THE GOOD NEWS: THE PRIZE
By Jack Kinsella
When somebody dies, it is always an occasion for grief, even among Christians.
I know, I know. When a Christian dies, he goes home to be with the Lord, it is cause for celebration, his suffering is past, and all that.
But I’ve been a Christian for more than half my life, and in that time, many of my loved ones have gone home to be with the Lord.
I have to admit that I grieved their loss, in each and every case. For some whom I particularly loved, that grief is only diminished, but not gone, even after many years.
Paul was writing of physical death when he penned;
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (2nd Thessalonians 4:13)
Does that mean I am ignorant? Or faithless? I don’t think so. I believe in the certainty of salvation, the literal existence of a loving God and the literal existence of a place called “Heaven.”
My grief isn’t for the person who has gone to be with the Lord. My grief is for my own loss.
Knowing I will see my loved one in the ‘sweet by and by’ is a source of immense comfort, but it isn’t the same as seeing them now.
You don’t fully appreciate the measure of comfort offered by the certain knowledge salvation until someone you love dies without that hope. When that hope is absent, the grief is magnified beyond measure.
Your personal loss is now inconsequential to the complete and permanent loss of the hopeless. Your grief isn’t for yourself, it is truly and tragically for that lost one.
Your loss is over, his is just beginning.
We’ve discussed at length in previous briefings what kind of eternity is in store for those who enter eternity without Christ.
Let’s take a brief look at what the Bible tells us awaits the saved Christian on the other side.
Is Heaven a Real Place?
“In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
This is a proof text for the Rapture; Jesus promises that He will come again and receive us personally unto Himself.
That isn’t the 2nd Coming, where He comes astride a white horse, with ten thousands of His saints, wielding a sword and exacting judgement on a rebellious earth.
The purpose of this secret ‘coming’ is to take the Church, the Bride of Christ, to the honeymoon mansion prepared for us.
But note that also that He is speaking of a real place. Heaven is His Father’s house; within which are contained ancillary houses, (mansions) and “if it were not so, I would have told you,” Jesus promises.
Elsewhere, Jesus teaches:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”
That could only apply to an actual, literal, real physical place.
What Does Heaven Look Like?
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1st Corinthians 2:9)
Since the Bible says it is beyond our capacity to imagine, those images we are shown are simply that — images.
John describes it in Revelation 21 and 22, streets of gold, inlaid with precious gems, but I like the picture in Revelation 22:1 of a “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,” with the Tree of Life growing on its banks, “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations…and there shall be no more curse.”
Heaven is a place of indescribable beauty, but it appeals to me as a place of perfect peace.
Do The Saved Go To Heaven Immediately?
Emphatically, yes. 2nd Corinthians 5:8 says:
“to be absent from the body,” [is] “to be present with the Lord.”
Paul wrote to the Philippians:
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” (1:23)
Man is not ‘a body’, but rather, man has a body. My body is not me, it is my possession. These are my arms, my legs, my eyes, and my hands.
This is also my keyboard, my monitor and my computer. They are in both cases, my possessions, they are not me.
When I leave this body behind, I leave behind a possession, but that part that is ‘me’ is the eternal part, that which was created in the Image of God.
But From Body to Disembodied?
There is considerable Scriptural support for the conclusion that we already have some kind of temporary, physical body awaiting us in Heaven — even before the resurrection of the dead in Christ at the Rapture.
Paul writes to the Corinthians;
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:…
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2nd Corinthians 5:1,6,8)
Paul reveals here that when our bodies die (and are dissolved) there awaits us a “new building of God.”
Since our resurrection bodies are our actual physical earthly remains, reformed in the image of Christ’s Resurrected Body, the ‘building of God not made with hands’ that awaits us in Heaven cannot be one and the same.
Further, Luke 16 teaches that Lazarus had a finger to dip in cool water, that the rich man had a body to be tortured by the flame, and that the rich man recognised the forms of both Abraham and Lazarus.
Chronologically, this all took place prior to the death and Resurrection of Christ.
But they had bodies of some description, notwithstanding.
If Heaven is a Real, Physical Place, Where is It?
We tend to think of Heaven as ‘up’ and hell as ‘down’ — but the earth is round.
If, when I die, I go ‘up’ to Heaven, does that mean that a guy in China who dies at that same moment goes ‘down’?
The idea of Heaven being ‘up’ is derived from the points on a compass. Straight up is ‘north’.
Christians often refer to the passing of a loved one into Heaven as a ‘promotion.’ Many obituaries announce one’s ‘promotion to Glory’ rather than a death announcement.
The Psalmist reveals:
“For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.” (75:6)
Isaiah recorded the indictment of Lucifer as follows: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.” (Isaiah 14:13)
Heaven, therefore, is a fixed location in ‘the sides of the north’ from our universe, orienting due north from our North Pole and somewhere north of the highest star.
Will We Know Each Other?
Undoubtedly. Jesus told the Pharisees;
“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13:28)
Clearly, if they can see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets, they will also recognise them for who they are. Otherwise, why the weeping and gnashing of teeth?
At the Mount of Transfiguration, both Moses and Elijah were there. Moses and Elijah had never met. (But not only did they know each other, note that they still had the same names.)
The rich man recognised Abraham. Ok, but that’s Abraham! (He also recognised Lazarus)
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
The Apostle Paul expected to be known when he entered Heaven. So do I.
Heaven is a real, literal, physical place that will we will inhabit with real, heavenly, physical (but temporary) bodies that we begin to inhabit at the moment our physical bodies are ‘dissolved’ (die).
According to the Bible, we will know and be known by our loved ones who have preceded us in death.
Although the literal, physical Heaven is beyond our capacity to imagine, we are assured by our Maker that it will exceed our most optimistic hopes (He should know), that it will be a place of eternal peace, and that our existence there will be one of unimaginable joy.
The curse will be lifted, man will no longer exist by the ‘sweat of his brow’ there will be no more sickness, no more death, and all our ‘tears will be wiped away.’
We began this morning talking about grief and loss. We went on to examine Paul’s admonition that ‘we sorrow not, even as others who have no hope’ — yet we know that we do sorrow at the death of a loved one, blessed assurance notwithstanding.
But Paul began by saying, “I don’t want you to be ignorant.”
We can’t imagine Heaven, but we can be certain that it exists, and that every single Christian who ever lived and died is still alive and well and physically in the presence of God and all their loved ones.
And we can be equally certain that they will still be there, waiting, when we get there.
If Heaven is such a great place, why is it that we can’t really imagine it? Think that through. God put us on this earth with a mission.
It is our job to spread the message of Heaven and the path that leads to it. We are given to know just enough to fulfil that message.
There is an old saying to the effect that “everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.” It’s only true because we really can’t imagine the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.
That’s how good it is. And how important the message we carry is. So important that God can’t trust us with too much information about the Prize that awaits us at the end of the race.
Because if we really knew what awaits us, there’d be nobody left down here willing to wait and carry the message to the next runner.
For now, we’ll just have to take His Word for it. On faith.
THEM THAT DWELL UPON THE EARTH:
By Jack Kinsella
According to Webster’s dictionary, “tribulation” means “a state of great trouble or suffering.” The Tribulation is a period of time set aside for two purposes; the judgement of a Christ-rejecting world and the national redemption of Israel.
I’ve searched the Scriptures on this particular topic and nowhere can I find a third purpose that could involve the Church.
The twenty-one judgements of Revelation are the culmination of the Edenic curse; there are environmental judgements against the earth and sea, judgements against animals and fish, and judgements against those whom the Apostle John says “dwell upon the earth.”
Uniquely, Revelation uses this curious phrase “dwell upon the earth”. John is carefully distinguishing those that “dwell upon the earth” from those that are ‘dwelling’ elsewhere.
The word “dwell” means ‘to inhabit’ in the sense of a physical home and came to Old English from the Middle Dutch word “dwellen” which means “to stun or perplex” according to the on-board dictionary that comes standard on a Mac.
(I’m not doing an ad for Mac here — I want to be clear that my source here is an ordinary dictionary which has no point to make)
The phrase “they that dwell upon the earth” is used in Scripture exclusively within the framework of the Tribulation Period.
Revelation 3:10 draws a distinction between those who dwell upon the earth and those the Lord will keep from the trial specifically designed for them:
“Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
I’ve heard every possible refutation of that verse as it pertains to the Church and the Rapture. However, one cannot explain away the fact the Lord is drawing a distinction — those that dwell upon the earth will undergo a period of ‘trial’ whereas, somebody else will be kept from it.
In Revelation 6:10, the martyrs slain for the Word of God
“…cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Again, we have a distinction between the martyrs for Christ and those that dwell upon the earth. The phrase “them that dwell on the earth” is used to describe those responsible for shedding the blood of the martyrs.
They “that dwell upon the earth” are identified in Revelation 11:10 as rejoicing over the deaths of the two witnesses;
“And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.”
In Revelation 13:8 they are identified as the unsaved who will worship the Antichrist:
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
The Scripture says specifically that ‘they that dwell upon the earth’ during the Tribulation are those against whom the Two Witnesses prophesied, which is why they that dwell upon the earth during the Tribulation will rejoice.
It also links “all that dwell upon the earth” to the Antichrist and says that their names are NOT in the Book of Life.
In Revelation 13:14 John says the False Prophet:
“…deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”
Those that dwell upon the earth will be universally deceived by the means of miracles and will worship the beast as a god.
Meanwhile, Revelation 14:6 further identifies they that dwell upon the earth as those in need of salvation…
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”
Note also that while ‘them that dwell upon the earth’ are in need of the Gospel, there appears to be nobody around to preach it to them. That job has been assigned to an angel.
Revelation 17:8 provides further insight into both the Beast and who they that dwell upon the earth might be.
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”
I believe John is identifying the Beast in all its forms, political, religious and systematic; Political Rome was, but then collapsed, went ‘underground’ so to speak, transferring power to the papacy temporarily — until the political Beast reemerges as leader of the revived Roman Empire.
John identifies “they that dwell upon the earth” once again as being those whose names are not in the Book of Life and who will join the Beast ‘in perdition’.
It is fairly obvious from these Scriptures that they that dwell upon the earth during the Tribulation Period are not Christians. Those who are Christians are pictured in heaven.
Those who get saved during the Tribulation, whether through the 144,000 evangelists of Revelation 7 or the angel of Revelation 14 cannot be included among those “that dwell upon the earth” because they will be executed.
“…cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed ”. Revelation 13:15 says. That is another way of saying “all” although John gets more specific on that point in the next two verses.
“And he causeth ALL, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
And that NO man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:16-17)
That seems pretty inclusive. One can find within this structure those whose names are not written in the Book of Life, those who by taking the mark will have their names blotted out and those who are killed for refusing the mark.
But those who are killed are NOT those that ‘dwell upon the earth’ — they are the ones dwelling with John in heaven.
In 2009, a crowd estimated at 1.7 million marched on Washington to protest the government plan to impose health care. Can you imagine the protest that would come if the millions of Christians in America were given the ultimatum of denying Christ and worshipping Obama?
However, if those millions suddenly vanished into thin air and Obama claimed credit for it, them ‘that dwell upon the earth’ would line up to get their mark as quickly as they lined up for Cash for Clunkers.
If one begins from the perspective that the Church is not uniquely exempt from judgement by virtue of being saved, then it isn’t really too hard to find verses in Tribulation that might be interpreted as the Church. Tribulation saints easily become born-again Christians in this view.
But if one begins from the perspective that judgement for sin means sins both forgiven and un-forgiven, then again, it might be possible to argue that the Church qualifies for the twenty-one judgements of the Tribulation.
But if one simply tries to figure out who John is referring to when he speaks of “them that dwell upon the earth” it is abundantly clear that the one thing they ALL have in common is that their names are not found in the Book of Life.
And according to the Scripture, they are the only ones dwelling here. The Church is present with John from the moment that John hears a voice from heaven saying “Come up hither” in Revelation 4:1.
It would be a simple matter to delve into Revelation and interpret a few verses a bit differently and build an argument for a pre-wrath or post trib Rapture — I am anticipating getting a few in response to this column.
What is not so simple, however, is coming up with verses that suggest the indwelt Church is numbered among “they that dwell upon the earth” during this period.
And if the Church isn’t among those dwelling upon the earth, then where is it dwelling? There is only one answer that fits both the Scriptures and the chronological and logical narrative presented by Revelation.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)
“…And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:8)
The Tribulation is specifically set aside for “them that dwell upon the earth”. “Them that dwell upon the earth” are specifically identified as the unsaved whose names are not in the Book of Life.
The Church is not there. The Church left, along with John in
Revelation 4:1. “Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on September 17, 2009.
THE CHIEF AMONG SINNERS
By Jack Kinsella
By Jack Kinsella
Based on my own personal experience, I find that most Christians tend to fall into one of two categories.
In one category are those Christians who question whether or not somebody else is really saved.
“That guy smokes and drinks and never goes to church, but he claims to be a Christian. I’m not buying it. Where’s the fruit?”
(In this category one generally finds people that don’t smoke or drink.)
On the other is the Christian who believes everybody else can be saved — but him.
“I’m the worst sinner ever. How can I be saved?”
The Apostle Paul had a ready reply to those of both perspectives.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1st Timothy 1:15)
Is this hyperbole? Was Paul simply being self-effacing? Was it Paul’s way of putting other sinners at ease?
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. You think you’re bad? I’m the worst!”
I don’t think so. Revisit Paul’s opening statement in context:
“This is a FAITHFUL saying, and worthy of ALL acceptation…” In other words, “this is a trustworthy statement worth sharing.”
Having said that, Paul goes on to tell the most important truth ever revealed, that Christ came into the world to save sinners, then brackets that eternal truth with a lie about his (Paul’s) being chief among sinners?
There is a rule of logic that essentially says that if any part of a statement is false, then the statement itself cannot be true.
You see the problem?
If Paul’s statement about himself cannot be trusted, then how can his statement about Christ be any more credible?
For we know that the Apostle Paul was no Stalin. He was no Hitler. Paul certainly participated in the persecution of Christians before his conversion, but Paul wasn’t Nero.
“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1st Timothy 3:16)
Paul claims to be chief among sinners. But what does the Bible say is chief among sins?
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. ” (Matthew 12:31)
Paul says that “in me first” did Jesus show forth all ‘long suffering.’ But Paul didn’t deny Jesus to His face, not once, but three times.
That was the Apostle Peter. (What was his title, again? Oh, yeah. Chief among the Apostles.)
So here we have two sinners. The Chief Apostle, who committed the ‘chief’ sin, (according to no less an authority than the Lord Himself) blaspheming the Holy Spirit by denying Jesus.
The other claims the title of ‘chief among sinners.’
The word ‘holy’ comes from a Greek word that means ‘separated’ — in this context, it means ‘separated’ from the world of sin. In context, Peter and Paul were therefore two of the holiest men who ever lived.
They were Personally ‘separated’ from the world by Jesus Christ! But neither went on to live a sinless life. Peter fell back into some legalistic Judaic practices and had to be publicly upbraided by Paul. (see Galatians 2: 11-21)
Paul approached the Lord three times, requesting the Lord remove a “thorn in his flesh,” a “messenger of Satan sent to buffet me” — complaining that this infirmity hindered his ability to minister effectively.
Paul wasn’t lying when he said he was chief among sinners back then. And I am not lying when I say that I am chief among sinners today.
I don’t know every sinner. But I’m the worst sinner that I know. Thus it is with each of us, if we are honest. I may know of a Christian who commits more obvious sins than I do — but I cannot honestly name somebody who sins MORE than I do.
The only sins that I know others commit are the sins I actually see them commit. I am with me all the time.
I am with me when I get cut off in traffic. I am with me when I think bad thoughts. I am with me when I do things I wouldn’t do if I was with my pastor.
I am with me when I am uncaring for strangers, unkind to loved ones, unreasonable, un-thankful, unholy, disobedient…the list goes on.
So OF COURSE, I am my generation’s ‘chief among sinners’. I don’t know ANYBODY who sins more than me. (And if you are honest, I suspect you can probably say same the same thing about you.)
Peter was called out and separated by Jesus Christ to serve the Gospel. But Jesus did not drop him like a hot rock after Peter said, “I don’t know Him.”
Jesus called out Paul on the road to Damascus and separated by Jesus Christ to serve the Gospel. He told Paul to stop worrying about his problems with the messenger of Satan.
“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness…” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
I was called out and separated by Jesus Christ one winter night in 1975 to serve the Gospel. That is what salvation is all about — being separated for the Great Commission.
But it isn’t YOU that does the separating. It is Jesus Christ. If it is you that is the one doing the separating, then how would you go about it?
The answer would seem to be obvious. You avoid places where sin is going on. You stay away from people that might lead you into sin.
You surround yourself with other like-minded Christians and you separate yourself from the world. That’s what Paul said to do. Didn’t he?
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2nd Corinthians 6:14-15)
But clearly, that seems contradictory. When Jesus was criticised for mingling with sinners, He replied, “It isn’t the healthy that need a Physician.”
So what is Paul talking about? Paul’s letter was addressed to the body of believers at Corinth who had fallen into all kinds of pagan practices.
He was speaking to the Corinthian church’s practice of mingling idol worship and depraved parties masquerading as the Lord’s Supper with some sins “such are are not even named among the Gentiles.”
Individual believers are, by virtue of their salvation, already called out and made separate (holy) and righteous (by imputation) but ‘not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.’ (Titus 3:5)
The New Covenant with the Church Age is not corporate agreement between God and a specific people, but rather is individual relationship between Jesus Christ and just ONE person — you.
That is why God does NOT punish believers. And God does NOT visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
The children have their own accounts to settle. Individually.
“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)
There are two points to see here. The first is the difference between chastisement (chastening) and punishment.
Chastisement is correction — parents correct their children by chastising them until they fall back into line. The chastisement stops when the behaviour is corrected.
Punishment is different. It is retribution — punishment continues whether the offender changes his ways or not. If you are serving a life sentence, changing your ways is nice, but it has no effect on the sentence.
I don’t know about you, but while I loved them all equally, all my children were different. Although the rules were the same, it was necessary to set different boundaries with each one of them.
I had one way of dealing with the kid who tried a puff off a cigarette (and didn’t like it) than I did with the kid who had a pack of butts hidden in his bedroom.
Same rules, same offence. But it was a greater threat to one of them than it was the other and so one of them needed a firmer form of correction than the other.
Is God not as good a parent as you or I?
The Lord doesn’t have one set of rules for one Christian and a different set of rules for another. The rules are the same for us all.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Don’t let the enemy steal your victory. Nobody is perfect except God and He made you the way you are for His glory and according to His purpose.
His strength is made perfect in weakness, He told Paul. Paul didn’t argue with the Lord and demand that God change Paul into the kind of Christian that Paul thought he ought to be.
He didn’t get mad at God for his afflictions. Instead, Paul responded,
“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
So, you think you are weak and ineffective at your calling and unworthy of your salvation? You think you are too big a sinner to be used of God?
THEN YOU’RE PERFECT FOR THE JOB.
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For posting these articles By Jack Kack Kinsella, and Jack himself for his wonderful inspiration which comes clearly out in his articles: