95+5 God’s Wrath

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God’s wrath is not an ever-burning hell but leaving us to the natural consequences of our rebellious actions, actions and attitudes that really do lead to an eternal death. If Luther had continued his reformation, he would have seen the distinction between an imposed penalty and the natural consequences God has warned us of. Luther is known for his attempts to assuage God’s wrath, crawling up stairs on his knees, offering endless prayers and petitions to other priests while pleading for God’s mercy, because like many of us, he was afraid of God’s “wrath.” And it’s no wonder.

The Middle Ages portrayed a horrible picture of God, of something called purgatory, and of hell. I can hardly post the pictures of Gustave Dore’s illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, they are that terrifying, and Dore was just illustrating the greatest book written to date, the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, finished in 1320, just a year before his death. The Divine Comedy was widely considered to be the greatest work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature.

The book describes Dante’s travels through hell, purgatory, and paradise, from a Mid-evil perspective, and I want to emphasize the evil in Mid-evil. It is an amazing piece of literature; it’s truly a work of art, but Dante’s picture of God was distorted and his understanding of God’s wrath was wrong, dead wrong. God is nothing like Dante’s portrayal, and neither is heaven; and there is no purgatory, and there is no hell as he describes it.

Consider a few of these Bible verses regarding wrath:

Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 The exchanged the truth about God for a lie.

Romans 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.

Romans 1:28 furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind…

In Romans 1:24, 26, 28, and 4:25 paraditomy, or its root word, is used every time and it means to hand over, to give up, to let go. God’s wrath is: Him giving us up to the sad consequences of our choices.

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95+4 Jesus=Father

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Jesus is not the Father, but He is God. God, the one we call Father, He is God. And there is one other, the Holy Spirit, He is God, too. The doctrine of the Trinity is still debated between churches, but it’s what I believe–there are three distinct beings with the same essential, eternal, timeless qualities. But what may be even harder for people to believe are Jesus’s words, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:9; NKJV)

Most people are comfortable with the God of the Old Testament being different from the God of the New Testament, or the God of judgment being different from Jesus, the God of love and grace. Many believe that Jesus’s main purpose in coming to this world was to placate, to appease, to pacify the God of Justice; thus, they must be different. Jesus is nice but the Father is…well, you know. But Jesus said if you have seen me you have seen the Father–that’s profound! That’s mind-bending!

How do we put those paradoxes on the same platter? It helps me when I consider two facts. First, it was really Jesus who led Israel throughout the Old Testament.

1 Cor 10:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (Emphasis mine)

It was Jesus who led Israel through the desert. It was Jesus who gave the 10-Commandments and the laws in Leviticus. It was Jesus that gave the command to stone the Sabbath-breaker and destroy Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. It was Jesus who spoke and created our world.

Jn 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The second reason we have a problem seeing Jesus and the Father as one, as having the same character, is, we have misunderstood the legal system as being punitive and not protective, and we have overlooked several other reasons why Jesus had to die. Jesus’s death was a demonstration, not an appeasement; it spoke to much more than merely a legal transaction.

In light of the great controversy between God and Satan, a controversy over God’s laws and character, God proved that He too was selfless and giving, that He loved this world, you, me, us, even though we had sided with Satan. He showed the universe what would happen if beings worshiped a god they were afraid of, demonstrated by the ruling Jewish leaders when they crucified Him! He demonstrated that He did not lie in the beginning when He said if we sin we die. His statement was not a threat; it was an undeniable fact, and He proved it, much to Satan’s shame.

Bringing God and mankind back together, knowing what God is really like, knowing God is love and wouldn’t lie, knowing God loves us more than life itself, and knowing God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will heal and save all those who trust Him again, this is the atonement!

95+ 3 Two Resurrections

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This would be Luther’s third addition to his 95-Thesis–clarifying and distinguishing between the two resurrections.

Consider all the interesting ways that organisms reproduce and produce copies of themselves, men and women have babies, orangutans have little fuzzballs in their own image, trout and turtles and teal all having little ones in their own image; so why do ugly caterpillars wrap themselves up in an unimpressive, boring, pale cocoon, wait a few weeks, and then emerge as brilliant butterflies, one of God’s most beautiful creatures? I think God was giving us hope in a resurrection, an event when this ugly mortal puts on beautiful immortality. The Bible says that when Jesus comes there is a resurrection of the Just and seemingly a few of the unjust. Look at this verse from Revelation 1:7

7“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.

And add to this Jesus’s words in Matthew 24:30-31 about His coming:

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

And add this passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 about believers who have died:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

At earth’s darkest hour, Christ will come, with holy angels and with God Himself. Christ resurrects the righteous, and they with those still living are gathered up by the angels to meet Christ in the air. It sounds as though some of the most wicked will be raised too, to see Him fulfill his promise, those who pierced him, which may include Judas and others who mocked Him. These people are raised only to see how wrong they were and are put back to “sleep” in wait of the resurrection of the wicked. The righteous are escorted to heaven to study the books of life and rest up from this earthly ordeal. After all the saints from a hundred generations have reviewed the books, after looking over the evidences explaining why some of earth’s residents made the choices they did, does God raise the wicked.

At the end of the 1000-years of study, the New Jerusalem, adorned as a bride, is brought back to and relocated on the earth.  The saints and the city are now on earth again, and Christ resurrects the wicked. Thinking they have one more chance to over-throw God and His government, Satan and all the evil angels and evil resurrected people surround and then attack the city, showing once again how unsavable they are. God in mercy, reveals his glory, the glory hidden ever since the conflict began, and all those out of harmony with His presence are consumed; they become ashes under our feet.

Malachi 4:1-3

For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up like calves of the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this,says the LORD of hosts.

95+2 of 6–Immortality

95+2 An Immortal Soul

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The theory claiming that mankind has an immortal soul was borrowed from paganism and incorporated into the early Christian church. Martin Luther classed it with the “monstrous fables that form part of the Roman dunghill of decretals” (E. Petavel, The problem of Immortality, p. 255). Had Luther continued his church reforms, addressing the erroneous doctrine of the immortal soul, it would have been on his extended 95-Theses list.  There are so many reasons not to believe in man’s immortal soul that it’s hard to know where to start, but here are a few to check out:

  • Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (It does not say he was given an immortal soul.)
  • Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.
  • John 11:11-15 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”  Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
  • 1Thes 4:13-18 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
  • Job 14:10-12 But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he? Aswater evaporates from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dried up, So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, That You would set a limit for me and remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait Until my change comes. You will call, and I will answer You; You will long for the work of Your hands.
  • In the very day when the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl broken, man’s thoughts perish. They that go down to the grave are in silence. They know no more of anything that is done under the sun. Job 14:21.
  • For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible… so when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 1 Cor 15:52-54
  • The resurrection of Lazarus, the bringing back from the dead of the boy by Elisha and of Peter’s mother in-law, were their souls all brought back from heaven to enjoy this life of pain and suffering? Nothing is said of their experiences. Wouldn’t you expect a few words about their understanding to fill a paragraph or two, in Holy writ, telling of their glorious experiences from the glories above?

In Martin Luther’s Exposition of Solomon’s Booke Called Ecclesiastes, p. 152, he states, “There is, saith he, no duty, no science, no knowledge, no wisdom there. Solomon judgeth that the dead are asleep and feel nothing at all. For the dead lie there, accounting neither days nor years, but when they are awaked, they shall seem to have slept scarce one minute.”

In summary, the description of man’s creation does not suggest we have a soul, much less an immortal soul. Solomon makes it clear that after death we know nothing. Job asks God to keep him in the grave until after His wrath is poured out. Jesus said death is like a sleep, and Paul and others say we wait in the grave until the resurrection at Jesus’s second coming; we wait in the grave as this mortal puts on immortality. And most convicting of all is Satan’s first lie in the garden of Eden, showing where he stands in the debate: as Satan told Eve, “you won’t surely die;” he preached the first sermon on the immortality of the soul.

 

95+1 of 6 The War in Heaven

Theses 95+1 The war in heavenWar in heaven

One of the greatest advances in Christianity in the last two-hundred years is the focus on the “war in heaven,” Revelation 12:6.  Formerly looked upon as just a minor detail, it has grown into a fundamental doctrine. The context of a war changes everything! It changes how we see and understand the need for our planet’s creation. It changes how we see Jesus’s temptations, what happened in Gethsemane, why Jesus had to die, and more. The war predates our planet’s creation, our first parents, and their fall; it predates everything we know of. What was the war about, who was involved, how are we included in this, and why are we just now focusing on it?

Martin Luther would have caught this but there were so many other glaring abuses to address that he just didn’t get to it. When translating the Latin text of the Bible into German, he separated out the apocryphal books, putting them in-between the two testaments, and he had some issues with Hebrews, James, Jude, and the book of Revelation, and that’s why those books are found at the end of the Bible today. At one time, commenting on the book of Revelation, Luther is quoted as saying, in German, I feel an aversion to it. The book with the clearest references to the war wasn’t scrutinized. Eventually, the apocrypha was rejected, and Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation were accepted. Read this pointed reference about the war from Revelation chapter 12.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (NIV, Rev 12:7-9)

The entire chapter elaborates on this war making many other verses and stories in the Bible come to life, such as: Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness, the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the descriptions of the king of Tyre and the king of Babylon, and countless other insinuations.

The problems started in heaven not earth. How? Why? If you sew all the pieces together we find that Lucifer, the smartest, the most beautiful, the most gifted, and most prominent of God’s creatures wanted to usurp God’s power and authority; and to do so, he had to degrade God’s character; he had to lie and accuse. In many and various ways Lucifer suggested that God could not be trusted. The battle boiled down eventually to challenging one of God’s statements: God said that if you sin you will die; Satan said if you sin you thrive; and therefore, God cannot be trusted. Lucifer has argued that point from beginning to end. He told Eve in the garden the same thing:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it [sin] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3: 4-5)

And when Jesus was on earth Satan repeated the accusations (Matthew 4) that God can’t be trusted. And today, in a thousand ways, through movies and videos and even sermons, Lucifer, now Satan, repeats his challenge that the wages of sin is not death; no, it will open your eyes. Oh, how wrong he is!

95+6

Luther-nailing-theses

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The pounding of a single nail into the wooden, Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517, announced the doom of the old-world order and marked the dawn of a world-wide revival. With those 95 theses firmly attached, Martin Luther thought he was stirring up a debate on indulgences, the “getting out of purgatory free” card, for money; but he unleashed a typhoon, suggesting the church had it wrong and the infallible Pope was on the wrong side of Scripture. Luther insisted that only God could forgive sins—not priests or Popes. Here is just a spattering of the 95:

  1. Only God can give salvation – not a priest.
  2. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.
  3. The priest must not threaten those dying with the penalty of purgatory.
  4. A dead soul cannot be saved by an indulgence.
  5. The pope should give his own money to replace that which is taken from pardoners.
  6. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.
  7. Indulgences bought for the dead should be re-paid by the pope.
  8. Let Christians experience problems if they must – and overcome them – rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching. (1)

Until Luther, the light of Christ radiating from the Christian Church only flickered; at times it sparked but would quickly die-out; it was snuffed by superstition and church tradition. There were luminaries like Wycliffe, Hus, and Jerome who for a time enlightened the people; they taught of God’s love and grace and total forgiveness, but their light was beaten back by powerful dignitaries drenched in pride and ignorance and vice. For all those looking on, it seemed like Satan was winning the war, not Christ. For over a millennium truth was chained to monastic library walls, written in Latin, a language few understood.

Christians living in the Middle Ages were taught to fear demons and devils. They were terrified of ending up in hell, burning and writhing in unimaginable pain, or landing in purgatory and suffering just a little less and a little shorter. They were tormented with the idea that all men were hopeless sinners in the sight of an unforgiving, arbitrary God and were unworthy of salvation, at least until Luther.

Martin Luther was humble, courageous, a master of many languages, and above all—brutally intelligent. He went to the University of Erfurt, earning Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Theology, and later a PhD from Wittenberg.

He lived almost 200 years after England’s reformer John Wycliffe and 100 years after Hus and Jerome who were martyred for defying the church, and Luther knew it when he publicly destroyed the Papal “bull” sent from Pope Leo, summonsing him to Rome to defend himself.

Parenthetically, every year or so, the Emperor of Germany, Charles the fifth, would organize a meeting, called a Diet, inviting German princes and bishops, and in 1521, the Emperor summoned Martin Luther to the city of Worms to recant.

Charles was a devout Catholic, but his princes were sympathetic to Luther, so Luther was given safe conduct to and from the meeting to defend his teachings. Upon arrival, Luther was shown a table with a pile of his books and other writings and was offered the opportunity to reject his own writings and recant, but he refused. Luther’s reply was epic:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” And added, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” (2)

The Emperor, true to his promise, allowed Luther to leave Worms, but as an outlaw; he was branded a heretic and sentenced to death. He planned on arresting Luther quickly after releasing him, except Luther was “kidnapped” by Frederick the Wise of Saxony. Luther would have been taken and burned at the stake had Charles found him first. Instead, he was taken to the Wartburg Castle where he wrote furiously, translating the Latin text of the Bible into the common man’s language—German—changing the world forever.

Luther coined several great sayings: The just will live by faith and Solo Scriptura—the Scriptures alone. These, along with the 95 theses changed the course of history. The Christian world took a giant step forward thanks to Martin Luther, but unfortunately it didn’t continue to advance; like the Roman church it too became formal, and additional reforms took place. Truth advanced through Europe and eventually the New World through Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, and others.

And truth is still advancing: six more theses can be nailed to the church door. To be continued….

  1. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-reformation/the-95-theses-a-modern-translation/

2. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/luther/lutheraccount.html

Don’t go to church; be the church!

Every time I see that sentence pop up in an email, I feel the weight of truth punch me in the chest, then I’m nauseous because it fits and it’s profound. Don’t just go to church and spend a few hours singing songs and listening to others talk about the relationship you should have with God–have that relationship. Be that person who knows and understands and then resembles God. God wants us to be like Christ–that’s the goal–the hope of glory is Christ in us: to love and care and be like God. So how do we do it? The Bible says that God loves us and is already working in us and through us to do His good pleasure, so we are off to a good start. It mentions we need to be born again, casting off our old rebellious self, and it commends the reading and studying of the scriptures. If we were to imitate Jesus, we would get up in the misty morning, long before the daily pressures begin, seek out a place of solitude and read and pray. Jesus must have been up with the birds every day, because it seems like He had the Old Testament memorized when debating the Jewish leaders. Today we have a multitude of versions to choose from or listen to and an endless source of references.

Adding one concept made a big difference in my studies: knowing the Bible is not a code book. When I was young, I read the Bible as though it were merely a list of dos and don’ts. I was always looking for just one more rule to keep, for one more verse to memorize, or one more fact I could remember; so I could be perfect. Then it dawned on me, God was God in both the Old and New Testaments, and He changes not. What was changing were the circumstances. Sometimes God was working with newly freed, ignorant slaves and vile, evil countries with despots, other times with religious hypocrites and autocrats, and still others with willing but ignorant people. We wouldn’t treat each group the same and neither does God.

The Bible is a compilation of carefully crafted case studies documenting God’s actions, both in heaven and on this rebellious planet. In many and various ways God has demonstrated His faithfulness and recorded the events of this great controversy in the Bible. It’s not a code book; it’s a case study.