The Second Death

EtnaEruption
Mt. Etna, Sicily

Yeshua uses unmistakably graphic language to describe Hell. (Mk 9:43-44, 45-46, 47-48) He’s warning us to do all we can to avoid it. Who among us will go there? (Is 33:14) What would it be like do die the second death?

Before coming to faith I dwelt here, meditating on the terror of the Lord; it moved me to repent and seek God until I found salvation. This is, in fact, God’s norm in evangelism. (Jud 1:22-23)

The Lake of Fire is the dreadful fate of all who fail to find their eternal home in Christ. (Re 21:8) Fear of spending eternity in Hell drives the wise to ensure their election, until they’re as sure of Heaven as Christ Himself. Take no chances: perfect assurance of eternal salvation is available; nothing less is acceptable.

Only a few diligently secure their place in Heaven; whatever it takes, be one of them. (Mt 7:13)

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The Gospel Mystery

The good news of Messiah’s resurrection changed the world (Ac 17:6), shattering the worldview of thousands overnight. There’s been nothing else like it, either before or since.

WildFlowerSunriseThe Resurrection points us to an awesome mystery: Messiah Yeshua dealt with human sin, bearing all the sins of all believers (1Pe_2:24), paying their sin debt in full (Is 53:11) and securing their eternal salvation. But He also offers salvation to all (1Jn 2:2), calling all people to believe on Him and be saved. (Ac 17:30). It’s a mystery (Ep 6:19) how He effectually and infallibly saves only a few by dying for them, while also being the Savior of all, even those who ultimately perish. (1Ti_4:10)

I believe the answer lies in God’s infinitude: He’s outside time and space (2Pe 3:8), ever present in every moment of time. Whatever God does He’s eternally doing — He only died once (He 10:10) but He can die for anyone at any time, because He’s still there — dying on that cross. He’s always been there, and He always will be.

The atonement of Christ is limited to believers, but He’s offering it to all; He will save everyone who seeks Him (He 11:6) and make them a new creature. On this day of Firstfruits, where we celebrate His resurrection (1Co 15:23), let’s enjoy the mystery, and glory in our God! (1Co 1:31) He sure is amazing!

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The Terror of the Lord

In all His public teaching Jesus never once mentions God’s love*, yet He speaks of Hell often and without apology. (Mt 18:9) He warns of God’s justice and wrath, and exhorts us all to fear Him (Lk 12:4-5); He’s a consuming fire. (He 12:29) The terror of the Lord is the divine default in appealing to souls (2Co 5:11), not love and compassion (Jud 1:22-23), yet we’ve lost our holy trembling. (Php 2:12)

VolcanicLightning
Calbuco Volcano Eruption

Why is God so angry with unbelievers? (Jn 3:36) He treats them like hardened criminals rather than victims. Is God unjust, or are we missing His perspective? (Is 55:8-9)

God’s anger implies the lost are without excuse (Ro 1:20-21); in our free will we’d rather rebel against God than submit to Him. (Re 16:9-11) Men glady submit to gods of their own making, but not to the God of Heaven.

I think we forget that sin harms God; it grieves Him … He hates it. (Gen 6:6) If Hell is no more than God disarming His enemies in order to end His own suffering, how can we complain against it? And if God’s heart has always been open-armed (Ro 10:21), offering His oppressors relief if they’ll just humble themselves and repent (Eze 33:11), why wouldn’t He keep doing so throughout eternity? He doesn’t change. (Ja 1:17)

From all appearances, Hell is a prison defended from within — by depraved souls and spirits who lunge at any opportunity to resist and damage a merciful, benevolent, loving God … no matter what the cost to themselves or others. If there are no victims in Hell, only deliberate fiends and devils, how is God being unjust? (Ez 33:11)

Those who know Jehovah worship Him as He is, in all His works and ways. (Re 15:3) I think it’s high time we stop apologizing for God’s anger, downplaying His indignation, vengeance, hatred and wrath. He’s not being unfair; Man is. Let’s encourage joyful trembling (Ps 2:11), and as ol’ John Baptist, tearfully warn the disobedient to flee the wrath to come. (Mt 3:7-8)

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* See 1st comment below

Eternal Salvation

When Jesus Christ died on the cross “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” (He 5:9) He does not offer a temporary salvation, but an eternal one.

By definition, salvation from Hell must be eternal, for if one ever ends up in Hell there can be no real sense in which one has ever been saved from it. In other words, a salvation that can be lost is no salvation at all.

Yet many complain that eternal salvation –  the once saved always saved kind –MountainBalloonRays means we can “get saved” and then live like the devil. But this is not salvation at all; God saves from the dominion of sin as well as from its penalty, such that the saved obey Christ as new creatures, with a new nature. This renewing of our hearts is not by the will of Man (Jn 1:12-13); it is the work and gift of God. (Ro 4:5)

If salvation can be lost, the question to ask is, “How good do I have to be to keep it?” The question has only one safe answer: “Be perfect.” (Mt 19:20-21) We dare not presume a lower standard, and there is no higher one … yet it implies we can never know we have salvation.

But those who trust in Christ know they have eternal life. (1Jn 5:13) Those who don’t have an eternal salvation have not yet grasped the significance of the cross; Christ’s work is an efficacious, limited atonement for all — He did not merely make salvation a possibility for all, He also infallibly saved all who believe.

Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” (2Pe 1:10) Once Jesus Christ pays your sin debt, you will never be condemned … ever. (Ro 4:6-8) Once we see the power of His cross we cannot doubt its efficacy, and we come to understand the only salvation there is … an eternal one. (He 7:25)

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The Indignation of the Lord

There is a place in the heart of God where I must dwell for a while, a mysterious conjunction of His anger, His justice and His mercy. It is the fullness of His love.

Like Micah of old, I will feel all of His love together, at once, in context: “I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” (Mi 7:9)

Indignation: righteous anger; strong displeasure at something unjust, appalling, offensive, insulting or base.

HeartTornado
Texas heart tornado

I will bear, endure and accept, agree and align with God’s righteous anger toward me. His is perfect hatred, so beautiful I cannot hide. I drink Him into my innermost being, all of Him, everything about Him, even His strong displeasure … because I have sinned against Him.

I agree with Him: there is no excuse for any of my wrongs. I lie prostrate, afflicted, trembling before Him.  It is the safest place in the universe: unprotected, naked, vulnerable before my God. (2Co 5:11)

I will stay before Him, filling myself with all of Him, and I will never leave, because I know … He pleads my cause. He looks over my life and finds nothing in me to defend, yet He pleads for me. He will never find anything good in me, but He will reason, He will argue before the court of Heaven … He Himself will win the case of His own justice against me.

He is the one I have offended … yet He will execute judgement for me … because my righteousness is not in myself. All my hope lies in Another; I have a perfect righteousness in God’s own Son. God sees the travail of His soul and is completely satisfied. (Is 53:11) Yeshua took my place in death, became my sin for me, bearing the dreadful curse on my behalf. (2Co 5:21) He died, now I go free. “He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness.” My redeemer lives! (Job 19:25-7)

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!(Ro 11:33)

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Stony Ground

When Christ illustrates God’s kingdom He describes some of those outside of it as “stony ground,” (Mk 4:16-17) people who eagerly embrace the gospel message and enjoy the community of the saints, but when called upon to actually live out their faith, especially in difficult times, they have no interest. It seems that a key factor in identifying the elect lies in their response to God in suffering.

Oliver C Wright: The Malham Ash

Many today gladly receive a promise of forgiveness and a better life, but who counts it a privilege “not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake?” (Php 1:29)

As we do our diligence in making our election sure (2Pe 1:10), we should carefully consider how trials are affecting us. And if we are not also choosing His ways and actively pursuing Him in the small things, should we expect to be faithful when it really gets hard? (Lk 16:10)

If we find our hearts to be shallow and stony let’s not despair, but seek new ones from God (Eze 36:26-7), not training ourselves in lives of ease but in enduring hardness as good soldiers of Christ. (2Ti 2:3) Let’s not find ourselves among those who wither in trial, but triumphant in God as He displays His strength in us. (Ro 5:3-5)

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Make Your Election Sure

Many thoughtful, intelligent people claim that doubt is intrinsic to faith, that anyone who isn’t doubting is either asleep or kidding themselves. Yet perhaps you’ve met people who claim to know God for sure … and perhaps they are just shallow, religious quacks living in a make-believe world.

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Omer Mei-Dan: Cave of Swallows, San Luis Potosi, Mexico

But the question of eternity remains: When we step beyond the edge of this earthly life … and we all will … is it possible to be absolutely sure that we know God, and that we are safe in Him? If so, how, and what practical help can we offer others who are seeking?

God says, “give diligence to  make your calling and election sure” (2Pe 1:10-11) We’re all going to fall into the abyss of death some day … Isn’t God saying we should ensure we have a parachute … one that works?

How confident are you about eternity? Do you believe? Are you resting in the fact that God has already made you suitable to partake of the eternal inheritance of the saints in light? (Col 1:12) Has He delivered you from the power of darkness? Has He already translated you into His kingdom? (Col 1:13) Are you redeemed through His blood, having all of your sins forgiven? (Col 1:14) Are you ready to face the indignation of the Lord, knowing he will plead your cause and justify you for the sake of His beloved Son?

If there is any way you could be more sure, you are not yet sure enough: seek Him. You will face Him, alone. There’s time now to get your parachute in order so that when that last day comes … you’ll be ready.

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Remember the Days of Darkness

I’m on a consulting project today, Thursday afternoon, just found out that the project will likely be canceled on Monday. I already have 38 hours booked this week, so in two more hours I’ll be on overtime. It seems like a waste to keep working like crazy toward our goals now. Maybe I should ease up and coast the rest of the week, or maybe I should keep pushing, hoping we’ll get more time and preparing to make a difference.

By Hoychol

How quickly things have changed … priorities shifted … one minute pushing hard to achieve something, and the next it’s all but gone … vanished. Nothing. There’s a sudden void, an empty feeling, a darkness out in front of me. Like watching a movie when the power goes out. Back to reality. Time to think about my purpose, why I’m doing what I am doing.

Is Life like that? One day we’re active, looking forward to all kinds of things, filled with daily concerns … and then it’s over. Something unexpected happens and all goes dark, blank; a fatal car wreck, a stroke, heart attack, freak accident. Life’s done. Now what?

Solomon said, “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: but if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.” (Ec 11:7-8)

The days of darkness shall be many. Life is as a vapor, appearing for a little time and then vanishing away. (Jas 4:14) Let not death be “when your fear comes.” (Pr 1:26-7) Many have said it before but I am reminded of it again … there’s a lot going on in the screen of my life, but when the power goes out, all that will be left is a memory. Then it’s God and me, and that’s all. Is this a pleasant feeling? An unpleasant one? Somehow both? Let me so live each moment that when the darkness comes I’ll welcome it with a smile.

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