Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO 64850
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent" (change their minds) (Acts 17:30, NIV).
Periodically, we get e-mails from anxious folks, asking us to give them our "take" on a scripture(s) which has scared them to death, bringing them down in condemnation. We are happy to comply so long as the Lord graces us with an answer. I thought the title of this essay would be "Scary Scriptures," but the Spirit gave me the one I'm using and it better suits the thoughts on my heart today. It is the burden of my soul to speak clearly so there's no doubt about what I mean. You may not agree with me, which is fine, but my prayer is for clarity so you understand fully what the Spirit is saying to me. Additionally, my spiritual burden is to speak peace to the heathen (Zech 9:10), wherever they may be found, beginning with Jan and moving out from there. I have asked Him to get the beam out of my eye first!
The King James Version of the bible is full of mistranslations and misunderstandings, because it was written by men who were commissioned by King James (hence the name), to be as accurate as possible, without rocking the religious boat. Since the penalty for contradicting orthodoxy in those days was being burned at the stake, I have no doubt that the translators stayed close to the party line. I have written about some of these errors, such as translating the word Gehenna as hell, so I won't spend a lot of time on that other than to suggest that if you haven't done so, you take a look at the essay entitled "Primrose Path to Gehenna" (See End Note), which is a detailed study of some very scary scriptures indeed. You'll soon see that what we've been taught as truth, usually from some well meaning evangelist trying to scare us up front to the altar, is really tradition, or as Jesus said about the Pharisees, "in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" (Matt. 15:9, RSV). The doctrines of men have ruled the churches for centuries. Why? My cynical but honest evaluation is that they have proven to be good for business, church business. Fear of hell fire and eternal damnation keeps the flock attending church, giving, and obeying the leadership, evidence that mind control works. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as is evidenced in the Protestant denominations as well as the Catholic Church, which seems unable to purge itself of the Pedophile priests and other woes because of the church's autocratic control.
My purpose is not to trash the church, but to remind us that scripture declares that ONLY the Spirit of God can lead us into all truth, and when He does so, we have no need of any man to teach us (John 16:13; I John 2:27). Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, and I stand on that. No matter what it looks like, the Church that Jesus purchased with His own blood shall prevail in the hearts of the ecclesia, the called out Saints of whom it is composed. Nevertheless, the extant, visible church on planet Earth today must bear the responsibility for the doctrines which plague the souls of men, driving them away from God.
I've quoted this particular friend before, because she articulates so very well her angst and confusion brought about by trying to follow the church's teachings, and her inability to do so. Specifically, she fears the suffering sent by God, by which the Son was made perfect, as well as we (Heb. 5:8). She wrote this week:
"I was thinking why I find it difficult to distinguish between the suffering permitted by God as an expression of His love versus an expression of His judgment... What I am not discerning is the difference in the intent behind the induced/permitted suffering."
Her concerns are not unique to her, but to many Christians who have not "rightly divided the word of Truth" (II Tim. 2:15). That means much more than knowing that Matthew is in the New Testament. The Spirit always takes me back to the Old Testament, the shadow of things to come, to explain the New Covenant, the reality of life in Christ. Under the Law of Moses, my friend would have had a great deal to worry about, because there were choices to make. If they obeyed the Law, they were blessed, but if they rebelled, they were cursed. Deuteronomy, Chapter 28, is the prime example of the blessings and curses found under the Law. Too many Christians treat the New Covenant as just an updated version of the Law, and think it is up to them to keep it. When they fail, as humans always do, then anxiety sets in because fear of punishment weighs heavily on the soul. The more legalistic the denomination, the more fear its participants have. When I told my friend about this title, she commented, "I really liked your title "Scared to Jesus" which I interpreted as "scared to death" not that Jesus is death but that many fear him because of harsh sounding statements received without embracing the love behind the statements." End Quote.
As I read that, I realized that I never feared Jesus, but I was scared to death of God. Reading the Old Testament with my natural mind, the Hebrew writer's statement terrified me: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31). I was telling Lenny over breakfast about my first encounter with someone who was not afraid of God. I met this precious friend in the late 1960s, and as we were fellowshipping in the Lord one day, I asked her if she weren't afraid of God. She looked at me like I had taken leave of my senses and said, "Of course not! The Lord is good!" That was one of those statements written on my heart by the Holy Spirit, which began to burrow into my soul, deeper and deeper, line upon line, experience upon experience, until now I understand why she looked at me like I was mad. Yes, the bible does say, that "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps. 111:10), but that has to do with reverence and awe, not fear that He will burn us in hell forever and ever, a fate so many fear.
I've written a lot about suffering in recent weeks, but over and above the temporary pain it brings, is the glory of God which is revealed in us when our flesh is delivered from the lingering effects of the fall. Jesus paid the price for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2). It is finished (John 19:30). The Hebrew writer said about God's efforts, "... his works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:3, RSV). You've heard the slogan, "Have faith as though it were all up to God, but work as though it were all up to you." That appeals to the religious mind, but it leads to our becoming what Lenny calls, "a human doing." "What would Jesus do?" is another slogan, the answer to which is, "Listen to the Father. Do what you see Him doing and say what you hear Him saying."
Under the Law, men did not have the indwelling Spirit. They had to bring their offerings and sacrifices to the priests, who stood between them and God. This was an answer to their request made when they stood before Mount Sinai, which quaked with fire and smoke (Ex. 19: 16-18). Terrified, the children of Israel said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die" (Ex. 20:19). In that moment, religion was born, and the division between clergy and laity was sealed in cement. Still today, many are afraid to hear what God has to say, thinking it will be something along the lines of, "Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41, RSV). Here we see another mistranslation. The word translated eternal there is the Greek word Aionian, which means age-lasting. Now, you may say that hellfire for even an hour, let alone an age, would be horrible, and I agree, but the Spirit has urgently pressed me into the realization that FIRE, yes, even ETERNAL FIRE is the very nature of God!
The Hebrew writer proclaimed, "for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29, RSV). Stay with me here; you'll be glad you did. I have observed several times in recent weeks that baptism with the Holy Spirit and FIRE is a promise, not a threat! In fact, in his epistle, Luke called it, "Good News" (Luke 3:16-18). The Apostle Paul has more good news. He spoke of the different foundations upon which man may build, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw. About these, he declared, "the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward" (I Cor. 3:13-14). This leads him to a tremendous conclusion: "If it (his work) is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (Vs. 15, NIV). The Revised Standard Version renders it, "he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." How can a man be saved through fire? The short answer is that our God IS a consuming FIRE. He is our Savior and our Redeemer (Isa 45:15; I Tim. 1:1).
By the Spirit then, I saw that anyone who is plunged into the age-lasting fire Jesus described in Matt. 25: 41, is PLUNGED INTO GOD HIMSELF! This includes the devil and his angels, for whom Jesus said the fire was prepared. Fast forward now to the Lake of Fire, another terrifying vision which has kept countless millions in bondage to fear. Notice the progression found in Rev. 19:13: "And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done" (Rev. 20:13, RSV). The King James Version uses the word hell there, rather than Hades, but the actual meaning of the word is simply, "realm of the dead." The Emphatic Diaglot translates it, the "invisible," or spirit realm. In whatever version you read it, you'll notice that death and Hades gave up the dead in them, so at some moment, whoever or whatever is in the realm of the dead will be released. That's very good news, something never mentioned by the fiery Fundamentalists and others preaching eternal torment.
I e-mailed my comments on that verse to a young man who is trying to believe in the reconciliation of all, but is still somewhat gripped by the eternal punishment dogma. He said, "Yes, but read on, for anyone not found in the book of life will be cast in the lake of fire." He is referring to this verse, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14-15). That's pretty scary all right, until you remember that our GOD IS FIRE! He IS the lake of Fire as well. The same fire that will save those of us who built on foundations other than Christ, will save those who never knew Christ at all!
Regarding those who do not know Christ, there is very good news in this very scary scripture: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Rev. 21:8, NIV). All the behaviors listed here are the carnal nature in action, and people who act this way have never met the Christ, primarily because God has not chosen them, YET! (John 15:16). When we had to replace the hard drive on one of our computers this week, it came to me that in the new birth, God replaces our old hard drive with Christ! Then, He plunges our human operating system into the Lake of Fire, where the carnal nature is consumed by the refining fire of God, leaving only the New Creation. This is so incredibly comforting and reassuring that I have to borrow Harry Fox's declaration of grace, You can't lose for winning. Glory! We serve an awesome God!
I received an e-mail which originated with Gary Amirault, Tentmaker, saying briefly, that he had read many old books which show that the early church fathers believed in and taught the reconciliation of all. Having received many questions about whether or not unrepentant sinners will have to spend time in hell after they die, he said he was taking a survey and asked for comments. Here are mine.
When Lenny and I first married, I was of the opinion somehow that sinners would have a brief trek through hell to get cleansed of the dross. Lenny, however, has always said, "Impossible. Jesus paid the price. It would be double jeopardy to punish someone after the price was paid."
Two years ago, someone loaned me one of Hannah Hurnard's books, though I don't recall the title right now. She also apparently believed that sinners would serve their time in hell to bring them to repentance. As I was reading her remarks about that, I realized that this idea no longer felt comfortable in my spirit, and so I asked the Lord about it. He immediately answered, "When they see me as I am, they shall be like me." That settled it for me once and for all.
The fire that I had thought sinners might need to trek through is God Himself. He is the consuming fire which burns off the dross, and by the way, He does not wait until we cross Jordan to begin. Having experienced the refining fire, smelled the smoke, and felt the conviction, I can tell you that the suffering we go through in this life, the tribulation by which the Apostle Paul said we enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22), is the same fire that burns in the lake of fire, the same eternal fire that IS our heavenly Father. Before we saw that truth, we viewed it with terror! Now that we are sons of the Most High, we see it as His glory revealed in our lives.
There is absolutely nothing to fear at the hands of our Father, for He loves us unconditionally. When I mentioned Gary's survey to Lenny, he said immediately, "Anyone who thinks sinners must burn in hell for any time at all, has not experienced the unconditional." "Perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18). The fire of His glory burns off all fear and replaces it with His perfect love!
The Hebrew letter, which has some scary scriptures to those reading with their natural minds begins this way: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1, NIV). Prophets and priests are no longer our only life line to God as they were under the old operating system. Now, we enjoy an intimate relationship with Him who lives His eternal life through us in Christ.
Father, open our eyes to see You as You are NOW! Remove all doubt that You have purified us from sin and that You are the One who keeps us from falling so that You may present us faultless before Your Throne. May the radiance of Your glory shine in our hearts, out raying to the darkened world. We cherish Your mercy, grace, and unconditional love which casts out all fear and unbelief. We give you honor, and glory and blessing, now and forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Primrose Path to Gehenna"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 6/12/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.