Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 9/10/06.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (II Cor. 3:18).
Religion has invested a great deal of time, money, energy and prayer trying to figure out how and when this world is coming to an end. Interpreting the Book of Revelation literally, they have come up with horrific apocalyptic events which signify the end of the age, the coming of Christ, and humanity's final chapter. The History Channel has gotten in on the act also, describing natural disasters which could bring on what's called "an extermination event." These scary scenarios include an eruption of a super volcano in the Yellowstone Park area, one with such power and magnitude that almost all of the United States would be destroyed by earthquakes beforehand, and a pyroclastic flow afterwards which would make the eruption of Mount St. Helens look like a tea party. The ash plume would block the sun's light for the entire earth, bringing on a "nuclear winter": crops wouldn't grow; electronic devices would fail, and humanity would perish as the dinosaurs were believed to have done when a meteor hit the earth near the Yucatan Peninsula some 65 million years ago. If you believe the earth is only 10,000 years old, you can adjust the numbers here and there, but you get the drift.
Other "mega disasters" include hurricanes which could obliterate major cities, like New York City (as if New Orleans wasn't bad enough), tsunamis big enough to wipe out the entire Eastern seaboard, and always, the earthquakes and volcano eruptions which happen regularly along the "ring of fire," the areas where the earth's tectonic plates are rubbing up against each other, causing massive disruptions in the earth's crust. California has long been predicted to slide off into the Pacific Ocean and begin it's journey up toward the Gulf of Alaska. My college roommate moved to Southern California long before I did, and she joked that she had a rowboat in her garage, "just in case."
God used fire to create much of the landscape we see today, as volcanoes ancient and active (Kilauea in Hawaii), have built up land, thrust up mountains, and created attractive harbors, such as the one off the beautiful Greek Island of Santorini. Perhaps this is why fire figures so prominently in end time scenarios frequently used to scare folks up front to the altar, and keep them on "the straight and narrow."
If you do not know the Father's heart, the Bible can generate enough fear in you to keep you from ever sleeping again. Here's a few instances in the Old Testament of God raining fire down from heaven on the disobedient: Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24); fire and hail falling on Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to let the people go (Ex. 9:23); Mount Sinai burning with fire (Deut. 4:11); 100 of Elijah's tormentors killed by fire falling from heaven (II Kings 1:10-14); King David's sacrifice on Araunah's threshing floor consumed by fire from heaven (I Chron. 21:16-25); fire from heaven consuming the sacrifice at the dedication of Solomon's temple (II Chron. 7:1); the fire of God from heaven burning up Job's sheep and servants (Job 1:16).
In the New Testament, Peter quoted Joel's prophecy of blood, fire, and smoke on the earth (Acts 2:19); Jesus being revealed from heaven with angels of flaming fire (II Thes. 1:7); Babylon the Great consumed by fire and smoke (Rev. 18); the "beast" getting into the act by causing fire to fall from heaven (Rev. 13:13); the final Battle of Armageddon culminating in fire being thrown down from heaven to defeat the devil's army, and Satan being tossed into the lake of fire with the beast and false prophet (Rev. 20:7-10).
This is a short list of God's wrath revealed in fire, but to hear some Christians talk about it, fiery vengeance upon the wicked is God's only job description, culminating with the worst punishment of all, hell fire for all eternity. This isn't a treatise on hell, for there are many of those on the website with book, chapter, and verse included, but it occurred to me again as I was considering these verses, that those who fear God's wrath have never felt, tasted, and experienced personally, His unconditional love. The Apostle John declared, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love" (I John 4:18).
Life is a test tube in which we learn God's love and purpose for our lives. Love can only come from the Holy Spirit, because religion itself causes us to fear, and to worry about everything, which is a result of not knowing that God is in control. We still think we are at the helm of our ship. I assure you that having to be in control all the time, which most "control freaks" believe, makes one VERY nervous, VERY afraid, and VERY insecure. The disciples who were terrified about the storm on the Sea of Galilee which threatened to swamp their little boat, are the perfect example. Clearly, as the thunder boomed, the lightning cracked and the waves roared, they thought they should be in control and know what to do, because after all, they were experienced fishermen on that lake, but they were up against something that showed them their weakness. The One who actually had the control, by contrast, was asleep in the boat, perfectly at ease, resting in His Father's bosom (See Luke 8:22-25).
I believe that God sends storms into our lives, threatening to sink our ships, precisely because until we come to the end of our rope, we cannot let go and trust Him. We trust in our own abilities, and the more abilities we have, the harder it is not to depend upon them. Our Father is oh, so worthy of trust. Every Christian knows we need to worship God, but why? One reason is because He is worthy of our worship, our praise, and our adoration. The Apostle John beheld ten thousand times ten thousand angels, the twenty-four elders, and every creature on earth and under the earth, around the throne of God giving praise to Him and to the Lamb. This verse always thrills me and raptures me into heaven: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Rev. 5:12-13).
The next time you are worrying and wringing your hands over some piddly little thing, some real or imagined impending doom, stop and think about these verses. Was John just "whistling Dixie" here or is God really worthy of praise? The truth is, He wouldn't be worthy if every time we had a problem, He turned tail and ran from it. Even if you have a life threatening emergency, like the disciples had on the Sea of Galilee, do you think God is not up to the task? Do you think your problem or your sin is too big for God? When you worry about anything, you are really saying to God, "Sorry, Father, but I don't think You are able to take care of this! It's too tough for You."
It saddens me that Christians, who can give you book, chapter and verse on the "plan of salvation," which usually includes the idea that everyone but their church is wrong, and who can also give you the precise scripture stating why you shouldn't lie, steal, murder, and of course, commit adultery, are clueless about what Jesus said regarding trusting the Lord. Here it is in plain language, which I believe is given in the indicative mode (a statement of what is), rather than the imperative mode (a commandment): "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" (Matt. 6:25). "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Vs. 27). He concludes: "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Vs. 31-33).
Here, Jesus has covered 99% of what most people worry about: food, health, comfort, and money. If you read it as a commandment, you'll probably feel guilty, but if God helps you read it as the reason why you don't NEED to worry, you can relax because Jesus said that our God will supply what you need. Our Father has Cadillacs on a thousand hills (cattle too).
What I've come to see is that religion is of this world, giving us rules to follow to be pleasing to God, but we don't need rules in heaven (Spirit). God's sons are called to life in the Spirit, which is eternal. When heaven (Spirit) comes into us, we are set free because we know we have been loved, and are then, free to love others. John continued his thought about love: "We love, because he first loved us" (I John 4:19). I believe worry and fear come from not having felt and experienced God's love personally. Since God is responsible for absolutely everything about our growth, even as He alone is responsible for the new birth itself, I look to Him when I'm afraid. I ask Him to love me perfectly so that my fear will be cast out. It's the greatest and only remedy for fear I've ever found in my own life.
When a human baby is born, no one expects him to get out of his crib, fix his own bottle, change his own diapers, and rock himself to sleep. Infants need care 24/7; toddlers and young children need rules to keep them safe; teenagers need a wise hand, instruction in right relatedness to God, and unconditional love to see them through their growing pains and many mistakes. When adults mature, they are trusted with more and more responsibility, commensurate to their abilities. Even so in the kingdom of God, babes in Christ need the Law as a "child leader" (sometimes translated "school master"), to lead them to Christ; teenagers need to know they have power over the evil one; and fathers know Him who is from the beginning (I John 2:13). You cannot rush this progression anymore than you can shout at a rose bud to become a full grown rose, or hurry a caterpillar into becoming a butterfly. Some things cannot be hastened.
God's timing is always perfect. When He opens our eyes to see Him as He is, that His love covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, then for us the world as we knew it comes to an end. The trumpet of the Lord has sounded for us, and we "cross Jordan" to fellowship with the Father and live by the Spirit, rather than by religious rules. Some people hear the trumpet sound and physically pass over. For them, life's worries and struggles have ended in death. They are free at last to enjoy the fellowship of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Paul said we will all be changed, but some will not sleep. In that context, he discusses the first man Adam, as "a man of dust," and Christ as "a man from heaven" (I Cor. 15: 47).
The Bible is full of evidence that God will ultimately redeem everyone, and here's one of them that you may have skipped over. The Apostle has already said in this chapter that "As in Adam, all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15: 22). So, when he now speaks of the man of dust (Adam), he is including all humanity in that, for out of the dust of the earth (elements found on the planet), we were created. And then, he says, "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (Christ)" (Vs. 49). When God reveals the truth in this verse to you, you will see that bearing the image of the man of heaven IS OUR DESTINY. We who have been called by God's love, have been predestined to be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ, our elder brother (Rom. 8:29).
But Paul goes farther in this passage in I. Cor. 15, when he begins to speak of physical death (the end of our world). He says "Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory" (Vs. 51-54). The Holy Spirit wants us to know that when the last trumpet sounds, some will be changed without dying. Does that mean you or me? That's up to God's timing of when the end may come, but it gives me great joy to contemplate, and leads me to rejoice, with Paul, "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (Vs. 55).
Notice that in the next verse, he says, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (Vs. 56). Here's what I believe, which I'm not trying to sell you, but only to offer it for your consideration, for you to take to the Spirit. We, the New Creation in Christ have already, even now, been clothed upon with immortality, with eternal life. In a real sense, the end of the world has come. In heaven (Spirit), where we live, we already have victory over sin, sickness and death! I don't know anyone who has been totally transformed physically, but I expect to see it with my own eyes, in God's time. Our place in Christ IS the end of the world as we have known it, and far from being scary, it is the beginning of life in the Spirit, fellowship with the Father and Son forever. Even now, we are "being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another." I can say nothing else here but Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
A Mark of the Beast
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 9/08/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/09/08.