And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 19, Number
In this issue:
The Bible teaches that man was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). As such, we are inferior to Him. He is the Creator, we are the creatures, and therefore subject to His will. However, some do not see it that way.
People want God to conform to their image. They do not want a God of wrath, so they believe He is all love. They do not want a God who is strict and narrow-minded, so their God is one who is permissive and tolerant of a wide range of behavior—including small infractions of morality. They want a God who will accept their worship, no matter what, so they have a God who rejoices in man-made homage.
The Bible student will notice the attitude that conforms God to man’s image is idolatry. Typical paganism has multiple gods. The people we are talking about (including friends and family), have one god that fits all. The Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, and good Catholic are all acceptable to God—in their mind. He is a multi-cultural, pluralistic God.
Contrary to this erroneous thinking, the Word of God states that He is strict, narrow, and has one truth for all men (Matt. 7:13, 14). “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). There is only one faith, not many, just as surely as there is one Savior (Eph. 4:4-6).
Let us not try to conform God to our image, but let us be conformed to His.
-Truth Magazine, Online
Last week, we began a two part study on death. Let us pick up where we have left off.
We learn from the account of the creation of man in Genesis 2:7 that “God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” It is God who gave us life. Paralleling Genesis 2:7, Ecclesiastes 12:6-8 says to “Remember your Creator [while we can] before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain…Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.” When we die, our outer body, or flesh, will perish. This by no means represents what will happen to our souls, which wait eagerly for the coming of the Christ. The body that is buried will be raised, just like Jesus’ was – that is why He is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).
We learn in Luke 16:19-31 of the rich man and Lazarus, who both died. The rich man was sent to “the torments of Hades,” and Lazarus was sent into “Abraham’s bosom.” The rich man asked for mercy, as well as asked for Lazarus “to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool off [his] tongue, because [he was] tormented in the flame.” We can clearly see upon death, there is a comforting place for those who have done the will of God, and there is a place of torment for all other persons. Verse 26 reads that there is a gulf dividing the two places, so no one can pass from side to side.
Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 addresses the church in Thessalonica about those who have “fallen asleep,” another way to describe Christians who have died in Christ. Paul says that “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep [have died] in Jesus.” (vs. 14). Paul continues on to say that “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (vs. 16-17). We can take away a few points from these words of Paul. First, no one who has died in Christ will be left out of the resurrection and heaven; we are assured of this through the Scriptures. Secondly, Paul says there will be those that are still alive when the return of Christ occurs, but they will not receive any special treatment; neither will those who have passed from this life (vs. 15). Living Christians will meet the resurrected Christians in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (vs. 17). This day will come as a thief in the night (5:2). Preparation begins now for the occasion!
We learn many things from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.” He goes on to write that “We shall not sleep at all, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (vs. 51-53). Paul is addressing our resurrected bodies in relation to our immortal soul. How the immortal spirit joins with the “spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42-44) is left unexplained. All we know is that the resurrection will be the miraculous giving of immortal existence to our bodies that were buried. This is the change that Paul is describing, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The resurrected body will be taken to heaven, that is Paul’s point throughout 1 Cor. 15:35-58. We must keep in mind that, “soul and body” can be destroyed in hell (Matt. 10:28). Therefore, “soul and body” can be saved in heaven.
We also learn an important lesson from Jesus in Matthew 22 when He is consulting the Sadducees about the resurrection, who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. He says,” For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” (vs. 33). This tells us that our relationships made on earth will change when we enter heaven. We will be “like angels of God,” praising God and worshipping Him forever.
Death is approaching us all; this cannot be denied. Let us consider what happens after death and let this guide our actions, choices, conduct, speech, and heart in accordance with what God desires. We receive one life, and there are no re-do’s; much like the rich man in Luke wished he could have had (Heb. 10:27). Choose daily to live in such a way that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” as Paul declared. (Phil. 1:21).
Faith in Christ is Not Islamophobia
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18, NKJV)
During the recent confirmation hearing of Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Senator Bernie Sanders charged Vought with being “hateful,” “Islamophobic,” and “insulting” a billion Muslims because his Christian faith informs his belief that those who do not believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, are condemned (see today’s verse). Article VI of the U.S. Constitution plainly says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Senator Sanders should know this.)
Mr. Vought should not be expected to abandon his faith in order to hold a job in the government. Nor should he be so falsely accused because of his faith. Yet, this outrageous example reminds us that believers will continue to be falsely accused. Jesus said His disciples are blessed when we remain faithful in the face of faithless persecutors (Matt. 5:10-12). “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
-Sword Tips #1101 (June 10, 2017)
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 06/16/2017
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA