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The following was given as a devotional at

Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on April 29, 2001

The word "gospel" is used in countless sermons, tracts, publications, books and gatherings, but what does it mean? The Apostle Paul defined it as "the POWER of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). The entire world is power mad: governments demand it; corporate America trades in it; almost every human interaction manipulates it to one degree or the other. God's power is absolute, awesome, and beyond comprehension, but is it for the benefit of everyone, or just a few? The Apostle Peter declares that the love of God for all mankind is unconditional, for "He is not willing that any should perish, but that ALL SHOULD COME TO REPENTANCE" (II Pet. 3:9). The Apostle John states that "God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (Jn. 3:17). If God means to save the world and bring all to repentance, dare we suppose He could fail to save everyone? Paul calls Him the "Savior of ALL MEN" (I Tim. 4:10). Does all mean ALL, or just a lucky few?

The Apostle John stated emphatically that Jesus was the "true Light, which lighteth EVERY MAN that cometh into the world" (Jn. 1:9). Yet in spite of the fact that Paul affirmed "That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11) nevertheless, the church world insists on condemning 99% of all God's children to an everlasting hell. How can this be? Something is greatly amiss here. What is it?

Religion has diluted God's Gospel power by adding impossible to keep conditions to the free gift of salvation (Rom. 3:24; 6:23; Eph. 1:6; Rev. 22:17). Try, if you can, to picture Jesus standing before the great white throne (Rev. 20:11) on Judgment Day, shame faced, downcast, wringing His hands and saying, "Father, you entrusted unto me all power in heaven and on earth, but in spite of my willingness to go to the cross and spill my blood for all, some just wouldn't listen. There was really nothing I could do about it. I'm sorry there are so few saved, but I did my best. I really did." This is absolute blasphemy against the power of Almighty God. The idea that God cannot complete His eternal plan as He conceived it before the foundation of the world is Satan's greatest lie.

The English word "hell," by the way, is a mistranslation of the Greek word, "Gehenna," which refers to the Valley of Ben Hinnom (II Chr. 28:3; Jer. 7:32-33; 32:35), located southwest of the old City of Jerusalem. Listen to this passage describing the horrific practices of the Baal worshippers. "They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin" (Jer. 32:35). Notice that God says through the prophet Jeremiah, that such horror did NOT enter into His mind, and yet, most people in the church world says that this horror IS on His mind continuously, when they threaten us that our Father will burn us in the fires of hell if we don't obey. It is blasphemy to accuse God of the same horrible practices as the Baal worshipper engaged in. Gehenna, which is translated "hell" was a place where refuse, carcasses of dead animals, bodies of criminals and other detritus of their lives were thrown to be burned up. The fires burned continuously, in order to dispose of the waste and keep germs under control, and this was the metaphor Jesus used in several passages when He describes it as a place, "where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched'" (Mk. 9:48). My husband Lenny and I drove through the Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) a year ago, and our Israeli tour guide joked, "Now, you can go home and tell your friends that you went to hell and back." Without doubt, Gehenna was an EPA nightmare, but it had nothing to do with the afterlife. It symbolized judgment on this earth, and Jesus used it as a metaphor (figure of speech) to make a point about righteous living here and now, not our eternal destiny after we die (I wrote an in-depth article on this, entitled "Primrose Path to Gehenna," End note "A").

The professing church has held our feet to the fires of an everlasting hell, dear ones, because it has been good for business. This pagan doctrine is used to keep church attendance up, cause money to flow into the contribution baskets, and insure that church leaders have the "proper" control over the flock. But, let's get real here. Hell may have kept a certain fearful few from doing some horrid things (sex sin was always at or near the top of the list at the church I attended in my youth), but it never helped any of us to love God or each other. In fact, I would be so bold as to say, that if you are commanded to love God as the only way to avoid hell, you'll lie and say you do, when really, you want to run screaming into the night tearing out your hair along the way.

If it is so important to God for us to live by the rules, don't you think He would have made them plain? As it is, you have thousands of denominations with rules and regulations that are so diverse, confusing, and obtuse, and which give you conflicting things to do, believe, and say, with no ultimate standard to go by. The god they preach, who at the end, says, "Sorry, you didn't get it right. Off to hell with you," is not a god we want to worship. He's a monster to be avoided at all costs, and millions of people have done just that. They have fled from schizophrenic dogmas of organized religion into the abyss of materialism, New Age hocus-pocus, Eastern mysticism and other man devised schemes.

When we try to improve ourselves by our own works, we're just putting make up on a dead man. It may look good, but it still stinks! Our hope is the resurrection power of almighty God, and the fact that we (our old miserable selves) were crucified with Christ. Now, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith OF the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20, KJV).

Under the Law of Moses, God provided a Year of Jubilee, every fifty years, in which those who had lost their freedom, their lands or other property received it back in full (Lev. 25:47-54). If they had a "kinsman redeemer" who could redeem it for them, they did not have to wait for the year of Jubilee. Christ is our "kinsman redeemer," our close relative, our elder brother, Paul says (Rom. 8:29), who paid the ultimate price for our liberty. Yes, all will ultimately be saved, just like all were freed and restored in the Year of Jubilee, but why wait? Why not enjoy freedom now? The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ means that our year of Jubilee can be NOW! (Lev. 25:8-55). ASK Him to come into your heart. CALL upon Him now so that you can begin to live, so that you can be resurrected from your trespasses and sins. "Come unto me," He said, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:30). The Good Shepherd brings us from death into life, and makes us to lie down beside the still waters, the water of life (Ps. 23:1-3).

Only when we are caught up into the unconditional love of God and are nestled in the bosom of the One who is "kind to the ungrateful and evil ones" (Lk. 6:36), can we breathe a sigh of relief and rejoice with all the rest of the redeemed of the Lord who will come singing into Zion (Isa. 35:10). This is the mystery of the Glorious Gospel hidden in Christ from before the foundations of the world (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:6), about which Isaiah proclaimed, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (Is. 40:4-5). Since God said it, we can relax since the glorious outcome depends on His mighty power, not on our feeble efforts. Praise His Holy Name!

Jan Antonsson 

Jan and Lenny Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)

End Note "A,": "Primrose path to Gehenna"

The Glory Road

We always enjoy hearing from you!

jantonsson@aol.com

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by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister, on 5/1/01

and last edited on 10/28/08.