Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 9/30/01
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24, RSV).
There is scarcely any event mentioned in the bible that evokes more terror among Christians than the "Day of Judgment." God sent me here over three years ago, now, to bring you the good news that He loves you unconditionally, and so today, we're going to see that there is GOOD NEWS and cause for rejoicing, even on the Day of Judgment. The Apostle John tells us that "fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love" (I John 4:18), and of course, this is where so many Christians live, in fear of God's punishment. All our lives, many of us have heard preachers frighten us to death with Judgment Day, eternal damnation, and hell fire. They meant well, and probably did it because they themselves had been scared and they thought by scaring others down front at the altar call, they would be helping to bring lost souls to Christ. In actual fact, history has shown that just the opposite has happened. Instead of running to Christ, the world has said, "Well, if that's the kind of god you worship and he's that hard to please, then count me out." Many people, who started out in church, began to question what their elders had taught them and have rejected these scare tactics completely. Unfortunately, they have thrown the baby out with the bath water, and as a result, they now completely reject churches of all kinds.
There are many Christians who still believe that if you die before you ask forgiveness for any sin at all, you will burn in hell forever. I can understand how this doctrine drives people screaming into the night away from religion. A god who would operate that way is a religious terrorist, just like the pagan gods the Israelites worshiped, Molech and Baal who demanded that their worshippers sacrifice their babies by burning them in the fire (Lev. 18:21; Jer. 19:5). Our God is love (I John 4:8,16). I have heard it said that people become like the gods they serve, and it surely appears to be a true statement. Perhaps it is what the Apostle John meant when he said, "He who does not love does not know God; for God is love" (I John 4:8, RSV). By this we know that the terrorists who drove the planes into the twin towers and the Pentagon did not know the true and living God. They served a distorted version of Him, and yet, sadly, it appears to me that many Christians do that, as well. Religion comes out of the minds of men. Life in the Spirit comes from the Holy Spirit of God, and the two are not the same at all.
Paul encountered the religious superstition of his day on Mars Hill in Athens. Let me read the passage and then we'll talk a little about it. "Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring'" (Acts 17:22-28, NIV). The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who formerly did dwell in the desert Tabernacle and in the glorious Temple built by Solomon, now lives in our hearts. He is not served by human hands, which is another way to say that works of the flesh will not gain us entrance into His kingdom. All men of every nation came from one man, Paul said, and God even set the boundaries for the nations, where each group of people should live. This means that we all are brothers with one Father. There is neither Jew nor Greek, Hindu nor Sikh, black nor white, nor Afghanite. Large or small, short or tall, our God is father of us all.
Paul continues his sermon on Mars Hill, by saying, "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:29-31, NIV). Notice, that he says again that we cannot worship gold or silver or stone, or an image made by man's design and skill. God overlooked such ignorance in the past, he says, but now commands all people everywhere to repent, to change their minds. Verse 31 declares that God will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed, and He gave proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead. Jesus, of course, is the man by whom God will judge the world. He is the "gold standard" by which all men are measured. When you build a house or sew a garment, or paint a portrait, there is a standard by which you judge the finished product. How close did you come to the pattern you were using? Did your house look like an ante-bellum mansion pictured on the blue print or more like a shack? Did your dress look like something out of Vogue Magazine, or something out of "pigpen's" wardrobe? Did the portrait look like the person the artist was drawing, or was it a cartoon caricature, not the real thing?
Jesus is the standard by which we will be judged. He is the pattern Son, the guide, the ideal. I've told you before that in God's plan, there were only two men: Adam and Christ, whom Paul refers to as the "last Adam." "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven" (I Cor. 15:47, RSV). We have talked before about the verse that says, "For as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22, RSV). Along those lines, here's an astonishing statement that the Lord made about Himself: "If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47, RSV). He came to save the world, not to judge it. Again today, I ask you, do you think He failed or succeeded in His mission? Now, if He failed, then we are all at risk, because no one who has ever lived can measure up to Christ, the pattern Son, but if He succeeded, then why would anyone fear the Judgment of God?
God is the righteous Judge. The Psalmist said about the Lord, "He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity" (Psalms 98:9, RSV). And He said TO the Lord, "Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God, thy judgments are like the great deep; man and beast thou savest, O LORD" (Psalms 36:6, RSV). We have talked at length in our times together about God's judgments of Israel. He punished them when they broke the law, but that was the agreement He made with them (Jer. 11:7-8). IF they obeyed Him, He would bless them; likewise, if they disobeyed Him, He cursed them. It was a bilateral (two-party) agreement that God made with the children of Israel through Moses. The gospel, however, is a unilateral (one party) agreement, a Promise made by God, who cannot lie, to Abraham, and that Promise is that by Abraham's seed, should all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8). The law was perfect, and yet, Paul said, "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith" (Gal. 3:11, NIV). I find it very sad that the world does not care a fig about the laws of God, nor are they afraid of His judgments. Yet, many in the church, those who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, who have been ushered into the kingdom of heaven by the Grace of God, live in fear of breaking some law that will get them thrown into an eternal hell, and they fear the Judgment Day above all else. Saints of the Most High, this should not be so. This is a shame and a disgrace, bringing to naught the sacrifice of Jesus for the world's sins.
Do you know what the world's sins are, by the way? Here it is in black and white. Before His coming crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples, "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned" (John 16:7-11, NIV). I hear Christians say that the Holy Spirit convicted them of sin, but this is not what Jesus said about Him. What is the world's sin that the Holy Spirit came to convict them of? Lack of belief in Christ is the world's sin. This whole passage is interesting to me. The judgment Jesus talks about here is the judgment of Satan, the prince of this world, who now stands condemned. Did you know that hell was created for the devil and his angels? That is what Jesus said. (Matt. 25:41). It was NOT created for those cleansed by the blood of the lamb, but for the devil and his angels. Now, WHO has been cleansed by the blood of the lamb? Again, the Apostle John tells us that Christ "....is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:1-2, NIV).
Let's get back to judgment. When God sent His judgments upon Israel, were they forever? No, they were not. They were sent to accomplish the will of God, and Isaiah tells us what that will was. Listen to this amazing verse: "My soul yearns for thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee. For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness" (Isaiah 26:9, RSV). In other words, God's punishments, His judgments were ultimately redemptive in nature. That in and of itself says that His punishments were NOT everlasting. They did not last forever. If they did, then they would not have taught righteousness, but rather despair. They would not have brought forth repentance, but rather hopelessness. And they were given out of His burning love for them, not His hatred. Isaiah prophesied the Babylonian captivity 150 years before it happened, and he foretold how long it would last, 70 years. The Old Testament prophets were sent to remind the people of their promise to obey God (Jer. 25:3-7; 44:4), and the consequences if they did not. Jeremiah urged the rebellious kings of Judah to repent. Far from being proud of bringing these very bad tidings, he wept over the fate which the Lord told him would befall them (Jer. 13:17). His ego was not inflated by his mission. He wept. After delivering His harsh prophesy of Jerusalem's immanent fate, Jesus stood on a hill overlooking the city and wept (Lk. 19:41-44).
I am saddened and sickened at once today, to hear self proclaimed prophets preaching judgment and condemnation upon America, saying that what happened is punishment for our sins. Israel had a lot of problems with people like that as well. The prophet Ezekiel said about them ""Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, prophesy and say to those who prophesy out of their own minds: 'Hear the word of the LORD!'" Ezekiel 13:2, RSV). Jeremiah said, ""Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes; they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:16, RSV). Even under Old Testament Law, God loved and cared for His people. He put these words in Isaiah's mouth: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins" (Isaiah 40:1,2, RSV).
God is speaking tenderly to us today, to all of us, to those who lost loved ones in the recent tragedy, to those who quake in their boots in fear of another attack. He is speaking to the church, to the nation, and above all, He is speaking to the whole world that our God is love. There were those in Jesus' day who tried to take the kingdom by force and violence (Matt. 11:12); and there are those today who are trying to do the same thing. Some false prophets are saying that Sept. 11, is the beginning of World War III, that the whole world will be destroyed so that the kingdom of God can reign. Notice what Jesus said about that: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, RSV). It is the abundant life of Christ, His Resurrection Life flowing out through His Spirit, that will "speak peace to the heathen" (Zech. 9:10). The Crusaders tried to take the kingdom by force, putting to death countless Muslims in the process. Some Christians are calling for death to Muslims today, saying, "We ought to kill them. We ought to bomb them."
We had a wonderful e-mail this week from someone who suggested that, we need to send butter, wheat sugar, and hope rather than bombs to Afghanistan. About that, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:19-21, NIV). We cannot do that on our own steam, of course, but with Christ who dwells in our hearts by faith, we can follow Jesus' admonition found in Lk. 6:35. "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." We thank God for these words, "he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24). To God be the glory for this Good News.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Judgment, a Beginning"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 9/28/01
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/15/08.