be burning for five thousand years longer than one of the wickedest men who has ever lived. Is that justice? Absolutely not! God in his justice and mercy has not set up hell like that. Hell is not, and cannot be, going on now, for the wicked are not rewarded until after the second resurrection.

This fits perfectly into God’s great plan of justice. We know from Scripture that, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” II Corinthians 5:10. There is not one exempted from this judgment. Would it be fair to punish someone before they were judged? Absolutely not! That would be one of the most unjust things that could ever happen, and so God has ordained that the wicked are not punished until after they are judged. (See Revelation 20:11-15) Since this judgment of the wicked is still to come [Acts 24:25] there is no way that the wicked could be experiencing the pains of hell right now. It is not until after the resurrection of the unjust [Acts 24:15] and the judgment that the wicked will be punished for their works.

Where is Hell?

“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 very last verse in Isaiah tells us that the righteous will go and look upon the wicked. Hell then has to be some place where the righteous will be able to see burning. This means that it could not be in the center of the earth, for there are no fireproof elevators to take a person down to look upon hell, then bring them back up again.

The heavens and earth are now being preserved until that time. “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. II Peter 3:7. The present heaven and earth are what is being reserved until the judgment day when this earth is cleansed by the unquenchable fires. Isaiah saw the same thing happening. “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion. It streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch.” Isaiah 34:8, 9. Even the very streams and dust became a conflagration. Everything on this old earth bursts into flames and becomes a lake of fire.

By putting all these verses together the only conclusion that we can come to is that the fires of hell will actually be right here on this old earth. “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.” At the second resurrection, all of the wicked are raised, (verse 5) the devil deceives them to make a final desperate attack upon the holy city, (verses 7, 8) the final, great white throne judgment takes place, (vs. 11-13) and God ends the sin problem by raining down fire from heaven (verse 9, 14, 15). The shower of fire is so strong that the entire earth becomes a “lake of fire and brimstone.” (verse 10) During this time, the righteous are preserved safely in the Holy City, just as Noah and his family were saved inside the ark. It is here on the battleground of the great controversy that sin will eventually be done away with. God has not created a place in the outer reaches of the universe to be a holding tank for sin, He is going to destroy it right here at the center of the rebellion.

How Long will the Wicked Suffer?

An exact answer to this is not given in the Bible, but we do know that each one is going to suffer according to his works. “Who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds Romans 2:6. Since God is a fair and just God, it only makes sense that each person will be rewarded according to the amount of light that they have had, and the use that they have made of that light. Jesus told a parable that teaches us this same thing. “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself, or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:46-48. All who have rejected light and done despite to the spirit of grace will be punished for the “wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. But there are those who are less guilty than others. In our justice system today there are degrees of punishment. The instigator of the crime receives a much heavier sentence than the one that reluctantly assisted. In God’s great judgment, all factors are likewise taken into consideration. There are some that have not had the opportunities and privileges that others have had. God will not require as much from them. In Jesus own words, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:24. Jesus did not say that Sodom would be acquitted of all its great wickedness. All that have continued to break God’s Holy Law will have a fearful account to render and in the end will receive the due punishment. But he did say that it was going to be better for Sodom than for the cities where a large portion of His ministry had been spent. Capernaum had the “light of the world” in their midst walking and working miracles among them, but still they refused to repent. Their privileges were much higher than Sodom’s and still they continued on the path of destruction. There is no doubt their punishment will be much more severe, for much was given to them, but they did not appreciate and accept the greater light. All who have turned their backs upon divine mercy will suffer the vengeance of hellfire, but some are going to suffer longer than others, and no doubt the devil will burn the longest of all.

The Example of Eternal Fire

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels&’ And these will go away into everlasting judgment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41, 46. Clearly the unrighteous will receive their punishment of everlasting fire. The Bible repeatedly describes hell using such terms as everlasting fire, unquenchable fire, forever and ever, etc. This has led many to conclude that hellfire will go on for the ceaseless ages of eternity, that the wicked will constantly be writhing in pain for billions and billions of years. It is true that at first glance the terms used to describe hell can appear to mean this, but we must go deeper than just the surface to find the true meaning of God’s Word.

In the Bible, we are given an example of what hell will be like. “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 7. God has frequently taught us what future events will be like by giving an example which occurred during the old covenant. Hellfire is just one example of this. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the book of Genesis, is not just an historical story, but an example of what will be in the future as well. We are told that Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as an example of eternal fire. The story is a familiar one; because of the great wickedness of the cities in the plain, God “rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.” Genesis 19:24. We are told that this was “eternal fire,” but are Sodom and Gomorrah still burning today? Of course not Everyone knows that the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah have gone out years ago. You cannot visit a site in the Middle East and have the tour guide tell you that it is the eternally burning fires of Sodom and Gomorrah. We don’t know exactly how long the fires burnt, but we do know that they finally went out. How then could it be eternal fire? The results were eternal. Never again have the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah been rebuilt. It was an eternally consuming fire. It consumed every last object and then, when there was nothing more to burn, the fires went out. “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making then an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;” II Peter 2:6. Peter adds the detail that Sodom and Gomorrah were turned into ashes. Ashes according the Webster’s New World Dictionary is defined as, “the substance remaining after a thing has been burned.” Ashes do not burn. Ashes are what is leftover after something has already been burned. It can clearly be seen from the Bible that Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning, but that “God destroyed the cities of the plain.” Genesis 19:29. Since Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of eternal fire, we can know that the eternal fires of hellfire will, likewise, not continue for the billions of years of eternity.

The Devouring Fire

All through out the Bible hellfire is described as a consuming, devouring fire. “You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them.” Psalms 21:9. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.” Psalms 50:3. “A fire goes before Him, and burns up His enemies round about.” Psalms 97:3 “But a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:27. “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” Revelation 20:9. The fire and judgment that burns the wicked is described as a devouring, consuming fire that burns up the wicked. If something is devoured, it obviously isn’t burning for ages. If something is consumed and burned up, it will not continue to burn, and this is actually the purpose of fire, to burn and devour what it is consuming. (See Judges 9:15, 20; Isaiah 9:18; 10:17; 33:11; Hosea 8:14; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 5:6; Nahum 3:13; Zechariah 11:1: 2:6.) And thus, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, hellfire will consume and devour all that is to be consumed, and then it will go out.

“For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29. The Lord whom we serve is described as a consuming fire. Sin is going to be consumed from His presence. He is holy and only holy beings can stand before Him. [Hebrews 12:14] We are either going to allow Him to consume the sin from our lives now, or if we cling to sin, we are going to be consumed by the fires of the last days.

The Punishment Everlasting

“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but he righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46. Jesus said that the devil, his angels and the wicked were going to experience punishment. Notice it didn’t say everlasting punishing; it says everlasting punishment. There is a difference. Everlasting punishing would be punishing that goes on and on, while everlasting punishment is punishment that does not last forever. That is, the results of the punishment are everlasting, not necessarily the punishing itself. Paul gives us more explanation on the subject. “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” II Thessalonians 1:8, 9. The punishment of destruction is what is everlasting, not the punishing of fire. The fire does its work and brings the result of everlasting destruction.

Unquenchable Fire

Immediately there are verses that come to our mind that make us wonder about what we have just started to discover. Doesn’t the Bible say that it will be unquenchable fire, and if the fire is unquenchable how could it devour and go out as Sodom and Gomorrah did? Yes, the Bible does say “fire that shall never be quenched,” Mark 9:43, but once again, what does that mean?

Again there is an example as to what unquenchable fire is. “But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. Jeremiah 17:27. The Lord had threatened Jerusalem, that if they refused to hallow the Sabbath, God’s holy day, God’s judgments would be poured upon it. The judgment threatened was that it would be burned with fire that was not going to be quenched. Once again that is the same wording as used to describe hell. [Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:42-48]. Tragically, Jerusalem did continue to disregard the Sabbath and the rest of God’s Law and it was burnt with fire. “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy….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.” II Chronicles 36:16, 19. Jerusalem was indeed burned with unquenchable fire when the Chaldeans destroyed the city and carried away the captives. Any geography or history student knows that Jerusalem is not still burning today. Just because it was called unquenchable fire does not mean that it was going to burn for billions upon billions of years. It simply meant that there was no one that would be able to quench, or put out the fire. It didn’t matter how hard the Jews or anyone tried, it was not going to be put out. You could have called all of the fire trucks and firemen in the world, but they would not have been able to put it out. God had decreed that it was going to be unquenchable fire–no one was going to be able to put it out, but once it had done its work and devoured, as fires always do, it was going to turn to ashes and go out.

Ezekiel talks about another fire that was not going to be quenched. “And say to the forest of the South, ‘Hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: Behold I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree and every dry tree in you; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.'” Ezekiel 20:47, 48. This prophecy given four or five years before Jerusalem was destroyed is probably referring to the forest of the South as the land of Judah. Once again it tells us that the fire will not be quenched, but it gives us more detail about unquenchable fire. He tells us that both the green and the dry trees are going to be devoured. Green trees do not usually burn very well, but not so in this fire. Everything was going to be consumed, whether it was normally combustible or not, it was all going to be devoured. The fire was going to be so consuming that all were going to know that the Lord was the one who had kindled it. So it shall be with the unquenchable fires of the last days. It will be known by all that it is the Lord’s doing and no one will be able to extinguish that fire. It will burn everything, whether it is normally combustible or not. It will do the work for which it was prepared–to devour. Once everything is devoured and there is nothing left to burn, though, it will go out, for there will be no more reason for it to continue.

Forever and Ever

“And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:11. We must remember that we use figures of speech in our language today and that there are figures of speech in the Bible as well. If someone said, “he really got out of bed on the wrong side today,” we would know that he was in a bad mood, not that it literally mattered what side of the bed he got out on. If we said that it was raining cats and dogs, and then literally interpreted that into another language, it would greatly surprise our foreign friend; but we would know that it only meant that it was raining very, very hard. It is the same way with the terms “eternal fire,” “everlasting fire,” “forever and ever.” To the Hebrew mind it is simply a figure of speech, not to be taken absolutely literally, that there will never be an end to the fires. Forever, in the Bible, can mean as long as a person is alive. We can see this illustrated in a couple of Old Testament passages. “Then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” Exodus 21:6. “But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‘I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever…. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.’ So they worshiped the Lord there.” I Samuel 1:22, 28. We see two clear examples in which forever simply meant as long as the person lived. The slave obviously could not serve his master after he had died, but it was still said that he would serve him forever. Hannah said that Samuel would serve in the temple forever, but then again she says that he would serve the Lord as long as he lived. “Forever” in the Bible can simply be a figure of speech meaning as long as a person lives. We even use this in our language today. If we are on a long trip, we might say it took us forever to get there. Taking it in its context we know that it just means it took a long time. The same is true with the smoke ascending forever. When we compare scripture with scripture it does not mean that the smoke will endlessly be ascending, but that it will take a long time and it will continue as long as there is something for the fire to burn.

Immortal Soul?

Most of the pagan religions teach that the soul is immortal, and sadly enough this belief has crept into Christianity. The Bible teaches that God is the only one who has immortality. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” “Which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” I Timothy 1:17; 6:15,16. You can read every verse in the Bible and there is not one verse that intimates that the soul is immortal; it is only God who is immortal. Man does not receive the gift of immortality until the Second Coming and then it is only the righteous. (See I Corinthians 15:50-54.)

Instead of the Bible teaching an immortal soul, just the opposite is taught. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die…. The soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4, 20. This is so plain and unequivocal that there should be no room for controversy. The soul is not immortal; it can die. The belief that the soul cannot die was actually the first lie that the devil told, “You will not surely die.” Genesis 3:4. God had said, “You shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17. But tragically, Eve believed the devil’s subtle lie instead of God’s plain statement, and many more have followed her today.

Not only can the soul die, but Jesus said that both the soul and the body were going to die in hell. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. Once again, there is no room for controversy, it is too plain. The soul does not burn in anguish for the ceaseless ages of eternity–it is destroyed. If something is destroyed, it does not continue to exist. God in His justice cannot let the wicked go unpunished, but God in His mercy and love is not going to punish the wicked for billions and billions of years. Both the soul and the body are destroyed.

It has been asserted that because Jesus said that the worm does not die, the soul will not die. “And if your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched–where their ‘worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'” Mark 9:43, 44. Nowhere in the Bible is worm associated with the soul, and only in a few instances is it referred to as a human, and there only denoting the contempt that is placed upon that individual. Jesus is not contradicting Ezekiel or himself, but is emphasizing the importance of fully overcoming sin and if it is not overcome, hellfire will be the result. The word translated hell is actually “gehenna.” Gehenna refers to the “Valley of Hinnom,” not far from Jerusalem. Jeremiah predicted that this valley would be a valley of slaughter where carcasses would be strewn. [Jeremiah 7:31-34]. According to rabbinical tradition it became a place for burning of refuse and carcasses. As Jesus spoke these words, perhaps the smoke was seen drifting to heaven. It brought a vivid picture to the minds of the listeners as they associated this valley of destruction with the punishment of those who continue in sin. If anything escaped the consuming fires, it was devoured by the worms and maggots. Jesus was not teaching that the fires would never go out, but rather giving his hearers a graphic description of the undesirability of hellfire.

The idea that the soul is immortal and that wicked souls will burn for ages and ages is, in reality, underplaying the gospel. The most famous of all verses tells us what we are saved from by believing in Jesus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. By believing in, and following Jesus we are saved from perishing. An eternally burning hell is not perishing. If the damned are writhing in flames for eternity; they really have eternal life! Granted it is not a pleasant eternal life, but it is still eternal life none-the-less. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23. By accepting Jesus we receive eternal life. Eternal life is not something that we have unless we have truly accepted Jesus and are following Him. The wicked do not have eternal life, their lot is death. Is burning for billions of years on end death? Absolutely not The fires of hellfire consume all of the wicked and finally bring death and it is this death that is called, “the second death.” Revelation 20:14.

Ashes Under Your Feet

“‘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….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 4:1, 3. Malachi tells us of the coming day when the wicked will be no more. In this world wickedness can look like it gets the victory, but that will not always be. The day is coming when those who may have gained the whole world will be sorry, for they will see that they lost their own soul. [Mark 8:36]. They will be burnt as stubble and as stubble does not burn throughout eternity; it ignites, burns hot and goes out, so it shall be with the wicked. “Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; it shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!” Isaiah 47: 14. For those who have despised God’s grace the end will come. They shall be burnt up. It will be impossible to deliver themselves. The wisest, wealthiest man who has been found wanting will not escape. But after the fire has done its work, every coal will go out. There will not be a flame left. The fires of hell will go out. The wicked will be turned into ashes. No trace of the curse of sin will be left, both root and branch will be destroyed in the devouring flame. That is not saying that all of the wicked will be consumed in a matter of seconds. The wicked may burn for minutes, hours, days, months, perhaps even years. No one knows, but we do know that the fire will eventually turn everything into ashes and not a coal or flame shall be left.

Even the originator and promulgator of sin himself will be destroyed. Speaking of the devil, the Word says: “Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” Ezekiel 28:18, 19 KJV. God’s Word declares that the fire will devour the devil and bring him to ashes and that he will never be any more. Praise God! The devil, that has wrecked havoc upon this world of ours, will ultimately be destroyed and will never be again. The one who has caused all the misery and sorrow that is in the world will have to suffer for all the pain that he has inflicted upon humanity, and then he will come to his end. If, after meting out the full punishment of the devil, God brings him to ashes, we can be assured that the fires will indeed go out. The punishment will be full and complete, but God will not, as a ruthless tyrant, torture his enemies for the endless years of eternity.

The Utter End

God has told us of a time when all evildoers shall be cut off. “But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off….When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it….The future of the wicked shall be cut off.” Psalms 37:28, 34, 38. All sin and sinners will be cut off. Evildoers may appear to triumph now, but it is only for a time. The future of all those who love the things of this world is to be cut off from it forever and the righteous shall see it when it happens. The wicked may taunt and jeer now, but their day is coming. They shall be cut off. Even if you try to search for them, you will not find them for they will be cut off forever. “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.” Psalms 37: 35, 36. Why could he not be found? “But the wicked shall perish; and the enemies of the Lord, like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away.” Psalms 37:20. Into smoke the wicked will be consumed. “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look diligently for his place, but it shall be no more.” Psalms 37:9,10. A time is coming when wickedness and sin will be no more. It will not find a place on this earth. The earth will be completely eradicated from the curse and plague of sin and evil.

One of the most wonderful of all promises found in God’s Word is Nahum 1:9, “What do you conspire against the Lord? He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time.” God’s promise to us is that He will win the great controversy in which we are all players. Not only will He win the battle, but He will make an utter end. Sin and sinners will be no more. Every trace and remembrance of sin will be utterly destroyed and affliction or sin will not crop up its ugly head again. Once the battle is won, “it is done.” Revelation 21:6. The entire universe will be free from any stain or spot of sin. Sin and sinners will have been consumed by the fires of hell. Sinners “shall be as though they had never been.” [Obadiah 16]. They will have died the “second death” [Revelation 20:14] to which there is no resurrection. It will be as it was before they were born. (cf. Job 10:18, 19) They knew of nothing and knew nothing at all. There are no emotions, thoughts or feelings. It is simply an endless, unconscious sleep to which there is no awakening. The utter end is finally complete.

God recreates this world and wipes away all our sorrows and heartaches. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:1, 4. This poor earth that has been defiled by sin for over six thousand years becomes a fiery inferno in which both sin and sinners are destroyed, and then God obliterates the remembrance of sin by creating a new heaven and a new earth upon the ashes of the wicked. Thus is fulfilled “for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.” Malachi 4:3. The utter end is made and God becomes “all in all.” I Corinthians 15:28.

The reward of the righteous is far greater than what we can even begin to imagine. You will not hear one word of complaint or disappointment at the outcome for “eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9. Whatever you may have had to give up on this earth will be nothing in comparison to the glory of the hereafter. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18. The worst possible mistake we could make would be to end up in the lake of fire. Will you make that choice to love Jesus enough to do whatever he asks so that you will be able to walk on that earth made new and have that eternal security that sin has met its utter end?

All emphasis the authors unless otherwise stated.
All texts from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

  • Here and Hereafter, Uriah Smith, originally published by Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1897, reprinted by Amazing Facts.
  • Hell Fire, Joe Crews, published by Amazing Facts.
  • The Race to Contact the Dead, Cody Francis, published by Steps to Life.
  • Studying Together, Mark Finley, published by Hart Research Center.

If you would like to reprint or translate this book please contact Steps to Life for permission.
Copyright © 1999 by Steps to Life

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Lesson 18 – Would God Burn Sinners Forever?

fire burnIntroduction: In the last lesson we learned that the dead sleep in their graves until Jesus resurrects them. When the righteous are resurrected they will go to heaven, and when the wicked are resurrected they will go to the lake of “everlasting fire.” Yet, how could a God of LOVE torture sinners forever? It seems inconsistent with His character! In this lesson, as we compare “Scripture with Scripture,” letting the Bible explain itself, we will find the truth of this matter, and you will understand the love of God as never before.

1. How does the Bible describe God? 1 John 4:7, 8 [The Further-study verse is Eze. 33:11.]

2. Will God’s love excuse those who neglect or refuse to let Jesus take away their guilt? Num. 14:18 [Note: God does not hold the children accountable for their parents’ sins (Eze. 18:20), but the results of sin are often passed on. God will forgive the sins of the penitent, but He will not excuse sin in those who try to justify themselves. Ex. 34:6, 7; Luke 12:47, 48; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7]

3. When and how will the wicked be punished for their deeds? Matt. 25:31, 41, 46 [John 5:28, 29; Matt. 16:27; Rev. 22:12]

4. Thus the wicked will be cast into hell after the judgment of the last days. Some people, not comparing Scripture with Scripture, misinterpret 1 Peter 3:18-20 that says that Jesus was “put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient . . . in the days of Noah.” What is a “soul in prison”? Isa. 42:6, 7 [Luke 4:18; John 8:34, 36; Isa. 61:1]

5. When did Jesus preach with the power of the Spirit to the souls who were prisoners of sin in Noah’s day? Gen. 6:3 [Rom. 8:11; Matt. 24:38, 39]

6. When the wicked are cast into hell, will there be any rest during the time they are burning, and will their smoke or memory or anything about them ever return to earth again? Rev. 14:11 [Rev. 20:10]

7. Who has already suffered “eternal fire” as an example of the hell fire in the last days? Jude 7 [Note: “Eternal” or “everlasting” fire was a common Hebrew expression for a fire that could not be put out but burned until everything was consumed. Even today, if you say a fire could not be put out, it does not mean that it continues to burn even after everything has been reduced to ashes. 2 Peter 2:6; Eze. 20:47, 48; Jer. 17:27]

8. What will be left when the fire is through burning? Mal. 4:1, 3 [Isa. 47:14]

9. Is man immortal? 1 Tim. 6:15, 16 [Note: The Bible never calls man or his soul or his spirit or anything else about him, immortal. It says: God “alone has immortality.” 1 Cor. 15:51-55; 2 Tim. 1:9, 10]

10. What will happen to the “soul” of the unrepentant person? Eze. 18:4, 20 [Obadiah 16]

11. How will the soul be destroyed? Matt. 10:28 [2 Peter 3:9-11]

12. What is death in hell called? Rev. 20:12-15 [Ans. The Second Death. Nahum 1:9]

13. Will every sinner receive the same punishment? Luke 12:45-48 [Rom. 2:6; Matt. 16:27; Rev. 22:12]

14. What will happen to Satan in the fire of hell? Eze. 28:18, 19 [Note: Though the Hebrew verbs here can technically be translated in either the past or future tense, the King James Version correctly translates this as future, for Satan obviously hasn’t died yet!– “Therefore WILL I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it SHALL devour thee, and I WILL bring thee to ashes upon the earth” (KJV). Rev. 20:9, 10]

15. After the wicked are through burning, where will they be found? Ps. 37:9, 10 [Ps. 145:20; Obadiah 16; Prov. 24:20]

16. What is the wages of sin? Rom. 6:23 [Rom. 5:21]

17. If we believe in Jesus, from what will we be saved? John 3:16 [John 17:3; John 4:14; John 6:27, 47]

Commitment: Isaiah 28:9, 10 says that anyone who clings to a preconceived interpretation of an isolated text, without comparing everything else the Bible says on the subject, cannot be taught truth! As we compare ALL that the Bible says on hell, it is evident that a God of love will not burn people forever. Satan has slandered and misrepresented the character of God! Aren’t you glad that you can enjoy heaven without worrying about one of your relatives being tortured throughout eternal ages, while you are trying to be happy regardless? Does this wonderful truth help you to understand God’s love more? Will you respond to that love by accepting Christ as your Savior?

STEP 2 (Lessons 11-20): Accepting Christ’s Final Message


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