Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Testament Clues to God's Ultimate Purpose

Paul suggested that God's aim to bring unity to all things under Christ was a mystery that had been revealed to him.  It is therefore understandable that most of the biblical support for the view that God will eventually restore everyone to himself comes from Paul's writings in the New Testament. 

Even so, occasionally God let his plan "slip out" before Paul's time.
David let the cat out of the bag with these gems .......

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. Psalm 22 : 27 - 28 TNIV

All the nations that you have created will come and bow down to you; they will praise your greatness.  You are mighty and do wonderful things; you alone are God.  Psalm 86 : 9 - 10 GNB

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Psalm 145 : 8-9 ESV

And Isaiah added his share with these ......

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.  Isaiah 25:6 - 8 ESV

"Turn to me now and be saved, people all over the world! I am the only God there is.  My promise is true, and it will not be changed. I solemnly promise by all that I am: Everyone will come and kneel before me and vow to be loyal to me.  Isaiah 45: 22 - 23 GNB

All mankind will come to worship Me, from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another," says the LORD.   Isaiah 66: 23 HCSB

Maybe this is what God has been up to all the time.  It is not a new idea coming from some heretic Christ-followers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries after all.

Blessings, Barry

Book Progress Report

Hi everyone.

I am miles (kms?) behind the book schedule I announced last year.  Even though I have rough drafts of each chapter written, I still have more study to do before I will be happy to release them to you .... for your expert review.

As you would know, I have been a student of eschatology for decades, yet have still to develop a view that is scripturally sound.  It is indeed a difficult task - wish God had inspired a book called "Eschatology 101" to be added after Revelation rather than have us gather clues from all over the Bible and try to fit them together.  :-)

However I have resumed the task because I want to have an eschatology that I know is biblically sound to explain HOW God will restore everyone to Himself.  I may not include the results of this investigation in the book (the first book anyway), but I want to be sure that I can answer the HOW questions that people may ask after they read it.

So ...... I have slowed down the book writing while researching the eschatology ... again.
Cartoons for the book have also slowed down, so everything may well be ready at the same time eventually.

Now a question for you .......
Do you want me to post here (and therefore send to you by email) my deliberations, findings, musings, questions, etc. from the eschatology study?  

Before you answer, let me warn you that it will be challenging stuff.  But if you would like to be challenged, maybe even to the core of your eschatological being, then it would be helpful for me to receive your feedback on what I post.

Any starters?
Blessings, Barry

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Jubilee

Have you ever read about the jubilee that was celebrated every 50 years in the ancient nation of Israel?
It is a powerful, almost unbelievable, practice in the life of those people, prescribed by God as an essential part of their national life.
You'll find it described in Leviticus 25 and mentioned in Leviticus 27 and Numbers 36.  Take a moment to read Leviticus 25.
Every fifty years everything was to be restored to the way it originally was - slaves were set free, debts were cancelled, property returned to its original owners.

Our way of living, especially in the western world, is so far removed from what happened there that it is almost impossible for us to understand how such an arrangement would work.
Nevertheless, with the huge amount of debt we all carry, whether as individuals, businesses, governments or nations, and the percentage of our incomes we use to service these debts, surely it is a better way to live, as God's way always is.

If the Jubilee is God's way, and worked so well in the ancient past, don't you think this is still God's way and can say something to us about how things will pan out for the entire creation in the end?
The physical jubilee that happened in national Israel says something exciting to us about the spiritual way it will work at the end of the ages.

All of mankind is in debt to God and slaves to sin and Satan.  But Jesus paid for all our debts to guarantee a jubilee for all of mankind.  And Jesus will also bind and reform Satan and so free all mankind from its slavery to him.  And we will be returned to our original condition - the image of God - when we see Jesus.

The jubilee for Israel becomes the pattern for the jubilee for all of us.
Paul describes this jubilee in Romans 8 : 18 - 21 in these words........
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Israel may no longer obey God's commands today, and we certainly don't either.  But when all the kingdoms of this world have become Christ's, God's ways will be followed and Jesus will oversee creation's jubilee.

Isn't the Bible so full of the promise of the victorious gospel of grace?


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Lake of Fire (again)

Hi everyone.
I have posted on this topic twice before but I have made this new post (composed mostly of what I had written before) to answer a question on another forum, so I thought I would put a copy of it here.

The Lake of Fire (LOF) is mentioned five times in the book of Revelation .....  Rev. 14 : 10 - 11;  19 : 20;  20 : 10;  20 : 13 - 15; and 21 : 8.

Many people have very firm views on what the LOF could be.  But since Revelation is so full of symbols, what the LOF stands for will always be open to conjecture, depending on your view of God, as much as anything else.

Those who view God as a vengeful judge see the LOF as a place of horrible physical torment in flames of fire that last for ever and ever.  Properly translated, "for ever and ever" really should be "for the ages of the ages", but that doesn't alter the ugliness of this view very much.  I personally can't see how people are comfortable worshipping a God who has such horrible intentions for the majority of His creation.

Those who view God with a bit more mercy than that see the LOF as a place where people are annihilated and removed from existence rather than tormented.

Those who view God as a loving Father and the Saviour of the world see the LOF as the place where those whose names are not in the Book of Life are purified and made ready to move into eternity in fellowship with God.

Using this last view, I see the LOF as a reformatory for the rebellious children of God. 
Looking at the last reference from above, we see that John gives a definition of the LOF.  Revelation 21 :  8 says that the LOF is "the lake that burns with fire and sulphur."

The 'fire' is a symbol representing purification or cleansing or changing of form.  Chemically, fire never destroys, it only changes the nature or form of things.  Wood burning in a lounge fire is never destroyed but is changed or converted to other substances like smoke, char, ash, heat, light, etc.  So fire in the LOF is a symbol for change or conversion of one form or nature into another - the reforming process of the reformatory.

The 'lake' indicates the size of the operation - not a small fireplace, or a forge or even a commercial furnace, but a huge expanse of conversion.

The 'sulphur' adds information about the character of the fire.  The Greek word that we translate as sulphur or brimstone is "theion", which is probably the neuter form of "theios" that means divinity.   The verb derived from "theion" is "theioo" which means "to make divine."

Putting all these together paints a picture of the LOF being a large scale purifying or reforming process that produces character of a divine nature.

A story which has appeared on the internet over the years in various forms gives me some insight into how this might work.

I love this story as it helps me appreciate one of God's methods of making us Christ-like in our process of sanctification and also helps me understand the references to  fire and brimstone and God's purpose in using these cleansing agents.
While reading Malachi 3, a group of women in a Bible Study were struck by the reference to God sitting as a refiner and purifier of silver.  To gain a better understanding of this verse, one of the women offered to visit a silversmith, watch him at work, and report back to the group on her observations the following week.

She called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him work, but didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up.  He explained that in refining silver, he needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest in order to burn away all the impurities.

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.  The man answered that yes, not only must he sit there holding the silver, but he also had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire.  If the silver was left in the fire a moment too long, it would be injured in some way.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot sometimes, and began to see the purifying purpose in these experiences under the watchful eye of the Master Silversmith.

The woman remained silent while she let these thoughts run their course, then asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”  He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — it is fully refined when I can see my image in it.

We were made in God's image originally, and we need to be reformed into that image for fellowship with Him in eternity.  He does this in His saints now through the sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit, and in the rebellious through His judgements at the Great White Throne and through the purifying process in the LOF.

I think this story perfectly describes the purpose of the LOF.  It is for purifying those whose names are not in the Book of Life and have not had their lives changed by the purifying work of the Holy Spirit during their earthly faith walk.

Different pieces of silver will obviously take different amounts of time in the flame to be purified, depending on how 'unpurified' they were when they were placed there, but eventually the LOF will no longer be needed.

Interestingly, the last part of Revelation 21 : 8 says that the LOF is the second death.  It is the death of all that offends God and that needs to be removed from those who have not had the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit involved in their lives as we've had.  But when the LOF has finally finished its work it will no longer be needed and will be destroyed as Paul promised in 1 Cor 15 : 26.

Blessings, Barry