Many years ago my life took a nasty turn, and I lost everything precious to me. It has taken years to recover from that chain of events, and yet, I have never fully recovered. You might think that something like this would be considered total devastation, but in spite of my decisions I have found many silver linings within this dark cloud, and one of those was a God I never honestly knew. As part of my recovery, I took a job at a large hardware store, where I was fortunate enough to get the opening shift with some frequency. Those early hours worked out well for me, as I would stop at McDonald’s for coffee and breakfast. While there, I began to read my Bible and write about what I found in it. I had already done my fair share of mouthing off to God previously, and He did not strike me dead, so I knew He could handle my thoughts and questions now. This one person Bible study went on for the seven years that I worked for the hardware store and has continued to this day, some four years later. One way to look at this is, I have spent the last fourteen years of my life intentionally invested, in God’s word.
Prior to this time with God, and after spending a majority of my life in the church, I knew little more than what others told me, and most of it was either not true, or such gross distortions that I could not believe what I had heard. By spending that time reading, I found a God that I did not know, and I found Him to be full of mercy and grace. You see, an aspect of what I challenged God with, was that He make himself real to me, and to do it from His word. Well, he did just that, and now, I cannot separate His nature and character from the mercy and grace that I found in Him. Once I learned these things, they became a focus of my conversations, as I tried to convince others, principally believers, that God, was the opposite of what most think of Him.
As you can imagine I have made my understanding and beliefs known to many, so, I am often the target of their challenges, rebuttals, and criticisms. I was not surprised when recently I got verbally attacked with a comment/question, which went something like this: “I think more people need to feel the wrath of the angry God. You know He is coming back with a vengeance, and those who think they can fall back on a message of mercy and grace are merely asking for hell’s fire.” Is that what I have been doing, merely asking for hell’s fire? How absurd can you be? I can tell you, that I decided long ago, that if I was going to make a mistake in describing God, I was going to err on the side of mercy. Since we should have the understanding, especially if we are the type that looks for God to come down on us, that “we will be judged in the same manner in which we judge.” Then we should be the fearful one because we might just get exactly what we called down on others. Matthew chapter 7 states this quite clearly.
Matthew 7:1-2 NASB “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Another version of the same theme comes from Luke’s gospel.
Luke 6:36-38 NASB “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
I included Luke 6:38 because it is one that gets used with frequency in the faith movement. Pay attention to the context, which has everything to do with a merciful God and not condemning people, no matter who they are, NOT money. The last phrase of the paragraph says, “For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” He is talking about our judgmental attitudes, comments, and actions.
Since my last post spoke about the false teachings surrounding the Great White Throne, and how I believe that God scours those books we see in Revelation 20 because He is looking for a reason to show mercy to those before Him. Sadly, that is in opposition to what most people see when they read about the Great White Throne, and here is why. 1. Because it is “the” throne, then, of course, God has to be sitting on it. Well, they are half right, but only because Jesus is God. The entire book of Revelation is about Jesus, and no one else holds the focus. Therefore, it is Jesus on that great throne. 2. Because He calls all dead people to Himself, there is the presumption that these people have no hope, and that is not true. 3. And, in Revelation 20, unlike Matthew 25, we only see the outcomes of those He did not find in ALL those books, and in Revelation 20 their outcome is hell. However, there is a fourth reason people are in opposition to a merciful God; these religious zealots cannot handle a God who gives people entrance into the kingdom without having to resist the temptations and does the hard work of trying to win the lost, that these unmerciful ones have. The sheep we see in Matthew 25, at their the last opportunity, are given entrance into the kingdom (Matthew 20:1-16.) That hope of entrance into the kingdom is our only true anchor and a form of payment. And yet, the sheep gained that same entrance without the years, or time spent. And, though they won’t admit it, the religious mind is jealous and envious, thinking, I could have spent years in frivolity and still acquired God’s mercy and entrance into the kingdom. Or, perhaps not, because this life we live is about faith isn’t it, and where is yours?
A friend of mine, whom I respect much, wrote me back and said, they were judged for their deeds, which focused on their not receiving Jesus. I admonished the readers, at the end of my Great White Throne treatise, to submit to the truth, which is the Word of God, and adjust your beliefs to line up with what that Word says. Note the argument at the end of this parable.
Matthew 20:12-15 MSG ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’ 13 “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? 14 So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. 15 CJB Haven’t I the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
Ultimately, the decision is God’s and not ours.
So what does Revelation 20 tell about the deeds of those sent off to hell’s flames?
Revelation 20:12 NASB And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
They were judged according to their acts, with NO definition of what those deeds were. There is nothing in this passage or any passage near it, that tells us what got them excluded. We should all know by now, that people will be judged based on what they did with Jesus Christ, not their sins. (You either accept Him, or you reject Him. It’s that simple.) Since sin and deeds, even if they are remotely naughty, seem to be our constant religious focus and can condemn us to hell, as religion wants you to believe, then what was the purpose of the cross?
While there may be a passage that defines this more clearly, Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae spells out rather well the effects of the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14 NASB 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
All I can think about is the fact that, in Christ, the sins, transgressions, and decrees against me, are gone.
The fascinating thing about this letter is that the Apostle Paul walked this earth at the same time as Christ. Unaware that he walked about drowning in sins and transgressions, because, Saul, the Pharisee, was the finest of Jews. The thought that a Jew was unrighteous would have been entirely foreign to him, and because they were Jews righteousness and entrance into the kingdom, were practically a given. That day, when God knocked, Saul the Pharisee to the ground, while on the road to Damascus, Saul had the intent of harming those who followed the WAY; he learned that he had no righteousness and that Jesus was the one being hurt when he touched one of these followers… This sentiment gives a whole new spin to the concept of being dead in your transgressions, for Saul, before his conversion, was just that, a walking dead man.
So Jesus Christ died while Saul, the Pharisee’s apprentice, walked the earth. Because Jesus Christ did that, ALL sins, past, present, and future, were forgiven, and humankind was forgiven. Saul, the Pharisee, was forgiven. Did Christ on the cross change Saul’s life? NO, and if it did, he did not know it, nor did he receive the peace that is gained when you accept that sacrifice.
So who is this God we supposedly serve?
I can comprehend that He is the God who forgave, but is there more?
Without directly thinking about the question, who is this God I serve, I already stated a few paragraphs ago, one of the most significant aspects of who He is.
Luke 6:36 NASB “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
The presumption on my part would be that you had read this verse at some point in your life. If that is the case, then what did you do with that directive? Ah, but you say, we are not under the law and therefore cannot, and will not receive a “command,” even if it tells me to be merciful! But we do have a strong warning from the book of James; why you might also say, its law.
James 2:12 CEV Speak and act like people who will be judged by the law that sets us free.
Does it say you will be judged, and therefore get excluded, even after Jesus said that no one will ever strip you out of His hands? No, it tells us to ACT as though we will.
If the Laws that brought death and condemnation are to be our guide for how we act, then we would be a sorry lot indeed. Our looks would probably be no different than they are now, as many of the teachings we sit under continually push us back under those laws of bondage. But note how the verse says, “by the law that sets us free.” This law of liberty is the very thing that Paul wrote about in most of his letters. And, he said, I can never go back to the bondage those Jewish laws put on me.
Galatians 2:16 CJB even so, we have come to realize that a person is not declared righteous by God on the ground of his legalistic observance of Torah commands, but through the Messiah Yeshua’s trusting faithfulness. Therefore, we too have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua and become faithful to him, in order that we might be declared righteous on the ground of the Messiah’s trusting faithfulness and not on the ground of our legalistic observance of Torah commands. For on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, no one will be declared righteous.
No one is asking you to put yourself in bondage; however, God is asking you to submit to the grace and mercy that set you free and become faithful to Him. So, in acting like one who will be judged by grace and mercy, the law of liberty, you then speak and demonstrate this grace, mercy, and freedom consistently, to those who need it; that happens to be everyone.
He is our peace.
Romans 5:1 NASB Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Ephesians 2:13-15 NASB But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
He shows mercy to all.
Romans 11:32 NASB For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
Paul, writing to Timothy, tells this young man why Saul, the Pharisee obtained mercy; as an illustration of God’s patience.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 Moffatt NT 15 It is a sure word, it deserves all praise, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”; and though I am the foremost of sinners, 16 I obtained mercy, for the purpose of furnishing Christ Jesus with the chief illustration of his utter patience; I was to be the typical instance of all who were to believe in him and gain eternal life.
He is the God of grace. Stop for a moment and remind yourself what grace is. It is God’s riches, at Christ’s expense. And, in John’s gospel, this stated as an observation.
John 1:16 ESV For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:16 portrays the Father heaping his grace upon us. While, Dr. Luke wrote, that we are saved because of the grace of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 15:11 ESV But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
The general impression you should have is the Father, and the Son, are exuding grace and mercy toward us, and in us.
How then, do we come up with the crazy idea that God is looking to destroy people?
John 10:27, 28 speaks of those who are His sheep. This life in Christ is not an exclusive club; He desires for everyone to jump in. For those who do, there is the guarantee of His word, which tells us that we will never perish in hell, nor will anyone ever take us out of the Son’s hand.
John 10:27-28 ESV My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
This answer seems so simple, and yet there are those who are capable of entertaining the idea that God does not love some people.
John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
How can you feel comfortable decreeing the eternal punishment of so many, when God loved the world enough to allow His own Son to be murdered on a cross. All one has to do to receive this life is believe in Him who made this life possible; his name is Jesus.
The entire reason that we are still here on this earth is that God, in His patience, is waiting for that last one to come into the kingdom.
2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
If you think God is so ominous, then how do you explain the Shepherd, showing mercy to those, who apparently did not go through the proper religious ceremonies, missed the rapture of the church, and fell asleep in death, not knowing where they stood with the Father. You see all this portrayed in Matthew 25:31-46. I will let you look it up at your leisure. Suffice it to say, that given mercy, these sheep that gained entrance to the kingdom have an immediate understanding that they had missed the mark, and yet, Jesus, the one sitting upon the throne, is showing them mercy. The response given by the great shepherd shocked me to my core, as it challenges a multitude of things I have been taught to the contrary. It is because of the simple acts of kindness demonstrated by the people represented as sheep, such as: giving ME a drink when I was thirsty; coming to visit ME when I was in prison; clothing ME when I was naked, and feeding ME when I was hungry.
A part of that challenge to my treatise on the Great White Throne indicated that those before the throne received no mercy because they had rejected Jesus. Scripturally, do we see any evidence of God directly rejecting any for rejecting Jesus? No, but what do we see, in Matthew 25 are people who fed, visited, and clothed JESUS, without even knowing it. What they did was to act as though they had the nature and character of the Father in them. The logic of such a moment gets lost, because how do you have the Son’s life in you, making you theoretically a “Christian,” and not get caught up in the snatching away of the Church? I suppose the answer to that comes from the parable of the ten virgins. This story is an inference to the modern day church; the people who will experience Christ’s return for those who are His.
The parable demonstrates a problem.
Ten virgins (so far it sounds good as all are pure,) get the same invitation (we too have received that same message, and it seems very similar to what the future disciples heard – deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.) They all grab their lamps as though they all seem to understand that this will be a long wait (However, five of them have to good sense to bring extra oil for themselves – this is not a coordinated effort from what we can read, and that aspect makes the story even more enticing.) All of them fall asleep (this fact brings them no condemnation.) Awakened by the voice of the bridegroom, calling them to come, five refill their lamps, trim their wicks and light the oil lamps. Sadly, the others discover they are out of oil. What do they do? They clamor and demand that the others give of theirs (there is something preposterous about this component of the story, not because they ran out of oil, but because of their attitude.) Those without oil are sent by the others to go off and buy more. (I joke as if they had a convenience store where they can get a late night cup of coffee and some lamp oil. But this is Jerusalem, and ordinary people are asleep with their families nearby.) In the process of trying to buy more lamp oil, the bridegroom comes, opens the doors, lets those who have come because they were prepared and waiting for the bridegroom to call them, and they entered. The door was then shut.
What is the problem here? If this is speaking of the Church, then we are talking about a fifty percent ratio of people, who got the invitation and did not prepare themselves, and were, therefore, not ready when the bridegroom called. Now, if these are representations of the church, do they have the nature and character of the Father in them? Were they awaiting His return? In the story of the ten virgins, they all got the invite. But, what did they do with that information, especially since they had a pretty good time frame of when he would come. Besides that, they know where this guy lives and where he is building the home for his bride. All you have to do is casually walk down that street, and you would know that the time is almost here. That information might prompt you to buy more oil just in case, wouldn’t it? Fifty percent of the church is like this. One brother I know, a very genuine man, recently ranted to me, that we have been waiting for over two thousand years, so why are you getting worked up now? I see that as a man with no excess oil.
If you remember, there is a very dark detail from the story of Noah, in which:
God’s description of humanity demonstrates what happens to a world with free choice without the influence of a reborn spirit to restrain us.
People will choose to live outside of God’s control, and their decisions impacted the whole earth, for it was filled with violence, and every thought was only evil.
Acting like civilized people is not what we do, unless, something inside of us is changed.
There is just one thing that brings about that change,
it is our acceptance of Jesus Christ, in a restored relationship with the Father.
Is it possible that you might not have understood that this internal change had come over you?