What about your Future?

Is God "out to get" YOU?
Often when we think about God as we read the Bible, we are prone to think of Him in the most unpleasant terms. We probably perceive  God in the same way we did or do our earthly fathers. Fathers can and sometimes do, cause their children to develop false concepts about God. Often he is characterized as someone who is "out to get" us.....
 
Die and "Not" live.
Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden because of sin. They had received the sentence of death from God. They were also not allowed back into the Garden of Eden. Remember, the "tree of life" was in the midst of the garden. What would have happened if they had had access to the tree of life?
 
 
 

Jesus' Teaching About "Hell"

When Jesus spoke about "hell", one of two words were used in the Bible,  (Some Translations) either (hades) or (geenna). Every time "hades" was translated "hell", it could easily been translated "grave".
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The Kingdoms of the World as seen in an Image

Learning from history
"Someone has said that the lessons from history are that we don't learn from history. Inevitably, every experiment in human government has ultimately failed. Whether dictatorship or democracy, each system is ultimately short-lived." Steve Taylor

"People usually get the leadership they deserve - good or bad. Judah and Israel's history is punctuated with such descriptive phrases as, "He did evil in the sight of the LORD...Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD...he did what was right in the sight of the LORD"...etc. Leaders rose to power who were consistent with the spiritual climate of the day. Like people, like leadership. Like leadership, like people."  Steve Taylor
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ASLEEP IN JESUS


Thessaloniki, is the second largest city in Greece. It has a population of over one million people. Under the Romans it was one of four divisions of Macedonia. It was name after one of the sisters of Alexander the Great. This was the chief station on the great Roman road which connected Rome with the whole region to the north of the ニgean Sea. Paul visited Thessalonica (with Silas and Timothy) during his second missionary journey, and introduced Christianity there. Paul preached in the synagogue there, the chief synagogue of the Jews in that part of Macedonia, and laid the foundation of a church. A flourishing church was certainly formed there; and the epistles show that its elements were more Gentile than Jewish.
 
  • Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.2 And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ ."4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. Acts 17:1-4 (NASB)

The Jews (remember that he did attend a Jewish synagogue where for three sabbath days he expounded the teaching of Christ) after seeing the reception given to Paul’s message became envious and such a commotion ensued that the believers felt it the best to send away Paul and Silas to Berea. Hearing that Paul was at Berea and that he had visited the synagogue of the Jews there, the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica traveled to Berea where they stirred up the people, again causing trouble for Paul and Silas. Timothy who was a convert from Derbe and Lystra and had joined them in Berea. Paul was able to visit the church formed in Thessalonica at a later time. It seems possible that Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was written from Corinth.

There seemed to be several needs in the church there which Paul addressed. There seemed to be a question about how to bring comfort to those who had lost loved ones to death. “How do we comfort our brethren and friends who have given up their relatives and friend to death?” Paul’s approach to their need was to “Comfort one another with these words.” I Thess. 4:18. To understand his approach and to learn from his letter to the Thessalonian brethren can be beneficial to us in our Christian walk. As I began to study this I found that Paul’s approach was simply copied from the comfort Jesus gave to Mary and Martha upon the dear of their brother Lazarus.
 

LAZARUS WAS ASLEEP


The first thing Jesus addressed was the fact that Lazarus was asleep. Jesus made it plain to the disciples that Lazarus was asleep and that he was going to the town of Bethany to “awake him” . The disciples misunderstood what Jesus meant, so he spoke more plainly:
 
  • "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep."12 The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover. "13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead”. John 11:11-14 (NASB)

Misinformation about what death is, needed the clarity of the Master, Rabbi Jesus. Jesus made it very plain that those who are dead are asleep, waiting for him to wake them up. Jesus’ comforting words to Martha were:
 
  • "Your brother will rise again."24 Martha said* to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." John 11:23-24 (NASB)

“Your brother will rise again” . Martha was fully aware of that teaching. "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day . What Martha needed to know is that as Jesus goes on to tell her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” This is the same message Paul was trying to impress upon the Thessalonian brethren in his first letter.
 

THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST

 
  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 1 Thess 4:13 (NASB)

To be uninformed about the sleep of death and the awakening power of the Master is to lack the information needed to deal properly with our grief. The brethren at Thessalonica needed that information just as much as we do today.

How do we find comfort in our grief when we loose a loved one to heart disease, cancer, or any other enemy to our human existence? The first thing is to hear the words of Jesus to Martha, “Thy brother, thy sister, thy mother, thy father, thy son, thy daughter, thy husband, thy wife, thy friend shall rise again.” It is to hear the words of Jesus to his disciples, “Our friend, our brother, our sister, our mother, our father, our son, our daughter, our husband, our wife is asleep, and I must come and awaken him from his sleep.” Our hope for the future beyond death is linked to our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
 
  • For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 1 Thess 4:14 (NASB)

According to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, any hope we have must be supported by “the word of the Lord” . Notice how he wrote:
 
  • For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thess 4:15 (NASB)

Those who have as Jesus and Paul put it “fallen asleep” will not be forgotten. They will be awakened. The Coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead is our hope. It is the hope with which we comfort one another. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this issue of death and resurrection. The sleep of death; the resurrection of the dead; the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; are all linked together to bring us comfort in our grief.
 
  • Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ , whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 1 Cor 15:12-19 (NASB)

Those who are alive when Jesus comes will not precede in any way those who have fallen asleep in death. If you must fall asleep in death before the return of Jesus to the earth, rest assured, you won’t miss out on a thing. You too will experience the full impact and benefit of verses 16 and seventeen:
 
  • For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout , with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess 4:16-17 (NASB)

Just as Jesus had to make it ever so plain to the disciples about the exact state of Lazarus, who he said was asleep; by saying plainly to the disciples, "LAZARUS IS DEAD".

Paul, after having written to the Thessalonians that: “we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep” in verse 16 reminded them that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

Paul finished up his address concerning misinformation regarding those who have fallen asleep by reminding the Thessalonians of the great reunion ahead for those who “sleep in Jesus” Verse 14.
 
  • Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Verse 17

Falling asleep in death is a fearful thing. The writer of Hebrews mentions that:
 
  • By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil's hold on death 15 and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death. Heb 2:14-15 (MSG)

But to fall asleep in Jesus is a comforting thought. To know that "our father, our mother, our sister, our brother, our son, our daughter, our wife, our husband sleeps in Jesus" is comforting because we know that those who sleep in Jesus will by the power of God be awakened; brought along side of Jesus; and will forever be with him. We continue to need comfort and consolation even as did the Thessalonians. We are indebted to Paul, but even more to the Lord for these comforting words.
 
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JESUS' DOCTRINE ABOUT HELL
With verses from Peter, Paul and the Prophets


Jesus was a simple man using a few words and teaching methods. One of the chief things he taught about was forgiveness. (i.e. forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors) He had a lot to say about the kingdom of God. He also emphasized love. (i.e. love one another as I have loved you) What we sometimes don’t think about is that in his doctrine he also taught about the subject we refer to as “hell”. The first thing we need to comprehend is that Jesus did not use the word “hell”. When translating from the biblical text there were three words in the New Testament that the translators translated “hell”.
 
  • The first word was hades..the unseen state.."death"
  • The second word was geenna..Some pronounce Gehenna or Vallyof Hinnom
  • The third word was"tartaroo" ..to send into Tartarus: see 2 Peter 2:4
 
HADES

It is my intention to deal only with the first two: hades and geenna. When Jesus spoke about hell one of two words were used in the Bible, i.e. hades, from which was translated hell; and geenna which is also translated hell. See below for four instances used by Jesus where hades is translated hell:
 
When the translators came to the word hades they translated it grave instead of hell in I Corin. 15:55. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Every time hades was translated hell it could have easily been translated grave instead. The future place of retribution for the unrepentant is not meant in these references.
GEHENNA

He also spoke about hell when the word geenna (Gehenna) was used: three times as “ hell fire” and eight times as “ hell”.
Why did Jesus use the idea of Gehenna and what does it mean?

“This is literally the valley of the son or children of Hinnom, a deep and narrow ravine with steep, rocky sides, to the south and west of Jerusalem. In the Hebrew Bible, the site was initially where apostate Israelites and followers of various Ba'als and Caananite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire. Another name for this place was Tophet where the custom of infant sacrifices seems to have been kept. It seems to have become, from the days of Josiah the King, the common cesspool of the city of Jerusalem into which its sewage was placed as well as the ever burning funeral piles.” Smith Bible Dictionary.

The word geenna (Gehenna) was used to get Jesus' hearers' attention in the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:
  • To those who would mistreat their parents;
  • (Ver. 22) To those who commit adultery with their eyes; (Ver. 29)
  • To those who would misuse their right hand. (Ver. 30)

Jesus made it plain that God intends to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna which is the future place of retribution for the unrepentant. (Matt. 10:28). (Particularly notice the word “ destroy”) This is also the place where Jesus questioned how the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites could avoid being cast. (Matt. 23:33). Please note that the word used in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is not the same word as used here. In that reference the word is “hades” which refers to the grave. When the rich man lifted up his eyes in hell, Luke 16:23, it was in “ hades” or in the grave. As a matter of fact, he would have had to be in the grave because verse 22 says “ he died and was buried”, so that’s where his eyes were when he lifted them up.

Let’s examine some of the references where Jesus refers to what Paul spoke of in Acts as a catalyst for repentance. But first look at Paul's statement:
 
  • God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31 (NASB)

Special notice should be made of Jesus’ instructions in Luke. When one contemplates the future day of judgment; due concern should be given to one’s preparation for that day. That would bring up the subject of repentance.
 
  • And that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:47 (NASB)
 
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
 
  • "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Matt 25:31-34 (NASB)

Jesus indicated that all of mankind will not be in that group set on his right hand. He will not say to those of all nations to "come…inherit the kingdom prepared for you”; only those who he places on the right. Some will be placed on the left and will be addressed in this manner:
 
  • "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;" Matt 25:41 (NASB)

This is the judgment that Paul spoke about. In my studies it is always useful to group together scriptures which are of similar topics.
 
  • But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.11 For it is written, "As I live , says the Lord , every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God."12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 (NASB)
 
  • For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Cor 5:10 (NASB)
 
THE LAKE OF FIRE

This also speaks about the time in the future which Jesus showed John to reveal to the church: (Rev. 1:1)
 
  • Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books , according to their deeds.13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.15 And if anyone 's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20:11-15 (NASB)

We must remember that these words in Revelation are also the words of Jesus; given to him by God his heavenly Father:
  • The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Rev 1:1-2 (NASB)


Jesus was giving further information regarding the dividing of the sheep from the goats and just what would become of those on the left. Notice that the unrepentant will be cast, as a result of the day of judgment, into the lake of fire. This is the same as the Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna where the refuse from Jerusalem as well as the bodies of those who could not afford a burial plot like Joseph of Arimethia. (Matt. 27:57-60).

Are you beginning to see why the word “geenna” was used? The words of Jesus are very poignant regarding the lake of fire. The lake of fire is not a preserving fire but a destroying fire. A fire that consumes and burns up, not a fire that preserves and tortures for ever and ever. Think about it. A million years is a long time to burn and be tortured, as is forever.
 
  • "If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where Their worm does not die , and the fire is not quenched. Mark 9:47-48 (NASB)


As nothing could escape the Valley of Hinnom; whatever was cast into the trash heap of the Valley of Hinnom was either consumed by the fires or by the worms on the perimeter; nothing could escape their destruction. Notice that the lake of fire is referring to the “second death”. (Rev. 20:14) Why did Jesus use those words? Jesus knew that “the wages of sin is death,” and that the lake of fire brings about the second death which is the wages of sin. Rom. 6:23/Rev 20:14-15. He knew exactly how to give a visual image to the people of his day as well as our day that would impress his point upon our minds.

Many of the people Jesus spoke to in his days on the earth had probably cast garbage into the Valley of Hinnom, and some had likely, because of circustances, had to let the rubish heep in the Valley of Hinnom be the burial place for their loved because they did not have the wherewithal to bury them in a proper grave. Jesus was clear about the outcome of the lake of fire when he said:
 
  • "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NASB)


Jesus knew that if you are not placed on his right you will “perish” in the Valley of Hinnom, the lake of fire. John the Baptist, who was the forerunner, of Christ also knew this and put it this way about the one whose sandals he was unworthy to stoop down and untie: (Mark 1:6-7)
  • "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matt 3:12 (NASB)

Most people will in their mind go strait to the unquenchable fire and miss the part that says “burn up the chaff”. The fire is unquenchable in the sense that it cannot be extinguished by mankind; but the fire that is unquenchable will burn up the chaff which is symbolic of the unrepentant. There is coming a great day of separation. Malachi the prophet foresaw a time when those whose names have been inscrolled in a book of remembrance because of they spoke often with each other, evidently about the things of God; feared the Lord and thought upon his name; said the time will come when it will be apparent who serves God and who doesn’t. It is not now apparent (who serves God and who does not) because we do not know one another’s heart. Jesus, the God-appointed judge of the world, knew what was in man. (John 2:25)
 
DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED
 
  • Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name.17 "They will be Mine," says the Lord of hosts, "on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him."18 So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. Mal 3:16-18 (NASB)

God will make it apparent in that day who serves him and who does not; who fears him and who thinks upon his name. The process he will use is described in the next chapter (Chapter 4) in Malachi.
 
  • "For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the Lord of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch."2 "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.3 "You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the Lord of hosts. Mal 4:1-3 (NASB)
 
A DAY BURNING LIKE AN OVEN

The process he will use so we might know for sure who has thought upon God’s name; spoken frequently to others about the things of God; and those who serve him; is described in verse one. Malachi called it a “day” burning like an oven. John the Baptist called it unquenchable fire. Jesus called it the lake of fire and Gehenna. He also called it a furnace of fire. Any way you look at it there is to be a day of judgment at the end of the age:
 
  • "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 13:49-50 (NASB)

Let me share a thought concerning the weeping and gnashing of teeth. The weeping and gnashing of teeth will not only be because of the fire, I would think; but the realization of being barred from the glorious presence of the Lord and his glorious power; barred from the kingdom of God on the earth made new. (Away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. 2 Thess 1:9) (NASB) The realization:
 
  • That you have been placed on the left;
  • That you have been severed from among the righteous;
  • That you are apparently not one of those who think on the name of God;
  • That you have not feared him and carried on conversations with others who share common faith.

The realization of all that will finally sink in. Everyone will finally know his/her destination. The lost will finally absord their fate: realize what a wonderful opportunity they missed, and be forced to come to grips with what their lives could have meant and their future could have been. Some will question their rejection, but note carefully how Jesus says he will respond:
 
  • "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles ?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness .' Matt 7:22-23 (NASB)

Jesus, Paul, the apostles and the prophets were in agreement as to the final outcome of “the wicked”. After it is all said and done here it is:
 
  • "You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the Lord of hosts. Mal 4:3 (NASB)

You do realize that we have been given an example of this event way back in Genesis don’t you? God reduced the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes and made them an example to those of us who live carelessly without repenting, believing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and being baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of our sins. (Acts 2:38-39)
 
  • He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 2 Peter 2:6 (NASB)
 
THE BOOKS WERE OPENED

The judgment will be set and the books will be opened. What books will be opened. One would think that found in these books will be “every careless word that people speak , they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment”. Matt. 12:36 (NASB) Judgment day is coming. Court will be in session. Books will be opened. What books will be opened?
 
  • What about the book of remembrance in Malachi 3:16?
  • What about the book of life in Revelation 20:12?
  • What about “The book” Daniel referred to in chapter 12:1?
  • What about the “book of the living” David referred to in Psalms 69:28?
  • What about God’s book, that Moses referred to in Exodus 32:32?
  • And why wouldn't the Bible itself be opened?
 
  • "I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.10 "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened. Dan 7:9-10 (NASB)