The Wrath of God: Is God Really Mad At Me?

The Bible is replete with references to the word “wrath” (and its derivatives) including, of course, the wrath of God. In fact, the Bible contains over 200 references to wrath, making it a major theme throughout the Bible—in both the Old and New Testaments.

By definition in American English, “wrath” is “intense anger; rage; fury.” The Bible’s definition of human wrath is similar. But when the Bible defines God’s wrath there is a great difference.   Since God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, wrath as it applies to God is a figure of speech—an anthropopathism (attributing human feelings and emotions to God; God does not really become angry; He only appears to do so from the standpoint of humans. God’s basic character and nature is that He is altogether good and absolutely everything He does is good (Psalm 119: 68, and many other biblical references).

Here’s a simple illustration of what I’m attempting to say. Because He is unchangeable, God cannot “feel” loving, gracious, and kind toward me one moment, and then the next moment (because of something “bad” I have done) feel intense anger, rage, and fury towards me. That’s simply not the unchanging nature and character of God. His unchanging nature and character is that He is good. He cannot become angry as humans do.

The real issue is not whether God dispenses or pours out his wrath upon humans; the real issue is what is God’s wrath—what constitutes God’s wrath. That is the issue: what is the wrath of God and how does it “work”? I will attempt to answer that in this teaching, but bear in mind I am a fallible human and don’t know all the answers; in fact, I don’t even know all the questions. My knowledge about God and the way He works among humans is very incomplete. However, I have studied this subject for many years, and I feel that gives me a measure of understanding. This is the first teaching I have presented about God’s wrath.

Through those many years that I have wrestled with what the Bible teaches about God’s wrath, I have arrived at two basic conclusions upon which this teaching you are reading is based; I have not arrived at these conclusions easily or hastily because they seem to contradict much of what is taught by Bible scholars throughout the western Church, but I must be true to my own studies. Here are those two conclusions or premises:

  1. God’s wrath toward humans must always be seen in the light of the clear biblical teaching about apokatastasis, God’s final restoration and reconciliation of everything—including all humanity—to Himself.
  2. God’s wrath toward humans is ultimately to destroy what’s destroying us.

If those two conclusions are kept in mind as anyone studies God’s wrath throughout the Bible, a very clear understanding will emerge, but it will fly in the face of much western biblical scholarship.

Another matter about God’s wrath that emerges from studying and discussing the matter with many other people through the years is this: for whatever reason, most people hold to a traditional view of God’s wrath being like human wrath because something in us wants “bad” people to get “what’s coming to them.” Most people do not want bad people to get away without punishment for their bad behavior and deeds. We humans want vengeance. We want to believe that God will ultimately punish people and pour out his wrath on them for evil, sinful behavior. That feeling seems to be pretty basic to the thinking and feelings of most humans. 

Before beginning to examine specific references in the Bible about God’s wrath, there is a little-known matter about God’s wrath as revealed in the Bible that is often overlooked by Bible scholars and theologians. I will address that matter for a few paragraphs. It goes something like this. Before God chose and selected Abraham and the tribes of Israel to represent Him on earth with monotheism (belief in one Supreme God), most of the tribes, people-groups and nations on earth were polytheistic (belief in many gods) and some were pantheistic (belief that God is not a person, but, rather, the universe is God).   

Polytheism and pantheism were prevalent among almost all earth’s human inhabitants almost from the dawn of human history until “civilization” began. One of the few exceptions to that prevalent view was in ancient China or Sinim. The pre-civilized world consisted largely of tribal groups gathered in villages or small city-states immersed in polytheism. Numerous local gods (most often displayed and worshipped in homes and centers of worship as countless hand-made idols) ruled all of life. A personal relationship with the gods was not considered possible—only some means of appeasing them, often by human sacrifices, including infants. One’s relationship with the gods was only as a member of the tribe. The gods were impersonal—often “mean” and evil—beings who ruled all of life without regard to individuals.

In those ancient polytheistic systems, individuals could not conceive of themselves as individuals outside of the tribal or city-state system. While part of the tribe or city-state, one was only a tribal member, with duties to one’s tribal gods, nothing outside the tribe.   This was why exile from the tribe was the worst possible punishment. It was worse than death because the exiled one was cut off from the local gods as well. Such exile or banishment was considered to be the wrath of the gods upon the banished individual. Often, people from other tribes were not even considered part of the same species. To enslave or kill a member of another tribe was to kill another species. One did not seek to kill individuals from another tribe, but to slaughter the entire tribe—men, women, and children; this was considered to be the wrath of the gods.  What existed was the tribe, not individuals within the tribe. One’s tribe was “human”; other tribes were not.

With that in mind, it’s somewhat easier to understand the mentality of many of the incidents in the Old Testament when God would summon one tribe or people-group to slaughter another entire tribe, including men, women and children. This understanding does not explain why God would do that (or excuse God), but it helps to understand the context, mind-set, and milieu in which such events occurred. 

Also, when one understands the biblical teaching of apokatastasis, one then realizes that all the people slaughtered throughout the Old Testament are not doomed forever, but will one day be restored and reconciled to God in ages to come and in his Kingdom. I’m not suggesting that excuses all the slaughter and bloodshed in the Old Testament ordered by God, only that such understanding serves to help us comprehend that was not the final end of things for all those men, women and children who were slaughtered. I am not making excuses for God.

Look at it this way, too. Today we would label all those killings in the Old Testament ordered by God as genocide and condemn them as war crimes. Remember such genocide took place a long, long time ago before the time of Jesus when very little was understood about God’s true character and nature, when human life had little or no value. When the mind-set and culture of people was all about death and dying. Killing, death, and dying—sometimes in horrible ways—was simply what most people believed in and practiced in those ancient times. It was simply a given that one tribe was to enslave or kill other tribes.

As horrible as such scenarios were, one answer might be that God ordered them killed in order to spare them from further degradation, abomination, and depravity—from further evil and horror, and even more brutal and vicious killings had they been allowed to live a lifetime of slavery when they had no worth as humans or as individuals. What is best? A quick death or a lifetime of brutal slavery and degradation? These are merely some additional thoughts to address the issue of God pouring out his wrath on people by ordering them slaughtered. They are not intended to be complete and full answers to such matters. I suggest them only as more “food for thought.” I’m not certain that even in Eternal Realms will we have full and complete answers to such matters.

Let’s now begin to examine some of the biblical references about God’s wrath, simply to get a feel for what it’s all about; there are many such references. I will select only a relatively few that are most representative of all those many references. I mentioned earlier that there are approximately 200 references in the Bible about wrath—both human wrath and God’s wrath. Let’s examine some of the representative references about God’s wrath and see if we can arrive at a conclusion about what God’s wrath is and how it works.

The first biblical mention of God’s wrath is found in the second book of the Bible (Exodus), chapter 15, verse 7. It is in a song Moses and the recently freed Israelites sang to God, praising Him for freeing them from their bondage by the Egyptians. They sang: “In the greatness of your majesty You overthrow those rising against You. You send forth your wrath and consume them like stubble.” (The Amplified Bible). This description of God’s wrath seems to be consistent with the generally accepted view of God’s wrath toward humans.

Let’s read on. In Numbers 25: 11, we read of an incident where the actions of one of the Israelites turned back the wrath of God by his actions to stop some of God’s people from worshipping other gods. That holds true today: God’s people can still turn back the wrath of God by prayer and righteous actions.   A similar incident is recorded in 2 Chronicles 12: 7: when some of God’s people humbled themselves God wrath was stopped. Another such incident is found in 2 Chronicles 29: 10 when one of Israel’s kings—Hezekiah—turned away God’s wrath by making a covenant with God. The point of these 3 incidents in the Old Testament is that God’s wrath is not necessarily fixed; his wrath can be turned away or stopped by righteous actions, prayer, and humility.

Isaiah 66: 10 speaks of God’s wrath striking people, but accompanied (or followed?) by God’s mercy and favor. Nahum 1: 2 tells us that God reserves his wrath for his enemies. Habakkuk 3: 2 tells us that while the wrath of God is being poured out, He remembers his mercy.

Those, then, are merely a tiny smattering of Old Testament references about God’s wrath. Such a smattering of only a few references doesn’t really answer any questions about the wrath of God—or resolve any issues about his wrath, but merely sheds a little different light on the wrath of God in the Old Testament. Many legitimate questions remain about God’s wrath.

Through the years I’ve often taught that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament Revealed.

We now turn to the New Testament to shed further light upon what God’s wrath is and how it works. Much of what the New Testament teaches about the wrath of God can be found in the book of Romans, specifically the first chapter. In fact, it could be stated that the first chapter of Romans is God’s summary statement about his wrath and how it works among humans. 

The first 7 verses of Romans 1 are about Paul greeting his readers and giving his “credentials” to them. Verses 8 – 13 are about Paul’s desire to visit the city of Rome for the first time. Verses 16 and 17 are about God’s Good News and living by faith. The remainder of the chapter (verses 18 – 32) is about the wrath of God, including Paul’s definition of God’s wrath and how it “works.”

The passage reveals all sorts of evil, uncleanness, unrighteousness, vile passions, and ungodliness—including murder—people resort to when they turn their backs on God and seek to go their own way—to do their own thing. Unbridled, unrestrained anarchy prevails in such instances. The essence of sin is when people go their own way, disregard God, and are deluded into thinking they can control their own lives apart from God and his ways. To successfully live a good life independent from God is a strong delusion!

Notice in verses 24, 26, and 28 the expression “God gave them up (or over)…” Some versions read “God hands them over…” or “delivers them over…” Other versions read “So God let them go ahead and do…” “God abandoned them to…” “God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get…” “God quit bothering them and let them run loose…” “God surrendered them…”

Yes, God “gives people up” when they wrongfully choose to go their own ways in total disregard for God. This passage catalogues and lists various wrongful acts (including murder) when God gives people up to their own ways. One translation of this passage reads like this in verses 28 – 32: “Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing, They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worse things best!”

If we comprehend this understanding of wrath in the New Testament it can go a long way towards helping us understand God’s wrath throughout the Old Testament, notably the slaughter of so-called innocent people at God’s command. Sinful people were simply “doing what comes naturally” when God “gave them over” to sinful lifestyles.

As I begin to conclude, let me put my understanding and definition of the wrath of God as simply as I’m able to: The wrath of God in both the Old and New Testaments is when God gives people up to their own sinful ways to reap the consequences of those ways. Yes, even including giving people over to killing and slaughtering other people.

Again, I fully recognize this teaching does not answer all the questions about God’s wrath as it is typically understood by most people. But if it helps you understand just a little better what the Bible teaches, then I am satisfied. 

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc.

leservices38@yahoo.com

Hope In Prophecy

At the very beginning of this teaching, I’m going to make a bold, outrageous statement you may or may not agree with. Here’s that statement: 2,000 years ago when God was here as a human named Jesus of Nazareth, He brought to a complete end and fulfilled all prophecy in the Old Testament. Yes, Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled all Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 5: 17). There is no more prophecy in the Old Testament yet to be fulfilled in the future: nothing in any of the prophetic books of the Old Testament is yet to be fulfilled. But we must know the Old Testament in order to understand any prophecy in the New Testament. For example, over 400 times the Book of Revelation in the New Testament refers to the Old Testament; that’s an average of 18 times per chapter in Revelation; it is absolutely rooted in the symbolism of the Old Testament.

Here’s another statement consistent with the one I just made: The Book of Revelation is about the revealing of Jesus, about unveiling Him. Revelation is not simply a vision given to John; it’s an unveiling of Jesus to us. The Greek word for “revelation” is apokalypsis from which we get the English word “apocalypse,” that simply means “holy unveiling.” The Book of Revelation is the holy unveiling of Jesus, NOT about unveiling dreadful apocalyptic events in the so-called end-times. Whatever your end-time views, I encourage you to place your hope in a Person, place your hope in Jesus, not in supposed, upcoming prophetic events. Place your hope in the Solid Rock, Jesus! 

Throughout the New Testament, there are smatterings of prophecies, but most of the events about which they prophesy already occurred 2,000 years ago as recorded in chapters 4 – 18 of Revelation. I’m going to go one step further: I’m making the outrageous statement that only the last 4 chapters of the Book of Revelation are yet in the future, yet to be fulfilled. Those 4 chapters contain the only Bible prophecies yet to be fulfilled. 

Revelation was written in 65 or 66 A.D. The events of Revelation in chapters one, two, and three were already occurring at the time John wrote the book. Chapters 4 – 18 would happen very soon from 66 to 72 A.D., a seven-year period known as “The Great Tribulation” when Jerusalem was virtually wiped off the map, the Jewish Temple was destroyed, and their way of life almost came to an end with over 1,000,000 Jews slaughtered by the Roman armies in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Israel. Only chapters 19 – 22 of the Book of Revelation are yet to be fulfilled prophetically.

Please understand that I am not trying to push my views on you and convince you my views are true. I realize how limited my understanding is and that I am a finite human who makes many mistakes. My understanding is still very limited. I simply ask that you give me your attention for the next 20 minutes are so and hear me out. If you disagree with my findings and conclusions, that’s okay, but please hear me out.

What I have just stated is the viewpoint from which I shall be teaching about Anchor Ten, “Hope in Prophecy,” for the next 20 minutes or so. That now leads me to address the topic of end-times in Bible prophecy—and finding hope in Bible prophecy, as Anchor Ten states. 

There really wasn’t a lot of teaching about biblical end-time prophecy until approximately World War I, 100 years ago. I won’t go into detail about that; you can research that for yourself. But since approximately World War I, the evangelical world has turned out millions of pages of so-called end-times prophecy purportedly from the Bible—thousands of pages of books and other literature, thousands of hours of radio time, thousands of hours of television programming, and even more thousands of hours on social media. What about the end-times? When did the end-times—the last days—really begin?

To answer that question I’m simply going to refer you to a few references in the New Testament; after reading them, you can form your own conclusions about when the last days began: Acts 2: 17, 1 Corinthians 10: 11, 1 Timothy 4: 1, Hebrews 1: 2, and 9: 26. My own conclusion from just those few references is that the last days—the end-times—began the moment Jesus was born and have continued for 2,000+ years. Yes, the last days have been occurring for 2,000 years; we may be near the end of the last days—the so-called end-times, but personally I feel it’s more true to say that we are near the beginning of the next age—the new times, the beginning times—than to emphasize we are living in the end-times.

Early on the morning of June 5, 2020, I was sitting on my back deck watching the sun rise while drinking a latte. All of a sudden, Holy Spirit began flooding into my consciousness and spirit so many thoughts and concepts about prophecy and the Book of Revelation that I could scarcely keep up with what He was telling me. I immediately knew He was telling me something I had never thought of before—and making it clear to me that He wanted me to change the remainder of this entire teaching from what I had been planning. The following portion of this teaching is what Holy Spirit wants me to share with you—instead of what I planned to share with you.

First, Holy Spirit was emphasizing to me what I already suspected at some level. The Book of Revelation is the revealing, the unveiling, the uncloaking, the disclosing, pulling back the curtain, the uncovering of the risen, living, glorified Lord Jesus. Here’s what Revelation 1: 1 clearly states: “This is the revelation of Jesus, which God gave Him to show his servants—things which must take place very soon. And He told me, John, to write this revealing, this unveiling of Jesus.”

Yes, Revelation certainly contains prophecy but it’s not primarily a book of prophecy; the main thrust of the Book of Revelation is, well, the revelation—the revealing of the Lord Jesus in all his unveiled splendor; it’s the drawing back of a curtain so we can see Jesus as He really is now. It’s simply a continuation, a fleshing out, so to speak, of Jesus as He is now—as the disciples earlier saw Him in splendor on the Mount of Transfiguration. The episode on the Mount of Transfiguration was a glimpse, a foretaste, a “preview of coming attractions,” so to speak, of who Jesus would later reveal Himself to be really like in the Book of Revelation. It’s important for us to vitally connect the scenario on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Book of Revelation.

Second, I was seeing for the first time that the Book of Revelation can almost be considered a “worship manual” with various scenarios for worshipping the unveiled Lord Jesus on his throne. The Book of Revelation is not so much about prophecy; it is a call to worship! It’s a heavenly worship service in progress—in which we are invited to participate. The Book of Revelation is a book of much symbolism and imagery written to the early church and easily understood by them, because they were extremely familiar with Old Testament prophecy. For example, to clearly understand Revelation one must first be very familiar with the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel.   And we must understand that the wrath of the Lamb in chapters 4 – 18 is restorative and redemptive—not vehement anger and rage.

And remember this very important point: Jesus Himself said, in Revelation 1: 3, “Joyous blessings are poured out to those who read this Revelation—upon those who hear, embrace, and treasure this revelation; it’s time has come.”   Read the Book of Revelation. God will bless you for doing so!

Third, here’s some of what Holy Spirit revealed to me on the morning of June 5th about the unveiled Jesus in the Book of Revelation. Listen to what the Spirit is telling us about the unveiled Jesus. Please consider the next few minutes as a grand roll call for the King of all the ages of time and eternity to reveal Himself to us in a new and living way.

Jesus is the Truth-Teller who promises to abundantly bless those who read his Revelation. He is the One who was dead, but who is now alive, who invites his dear friend, John, to come to his throne room to observe Him in all his scintillating splendor, and to write about Him and about the events soon to take place on the earth. Jesus is God’s Faithful Witness, the Firstborn From the Dead, and the Ruler over the kings of the earth. He is the One who constantly loves us and washes us from our sins in his own spilled blood. It is Jesus alone who brings us his great salvation. Jesus has made us kings and priests to reign with Him in his glory and dominion. He reigns as both Eternal Son of God and Eternal Son of Man. From behind the scenes He orchestrates all events on earth and in heaven to turn all his judgments into victory as I taught about in Anchor Six. Jesus is the only One who dispenses true justice. 

He is the One coming with clouds—his voice as a loud trumpet, as the sound of many rushing waters. Every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the completion of all things on earth and throughout the universe. He is the Almighty One who was, who is, and who is to come. He is clothed with a white robe and a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair are white like glistening snow, and his eyes are shooting flames of fire. His feet are gleaming like bright metal as though they were glowing in a fire. Jesus’ face is shining like the brightness of the shining sun. Out of his mouth projects a sharp, double-edged sword. He holds the keys that unlock the first and second death and Hades. It is He who searches all minds and hearts and unveils the final mysteries of God. Jesus is still walking among his Church today; He is here in this portion of his Church —today—now—this very moment. Are you seeing Him revealed to you?

He is the One who knows all there is to know about his beloved Church, his Bride—and yet loves his Church beyond measure—even with all its present faults and shortcomings; He is preparing her to be a Church clothed in white raiment without spot or wrinkle. He is the One who eternally stands and knocks at the door of his Church. Jesus gives grace, truth, peace, and eternal rest to his servants in his Church, his Living Body on earth and in Heaven. Jesus is the One who awards the Crown of Life to those who remain faithful in following Him. He gives to each person according to their works. He is the One who writes our names in his Book of Life from the foundation of the world. He confesses our names before the Father and his angels. He is the One who makes those who overcome pillars in the temple of the Living God. He is the Light in the temple in the New Jerusalem.

Jesus is the Lamb slain, the victorious Conqueror on a white horse. He is not only the Lamb slain, but He is also the Great Shepherd of all his sheep and lambs. He is God. Jesus is human. Jesus is the glorified One. Unveiled, He is blindingly bright; He is scintillating. Jesus is the Bridegroom. He is the Host at the Marriage Feast of Him and his lovely Bride, the perfected, united Church of all the ages—everywhere and everywhen.   Jesus is the Lord of his Church. He is the King of all Creation. Jesus is worshipped by all his vast, unbounded creation. Jesus is the One who beckons all humanity to eat from the Tree of Life. He is the One who writes his Father’s name on our foreheads. He is the One who holds all power over all nations.

Jesus is the One whom the Elders of all humanity worship. Around the Lamb seated on his throne are hundreds of millions of angels, living beings, and elders. Around his throne is a rainbow, a sea of glass, and multitudes of living beings. All the redeemed of Israel bow before Jesus in worship. He is the Ruler over all the earth. Jesus has freed all humankind from their sins. Jesus is the Almighty One with all power on earth and throughout all creation. He is the Son of Man, representative of all humanity before the Father. Yes, Jesus is still walking among his Church today; He is here in this portion of his Church —today—now—this very moment. Is He revealing Himself to you?

Jesus is the One who has the power to command angels, cherubim, seraphim, and other heavenly beings to carry out his commands on the land, sea, and air. He is the One who has fully defeated and conquered the dragon, that old serpent, and cast him and his minions into the lake burning with refining fire and healing, cleansing sulfur. He is the One who will finally eradicate sin from all creation—sin never again to besiege and infect all humanity. Jesus is He in whose hands are the scrolls revealing the full restorative and redemptive purposes of God. He alone can open the scrolls and loose God’s redemptive judgments and purposes. 

Jesus is the One who uncovers all mysteries. Jesus is the One who despises dead, empty, and powerless religion. To those who are hungry, Jesus gives Hidden Manna to eat. He confers white stones with new names inscribed on them. Jesus searches all minds and hearts. He gives his followers power over the nations of earth. He gives the bright, Morning Star to his followers. Jesus confesses our new names before the Father and angels. 

Jesus opens and no one shuts—and shuts and no one opens. He sets before us open doors. Jesus grants us to sit on his throne with Him. Listen to Revelation 4: 11: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power, for You created all things, and for your purposes they were created and exist.” Jesus is the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the tribe of Praise to God. He is the One to whom all humanity sings their praises. Hear these words about Jesus in Revelation 5: “Because You were slaughtered for us, You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals. Your blood was the price paid to redeem us. You purchased us to bring us to God out of every tribe, language, people group, and nation. You have chosen us to serve our God and formed us into a kingdom of priests who reign on the earth. Worthy is Jesus the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive great power and might, wealth and wisdom, and honor, glory, and praise. Praise, honor, glory, and dominion be to God-Enthroned and to Jesus the Lamb for all the eons of time and throughout eternal realms.”

Jesus is the chief of the twelve tribes of Israel. He is the loving, caring Great Shepherd who leads all who thirst to fountains of Living Water and wipes away all tears from our eyes. He created the universe and all within it. He takes leadership over all the nations of earth. Jesus is the One who rewards his servants, prophets, and saints. He is the male Child born of a woman to rule all nations with a rod of iron—a symbol of firmness, but not of tyranny. He is the One who has all power over the one who accuses and deceives his followers.

Jesus gives us power to overcome. Jesus is the One to whom we sing this new song with those in Revelation 15: “Mighty and marvelous are your miracles, Lord God Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, O sovereign King of the ages! Who will not revere You with awe, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For You alone are holy, and all nations will come and bow in worship before You, as your blessings are revealed.”   Are you seeing the Father reveal the Son, and the Son reveal the ways and works of Holy Spirit—God in action—and Holy Spirit reveal the Son? Are you seeing the blessed Trinity, One in three and three in One?

Jesus is the Lamb who overcomes, because He is Great Lord of lesser lords and High King of lesser kings. Listen to his words in Revelation 19: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us rejoice and exalt Him and give Him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come. And his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen shining bright and clear, has been given her to wear, and the fine linen represents the righteous deeds of his holy believers.”     Are you—part of his Bride—making yourself ready for that universal wedding day and the eternal celebration feast to follow? 

He who sits astride the white horse is called the Word of God. It is Jesus who righteously judges all, both small and great. It is Jesus who forever tabernacles among all humanity. Jesus makes all things new—freshly restores all things.   Again, listen to Jesus’ closing words to us in Revelation 22: “Behold, I am coming quickly! I bring my reward with Me to repay everyone according to their works. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the Completion… I am the bright Morning Star,… ‘Come,’ says Holy Spirit and the Bride in divine duet. Let everyone who hears this duet join them in saying, ‘Come.’ Let everyone gripped with spiritual thirst say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who craves the gift of living water come and drink it freely. ‘It is my gift to you! Come.’ May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the holy believers. Amen!” 

Do you see Him clearly now—the unveiled Jesus, the revealed One. Does your spirit now long to humbly worship at the feet of Jesus? Do you now see the true Jesus, the real Jesus—not the Jesus of dead religion, not the Sunday School Jesus, but the One we find revealed in his Book of Revelation? Do you see Him walking among us here today, this very moment—revealing Himself to us?

Years earlier, John wrote in the fourth chapter of his Gospel:   “Our worship must engage our spirits in the pursuit of truth. God is Spirit, and He longs to have sincere worshipers who worship Him out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in humble adoration. Face to face with Jesus in the Presence of our Father: that is his desire and his delight—desiring our hearts even more than our worship itself!”   

We now see the unveiled Lord Jesus revealed to us and to all humanity in the Book of his Revelation of Himself!   Come, let us humbly worship the unveiled Jesus!

SING the following 3 or 4 times in a slow, joyous, and worshipful manner: 

Come we who love the Lord, and let our joys be known.
Join in a song with sweet accord;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround his throne,
And thus surround his throne.
The Mount of Zion brings forth my deepest worship songs,
Before I reach more heav’nly heights,
Before I reach more heav’nly heights,
And stand among Immanuel’s throngs,
And stand among Immanuel’s throngs.
Then let our tears be dry and all our songs be known.
We’re striding through Immanuel’s land;
We’re striding through Immanuel’s land,
To bow before his throne,
To bow before his throne.

Do You see the Lord Jesus sitting on his throne today—high, exalted!—with the train of his robes filling the Temple…whom you are? Do you see the seraphim calling back and forth to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is God-of-the-Angel-Armies. His bright glory fills the entire earth!” (From Isaiah 6)

My books may be purchased at billsbooks.org or at amazon.com

Bill Boylan
leservices38@yahoo.com

Hope In Justice

Hope In Justice

I was excited to be able to teach about Anchors One and Two from Gerry Beauchemin’s book, Hope For All, and now I am excited to teach about Anchor Six, “Hope In Justice.”  Here is a preliminary statement I want to make at the very beginning:  Both Justice and Judgment in the Bible are words and concepts that are inseparably related.  I’ll explain that in more detail as we progress through this brief teaching.   I am acutely aware I don’t know all there is to know about God’s justice and certainly don’t feel I know all the answers. 

Here are two basic principles of Bible study.  First, when studying any biblical subject, there is usually a specific reference, passage, chapter, or section that encapsulates or summarizes that subject.  For example, the subject of resurrection is encapsulated in 1 Corinthians 15.  The subject of God speaking to us is outlined in John chapter 10, and so on for other Bible topics.   Second, when studying any subject in the Bible, study all the references about that subject before arriving at a conclusion.  That way you avoid picking and choosing “proof texts” to prove a point and you avoid building an entire biblical understanding on only a partial or incomplete foundation of references.  

The words justice and judgment (and their derivatives) together occur over 1,100 times throughout the Bible.  One must study all those occurrences before arriving at a conclusion about God’s justice and judgements.  I have studied all those 1,100 references over a period of years.

The one basic, key biblical reference about God’s justice is Isaiah 42: 3 in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12: 20 refers back to Isaiah 42: 3, but substitutes the word “victory” for the word “truth” Isaiah used in the Old Testament reference.  Jesus is saying God’s justice leads to victory.  Can Jesus change Bible words like that?  Well, He is the author of the Bible; I think He has the right to do that; John, Paul, Peter, and other New Testament authors do that, too.  They often change, amplify, and paraphrase the words of the Old Testament.  Again, God’s justice leads to victory!  That’s a key understanding of both justice and judgment in both the Old and New Testaments.

In Anchor Six in Hope For All, Gerry Beauchemin does an excellent job studying a large number of those 1,100 various references about justice throughout the Bible before he arrived a conclusion in Anchor Six about what the Bible as a whole teaches about God’s justice.

In this teaching, I will only add to or supplement Gerry’s teachings about Anchor Six.  Gerry does such a good job in his book that it’s difficult to add to anything he has written.  That’s why I often give away copies of Gerry’s books:  they’re the most basic introductions to all these subjects that are available today.

I stated earlier that throughout the Bible the concepts of justice and judgment are very closely related.  I will make this simple statement:    God’s justice and judgments are always to make all wrong things right!  That’s a very basic truth about God’s justice and judgment.  I say that because human justice and judgment are not always to make all wrong things right. 

You see, when most humans think about God’s justice and judgment, they think about punishment, God’s wrath and anger, suffering for sin, hell-fire and brimstone, and the like.   Then, what happens is we take our own human views about justice and judgment and superimpose them on God, feeling He regards justice and judgment in the same manner with the same results as we do.  That’s called anthropomorphism:  ascribing human characteristics to God.  But, it’s true, we humans have a tendency to ascribe to God’s nature and character our own nature and character; we tend to think He thinks like we do and does things like we do.  He doesn’t!  Isaiah 55: 8 – 11 speaks to that matter.

God’s justice is not a courtroom scene in which the judge hands down a verdict and renders a legal sentence leading to imprisonment and punishment as occurs in human courtrooms.  No, it’s not a courtroom scene at all.  It’s an eternal scenario where God’s so-called sentence is to make it possible for us to be completely cleansed of all sin and impurities through the eons of time—to prepare us to enter the timelessness of heaven in Eternal Realms with clean hands and clean hearts—there to forever serve Him with gladness and joy, free of all that hinders our eternal, growing, relationship and union with Him. 

Well-intended humans try to emulate God’s justice and judgment, but fail all too often.  God’s justice is always to restore, make whole, rehabilitate, reconcile, and make all wrong things right.  Human justice and judgment sometimes try to rehabilitate and reform, but fail all too often.  I thank God for those human attempts to copy God’s justice that do succeed.  God’s justice will always prevail and succeed, will always make all wrong things right.  God’s justice will ultimately prevail in restoring and reconciling everything—including all humanity—to Himself.

The all-to-often prevailing human view that God is a stern, angry, vindictive Judge does not present an authentic biblical picture of what God’s justice is about, but is a human legal perspective that comes from human history, culture, and society.  Biblically, to “bring justice” does not mean to bring punishment, but to bring healing, restoration, rehabilitation, and reconciliationI say it again: in the Bible, God’s justice always means to make all wrong things right!

Unfortunately, one of the first things new believers in Jesus learn about God—often in some sort of church “new believers class” or “discipleship” class—is that God is a stern Judge seated on a throne in heaven.  God is a Judge (not necessarily stern, however; more about that later).  The issue is who is God judging from his throne in heaven, and what He is judging them about.  

Over the course of many years, I’ve asked numerous people—both believers in Jesus and pre-Jesus believers—this question or one similar to it:  “Whenever you picture God on his throne, what do you envision Him doing?”  The vast majority of people usually answer something like this:  “Well, I picture Him sitting on his throne handing out judgment to people . . . punishing people with his terrible judgments . . . pouring out his wrath on people . . . punishing people for their sins . . . sending people to burn in hell . . . causing ‘natural calamities’ such as hurricanes and earthquakes.”

For example, a familiar song we in the United States often sing illustrates my point:  “My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.  He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword . . . “

Yes, most people envision God sitting on his throne wreaking terrible judgments, wrath, and punishment—even evil and deliberately bad things—on people.  Also, our entire multi-billion dollar insurance industry calls dreadful environmental disasters and natural calamities “Acts of God.”  For most people, God is perceived as being stern, tyrannical, judgmental, angry, and often downright “mean.”  God gets blamed for all that is bad and often not praised for all that is good.

In the Bible, the first mention of God as Judge is Genesis 18: 25.  In that reference, the ancient patriarch, Abraham, asked a rhetorical question:  “Shall not the Judge of all humanity judge in a righteous manner?”  The answer to Abraham’s question is, “Yes, God judges in a righteous manner.”  But what does that mean?   For a few minutes, let’s think about God on his throne judging.

The word “throne” occurs 175 times in the Bible.  Those 175 times include not only God’s throne, but also other thrones that human rulers sit upon.  Not once is God’s throne called (or named) a throne of judgment!  On the contrary, God’s throne is called a throne of grace (Hebrews 4: 16), a throne of glory (Jeremiah 14: 21 and Matthew 19: 28), a throne of majesty (Hebrews 8: 1), and a throne of holiness (Psalm 47: 8).  The Bible also says that righteousness and justice are the foundations of God’s throne (Psalm 89: 14 and 97: 2).

“So what?” you ask.  “So what if it’s called a throne of glory, grace, majesty, and holiness, not of judgment?  What difference does that make to anyone . . . to me?”

First, what is a throne?  By definition it is the “seat of a king, judge, or priest.”  In this study, let’s think of it as the seat of God the King.  Keep in mind, however, that God is spirit.  He is not “composed” of material substance as we are.  God does not actually sit on a literal, material throne in some “throne room” of his palace in a far-off heaven.   Those are merely limited, finite human words to describe God sitting somewhere on a literal throne.  

To write or speak of God’s throne as being literal is incorrect; God is everywhere and everywhen in and beyond his creation and is not limited to being in one place at a time as we humans are.  He is not seated on a literal throne somewhere in a far-off heaven.  

As mentioned previously, the meaning of the word “justice” is to “make all wrong things right.”  From his throne of grace, glory, holiness, and majesty (the foundations of which are righteousness and justice) God judges with justice and ultimately makes all wrong things right.  From his throne, God does not wreak terrible judgments, wrath, and punishment on people.  That’s just not true!

I hasten to say, however, that, yes, God does correct, chastise, discipline, purge, and cleanse people by his judgment and justice, but that’s only part of the story.    What does it mean that God does those things to humans?  Discipline is defined as “training that develops self-control and godly character.”   Correction means “punishment to correct faults; to change from wrong to right.”  Cleanse means “to remove contamination and impurities.”  Chastisement is “discipline in order to correct or cure.”  Purge means “to cleanse or rid of impurities or undesirable elements.” Notice each of these definitions has a positive outcome even though there may be some pain or suffering involved in order to reach the desired outcomes.

That brings me to my next point—a point that’s extremely important to both Gerry Beauchemin and me.  This point is foundational to the thinking of both of us.  Let me explain.  For centuries, there has been a prevailing view among millions of believers in Jesus that when a human dies, they immediately go to either heaven or to hell.  That before they die and go to heaven or hell, all of God’s judgments for humans take place in this life.  That when we die, all judgment ceases and we either go to hell to suffer eternal conscious torment or go to heaven and immediately become perfect—no more judgment.  That’s the prevailing view among millions of believers in Jesus.  

That view is erroneous.  It’s not true.  It’s horribly misleading and has hurt numerous believers in Jesus—and far too many pre-believers in Jesus.  It’s a grossly skewed view of God’s character and nature and his ultimate purposes for humankind.  When we die, we do not immediately go to heaven and magically become perfect the instant we walk through heaven’s gates.  No, when we die we continue to be judged, cleansed, purified, purged, and disciplined by God—sometimes by the fires of God that do not destroy or torment but transform us more and more into the clear image of God as best revealed in Jesus.  The image of God means we are visible representations of the invisible God.

God’s transforming justice and judgments continue for many future ages and eons of time after we die—and before time ends, after which time we finally enter Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven in eternity.  

There is another aspect of judgment I want to share with you—a judgment which is not really judgment.  This judgment is referred to in 1 Corinthians 3: 9 – 15 and 2 Corinthians 5: 10.  It is called “the judgment seat of Jesus.”  The word for judgment in the Greek language is “bema.”

Here’s a word picture of the bema judgment.  In ancient Greece and Rome when athletic contests were held, there was an award ceremony at the end of the contests, much like we see in modern Olympics.  The winning athletes would be called to come forward and present themselves to the contest judges who were seated on the “bema seat” to pass out the awards.  The winners would receive various types of awards while the losers would receive nothing; the losers weren’t punished; they simply received no awards.

That’s what the bema judgment of Jesus is.  It is a future time after He returns to earth, when Jesus will reward some believers for what they have done during this mortal life—their “works” on his behalf.  But in this case, while some will receive rewards denoted by “gold, silver, and precious stones,” some will “suffer loss” denoted by “wood, hay, and stubble.”  Those who suffer loss will not be cast into an ever-burning hell; it is simply that their works of wood, hay, and stubble will be burned up.  The people will suffer loss of rewards and awards, but they themselves will not be burned up . . . only their ineffective works.

What are the works “judged” at the bema seat?  They are the differences between works done “in the flesh” and works done “in the Spirit,” a theme found throughout the New Testament.  When gold, silver, and precious stones are subjected to fire, they are merely refined, purified, and made better.  When wood, hay, and stubble are subjected to fire, they are burned up.  2 Timothy 2: 20 refers to the same matter.

Gold, silver, and precious stones symbolize God’s nature and character He is producing in the lives of his children; it is what the Bible elsewhere calls “the fruit of the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5: 22 and 23, as one example).  Wood, hay, and stubble symbolize earthly and purely self-directed works people have attempted to do for God by their own religious efforts.

Another way of putting it is that at the bema seat Jesus believers will “reap what we have sown” (Galatians 6: 7).  The criteria used by Jesus at the bema judgment will be:  were our works done in cooperation with Holy Spirit who lives within us and empowered by Him . . . or, were they done by “fleshly” self-effort?  In other words, what will be the source of the works done and who actually produced the works in our lives:  Spirit or self?

The Book of Revelation puts this matter of the bema judgment this way.  Our labor—our inner works of righteousness—must originate with the Holy Spirit living in our spirits and then produced in our lives by us cooperating with his inner ability and power, not our own.  (John 3: 21)  If that is the case, then we will be “clothed with righteous deeds.”  (Revelation 19: 8)  However, if the “flesh” is the source of our works, then we will produce unfruitful works and be found naked.  (Revelation 3: 17; 16: 15)  You realize of course that those people in these scenarios in Revelation are not literally clothed in righteousness or literally naked.

If our works are prompted and empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives in our spirits, those works will withstand the fire at the bema judgment and the believer will be rewarded.  (1 Corinthians 3: 14 and Revelation 22: 2).  If, however, our works are done with the self-centered, self-absorbed motive of being seen and applauded by others, or to impress God, then that becomes its own reward.  There will be no other rewards for such works.  (Matthew chapters 6 and 7 teach about that matter)  For example, in Matthew 7: 23 where Jesus says to his early followers, “I never knew you,” He is really saying, “I never authorized you to do what you did; you went ahead and did those works without my prior authorization.”  They were disobedient works of the self-motivated flesh.

There is some indication in the New Testament that “crowns” will be awarded at the bema judgment of Jesus.  These are crowns which are symbols of victory.  They are not literal crowns which denote royalty.  There are at least 5 crowns named in the New Testament and likely awarded at the bema judgment of Jesus:

  1. The incorruptible crown—also called the victor’s crown—is awarded for self-control and gaining victory over our fleshly natures.  (1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 25)
  2. The crown of rejoicing is awarded to Jesus believers for fruitful works they have performed in service to others as empowered by Holy Spirit.  (1 Thessalonians 2: 19)
  3. The crown of life is for those who have persevered, endured trials, even faced death—and yet remained faithful to Jesus.  (James 1: 12 and Revelation 2: 10)
  4. The crown of glory is for those who have shepherded and tended Jesus’ church.  (1 Peter 5:
  5. The crown of righteousness is for those who have displayed, exhibited, or radiated Jesus’ shining light out through their lives (2 Timothy 4: 8)

After the long ages and eons of time have come to an end…after we have all finally been purged, cleansed, disciplined, and made whole and obedient children of the Father…when time shall be no more…when we then enter heaven’s gates shining in the bright image of God…then God’s justice will have turned to victory for all humanity as Jesus proclaimed.  We shall all sit down with Jesus at the bountiful marriage feast of the Lamb and enjoy the full presence and union of God and with one another throughout Eternal Realms in God’s bright Kingdom.

I try not to mention my own ministry website too much, but there are 5 relevant teachings on my website I’d like to recommend to you.  My website is leservices.org    The 5 teachings I’d like to recommend to you for additional information about what I’ve taught today are:  1.   “Justice and Judgment,” 2.  “Beyond The Far Shores of Time,” 3.  “Fire,” 4.  “Restoration,” and 5.  “Rewards.”  I’m not trying to push anything on you or indoctrinate you or manipulate you to my way of thinking; these are simply five teachings that amplify and clarify this subject about God’s justice.  I feel they might be helpful to you. 

I pray earnestly that this brief teaching about Gerry Beauchemin’s Anchor Six will give you a large measure of renewed hope for the bright future God has in store for you beyond the far shores of time—for you and your loved ones and friends, and—ultimately—for everyone.  Hope is defined as “confident expectation that God will do what He promises He will do.”  There is hope for all—as the title of this book—Hope For All—we are studying boldly proclaims!

My books may be purchased at billsbooks.org or at amazon.com

Bill Boylan
leservices38@yahoo.com

Hope in Fire

The book Hope For All by my friend Gerry Beauchemin lists 10 Anchors or 10 reasons why God’s love ultimately prevails over everything and everyone.  To me, this book—along with its companion book Hope Beyond Hell—taken together are both the clearest introduction available on the market today about the subject of God’s relentless, prevailing love—about how God is lovingly drawing every human being to Himself because of what Jesus has sacrificially accomplished for each of us.  I always keep copies of both books in my vehicle to give away; over the past few years I’ve given away scores—maybe hundreds—of  copies.  

In Hope For All, Anchor 1 is about how God has given hope to all people through the ages of human history.  I taught about Anchor One last week.  Anchor 2—titled “Hope In Fire”—is essentially about the English word “hell” and the average person’s concept of hell.  My teaching  addresses the issue of whether or not the Bible teaches that the vast majority of humanity will suffer eternal conscious torment in hell while only a relatively small percentage of humanity will spend eternity in Heaven—as is commonly taught by evangelical Protestant believers in Jesus—at least in western Christendom.

In this teaching, I won’t be quoting much from Anchor 2 of Hope For All because I’m presuming you have read it already; if not, I certainly urge you to do so; the book contains the main thrust of this subject—what I will share with you is only supplementary to what the author wrote.  It would be helpful if you have the book available right in front of you as I teach so you can look up what the author wrote about Anchor 2 on pages 27 – 35.

First, let’s define the English word “hell”:  it’s basic origin and history comes from a word used way back in Greek mythology meaning a “Greek goddess who punishes people from Mount Olympus.”   Then the word became part of pagan, early Anglo-Saxon mythology in northern Europe, first surfacing in Old English in about 725 A.D. as “hel” or “helle,” a word meaning “to cover over” as when you bury someone and cover them over with dirt.  The word also has roots in the early German language when it was spelled “haljo,” meaning the “world below.”  [NOTE to self:  briefly discuss: Old English, 5th to 11th centuries; Middle English, 12th to 15 centuries; Modern English, 16th century to present;  influence of early Germanic invasions of England, etc.]  The main point is that the concept comes mainly from mythology; a myth is defined as fictitious stories, views, or beliefs about something.  So…the concept of hell as an English word is fictitious from its beginning.  Through centuries of time the myth has morphed and changed into the modern English word meaning a place where the vast bulk of all humanity will suffer eternal conscious torment in the ever-burning fires of hell.  Both standard English dictionaries and Bible dictionaries define hell pretty much as a place of never-ending fires in which unrepentant, wicked people burn forever after they die.

But that’s the meaning of the English word hell.  In the original languages in which the Bible was written—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—the words they use that are translated into the English word hell simply do not mean a place of eternal conscious torment.  The English word “hell” occurs 54 times in most Bibles—31 in  the Old Testament, 23 in the New Testament (16 times by Jesus).  Not once do the original Hebrew or Greek words mean a place of eternal conscious torment; in fact, they do not even mean a place of punishment or torment at all:  they simply mean burial places for the dead—the graves, the tombs, the oceans and seas, the mausoleums, the columbariums where the bodies (or ashes) of people are placed after they have died.  

How then did the English concept of hell as we presently—and mistakenly—understand it really catch on in history?  There are many reasons, but one major reason that mythical concept caught on is this–   A man named Dante Alighieri was a popular Italian poet who lived from 1262 to 1321 A.D., about 700 years ago.  He wrote a famous book-length poem titled The Inferno that was his fictional account of how he perceived hell to be; he wrote of 9 descending levels of hell (sort of like a downward spiral), each downward level of the spiral being worse than the previous level—the 9th level being the very worst.  I have a copy of the English translation of Dante’s book right here as I’m teaching.  I wish I could show it to you—especially the weird, macabre illustrations in the book.

Interestingly, even after the horrible suffering Dante portrayed in his fictional hell, he ends his poem by people in hell actually being released from hell!  They did not suffer there eternally.  Dante’s classic poem sort of caught on like what we might call a “best seller” today and has influenced how people conceive of hell for hundreds of years even to this present day.  Even if many people today have never heard of Dante or read his famous poem, the way they perceive hell comes from Dante’s poem.  However, remember his poem was a fictional poem and at the end people who had suffered in his 9 levels of hell were released from the inferno.  They did not suffer there forever; most people who read The Infernofocus on the horrible suffering, and neglect noting that at the end people are released from Dante’s fictional hell.

The printing press was invented not long after Dante wrote his classic poem, and many people—especially the common people—were learning to read about that time.  So, when the printing press was invented in 1454, Dante’s poem caught on like wildfire.  Dante’s Inferno is difficult to understand in English; much of what he wrote—even in his original Italian language—is garbled, mysterious, and confusing.  But here’s how one author interpreted, translated, and summarized Dante’s Inferno in plain English.  In level one people are roasted in flames.  At level two people freeze solidly every night, thaw out every morning and then freeze again at night.  Level three is a place of blinding, searing light.  In contrast, level four consists of pitch darkness.  Level five is a place of freezing, icy winds that cut like a knife.  In level six people are pierced over and over by flaming arrows.  In level 7 people are eternally stung by armies of stinging ants.  People are crucified in level 8.  Finally, in level nine, wild beasts gorge themselves on human hearts they rip out of people over and over and over while they are still “alive.”   Does that sound like any hell you’ve ever heard about?  

For that matter, most evangelical believers in Jesus who believe in hell—or the average pre-Jesus believer who might believe in hell—have many differing personal views about hell.  For example, they feel that maybe some people who have never heard about Jesus in this life don’t suffer in fire that’s quite as hot as the fires are for those who heard about Jesus, but rejected Him.  Some others glibly state, “Well, if I go to hell at least my drinking buddies will be there with me.”  Some “soften” their concept of hell by stating, “Hell is really just eternal separation from God, not really fires that burn forever.”  Those who’ve lived since World War II say, “Hitler (and for that matter, their ex-spouse) have special places in hell reserved just for them.”  Years ago, one Bible scholar even taught that our sun was hell and people are already burning forever in the center of the sun.   Some feel that Satan is in hell gleefully poking people with his pitchfork to ensure they suffer even more.  Or, that Satan’s demons dance around the people in hell constantly tormenting them and poking at them while they’re roasting in the flames.  And so it goes: many widely differing views.  Examine yourself:  what do you really, truly, honestly believe about hell?

Back to our definition of the word hell.  The single Hebrew word in the Old Testament  translated into the English word hell is Sheol, meaning only the grave, nothing else.  The 3 Greek words in the New Testament  translated hell are Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus.  Hades means the resting place of the dead, the grave—identical to Sheol.  Gehenna (a Hebrew word translated into Greek) is an actual valley (the Valley of Hinnom) S-SW of the city of Jerusalem that was used for centuries as the city garbage dump where garbage (often including some dead bodies, too) was burned; the garbage dump was kept burning all the time–mostly to deal with the stench of the garbage and so the valley didn’t get too full of smelly garbage.  

Also, during some Old Testament times, fires were often kept burning in the Valley of Hinnom to sacrifice human babies and infants to the false god Molech (also Moloch), the pagan deity of the Ammonites who were sort of distant  relatives of the Israelites.  Today, the valley of Hinnom is a beautiful park-like area, containing some homes, trees, gardens, and orchards; it’s actually quite beautiful, serene, and peaceful.   It’s not still burning forever and ever.

Tartarus, the third word translated as hell, is found in only one place in the Bible—2 Peter 2: 4.  It is imagined to be a place reserved for “bad” angels—another story altogether that I’ll not teach about here.  The word comes from a Greek myth believing it’s a place below Hades where the mythical god Zeus hurled the rebellious Titans.

Hell is decidedly not a place of eternal conscious torment.  I first came to understand this many years ago in a flash of insight one night while driving on a dark country road thinking about nearby brush fires and wildfires; then, after further studying the matter for another 5 years, I taught and wrote a general teaching about the subject of fire in the Bible.  That teaching is titled “Fire” and is very informative; it’s available for you to read on my website:  leservices.org.   It’s a rather lengthy teaching of about 14 pages in which I cover the subject of fire in the Bible pretty thoroughly.  Feel free to download and print it for better reading and for study purposes.  Through the years since then as I have continued to study the subject of hell and fire in general in the Bible I have concluded that hell as a place of eternal conscious torment for multitudes of people is simply not taught in the Bible (as properly translated and understood), is not rational or logical in any way, grossly demeans the loving character of God, and just doesn’t make any sense.  In fact, it’s nonsense!

My mother used to have an expression, “stop pussyfooting around,” meaning quit wavering and being indecisive; make a decision and stick to it.  For many years, God has asked me to teach many general subjects and topics from the Bible.  Only a year or so ago, God asked me not to pussyfoot around, but in addition to other biblical subjects I generally teach, to now begin also to teach more about the illusion and myth of hell and about God’s final restoration, renewal, and reconciliation of all things—including all humanity—to Himself.  That restoration, renewal, and reconciliation of all things to God comes from a Greek word apokatastasis found in Acts chapter 3, verses 19 – 21,  in the New Testament.

In Anchor 2 of Hope For All the author clearly points out on pages 27 – 30 that much teaching in the Bible about fire is metaphorical—a figure of speech used to give special emphasis to something.  For example, “The tongue is set on fire by hell” is a metaphor.    Hundreds of different figures of speech are used throughout the Bible—as in common in all human languages.  The author, Gerry Beauchemin, also makes the point that in most cases throughout the Bible, fire has the purpose of cleansing, refining, purging, purifying, and transforming—not destroying, punishing, devouring, consuming, or tormenting—especially when the Bible mentions the lake of fire and brimstone in the New Testament book of Revelation.  

For example, any dictionary will tell you that “brimstone” in the lake of fire is an ancient word for sulfur, from which was made the antibiotic, sulfa, traditionally used for combating infections before the more widespread use of antibiotics such as penicillin and other modern anti-bacterial medications.  Penicillin was discovered in 1928, sulfa was created from sulfur in 1932, but penicillin did not widely replace sulfa until after WWII when it was found to be a more effective antibacterial medication than sulfa.  Thus, when the Bible says the lake of fire and brimstone, metaphorically it means a lake of healing and cleansing, not a place of eternal conscious torment. 

In addition, when the Bible states in English that the lake of fire burns “forever and forever,” the actual Greek words translated forever and ever in English are Greek words meaning “through the ages of the ages” or “unto the ages of the ages,”  not words meaning  never-ending “forever and ever.”  They are words having to do with ages of time, NOT words having to do with the timelessness of eternity.  For that matter, have you ever asked how there can be “forever”—with an additional “ever” tacked onto the end of “forever”?  How can there be a “forever” followed by an “ever”?  That’s nonsense, too!

Anchor 2 concludes on pages 32 – 35 by stating that fire throughout the Bible is used primarily to transform us—you, me—into the loving character and nature of our heavenly Father. He created the first humans, and ever since then has continued to create all humanity in his image.  To be created in God’s image means we are visible representations of the invisible God.  He will eventually transform all humanity into his clear image as best seen in Jesus.

When teaching, I often ask people to turn to the end of the Bible; invariably, they turn to chapter 22 of the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. The true end of the Bible is not Revelation chapter 22; that is merely the end of the format of the Bible.  The true end of the Bible is 1 Corinthians 15: 24 – 28 (which I have paraphrased):  “The final event (telos in Greek) shall come when Jesus will bring an end to all opposition—all other rulers, authorities, and powers, at which time He will hand over his Kingdom to our Father God.  Jesus won’t let up until the last enemy—death—is subdued and conquered—never again to plague all humanity.  After that, Jesus Himself will step down and place Himself under the Father’s loving, grace-filled authority.  When He does that, then God will BE ALL in ALL—everything to everyone, in full and complete, loving, eternal union with all humanity, a perfect ending to the long journey of humanity through all the ages of time!”  

As a sidebar, thinking of our last enemy, death, during our mortal lives here death always looms as a dreaded specter haunting us throughout our lives, always lurking in our future.  Death always involves losses throughout our lifetimes:  loss of health and wellbeing, loss of loved ones and friends, loss of things we want to hold onto tenaciously, loss of strength, and, finally, loss of our mortal lives.  In vivid contrast, in Jesus’ bright, eternal Kingdom, Jesus has defeated death and then it will always be in our past, never again to haunt us with all its losses as in this life. 

I pray earnestly that this brief teaching will give you a large measure of renewed hope for the bright future God has in store both in this life and the next—for you and your loved ones and friends.  Hope is defined as “confident expectation that God will do what He promises He will do.”   There is hope for all—as the title of this book we are studying proclaims!

My books may be purchased at billsbooks.org or amazon.com

Bill Boylan
leservices38@yahoo.com

Free Will

About 20 years ago I began keeping a file labeled “Human Free Will” in which I jotted down some of my own thoughts as they occurred to me, some thoughts Holy Spirit gave to me, and some thoughts I gleaned from various books and other literature I read. I failed to write down the names of some of those writers and their literature in which I read their thoughts about this subject. 

I’ll begin with this thought:  As commonly understood, I do not possess free will! On the contrary, my will is finite, limited, stubborn and rebellious toward God, self-centered, and self-absorbed. However, during the coming eons of time after Jesus returns, my will shall slowly become completely blended with God’s will, until at long last my will shall finally be untethered, unfettered, and unlimited—totally and truly free!

So, this teaching is a compilation of my own thinking, Holy Spirit’s thinking, and the thinking of unnamed other people over a period of about 20 years. I cannot take full credit for what you will read in this teaching. That’s my confession to you.          

I’ve been very hesitant to write this teaching about so-called human “free will” because I know how sacrosanct this subject is among most people who believe in the Bible. The prevailing “orthodox” view is that the Bible clearly teaches that human beings have been given completely free will by our Creator. To question that view is to question a very widely held, supposedly inviolable view. Well, I’m questioning that view, and here’s why…

First, bear in mind that the two-word term “free will” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible—except for a few places in the context of “free will” financial offerings to God. It’s a two-word term that was contrived and formulated by theologians and Bible students through the centuries of Church history in an attempt to explain theologically the interaction between the sovereign purposes of God for humans—and human responses to those purposes. It’s a human-devised “theological construct”—if you need a theological term for the concept of “free will.” The term is taught only in theological circles, not, for example, in business, economic, psychological, or sociological circles, or the like. It is an entirely human-contrived theological teaching.   

If God is really God—totally and completely sovereign over all creation (every thing and every being)—then He is the only Being who possesses “free will” in the absolute sense of the term. It logically follows, then, that any sentient (meaning self-aware, such as humans) beings within God’s creation can possess free will only in a limited sense of the term. Yes, if humans have free will in any sense, it can be only limited free will.

In one sense, even the sovereign God is limited in the exercise of his will. How can that be? The Bible clearly teaches that God is love—not that God has love or exhibits love or possesses love. No, God is love. His essential character and nature is love. Thus, God is not free to do anything that doesn’t flow from his essential nature of love. That’s the only sense in which God doesn’t have unlimited free will; He can’t do anything that’s not totally loving.

The human soul (mind) is “wired” like a vast switchboard, perhaps not all of the time or even most of the time, to make possible the exercise of free choice, or at least an extraordinarily large range of possible choices—but not an unlimited range. Yes, there is such a thing as a vast range of free choices, but humans do not have absolute, unlimited freedom of choice as only God possesses.

Because of the presence of sin in the fallen human condition, often overpowering instincts (such as fear, along with what we have been taught and how we have grown up as fallen, sinful beings in a certain era, society, and culture) predetermine our responses, choices, decisions, and actions. Humans are never completely free of such “background forces” in our makeup every time we make choices and decisions. 

Here’s an example of such limiting background forces in our lives: Think of the way in which we who live in the 21st century might make a certain choice about a given matter as contrasted with how a lowly serf in feudal Europe 1,000 years ago might make a choice. We are “products” of our culture and thus limited in any choices we might make. Here’s another simple, kind of “hokey,” example: While we may have free will to jump to the moon some 243,000 miles away, we are prevented and limited in doing so by physical limitations of space, gravity, our own limited physical strength, etc. 

We always make choices and decisions based upon a “tempered” version of such limited free will. God’s choices and decisions are never limited in any way because He “sees all and knows all.” We don’t. Thus, the choices all humans make are always limited in some manner; we always “see through a glass darkly,” as the Bible puts it. God has the liberty of always making his choices and decisions based upon full and complete knowledge. We don’t.

We always make our choices and decisions based upon our current states of awareness and present levels of understanding—which are always limited and incomplete at any given moment when we make our choices and decisions. That’s all we can ever do: make our choices and decisions based upon our current states of awareness and present levels of understanding. We always make only the best decisions we can make at any given time.

Let me illustrate in the following manner—in another way—what I’ve been attempting to write… For any human being to make a completely free will choice at any given instant in time, that person would need to have total and complete information about the matter about which the choice or decision needs to be made. Just as God has complete and total information when He makes choices and decisions. Without total and complete information at the time, any human’s choices could not be complete and total free will choices.

At any given instant in time, our five senses are assaulted with about 14,000,000 separate bits of information every second! The “bandwidth of human consciousness” can take in and process only about 18-20 bits of external information per second. In fact, there is a web-shaped group of cells at the base of our brains called “the reticular activating system” which we were created with to “filter” incoming sensory information—otherwise, we would go on “overload” and our brains would be “fried” instantly by those millions of bits of incoming data every second. 

Thus, any free will choice we make at any given moment in time is based, first, upon our very faulty and untrustworthy memory of past events and information we have stored in our conscious and subconscious “memory banks” in terms of images and remembered experiences. Second, such a free will choice is based upon only 18 bits of data available to us at the moment we make our decision, not upon the 14 million bits of data we would need to process in order to make a full and complete choice or decision in that given situation. 

The only factors that assist us in making the “best” choices and decisions in given situations are that if we are Jesus-believers we are continually coming to know the truth more and more as we come to know Jesus progressively more intimately—because He is THE Truth. Knowing Him helps us make better, more informed decisions and choices, but they will always remain limited because we will always remain finite, limitedbeings. Only God is infinite and unlimited, and only God can make genuine “free will” choices and decisions.

Here’s sort of a bottom-line statement about this entire matter: We humans feel we’re completely free to choose; on the contrary we’re probably not nearly as free to choose as we like to convince ourselves—and tell ourselves—we’re free to choose.

God is absolutely sovereign over the affairs of his universe and everything in it—including you! God, as Creator, is “owner” of all things (Psalm 2: 8; Ezekiel 18: 4; Colossians 1: 16; Hebrews 1: 2, for example), and that includes you and me. He has never relinquished his sovereign ownership of all things. Only God has absolute “free” will over the “property” He “owns.” 

Many believe God’s hands are tied; as much as He would like to save us, deliver us and keep all of us, He is unable. But, is our power to destroy His property really greater than His power to preserve or restore it? How “free” and powerful are we? What role did we play in controlling our life experiences that have made us who and what we are? What faulty, limited intricacies of our reasoning processes, which determine our decisions, do we fully control?

Is the Bible correct in stating no one seeks after God, that our natural mind is at odds with Him and not subject to His law? “Indeed it cannot be subject,” said Paul (Romans 3: 11; 8: 7). How can a naturally hostile mind, that cannot subject itself to God, of its own free will subject itself to God? Only God can give us faith and draw us to Himself; we cannot muster up faith and draw ourselves to Him. (Romans 12: 3; John 6: 44 and 12: 32, for example) 

To idolize free will as though it were the crux of our salvation contradicts the Bible and fosters a boastful attitude that it is we who save ourselves! What are we implying when we infer that God is helpless in the face of human free will? It intimates that our salvation depends on human power, not God’s power. Thus God is stripped of His power and glory, leaving the blood of Jesus powerless to save all humanity for whom it was shed.   In fact, it negates the very definition of God as “Almighty,” leaving us with no real God at all. 

The Old Testament story of Joseph in Egypt pictures God powerfully working behind the scenes influencing the wills of people. Who of these people thought their will was not solely their own? Yet God, in His infinite power, was at work accomplishing His purposes through their decisions (Genesis 45: 5). Even while Pharaoh resisted Moses, God was at work fulfilling His purposes. Where was Pharaoh’s “free” will?

What about such Bible references as the following (and many more)?

  • The king’s heart is a stream…in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will (Proverbs 21: 1).
  • The way of a person is not in himself; it is not in people who walk to direct their own steps (Jeremiah 10: 23).
  • He does according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand (Daniel 4: 35).
  • Those…were born…not of human will, but of God (John 1: 12, 13).
  • No one can come to Me unless the Father…draws [drags] him (John 6: 44; 12: 32).
  • Without Me you can do noth­ing
  • You did not choose Me, but I chose you… (John 15: 16).
  • It does not depend on the person who wills or the person who runs but on God who has mercy (Romans 9: 16 )
  • You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” (Romans 9: 19).
  • [God] predestined people…to the purpose of Him who works all… according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1: 11).
  • God works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2: 13).

What are we saying to God in “deifying” the will of humans, making them all-powerful instead of God? 

  • You [God] cannot have what is yours (Romans 11: 36).
  • You cannot find what you have lost (Luke 15: 4).
  • Isaiah was wrong about your hand not being so short it cannot save (Isaiah 59: 1).
  • The Bible exaggerates in saying nothing is too difficult for you (Jeremiah 32: 17).
  • People have robbed the keys of Hades from You (Revelation 1: 18).
  • He who is in the world [Satan] is stronger than You (1 John 4: 4).
  • Your sacrifice for all the people of the world is really only for a few people (1 John 2: 2).
  • Your promises to reconcile all things are just exaggerated hopes (Acts 3: 21).
  • Your hands are tied. You cannot accomplish all your will. (Isaiah 55: 11).
  • All creatures will not really worship you as You “hope” they will. (Revelation 5: 13; Philippians 2: 10-11).

Given that Bible translators are human, they are naturally inclined to conform the text they are translating to their own worldview; it’s just human nature. Since most have believed in the sovereignty of human will, they must weaken the sense of phrases such as “to will” and “to purpose” with “to desire” and “to wish” when referring to God. Thus, God is seen as merely “desiring” things instead of “willing” them.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have [“desires”–NKJV] all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1Timothy 2: 3-6 ).

Tradition has taught that God will not save a person against their will. I agree. However, He has the power to orchestrate whatever circumstances are necessary to cause one’s will to change. No one has complete or perfect knowledge of God. So when a person “rejects” a given concept of God, they are not in truth rejecting the true God, but only their partial or flawed understanding of Him. Only Jesus truly knows Him, and the person to whom He chooses to reveal Him (Matthew 11: 27; Luke 10: 22; John 6: 46). If Jesus has not “revealed” the Father in truth to someone, can that person be held accountable for rejecting what was not really made known?

Once a fuller understanding of God is given each of us in the ages to come (Ephesians 2: 7), all humanity will bow and confess Jesus is Lord, just as Isaiah and Paul prophesied (Isaiah 45: 21-25; Romans 14: 11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3; Philippians 2: 9-11). Who would want to continue in active and persistent rebellion knowing God only wants what is best for them? Knowing the great goodness and love of God, along with the Holy Spirit working in their hearts, these hardened hearts must eventually soften in the face of God’s great love for them. 

It is impossible that an omnipotent God can fail in His purposes, and that some humans would forever resist unconditional love, opting, instead, for suffering and loss. This would be totally irrational. And even if one were that irrational, such resistance would not arise out of a “free” will, but an “enslaved” will, a will in bondage to a mind of limited thinking, understanding, and comprehension.

“Free” will? Have you really thought it through? Are God’s hands really tied by it?   Your belief or disbelief in “free” will must inevitably be determined by your view of God’s sovereign will and His power. The biggest factor overlooked by those who say God will not violate man’s “free” will, is the fact that man does not own himself.   Can man’s puny, limited will “trump” God’s sovereign will? 

Please think carefully about this. Do you really think God would place a higher value on man’s self-destructive “free” will than He does His own loving and gracious will for a person whom He “owns”? Such freedom would in effect be an illusion, for such absolute freedom would be bondage of the worst kind imaginable. Why is it that our tradition will only accept human will as “free” if it leads someone to age-lasting destruction, but cannot accept it as “free” if it leads a person to have God’s own eternal LIFE in them, though God’s LIFE for everyone is God’s will (Philippians 2: 9-11; Romans 14: 11)?

                Do YOU really have unlimited free will that is stronger than God’s will?

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc.

Leservices38@yahoo.com

The Wilderness

Wilderness: n. A dry, hot place; a wild, isolated, barren, place; an obscure or unknown place; a deserted, desolate place.

The word, “wilderness,” appears over 300 times in the Scriptures, making it an important subject therein simply by sheer volume of references. Bible scholars and students have often focused on the “Wilderness experience” of Jesus (Luke 4: 1 – 13), and have often neglected teaching about the similar wilderness experiences of Jesus’ followers. This study will be mostly about our wilderness experiences as followers of Jesus, but we will first look at Jesus’ wilderness experience to sort of set the stage for the remainder of our teaching.

When studying any subject or topic in the Bible, the honest Bible student will first look at all the references in the Bible about that subject before arriving at a conclusion. In addition, all subjects or topics found in the Bible will always have one reference, chapter, book, etc., that serves as a summary of the Bible’s teachings on that particular subject. For example, the chapter that summarizes the subject of “resurrection” is 1 Corinthians 15; the chapter that summarizes the subject of “love” is 1 Corinthians 13.

Jesus’ Wilderness Experience—Our Pattern

I have examined all 300+ references in the Bible about “wilderness” before arriving at the conclusions I will set forth in this study. The main biblical reference summarizing the subject is Luke 4: 1 – 13, Jesus’ wilderness experience. I won’t go into any depth about his experience, but I want to touch upon a few points before moving on to the subject of our wilderness experiences.

First, I want to point out what should be rather obvious: Jesus didn’t end up in the wilderness by accident, or because He was “outside” the will of God for his life, because He had sinned and was being punished, because He had mistakenly wandered into the wrong place. NO! Jesus was in the wilderness because God the Holy Spirit led Him there.

I’m not certain if I can “prove” the point, but it seems to me from the biblical record that we are also led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness experiences of our mortal lives. Yes, we may end up in the wilderness because of sin or wrongdoing, or by prideful rebellion, or by turning our back on God, or for some similar reason. But it seems that we are actually in our wildernesses because God the Holy Spirit leads us there. Oh, He may be orchestrating our wilderness experiences from behind the scenes, so to speak—not leading us directly—but leading us there, nonetheless.

Second, we must understand that—just as Jesus did—we will always encounter Satan in our own wilderness experiences. But, please remember that Satan is merely a limited tool, an instrument, in the overall plans and purposes of God for his children. Satan does not appear by accident in our wilderness experiences; He shows up only because God has “sent” him there so he can be used as an instrument by God to test and try us just as he did Jesus.

And, we must deal with Satan in exactly the same way Jesus did. We combat Satan’s conniving, scheming strategies by quoting to Him ALOUD the Scriptures, the Living, Written Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit! (For a full, detailed expose about Satan and his strategies in our lives, I urge you to read two other teachings on this web site: Satan: From Beginning to End and Soldiers Training Manual).

Third, our wilderness experiences are so that we will be tempted, tested, and tried at the weak points in our character and nature so we can emerge on the other side of the wilderness stronger at those weak points. In His sovereign, overarching plans and purposes for our lives God always allows us to tested, and then broken, at our weakest points—so that afterwards we are strong at the broken places!

Although there’s much more that we can learn from Jesus’ wilderness experience in Luke 4: 1 – 13, those 3 points are all I want us to look at for now.  Obviously in this brief study, we are not going to examine every one of those 300+ references to “wilderness” in the Bible. Instead, we will examine only a few that seem germaine to this study or those encapsulating or summarizing the Bible’s teachings about our experiences in the wilderness.

The very first wilderness experience in the Bible was that of Hagar, Sara’s servant, whom Abraham sent into the wilderness (Genesis 16). We could learn much from that experience alone, but we won’t linger there; I’ll let you study such experiences for yourself.

Let’s move on to the wilderness experiences of the 12 tribes of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness of Arabia for 40 years. What were those 40 years all about? God summarizes their experience in Deuteronomy 8: 2: God Himself led them into that wilderness to humble them and to test them. They weren’t there because they had sinned, or by accident, or because they couldn’t reach their destination by some other route (they could have!, but that’s another story–); no, they spent 40 years in the wilderness because God led them there and kept them there until they were humbled and until they had “passed” their test.

“Remember all the ways God led you during 40 years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would obey Him or not.”                                                                                                                                       –Deuteronomy 8: 2

In the very next chapter, Deuteronomy 9: 3, God says of Himself that He is a consuming fire! Wow, I could write a lot about that aspect of God’s nature in his dealing with his people, but—wait a minute—I’ve already written about that in another teaching on this web site, where I invite you to read all about the subject of fire in the Bible; that teaching is entitled Fire! If you read that teaching, you’ll gain some more insight about how God tests us with fire in the wildernesses of our lives.

How does the Bible define “humble”? In its basic essence, it means to “bow one’s knee voluntarily.” God leads us into and through our wilderness experiences so we will voluntarily “bow our knees” to his absolute sovereignty in our lives. So that we willingly proclaim in our proud, stubborn hearts that He is in all, through all, and at the end of all. So that we will acknowledge that He is in absolute control of our lives. No, “Yes, buts….” He is Lord of all my life, or He is Lord of none of my life! And it often takes a wilderness experience for us to honestly humble ourselves before his absolute sovereignty.

To “test” us means that God puts us through the fires of cleansing and purifying so that the “gold, silver, and precious stones” He is working into our characters—into the very essence of our newly created beings—rises to the surface, and the “wood, hay, and stubble” of our old, pre-Jesus natures is burned up completely. You may read about that process in 1 Corinthians 3. I could teach much more about that process of cleansing and purifying, but my teaching about fire covers that in much more detail.

The ancient Patriarch, Job’s, exclamation in Job 23: 10 – 12 furnishes more insight into God’s testing us by fire. Isaiah 48: 10 speaks to the matter of testing by fire, also.

Four Major Areas of Testing

So…God leads us into our own wilderness experiences to humble us and to test us. My own observations and my own experiences based on the biblical record lead me to believe that the major areas of our lives where God seeks to humble us and test us are areas of disobedience, pride, rebellion, and where we have “hardened our hearts” over some issue in our lives. I’m sure there are other areas of our lives that God deals with in our wildernesses, but those are the 4 major areas I’ve seen over and over in my own life and in the lives of others. God will always “custom tailor” our humbling and testing experiences to areas of our own lives (often ones we attempt to keep hidden from others) needing such humbling and testing. He sees all and knows all; nothing in our lives is ever hidden from God!

Okay, now I want us to take a look at the actual processes in which God leads us into the wilderness, takes us through it, and then takes us out of the wilderness.

“Pay attention! I will do a new thing in you… I will make a road through the wilderness and rivers in the wastelands… I provide waters in the wilderness and rivers in the wastelands, to quench your thirst so you may proclaim my praise. I will allure you into the wilderness, and there I will speak tenderly to your heart. There I will cause you to bear new fruit. The Valley of Achor—the valley of trouble and testing—will turn out to be a Door of Hope for you. [When your testing has been completed] you will sing and rejoice!” – Isaiah 43: 19 – 21, and Hosea 2: 14 & 15, paraphrased and personalized

One of the first reasons God leads us into the wilderness experiences of our lives is so that He can get us aside from the distracting routines and busyness of our lives and speak to us. Of course, God is always speaking to us through the Bible and by means of the Holy Spirit Who lives inside us in our spirits, but He often leads us into the wilderness so He can speak more “loudly” to us, in a sense, during a time when we are more apt to be listening more intently.

You’ve heard the old expression (or something similar) : “He had to hit him with a 2 x 4 to get his attention!” Well, the wilderness experiences of our lives are often “2 x 4” experiences when God needs to really get our attention so we will focus our listening to what He’s attempting to say to us. So, that’s one of the first things that happens when He leads us into the wilderness: He speaks to us.

Next, generally (but not always) God leads us into the wilderness so He can do a new thing in our lives. A new thing that will spring forth in the wilderness itself, often a new thing in our lives that we don’t even consciously know we need to have happen, a hidden area of our lives that needs exposed and brought out to the light so that God’s “laser light” can “burn” it out of us, to be replaced by a new thing. Something new and amazing often stands at the other side of our wilderness experiences…

Let me mention a recent experience I was involved in that might illustrate this point. I was counseling a young man who was an habitual liar, but he either didn’t know that was the case, or he might have felt he was hiding that part of his character. When I prayed in person for him, the Holy Spirit exposed his propensity to lie hidden deep in his character.

The young man confessed it, let it come out into The Light of God, and that LIGHT burned it out of his character just as the rising sun burns off the morning mist!  That young man instantly became a “new creation” in that area of his life; that occurred a number of months ago and he is still “lie-free”!   That was his own wilderness experience to humble him in that regard and burn out that aspect of his character.

Custom-Tailored For You

Each wilderness experience God leads us into is custom-tailored by God for us so we can humble ourselves, learn from the experience, be tested, purged, cleansed, and “broken,” so the Potter can re-form, re-mold, re-shape, and re-store us more and more into the image of Jesus, so, in turn, He becomes more “fully formed” in our new natures.

Isaiah 43: 19 goes on to say (in some versions of the Bible) that God not only leads us into the wilderness, but He also leads us through the experience.  God-led wilderness experiences are always transitional experiences in our lives to take us from and old level of our relationship with God to a new, higher/deeper level of relationship.  If…we allow Him to take us through the wilderness.

At any point in time, we can choose to run away from any wilderness experience and leave incomplete the changes God wants to  work out in our character and nature.  God will not force us to stay in the wilderness experience until it is complete on his terms; at any point, to our own harm and detriment, we can stubbornly and pridefully interrupt the testing, humbling, purifying, cleansing process.

Next in Isaiah 43: 19 note that the end result of our wilderness experience is not only that God does a new thing in us, but He also gives us rivers in the wilderness.  The rivers God creates in our wilderness experiences are those rivers Jesus spoke of in John 7: 37 – 39.  As you emerge from any wilderness  experience experience, look for a new “Pentecostal” experience (however you define that experience based upon your own current state of awareness and level of understanding) with the Holy Spirit to come out of your experience—where rivers of Living Water will begin to flow anew from your innermost being to quench your own thirst and the thirst of others in new, creative, and power-full ways.

The reference in Hosea promises us that even though there will be a Valley of Achor in the wildernesses we find ourselves in, beyond the Valley of Achor there will always be a Door of Hope.  In the Bible, “hope” is defined as “confident expectation of upcoming good based upon the sure and certain promises of God.”Dear readers, that’s the type of hope we can find in our wilderness experiences.  You might want to look up Jeremiah 29: 11 in that regard.  For the Jesus-believer there is always hope—culminating in what the Bible calls The Blessed Hope we have that Jesus will return and begin to set all things right!

Now I want you to turn to Song of Solomon 8: 55.  I want to make this important point: The only way up and out of your wilderness experience is by leaning on your  your beloved!  Of course, Jesus is not only God’s beloved, but He is the One beloved by all Jesus Believers! 

I want to encourage you:  you will get through and up and out of your wilderness experience by trusting God’s absolute sovereignty of leading you into your wilderness, by “bending your knee” to God, by letting his fires test you, purify you, and cleanse you, and by leaning on your Beloved to come up and out of your wilderness!

Comfort Beyond Human Comfort

Another thing God will do in our lives while we are in the wilderness is that He will comfort us. If I understand anything at all about such references as John 14: 6, 16, and 27, the Holy Spirit is The Comforter in a unique manner.  Most of our wilderness experiences will lead us into a new, more vital and personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.  One important characteristic of The Comforter is that He not only comforts us with a comfort He alone can give us (2 Corinthians 1: 3 and 4), but He also empowers us for work and service to God just as He did for Jesus after He emerged from his wilderness experience.

When you emerge from your wilderness experience, you will not only have been comforted in a special way by God, but you will be newly empowered with “Pentecostal Power” (Acts 1: 8) for work, service, witness, and ministry…and to comfort others with the same comfort with which you have been comforted.

Don’t miss out on all God has in store for you in your wilderness experience by stubbornly and pridefully resisting what God wants to do in you, through you, and as you.

God will bring you out of your wilderness experience in his perfect timing.  God is never late.  He is never early.  He is on time every time! Hosea 2: 14 claims that God allures or entices or draws us into our wilderness experiences.  One feeling that most people often have while they are in the wilderness is hopelessness. God always provides a “door of hope” while we are in our wildernesses.

“Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  By His boundless mercy we have been born from above to an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!” (1 Peter 1: 3)  While you are in your wilderness, I want to encourage you:  please do not despair, do not feel isolated, do not feel deserted by God, do not lose hope!”

God Disciplines Those Whom He Loves

Since our relationship with God is by our inner faith-sense rather than with our “outer” five senses and objective reality, do you ever have those occasional moments when you honestly question whether you truly are a child of God?  I do!  Here I am, one mere mortal among 7 billion other mere mortals living on a tiny planet near the edge of an obscure galaxy in this vast, boundless universe and I have the audacity to believe I am a child of the Great God of the Universe.

Well, one of the reasons (among many other reasons) I know I am a child of God is because God tests, purifies, and disciplines those mortal humans who are his children!  (Hebrews 12).  If I—a mere mortal human—am often led by God to the wilderness in order for Him to humble, test, purify, and discipline me, that means I am a well-loved child of God.  He wouldn’t discipline me if He didn’t regard me as his well-loved son.  That’s one way I “know in my knower” that I am child of the Living, Almighty God!  I know that’s a strange way of knowing I am his child, but He wouldn’t bother disciplining me if I weren’t his well-loved child.  Think about it–

Our hope is as eternal as God is, and comes to us because we follow a risen, Living Savior Who leads us into, takes us through, and brings us out of our wilderness experiences.  Lean hard on your Living, Loving, Returning Savior during your wilderness experiences!

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand!”

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc

leservices38@yahoo.com
Revised and Updated January 2019

Rewards

I became a believer in Jesus many years ago. Details of that awesome experience are written in my autobiography,  Him ‘n me. Immediately after I became a believer in Jesus, I began voraciously reading the Bible—and haven’t stopped since, reading it completely through a minimum of once a year—sometimes more. In addition to reading the Bible, I often study certain portions and texts in much more detail.

Naturally, during all those years of reading and studying the Bible. I often came across what it teaches about rewards and awards in the “afterlife” for serving God in this life. For whatever reasons, I seemed to skip over those texts as simply being something I was not interested in. In addition, I would sometimes hear preaching or teaching about such rewards, but they simply weren’t in the forefront of my thinking; I just “spaced them out.” Why, I don’t know. Perhaps I felt it was a matter of harmful pride to think about rewards for serving God. Or, false humility. Only God knows why I felt that way.

The matter of “earning” rewards for serving God just never “registered” with me for many years and remained outside of my thinking and personal “theology.” How about you? Are future rewards from God part of your thinking?

Not long ago I was loaned a book to read entitled, All Things New, by the well-known author, John Eldredge. In his book, Eldredge devotes 8 pages to the biblical subject of rewards within the overall theme of the book about God’s future restoration of all things upon Jesus’ return to earth.

For whatever reasons, Eldredge’s treatment about rewards lodged deep in my soul and spirit and I simply couldn’t stop thinking about such matters. Somehow, during almost all my waking moments, in the back of my mind and deep in my spirit it seemed all I could think about was rewards. After all those years of avoiding thinking about rewards, now it seemed I just couldn’t escape thinking about them. For a number of months I was actually deeply troubled and distraught thinking about rewards; perhaps this was a “God thing,” and maybe it was His timing for me to look into the biblical subjects of rewards and awards. I have now spent a number of months doing so. The rest of this teaching contains my findings.

Even though I think I now have an honest and balanced view about what the Bible teaches concerning rewards, I readily confess I still don’t like to think about them; it’s just something that “grates” on my mind and spirit. I still don’t know why that is, but I will attempt to be fair and balanced about what I teach herein. I’m assuming in his own good time God will somehow make it clear to me why I have such inner resistance to the matter—and, if necessary forgive me for it.

Let’s begin with some simple definitions. Rewards: They are given for successfully and properly carrying out assigned work. Awards: Although not mentioned in the Bible, I am giving their definition here because they are “related” to awards; they are given for going “above and beyond” completing assigned work. Prizes: They are given out based upon one’s attitudes, character, and nature while carrying out assigned work; example: “She received a prize for always being cheerful around her fellow workers.”

Now let’s begin to look at rewards for doing our assigned work and service for God. First, I want to point out that we really cannot work for God or serve Him. All we can do is invite Jesus into our lives and then let Him do his own work in us, through us, as us, and with us. Similarly, we cannot live a Christian life! Only Jesus can live a Christian life. All we can do is cooperate with Jesus in letting Him live his own life in us, through us, as us, and with us. Many years ago, I gave up attempting to live a Christian life as being absolutely futile. I simply let Jesus live his own Life in his “Bill Boylan skin.”

Nevertheless, the Bible clearly teaches Jesus does dispense rewards, awards, and prizes—and crowns!—for serving Him and working in cooperation with Him through the inner power of his Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is Jesus in his “unbodied other form” living inside those who believe in Jesus and have an ongoing relationship with Him.

With the foregoing preliminary information, let’s examine these matters in more detail now. First, we can be certain Jesus will return to earth from Heaven where He is presently enthroned. One of Jesus’ last statements is that He said He will return and bring his rewards with Him (Revelation 22: 12).

Yes, upon his return to earth He will bring with Him all his rewards, prizes, and crowns to dispense in great ceremony before all of Heaven’s inhabitants and the onlooking universe!

                During December of each year I spend extra time reading my Bible, praying, and fasting—asking God to give me some insights into his work “assignments” for me for the upcoming year. Last December, here’s what God said to me for this year:

                “When I return I will dispense my rewards, awards, and prizes. Ever hold in the back of your mind and deep in your spirit that, yes, there are rewards for serving me in this life. You serve Me because you love Me, and I will reward those who lovingly serve Me! At this time you cannot begin to understand what your rewards, awards, and prizes will be, but they will involve your ever-growing relationships with Me and with others. Many of your rewards will be to see the abundant ‘harvest’ of fruit from seeds ‘sown’ into the lives of hundreds of other people through the brief years of your pilgrimage toward your True Home.

                Gold, silver, and precious stones are your works in serving Me at my direction and with my inner empowerment. They are supernaturally created in your life by intense heat and pressure. Wood, hay, and stubble are your futile and wasted works done for Me by natural means, ‘ in the flesh’—to be burned up, of no worth to Me.” [1 Corinthians 3: 10 – 15; Revelation 22: 12; Isaiah 42: 10; Isaiah 62: 11]:

                Rewards are given for carrying out assigned work.

                Awards are given for going “above and beyond” assigned work.

Prizes are given based upon one’s attitudes, character, and nature while carrying out assigned work; example: “She received a prize for always being cheerful around her fellow workers.’”

When I began to study these matters in more detail, I then learned that God also dispenses crowns to certain individuals; we’ll teach about them later in this study.

                Let’s do some basic biblical background studies now. I have long taught that before arriving at a conclusion about any subject in the Bible one must first study all the references about that subject, put all the references together, and only then form conclusions about what the Bible teaches concerning that particular subject. Among other reasons, that type of approach to Bible study guards against using isolated “proof texts” to push a particular point of view on others.

                The word “reward” (and derivatives thereof) occurs 68 times in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. In the New Testament portion of the Bible, the word occurs 38 times—for a total of 106 in the entire Bible. As already mentioned, the word “award” does not occur at all. The word “prize” occurs only 2 times—in the New Testament portion of the Bible. Thus, we can’t build a case from the Bible for awards from God, and we can only make some suppositions about prizes from God.

                As to “crowns,” there are a large number of references throughout the Bible, but most of them are about “earthly” crowns for earthly monarchs. The crowns we will look at later in this study are: 1. Crown of life. 2. Crown of righteousness. 3. Crown of glory. 4. Imperishable crown. 5. People who comprise a “crown” of sorts for the Apostle Paul. 6. Crown of rejoicing.

                Every major subject in the Bible always has one reference or verse that summarizes and encapsulates that subject. For example, the matter of how and when your resurrection from the dead will occur is summarized in an entire chapter in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 15. The subject of giving money to God is summarized in two references that dovetail with one another: Acts 20: 35 and Luke 6: 38. The matter of rewards is encapsulated in Ephesians 6: 7 – 8. Of course, there are usually other references about each subject that support and give additional information about a specific subject.

                We should never serve God specifically to earn rewards, awards, or prizes, but only because we know He loves us (and all humanity!) deeply with eternal love ever flowing from his own innate, basic character and nature of love; God is love!

                However, knowing there are rewards for serving God should cause us to serve Him wholeheartedly, rightly, honorably, and properly, not reluctantly, double-mindedly, poorly, or sloppily. To serve God with less than excellence is simply not an option. We either choose to serve Him with excellence or not at all.

                Rewards should never be foremost in our minds, but, yes, to have them ever in the back of our minds as a secondary motivator is well and good—simply because Jesus Himself spoke and taught much about rewards; we’ll look at some of those biblical references later. On the other hand, I should not ignore, denigrate, or minimize the matter of receiving rewards for serving Jesus. Nor should I ever ask questions such as “What is the ‘size’ or worth of my rewards for doing this or that service”?

                To ask such questions leads to serving God for many wrong reasons. The size, nature, and worth of rewards for specific service is entirely up to the sovereign God, remaining largely unknown to me while I go about serving Him in this life. I must leave the rewards to God! Some service to God has its own rewards in this life; other rewards—entirely unknown to us—must wait until a time and place of God’s own choosing in the life to come. Thus, rewards for their own sake must never be pursued. They should remain ever secondary to our simple, honest motives of serving God because He loves us . . . and we love Him!

                Some of our greatest rewards in this life are to see other people changed and transformed as the result of something we’ve said, done, taught, written, shared, or prayed. Or as a result of simply touching or hugging someone. Are rewards in the Kingdom of God the same or similar as noted above, but in a greater, fuller, broader, deeper sense?

                Are such rewards in the life to come relational rather than tangible such as medals, trophies, olive wreaths, fame, or fortune? In this life, for most people relational—rather than tangible—rewards are far more satisfying. From what I’ve studied so far, it appears to me that rewards in Jesus’ Kingdom are largely relational in the sense of a “harvest” of “seeds” we’ve planted in the lives of others by serving them in this life.

                I might mention at this point that a dear friend of mine died a few months ago; before he died I know that for many years he prayed daily for me and for my service to God. His prayers for me kept me going on many occasions. When I attended his funeral service I was strongly impressed that I should “give” any of my upcoming rewards to my deceased friend simply because of his faithful prayers for me during his lifetime. I don’t know if we can do that sort of thing—or the “mechanics”—of doing so, but I did it. I suppose it remains to be seen upon my death and entrance into Jesus’ Kingdom whether or not that was an acceptable thing for me to do: to give all of my rewards to my friend.

                Let’s consider Jesus’ “inheritance” from God. Hebrews 1: 2 says Jesus has inherited all things from God. Romans 8: 17 says we are “joint heirs” with Jesus. Among other things concerning our rewards, is that we who are believers in Jesus will inherit exactly everything Jesus will inherit from God. I don’t know precisely what that means or exactly what Jesus will inherit, but sharing equally in his inheritance in and of itself will be sufficient reward for me personally, but there is more, much more.

                Now let’s look at rewards in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. I’ll begin with Genesis 15: 1. In that text, God told our spiritual forefather, Abraham, that God Himself is Abraham’s reward. Couple that text with Proverbs 11: 18 and we find that rewards are given for right living (righteousness). Jeremiah 23: 6 says that one of God’s Names by which He reveals Himself to humankind is “JHWH Tsidkenu” (in the Hebrew language) or “The LORD our Righteousness” (in English).

                From these references and others, we find from the Old Testament alone that the way for us to live righteous lives is simply to let “The Righteous One” live his own righteous life out through us. When we “allow” Him to do that, his righteousness is its own reward in our lives: God is our reward. And that is enough. Psalm 58: 11 states simply that “there is a reward for the righteous.” Psalm 19: 11 teaches simply that keeping God’s Word (obeying what God tells us to do) is its own reward; in fact, it’s a “great reward.”

                What does the New Testament teach about rewards? Although not using the word “reward,” Ephesians 6: 6 and 7 (paraphrased) says this: “Don’t work only while being watched, but always work with a good attitude, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving you orders, you are really working for God. Good work will get you good wages [rewards?] from the Master . . . “

                Jesus has much to say about rewards, even “great” rewards in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5: 12) It appears also that rewards granted in Heaven will be given openly, not secretly. Whether or not that involves some sort of public “ceremony,” the Bible doesn’t say, but it is implied in I Corinthians 3: 12 – 14.

                Jesus goes on to teach in the Book of Matthew that simply being a gracious “host” to others will result in rewards to such a host (Matthew 10: 41 and 42). Matthew 16: 27 are Jesus’ own words similar to some of his last words in the Bible that when He returns to earth He will reward people according to their works.

                When we turn to some of the words of Paul the Apostle, we find that it’s important that the work we do be done willingly and freely if we are to obtain rewards for our work (1 Corinthians 9: 17 and 18). Also, we must work “heartily” at whatever it is that God assigns us to do (Colossians 3: 23 and 24). John the Apostle tell us that there is a possibility of “losing” our full reward if we don’t work hard at God’s assigned tasks (2 John 8). And, the writer of the Books of Hebrews tells us there are rewards simply for “seeking” God diligently (Hebrews 11: 6).

                The previous few paragraphs have simply been a brief “safari” through what the New Testament teaches about rewards for service done for God. There is much more I could write and teach, but I think I’ll just let those few references speak for themselves.

                Bottom line? Are there rewards for serving God? Yes! But much depends on how diligently we work at the tasks He assigns us and our prevailing attitudes while we work. As we pointed out earlier, who even thinks about rewards from God anymore?   From reading John Eldredge’s book, I, too, have searched my own relationships with others, and in all the years I’ve been a believer in Jesus, never once have I ever had a conversation with another believer about rewards in his Kingdom after Jesus returns. Not once!

                However, now that I have learned more about such rewards, have written about them, and have discussed them with others, I’m much more aware of how important they are to God—and how important they should be to me as a believer in Jesus and as one who has been serving God for many years.

                Tied in with rewards for serving God, what about the crowns I mentioned earlier? And prizes? First, let’s examine crowns.

                As mentioned earlier, it seems the Bible teaches there are six crowns available to be awarded to believers in Jesus; it’s not clear to me whether each believer will receive one or more crowns—or crowns are awarded only to certain believers for specific service to God. But, let’s examine what the Bible teaches. First, I want to make it clear that if I am awarded any crowns, I fully intend to cast my crown(s) at Jesus’ feet just as the heavenly Elders do who surround God’s throne—giving Jesus all honor and glory (Revelation 4: 10) Also, I am not certain these are literal, tangible crowns such as earthly monarchs wear; it seems they are perhaps something much more and greater than literal crowns, but—again—I’m not certain.

                First, there is a “crown of life.” This crown seems to be awarded to those who have resisted temptation and have proved they love God by overcoming such temptations (James 1: 12).

                Next, there is the “crown of righteousness.” We have already discussed the righteousness of God which He gives to those who believe in Him; He makes them righteous with his own righteousness. Further, this crown seems to be given to those who have come to the end of their life having fought “a good fight, having finished the race, and having kept the faith.” In addition, it seems to be given to those who “have loved [Jesus’ appearing].” (2 Timothy 4: 7 and 8)

                There is also a “crown of glory.” Clearly, this crown is given to “shepherds” (Pastors? Elders”) in Jesus’ Church for being good and faithful shepherds, examples to the “flock.”   (1 Peter 5: 2-4)

                Next, the Bible teaches there is an “imperishable crown” awarded to those who have disciplined themselves to maintain self control and to “run a good race.” (1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27) It doesn’t look like winning the race is necessary, only that one has run a good race.

                Paul the Apostle wrote to believers in Jesus in the city of Philippi that they were his “joy and crown.” (Philippians 4: 1) Not much more is said about this crown, but perhaps it’s an example of how people themselves are actually one’s crown for serving those people.

                Finally, the Bible teaches there is a “crown of rejoicing.” (1 Thessalonians 2: 19) this crown seems to be the same as the one Paul wrote about to the believers in Philippi. It seems to be a “people-crown”—a relational crown—awarded when Jesus returns.

                Let’s examine now the two instances in the Bible where the word “prize” is mentioned: 1 Corinthians 9: 24 and Philippians 3: 14. Remember, God “told” me in December of last year that prizes are given for attitudes while serving God, not necessarily for the service itself.

                In Paul’s letter to the believers in the city of Corinth, it seems the prize is given for self-control while one is “running the race” through life.   In Paul’s letter to the believers in the city of Philippi, it seems to be that one’s attitude of not living in the past, but—instead—looking to the future is necessary for one to receive this prize.

                There you have it: a brief safari through the Bible about rewards, awards, crowns, and prizes awarded to believers when Jesus returns to earth to establish his Kingdom. I can no longer ignore what the Bible teaches about them. As I continue to serve God with all my mind, heart, and strength, if it should turn out that I will receive recognition in the form of rewards, I have already “given” them to my friend who died recently. And if that scenario doesn’t occur for whatever reason, I choose to cast my crowns at the feet of Jesus who alone is worthy to receive them from me.

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc

leservices38@yahoo.com                                                                                           
Revised and Updated January 2019

Restoration

          In Romans 8: 18 in the New Testament portion of the Bible, the writer of the letter to the Romans, Paul, made an outrageous statement: He says that all human sufferings are “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8: 18) The human race has experienced unspeakable amounts of suffering throughout history. What can possibly make that seem like nothing? The Great Restoration of all things. Paul then went on to write, “The entire created universe waits in eager expectation for Jesus-believers to be unveiled [when Jesus returns].” (verse 19) The Great Restoration of all things is being more or less held back, waiting upon the restoration of all humanity.

Two Basic Principles

          Two very basic principles must be understood at the very beginning of this teaching. The first is that when humans restore something (such as restoring an antique car), they always attempt to restore the object to its original condition. In reality, humans often restore something to less than its original condition, but even in a lesser condition they consider it restored, nevertheless.

          The second principle is this: when God restores something, He always restores it to FAR GREATER than its original condition—often up to seven times greater than its original condition! Furthermore, the Bible implies in a few places that God’s restoration may sometimes reach even a hundred times greater than the original.

          This teaching is about God’s restoration of everything He created—including human beings. His universal restoration began in the Garden of Eden immediately after our first ancestors fell into sin, and will end when He freshly restores the entire universe and the earth.

          See Isaiah 65: 17; 66: 22; 2 Peter 3: 13; and Revelation 21: 1 for references about the “new” heaven (universe) and the “new” earth; those are the only four such references in the entire Bible. In the two references in Isaiah, the word “new” is the Hebrew word, “chadash,” meaning “something begun again as in the beginning of a new cycle.” In the two references in Revelation, the word “new” is the Greek word “kainos,” meaning “freshly restored.”

          If you put those meanings together, the words “new heavens” and “new earth” mean a freshly restored universe and earth begun anew by God.

          Again, this teaching will be about how God is in the process of restoring his entire creation, until in the end the entire universe and earth will be “freshly restored” and “begun again.” In a manner of speaking, God will simply hit the cosmic “reset button” and all things will be freshly renovated and restored.

         Let’s begin with our first parents, Adam and Eve—how God is in the process of restoring them as well as all humanity “in Adam,” as the Bible puts it. I have already covered that particular process of restoration in two other teachings on this web site, so I will not write any more about it in this teaching; those other two teachings are: “Let There Be Light” and “Whole In One.”

          We’ll look at some Bible references about restoration in general in a few moments, but for now, I want to simply generalize with the following thoughts adapted from the writings of a Jesus-believing brother named John Eldredge:

What It’ll Be Like

                    “In Jesus’ Kingdom and, later, in the freshly restored universe and earth, things are not stained or broken; everything is as it was meant to be in the beginning—and greater. Think about this for a moment. Aren’t every one of our sorrows on earth the result of things not being as they were meant to be? And so when Jesus returns and establishes his Kingdom, wonderful things will begin to unfold. ‘When He spoke to people about the Kingdom of God, He healed those who needed healing.’ (Luke 9: 11)

          What will happen when we find ourselves in the Kingdom of God? The disabled will jump to their feet and begin dancing. The deaf will go out and purchase stereo equipment. The blind will head to the movies. The dead will not be dead anymore, but very much alive. They’ll show up for dinner. In other words, human brokenness in all its forms will be healed. The Kingdom of God will bring restoration. Life will be restored to what it was meant to be. ‘In the beginning,’ back in Eden, all of creation was pronounced good because all of creation was exactly as God meant for it to be. For it to be ‘good’ again is not for it to be destroyed, but healed, renewed, brought back to its goodness, fully restored.

          The few glimpses we see in the miracles of Jesus were the ‘first-fruits’ of God’s restoration of all things. When He announced the full coming of his Kingdom, Jesus said, ‘Look, I am freshly restoring all things.’ (Revelations 21: 5) He means that everything in the entire created universe that has been so badly broken will be restored—and then some.”

Restoration In Job, The Oldest Book In The Bible

          Back to some of the Bible’s teaching about God’s principles of restoration. I’ve already mentioned how God will restore Adam and Eve. God also taught some principles of restoration during the time of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and Moses. But I want to look at just a few examples of God’s restoration during the times of the kings of Israel and Judah.

           Of course, many of the prophets who lived during the times of the kings proclaimed God’s restoration; we’ll get to some of them later. But I actually want to begin with some of God’s principles of restoration as found in the oldest book of the Bible, the Book of Job.

          I hope you remember the story of Job. How God essentially allowed him to be stripped of everything to test and purify his faith and humble him before Almighty God. I won’t go into details, but the first 41 chapters of Job address that in full and lengthy detail. Instead, I want to focus on the 42nd chapter of Job where God restores Job.

          Chapter 42, verse 10 says this: “and the Lord turned [around] the captivity of Job and restored his fortunes, when he [Job] prayed for his friends; also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Verse 12 goes on to say: “And the Lord blessed the end of Job’s life much more than his early life.”

          Earlier, Job 33: 26b also conveys some very powerful inherent concepts about God restoring righteousness to unrighteous human beings. We read in Isaiah 64: 6 that all human righteousness is just filthy rags; we humans are totally unrighteous. Here in Job we read that God restores all of humanity’s righteousness to them. How does He do that? God himself is the only inherently righteous Being (Jeremiah 23: 6); God the Son—Jesus—is also totally righteous (1 Corinthians 1: 30). God—through Jesus—implants his own righteousness in humans, displacing and replacing their unrighteousness. Just those few sentences are a summary of an entire large body of teaching in the Bible.

          In the time of Moses, Deuteronomy 30, verses 1 – 3 intimate and allude to the same type of restoration if in their future God’s people might depart from Him and then return to Him for his restoration. Yes, such principles of God’s restoration are taught here and there throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

Restoration In Elisha’s Time

           But now let’s turn to one example during the times of Israel’s kings.  In 2 Kings chapter 8, Elisha, one of God’s prophets, predicted that a seven-year famine would come upon the land. In light of the upcoming famine, God—speaking through Elisha—told a widow, whose son Elisha had raised from the dead by God’s power, to go to another land and stay there until the famine ended. She obeyed the prophet and did as he told her to do.

          At the end of the seven-year famine, the woman returned to her homeland and went to the king to appeal to have her original land restored to her. The king had the woman’s claims checked out in the court records and, sure enough, she did have a prior legal claim to the land which had previously been hers. The king decreed not only to restore her land, but for her to receive the income from the land from the previous seven years.

          In Job, we saw that God restored to Job double what he had previously owned. Now in 2 Kings we find that God restored to the woman seven times what she previously possessed. Those are timeless principles of God’s restoration. He often restores from two to seven times what a person had previously lost! He did that in those days, and He is still practicing those principles of restoration in our time. His restoration is always more and greater than the original condition or situation.

Other Restoration In The Bible

          Here’s another example from the time of Israel’s kings along with a parallel example from the New Testament in the life of Jesus.  Turn to 2 Samuel 12: 6. It’s about an incident in the life of King David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba; Nathan the prophet was confronting David about his adultery by telling the fictitious story of a sin committed by another man. David responded to Nathan’s story by exclaiming that that the man Nathan spoke of should restore fourfold what the man had stolen from another person in the story. David then understood that Nathan’s story had actually been about David.

           Okay, what do we have—in principle—now? Two fold restoration. Fourfold restoration. And sevenfold restoration. (see Psalm 79: 12 for an intimation of seven-fold restoration.) Does it get any better in this life? Look at Mark 10: 29 – 31. In some few instances, some people will receive in this life one-hundredfold restoration! In this reference, there are some other details that are part of that degree of restoration, but I’ll let you ponder those for yourself.

Revival = Restoration

          I want to insert at this point in our teaching this thought which you might want to pursue with some study on your own. In the Old Testament, the words “revive” and “restore” are often used synonymously. I guarantee if you look up both those Old Testament words in an exhaustive Bible concordance, you could find yourself studying an entire body of thought about the Bible’s principles of revival and restoration.

           As already indicated, the Bible is replete with references to restoration; please take a look, for example, at Proverbs 6: 31. There is not one, single reference that teaches the entire principle of restoration found in the Bible; you must take references such as this one in Proverbs and put it together with numerous other references on the subject before arriving at the “big picture,” before arriving at an honest conclusi on about the Bible’s overall teaching about this subject.

          Now to just a few examples from the prophetic books of the Old Testament. First, turn to Joel chapter 2. There had been a horrible plague of locusts in the land, stripping away every green and growing plant. The land was completely denuded and devastated. God then prophesied through the prophet Joel (verses 25 and 26):

                    “And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten . . . And you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the Name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you.”

           Look at Isaiah 58: 12 for another example. It speaks of rebuilding waste places, rebuilding foundations, repairing breaches, and restoring homes that people dwell in. It’s a “word picture” of the principle of God’s restoration of our broken, ruined, abandoned lives.

“Flow Chart” For Restoration

       Finally, I encourage you to read the entire short book of Lamentations. It’s about the prophet Jeremiah lamenting the destruction and fall of Jerusalem and pleading with God to rebuild and restore that great city. If you read through the book carefully, you will find a “flow chart” that goes something like this: Human, self-willed sin leads to suffering. Suffering leads to sorrow. Sorrow leads to repentance. Repentance leads to prayer. Prayer leads to hope. Hope leads to faith. And faith leads to restoration. In a general way, you can follow that flow chart throughout the Bible in terms of God’s principles of complete and total restoration of fallen humanity, the earth, and the entire universe.

          Before we proceed, I want to clarify and expand a basic “rule” or principle of Bible study I hinted at above. When studying any one topic or subject in the Bible, it is simply sound, honest scholarship to study all the references on a given subject before arriving at a conclusion about that subject. In other words, be wary of simply taking isolated “proof texts” in order to “prove” something from the Bible. Check out everything the entire Bible has to teach about a subject or topic and then draw your conclusions. That just makes plain good sense.

          For example, if you choose to study for yourself the subject of restoration in the Bible, there are over 60 references to “restore” or “restoration” (and more references to “revive” and “revival”) which you should look up and study—in their context—before you arrive at any conclusion about the subject. That’s what I did when studying this subject before writing about it and sort of summarizing the subject in this teaching.

          In following the rule or principle of Bible study I mentioned above, however, there is often one more factor to take into consideration. Generally (not always) most Bible subjects or topics will have one specific reference—a verse or two, a chapter, etc.—that sort of encapsulates or summarizes that particular subject or topic in the Bible.

          For example, the subject of resurrection in the Bible is pretty well summarized in 1 Corinthians 15; the subject of love is encapsulated in 1 Corinthians 13. And so on . . .

Summary Of the Restoration Process

          Following that principle, for the subject of restoration in the Bible, it is summarized or encapsulated in Acts 3: 18 – 21; Peter was speaking to some of the Jewish people of his day:

                    “God has fulfilled what He foretold and predicted through all the [Old Testament] prophets, that Jesus should suffer, undergo ill treatment, and be afflicted.  So change your mind [repent] and your life’s purposes; turn around and return to God, that your sins may be wiped clean [erased, blotted out, removed]; then wonderful times of restoration [revival and refreshing] will come from the Lord.  And [repent so] that God may send to you Jesus, who was designated and appointed for you long before; yes, I’m speaking about Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time for the complete and final restoration of all [everything in all of creation] that God spoke about by all his prophets from the most ancient times in the memory of humankind.”

          As mentioned at the beginning of this teaching, the final restoration of all things God has ever created—the entire universe, including the earth and every human who has ever lived—will be fully restored to far more and greater than its original condition. Put it this way: whatever we can possibly think or imagine that the restored universe and earth will be like, it will actually be far more than we can ever think or imagine—in our wildest imaginings!

          The earth and universe will be a virginal re-creation, fresh and unspoiled; a universe without blemish, whole and clean and undamaged. It will be ever new, ever changing, ever fresh as it was in it’s first beginning, but this time preserved in innocence for in eternity.

The End Of The Bible

          If I were to ask you to turn to the end of the Bible, you would most likely turn to the 22nd chapter of Revelation. Revelation 22 is the last chapter in the format of the Bible, but it is not the actual end of the Bible in terms of last events. The actual end of the Bible’s teachings about events is in the 15th chapter of First Corinthians. Let’s examine what I mean by that being the true end of the Bible.

          I’m going to paraphrase and “modernize” for you verses 23 – 28:

                    “Jesus was the very first Person to be resurrected from the dead. When He returns, then we will be resurrected into his Kingdom. Some time after that event, there will occur the final consummation when Jesus delivers his Kingdom to God the Father after He has rendered inoperative and abolished every other opposing power in the entire universe.  Jesus will reign in his Kingdom until He puts every enemy—even our worst enemy, death—under his feet and completely abolishes them.  Having done that, then Jesus will turn his Kingdom over to God the Father and completely submit Himself to the Father.  When that takes place, then God will be All in all, everything to everyone, once and for all indwelling everyone and every thing in all creation!”

           Dear reader, that’s the final restoration, when God has completely restored every human ever born and the entire universe and earth, and He becomes All in all! Everything God is doing in your life and mine, both now, and in our resurrected state in his Kingdom is always working toward that end. Our final destiny is to be fully and completely restored through Jesus’ total and finished work of complete and full salvation on our behalf.

Restored Into God’s Image

          Let me be just a little more specific now and think together for a few minutes about God’s restoration of us: you and me.  God’s vision for us . . . God’s dream for us . . . God’s destiny for us . . . God’s plans and purposes for us are to fully restore us into his clear, unblemished image. God created us in his image. We marred his image in us. God is restoring his image in us.

          The fullest—the perfect—image of God is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1: 3; 1 Corinthians 3: 18; 4: 4; Colossians 1: 15). Jesus is the unmarred, unblemished, completely focused, and perfect image of God. I am an imperfect, marred, blemished, fuzzy, unfocused, and blurred image of God.

          What does it mean to be in the image of God? It means that I am a visible representation of the invisible God. Let me emphasize again: Jesus is God’s perfect visible representation; I am God’s imperfect visible representation.  How is God restoring his image in me? I cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He empowers me (from within where He lives in my spirit) to change my mind daily from choosing to live a self-filled life to choosing to live a Jesus-filled life.

          Changing my mind (what the Bible terms “repentance”) day after day, year after year, and on into Jesus’ Kingdom, then afterwards in the eternal state of the freshly restored universe and earth—changes me more and more into the fully restored image of God . . . into a less blurred image of God . . . into a more clearly focused image of God. (Romans 12: 1 and 2; Ephesians 4: 23, etc.)

           Thus, God’s vision and destiny for my life—and for yours—is to fully restore us into his image!  He is taking whatever steps are necessary (many known only to Him) in order to accomplish that vision for us. He is eternally farsighted. I am very often shortsighted, not seeing beyond the finite limitations of my mortal life. Tapping into God’s vision for my life draws me toward my future. It helps me stay focused on my future. My life’s vision—in tandem with God’s—continually helps me shape my future. What my past has been does not necessarily equal what my future is to be—fully restored into the image of God.

          God is love, and unconditionally and eternally loves his entire creation. Everything He does flows out of his eternal love for his entire creation and is filtered through his love. (1 John 4: 8; Jeremiah 31: 3) He is an altogether good God, and everything He does is good. (Psalm 119: 68) Everything—everything!—that happens in our lives is working toward our ultimate, final good. (Genesis 50: 20; Romans 8: 28, and similar references taken together as a whole!)

          Like a magnet irresistibly draws iron filings to itself, God is always and ever . . . inexorably . . . inescapably . . . unerringly . . . drawing every human being and everything else everywhere and everywhen in the entire created universe to Himself through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary—restoring them to a far, far, greater condition than they were in the beginning! (John 6: 44 and 12: 32; Genesis 1: 1)

The Bible begins with “In the beginning God . . . “
The Bible wraps it all up with “In the end God . . . “
(Genesis 1: 1; 1 Corinthians 15: 28)

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc 

leservices38@yahoo.com
Revised and Updated January 2019

Repent

Whew, even the sound of that particular word evokes all sorts of negative images in the minds of many people, doesn’t it? Those negative images are wrong. Honestly! They really are. The concept of repentance has been given some pretty bad and untrue publicity by Hollywood movies, by some fictional novels, by hellfire and brimstone preachers, by some Christian TV personalities, and by some poor teaching about repentance in the Bible.

As just one negative example among many…. The other evening we watched the movie “Evan Almighty.” There’s one scene in the movie where a freshman Congressman, Evan, tells another, long-time Congressman, Mr Long, that he needs to repent. You could just see on Mr Long’s face what he was thinking when Evan told him he needed to repent; it was a totally negative image of repentance that Mr Long had in his mind. To him, the very thought of repenting was humiliating, ugly and distasteful. That’s because his idea of repentance was wrong.

There are two words (and their derivatives) used in the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible which have been translated “repent” or “repentance” in English. The most basic meanings of those Hebrew and Greek words are to change one’s mind, or to expand that definition just a little, it means to set my mind in opposition to a self-filled life and in favor of a Jesus-filled life. That’s it. That’s all repent means—to change one’s mind. Maybe right now you’re thinking that it means a lot more that that . . . but it doesn’t! It simply means to change one’s mind. It does not mean to cry, to moan, to sob and weep at a church altar or in a tent revival meeting, to be extremely sorry for wrongdoing, to promise never to do something again, to promise to turn away from sin. Nope. None of those. It means to change one’s mind. Period!

That’s a real basic definition. Let’s expand it a little to give you just a bit more of a feel for what it means. Here’s an expanded, amplified meaning: Repentance is to live in a continual state of changing mental awareness whereby we see life and reality more and more as God sees them, and think more and more like God thinks. How do we reach such a state of awareness and comprehension?

By continually reading and studying the Bible and letting the Holy Spirit point out what we need to change our minds about. It means that—based upon the Bible’s teachings—we are constantly changing our minds throughout our lifetimes so that we develop godly minds and think more and more like God thinks. There are many references in the New Testament that teach this concept; I’ll let you look up those references for yourself. The life of a Jesus-believer is a continual, lifelong state of repentance, of changing our minds.

Repentance is never just a one-time act a person commits in order to be saved! It’s a lifelong process of changing our minds. Also, it does not mean “doing penance” for a period of time after we repent or continuing to be “penitent” for a period of time after we have repented. The concepts of Penance and Penitence are man-made traditions not found anywhere in the Bible! Oh, after we have repented of a particular sin, transgression, or wrongdoing, there may be a period of remorse or regret; there may be a time when we feel contrite; that’s pretty normal for most people; that’s okay.  

But, nowhere does the Bible teach there should be a volitional period of penance or penitence after we have repented (changed our minds) about something. So, go ahead and feel remorse or regret or contrition if you have sinned and repented of it. But don’t feel there needs to be a time of penance or penitence to make the repentance “stick;” that’s simply not taught anywhere in the Bible.

You may be asking, “Bill, isn’t it almost blasphemy to teach we can think like God thinks?” I’ll let you answer that question for yourself after you read and ponder just a few references from the Bible: Romans 12: 1 and 2; 1 Corinthians 2: 16; 2 Corinthians 10: 5; Ephesians 4: 23 and 24; Philippians 2: 5; and Hebrews 8: 10. Don’t all such references say either directly or by inference that we are to develop the mind of Jesus? How do we develop the mind of Jesus so we think like He thinks? By constantly repenting—constantly changing and renewing our minds based upon what we read and study in the Bible!

There are three basic reasons (actually there are many, many reasons) why we need to develop a lifestyle of repentance. I want to make this point first—before we go any further: God doesn’t change our minds for us, and our minds don’t change by means of some sort of spiritual magic. No! We change our own minds using the inner power of the Holy Spirit God has already placed within us. Once we change our minds, then the Holy Spirit empowers us from within to change our thinking, attitudes, and our behavior—based upon our change of mind.

Here are those three reasons why we need to repent—change our minds. First, God commands us to repent. You can read about that in Acts 17: 30 and 31. Repentance is not optional. Does God have the right to command us to repent? C’mon now. Who’s in charge? Who has the final word? Yes, the Almighty God—the Creator of the entire universe and of you—has the right to command us to repent. It’s not a suggestion. We are commanded to change our minds. And, when God directly commands us to do something, it’s probably smart of us to obey Him. Disobedience can get us into all sorts of negative situations.

Second: Please refer to Romans 2: 4 for this one. We need to practice changing our minds because God is a good God—not a bad God. God is always good and never bad. (also see Psalms 119: 68) One significant flaw in the lives of many Christians is that they really don’t think God is good. If we really believed that God is good—everything about Him, everything He does—our lives would change dramatically. When we begin to see that God is altogether good—not a stern, judgmental, vindictive tyrant—we will just naturally want to change our minds in order to be more like Him. Not to become “goody-goody” or “holier-than-thou,” but just good: loving, upright, honorable, honest, clean, reliable, wholesome, dependable . . .

There are some believers in Jesus and congregations of Jesus-believers that seem to feel a need to constantly remind people they need to keep hearing about the severity and judgment of God—his “badness”—all the time in order to get them to repent. They almost have a mindset about God’s “badness” rather than God’s goodness. Such Jesus-believers seem to constantly dwell on “hell fire and brimstone,” on the horrible judgments of God, on all the bad things that happen to people, on the awful calamities that people experience because they are lost and undone sinners.

The Bible is very clear in Romans 12: 3; it is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance, not his “badness.” Most people know they are sinners without us God-believers constantly reminding them of their sin and its consequences. See John 16: 7 and 8, which makes it quite clear that the Holy Spirit is very capable of convicting everyone of sin all by Himself, without us feeling we need to assist Him in that endeavor!

Third: Read 2 Corinthians 7: 10. It says “Godlike sorrow produces repentance.” You might ask: “Does that mean I have to weep and moan and be sorry for something?” Nope, not necessarily, although sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a good cry and being sorry for something we’ve done wrong; as mentioned above, it’s okay to feel remorse, sorrow, and contrition. That’s not what this reference is saying, however. It’s saying: If you have sorrow which is like God’s, you will change your mind.

What is sorrow like God’s? When is God sorrowful? Well, for starters He’s sorrowful when He sees how we hurt ourselves and are often negative about ourselves. He’s sorrowful when we choose not to live up to our full potential as his sons or daughters. He has sorrow when we hurt and are in pain . . . when our relationships become broken or fragmented . . . when we hurt ourselves and others physically or with the strange, negative mind games we sometimes play with one another . . .

Yes, God sees all those things in our lives—and more—and it causes Him to be sad and sorrowful—not angry. That reference is about how God feels toward us at times. Sometimes we need to see ourselves as God sees us—how most often we are our own worst enemies and cause ourselves so much pain and harm. Sorrow about things we say and do—from God’s viewpoint—causes us to repent. This is not referring to a human type of sorrow which is usually only a mere emotion or feeling and doesn’t result in lasting and meaningful changes in our lives; in contrast with fleeting human sorrow, when we have godly sorrow it does produce meaningful and lasting changes in our behavior.

Those, then, are three main reasons provided in the Bible why we regularly and consistently need to practice the process of changing our minds . . . day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year throughout our entire mortal lives on planet earth.

At this point, your “homework assignment” is to stop where you are and turn to our companion teaching on this web site entitled: “Change Your Mind.”  Honestly, stop what you’re doing and study that teaching before you come back to this one. Please . . .

Okay, that ends our teaching about Repentance—if you’ve read my companion teaching, “Change Your Mind.”  If you haven’t read that teaching, then my teaching—for you—is not complete. If you haven’t read that teaching, you’ve missed out on an entire body of teaching about this subject and you will not have a complete view of what repentance is all about. Please read that teaching before you go any further!

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc

leservices38@yahoo.com
Revised and Updated January 2019

Prayer

God Says: “We Need to Talk.”

          Before I invited Jesus into my life at age eighteen, I had very little understanding of church, religion, the Bible, God . . . .  

          But somehow I knew that since I had  recently invited Jesus to come into and take up permanent residence in my life, I should attend a church service the following Sunday.  No one told me; I just knew it. 

          I chose a little neighborhood church I had spotted while driving around town near the U.S. Air Force base where I was stationed at the time.  I had no clue what “brand” of church it was, only that it was a building with a cross displayed on a steeple. 

          Because I had very little awareness of what people did in churches and didn’t know what to expect that Sunday morning, I decided to slip in quietly, sit in the back, observe what the people were doing . . . and then imitate what they did.  

         They began with some music and singing.  Next, the leader up front said, “Let spray.” I had heard that some brands of churches sprinkled people with “holy water,” so I wondered if perhaps at this church they sprayed people with holy water.

          I noticed everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes.  I assumed they did so because they didn’t want the holy water to get in their eyes.  I felt that spraying people was a little strange, but up until that time I felt most of what I mistakenly believed happened in churches was strange.

          Then the leader began speaking to someone (I couldn’t see who it was, but felt it might have been someone named “Art” because he kept saying “thou Art . . .”).  Also, he was using strange words such as “thee,” “thou,” “whithersoever,” “thy,” “whosoever,” and “thine” while talking to the person named Art I couldn’t see.

          It took me a few minutes to determine what was happening.  He was praying!  He hadn’t said, “Let spray”; he had said, “Let’s pray.” Now I knew what we were doing, but I still couldn’t understand why he was using such strange words; maybe it was some sort of “prayer code” people used when praying to God.

           That was my first meaningful introduction to prayer many years ago.

I Don’t Know How To Pray

          I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to you, but like Paul, one of the writers of the Bible, I admit to you that often I don’t know how or what to pray!  (Romans 8: 26)  I’ve been a born2 (born again) believer in Jesus for many years, but I still have difficulty praying effectively.  Honestly.

          That’s why I’m writing this teaching—to continually remind myself how to pray more effectively . . . and possibly help you, too, if you have difficulty praying effectively.

          Prayer is never a one-way activity!  It is always two-way . . . or should be.  Prayer is visiting with God.  It is having a dialogue with God, not a monologue.  It is God and a person conversing with one another.  It is listening as well as speaking;  Let’s learn to practice the discipline of “listening prayer!”

           God is pleased to dialogue with us.  He longs to share Himself with us.  He yearns for a deep, abiding relationship with us; such a relationship comes mostly through prayer.   He loves us dearly and deeply and wants to have a loving relationship with every human being.  He wants to share with us both his daily and future plans and purposes for our lives . . . if we will listen.

           Consider some brief thoughts.  From the Bible, we know God—Who inhabits eternity—is allwhere allwhen; from the “center” of eternity everything is absolutely simultaneous to God.  Being God, He is completely focused on every human at the same time.  Each of us is always in the precise center of his vision and the sharp focus of his thoughts.  He doesn’t go back in time or forward in time.  He is always in everyone’s present—in the “Now” of our lives . . . concurrently.  That’s why He is referred to in the Bible as “I am,” not “I was,” nor “I will be.”

Mistaken Ideas

           Many people mistakenly believe God is always extremely busy with quadrillions of tasks and has to “slow down” and focus in order to make time to hear the prayers of any individual.  People erroneously believe God must scramble around and somehow find time in his busy schedule to hear our prayers.

           Or, many mistakenly believe something like this: “God is far away somewhere beyond the universe and can’t bother coming near this tiny planet to listen to my sad stories.”

          Such erroneous ideas are not true; at any given moment in time God can precisely focus on everyone, everywhere, and everywhen.  He can completely devote his time to any individual while at the same time focusing his loving and full attention on everyone else . . . simultaneously.

           Many times I have heard people mistakenly make statements such as these:  “I don’t pray because God is too busy with all his other tasks.  God doesn’t have time to listen to my poorly worded, feeble prayers; other matters are far more important to Him.   “After all, He operates the entire universe, causing Him always to be busy  with far more important matters than to listen to my prayers.  I don’t want to bother God; He has better things to do than take time to listen to me.”

           I hope those few thoughts have helped you understand God is always fully attentive and carefully listening to you and to every other human on planet earth “24/7,” 365 days a year.  No one is “bothering” God when they communicate with Him by means of prayer.  Some ask, “Does God really communicate with us?”

God Speaks

          On four occasions in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel in the Bible, Jesus stated that those of us who are his “sheep” (his followers) hear his voice.  God does, indeed, speak to us; He is speaking to us all the time, far more clearly and distinctly than we imagine.   We “hear” his voice within the spirit component of our three-part beings (body, soul, spirit) by means of our inner “faith-sense.”  He generally speaks to us in a quiet, soft whisper within our spirits.

           The question is not, “Does God speak to me?” Rather, the real question should be, “When is God not speaking to me?” Do not be surprised at the Good Shepherd’s tender voice constantly whispering into your thoughts . . . from within you where He abides permanently in your spirit.  Keep in mind, however, it’s difficult for us to hear God if we’re doing all the talking!

           But God is not limited to communicating with us only in a quiet, soft whisper; He can communicate with us in any manner He chooses.

However, He generally speaks to us from within in five distinct and clear ways:

  1. From the Bible, God’s written, LIFEgiving, transforming Word for all humanity.
  2. By inserting his thoughts and creative ideas into our thoughts. 
  3. By means of visions, images, pictures, and dreams “broadcast” to the “viewing screen” of our spirits.
  4. By means of strong, inner impressions and urgings.
  5. By means of speaking in tongues with interpretation.

           Again, I don’t want to limit God speaking to us in only those four ways; He cannot be limited to our finite comprehension; we cannot “put Him in a box” and limit Him in any manner, but He does Self-limit his means of communication in order for us mortal humans to understand Him.

           A prime biblical example of listening to God is found in the life of Samuel, an Old Testament prophet, when he was a boy.  In the night, Samuel heard a voice calling his name.  Thinking it was the priest calling him, Samuel ran to the priest’s bedroom to ask what the priest wanted.  The priest informed Samuel that it was God who had called Samuel’s name.  When Samuel heard the voice next time, he responded:  “Speak, God, for I’m listening.” That was the beginning of a long lifetime relationship with God in which Samuel heard God speak to him many times.  The simple lesson to be learned from Samuel’s experience is:  God speaks.  Are we listening?

Beginnings of Prayer

          Archaeological and other historical research informs us that since time immemorial, humans have prayed either to the one, invisible, true and living God as revealed in the Bible . . . or to human-devised, visible  idols and gods that can’t see, hear, speak, or move.

          Prayer to someone or something perceived as greater than ourselves seems to be almost instinctual among the vast majority of humans.  Even those who claim to be atheists refer (and sometimes pray) to a God they claim they don’t believe in.

          From the Bible we learn, of course, that our first human ancestors—Adam and Eve—enjoyed unbroken fellowship and communication with God until that relationship was broken and communication diminished by the entrance of self-centered, self-absorbed sin into the human condition.

           After the “fall” of Adam and Eve, prayer seems to have declined somewhat until their grandson, Enosh, was born.  At that time (for some unknown reason not stated in the Bible), humanity once again began “praying and worshiping in the name of GOD.”  (Genesis 4: 26)

With rare exception, all humanity has prayed in some fashion ever since that time—to God or to gods and idols of their own making.

What Is Prayer!

           In its distilled essence, the basic definition and purpose of prayer is to maintain open and free, two-way, ongoing conversations with God, bringing us more into alignment with his plans and purposes for our lives and his plans and purposes in the lives of others for whom we pray . . . and enhancing, enriching, and building our growing, eternal relationship with Him.

           Effective prayer (James 5: 16) is a highly skilled, focused, transcendent endeavor involving much learning and practice by trial-and-error.   Effective prayer doesn’t come easily.  There’s a price to pay—a price of much time and much effort . . . and more time and more effort . . . and more time and more effort.

           In my own limited experience, I have never met an effective pray-er who told me it’s easy to pray or that prayer comes naturally.  The only Person I know to Whom prayer likely came naturally (but not necessarily easily) was Jesus while He was here on earth in his full humanity.

           Prayer can bring us great peace, joy, and satisfaction, but it does take our commitment, persistence, dedication, time, and hard work.

Prayer transcends all finite limitations of time and space, always winging its way to God’s throne of grace in eternity; Note clearly: God’s throne is a throne of grace (the foundations of which are righteousness and justice), not a throne of judgment!  By the way, in the Bible the word “justice” always means “to make all things right.”

           In responding to prayer God has absolutely no bounds and no limits in scope, magnitude, place, and direction.  Nothing—absolutely nothing!—is beyond the reach of our prayers . . . and God’s responses to our prayers.  He always responds out of love and grace for the ultimate good of all humanity.

           Since all God’s judgment against humanity’s sin was poured out and completely dissipated on Jesus on the cross, God never responds in judgment to our prayers.   We must never fear God’s judgment.  If we humans must fear anything, it should be ourselves.  We humans are our own worst enemies—not God, not Satan (a fully defeated and disarmed foe) . . . but ourselves.

          “Stop fretting and worrying; worry is simply a misuse of your creative imagination.  Instead of worrying, pray!  Let praise and thanksgiving shape your worries into prayers.  Let God know your requests—make them clear and definite.  Then you will have God’s unspeakable peace, transcending all human understanding.  That peace will surround and guard your hearts and minds through Jesus.”  —   Philippians 4: 7 and 8, modified

To Think About:

“I don’t beat around the bush with God.  I am specific when talking with Him.  God is not impressed by a flurry of fanciful words.  When praying, I’m talking with a real Person who loves me and knows me intimately.”

           “Don’t become too impressed with yourself.  One wrapped up in oneself makes a very small bundle.  When scientists finally discover the center of the universe, you may be very disappointed you are not it!”

God Speaks.  God Hears.

          Humans cannot “construct” any barriers that keep out, limit, or “block” prayer . . . except sin in our lives.  And sin does not block our prayers; rather, sin in our lives causes us not to want to pray, and to attempt to avoid God.

           No jails, no prisons, no dungeons, no forgotten places, no hospitals, no distance can obstruct God responding to prayer.  God is always “on call,” always listening, always ready to respond . . . according to his will.   He is never “on break” or away on vacation.  God always responds to prayer in his own way according to his own plans and purposes, but his responses are always far more and greater than we can ask, think, or imagine.

           Prayer is a path where there is no path.  With prayer, we can enter situations where there is no other way in—where every other way into a situation is blocked.  Prayer is the original “wireless connection,” faster than the speed of thought.

           Prayer is the means we use to reach Him Who is larger than and Beyond-The-Universe, yet “small” enough to live within our spirits in his unbodied form of the Holy Spirit.

            God chooses to shape and transform the lives of other people—in part—by our prayers.  Our prayers are deathless.  Every prayer we ever pray in and through Jesus will be answered according to God’s eternal plans and purposes.  Our prayers far “outlive” us, well beyond this all-too-brief mortal life.

           For example, who knows what prayers prayed in Jesus’ Name by those who lived long ago are being answered even now.  Some of our prayers are remembered in Heaven long after we’ve prayed them.  When our prayers in Jesus’ Name reach God’s throne room, they linger until He answers them.   Jesus’ prayer 2,000 years ago asking the Father that all his followers be one (John 17) has not yet been fully answered; what believer in God can honestly doubt that it will be fully answered at some future time?

           It doesn’t matter that other people don’t know we are praying for them.  God always knows . . . and hears . . . and responds according to his plans and purposes for those for whom we pray . . . here, there, everywhere, everywhen, pastward, futureward.

Postures and Positions For Prayer

          There are no standard or normal positions, forms, or postures necessary or required for effective prayer:  Sitting.  Standing.  Eyes open.  Eyes closed.  Kneeling.  Hands folded.  Hands open.  Arms outstretched.  Gazing upward.  Looking down.  Peering around.  Walking.  Running. Prostrate. Using written prayers.  Praying spontaneously and extemporaneously.  Lengthy prayers or short prayers.  All—and more—are acceptable, and neither hinder nor enhance effective prayer.

           Prayer can be engaged in by one who is extremely poor, by one in a condition of vast wealth . . . and by anyone in between those extremes.

           In most instances, when someone requests, “Let us pray,” many people bow their heads, close their eyes, fold their hands, and kneel in prayer.  Such behavior is usually traditional and learned, but it is not necessary when praying . . . nor is it a biblical mandate to pray using such postures and positions.  All too often the emphasis on using certain postures and positions to engage in prayer distract one from praying because of the felt need to “perform” prayer properly.  It can be very distracting focusing on whether or not one is using “correct” postures, positions, and words.

God Hears And Speaks All Languages

          Please, please understand God does not restrict Himself to hearing prayer only in 400-year-old King James English with its archaic, outmoded, and outdated wordings and phrases.  He hears everyone in their native language and in the innumerable “tongues of angels” all humans have at their disposal for worship, praise, and prayer.  God hears and speaks in over 7,000 human languages and in countless languages of heaven, including those spoken by angels, which we humans may use, too, during our mortal lives.

           All 7,000 human languages have been corrupted and polluted by foul words, curse words, “dirty” words, and swear words.  Anyone can pray in one’s native language, in any other learned human language, and in “tongues,” one of heaven’s many languages.  Notable about tongues is they are languages that have not been corrupted, dirtied, fouled, or polluted, thus making them “cleaner” languages in which to pray.  God hears and understands them all . . . human or heavenly.

Jesus Believers And Prayer

          Concerning believers in Jesus who pray, ponder this.  Before Jesus was here as the God-man 2,000 years ago, there was no entity called the church.  While He was here, He promised He would begin to build his church when He left.  Were it not for his church—his body on earth—the fact that Jesus was here would have faded into near nothingness.  Now, 2,000 years later, He would have been simply another, almost forgotten religious leader of the past.

           Jesus birthed his church in an atmosphere of prayer.  (Acts 1: 13 and 14).  And his church has continued to pray for 2,000+ years.  The church on earth Jesus is growing and building with “living building stones” (1 Peter 2: 5) has continued to do and teach what Jesus first began to do and teach . . . including prayer.  The church was launched with prayer; it continues to grow and thrive by means of God’s response to its prayer.

           Of course, any student of the Bible knows about the occasion when Jesus’ disciples came to Him asking Him to teach them how to pray.  He responded by teaching them the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” (actually the “disciples’ prayer”).   That prayer is only a model prayer, only a prayer outline, never intended to be used as a rote, memorized prayer.  By using that prayer as an outline or “guide” for prayer, any believer in Jesus can readily and easily pray an hour or more on any occasion!  (Matthew 26: 38 – 41)

           Note, too, God is not necessarily moved by those who pray repetitious prayers over and over—what the Bible terms “vain (empty or meaningless) repetitions.”  Such repetitious prayer in and of itself is not necessarily meaningless, but it certainly can be—if the emphasis of repetitious prayer is on the “correct” wording rather than upon the meaning of what one is repeating.

How To Intercede

          A major task of the Holy Spirit living within our spirits is that He intercedes for us.  (Romans 8: 26 and 27)  In addition, while the Holy Spirit is interceding for us here on earth through other people, the Bible teaches that Jesus is also in heaven interceding for us. (Romans 8: 34 and Hebrews 7: 25)   What a power-full combination to have both of them praying for us! I don’t understand that, but I believe it.  We are invited to stride boldly into God’s throne room by means of prayer. (Hebrews 4: 16)  God’s throne is a magnificent throne of grace, the foundations of which are righteousness and justice; it is NOT a throne from which He dispenses judgment!

           What does it mean that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding for us? On the viewing screen of my spirit in my creative imagination, I envision it in this manner.

          Jesus is in God’s throne room at God’s right hand interceding for us. That takes place in heavenMeanwhile, here on earth the Holy Spirit is simultaneously interceding for each of us . . . through one another.   He self-limits his prayer activity here on earth to praying through those who “let” Him pray in and through them.  How does the Holy Spirit “handle” all those people—millions of them, perhaps billions—all praying at once?  The Holy Spirit is God; He is the quintessential, ultimate “Multi-Tasker,” totally focused on—and vitally involved in—every prayer being prayed everywhere and everywhen through Jesus.

           Intercession by means of prayer is best defined as requisitioning God’s unlimited,  inexhaustible, abundant resources to meet the overwhelming needs of people for whom we pray.  Another way of viewing intercession is a principle found in 1 Kings 10: 13 where we ask God the King (after meeting our needs) to give even more from his royal generosity and bounty! Please understand that intercessory prayer is both the most and best we can do for others, not the least (as people often mistakenly say with such statements as:  “Well, the least I can do is pray for . . .”).

           One fascinating thought about intercession is that you and I can join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in interceding for the needs of other people.  That means we are joining them in perfect intercession.   True, the fact that we are imperfect humans means we don’t intercede perfectly, but at least “tapping into” and joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in their perfect intercession means that our imperfect intercession for others is in many respects more “effective” than it would be by not joining them.

           In regard to intercession, recently I was privileged to see this vision: “I had just begun my daily, early morning time of prayer and intercession.  When doing so, I often picture myself and the people I pray for that day striding up to massive, golden double doors opening into God’s throne room.

           “Huge angelic beings often open the doors for us so that I and the group of people with me can stride right on through them into the room.  As we humbly bowed in front of God, I swept my arm around behind me to indicate to God the people I had brought with me for whom I would be interceding.

           “As I did, Jesus simply glanced over to his right; I followed his glance and noticed he was glancing at a door labeled ‘Supply Room.’  Another angelic being opened that door so I could peer inside.

           “It was a huge room, appearing much like a Sam’s Club with rows and rows of shelves that reached higher than I could see and stretched into the distance farther than the eye could see.  It seemed to be an infinite storehouse full of unlimited items.  I knew inside me that as I prayed for various people that morning, other angelic beings would come from that supply room to give people what I was praying about for them.” 

           For a number of years I have been joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in interceding for others. One thing joining them does for me is that I don’t feel quite so “alone” while praying for others.  It places me in a position where I am “agreeing” with them as the three of us are praying in harmony and unity about matters for which we pray together. It’s difficult for me to explain, but now I experience much more effectiveness in interceding for others by joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in their limitless, boundless intercession transcending all time and space.

           I do not enter God’s throne room presumptuously, arrogantly, or proudly. In fact, when I join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in intercession, in my creative imagination I picture myself  striding boldly and confidently—yet humbly—into God’s throne room (again, it is a throne of grace!), bringing with me those for whom I am interceding.  I see myself and those for whom I pray humbly bowing our knees to the King before whose throne we have approached, receiving from Him only that which is good and in our best interests . . . from God’s viewpoint.  I encourage you, too, to take this approach to joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in intercession. I think you will find you, too, will be able to intercede much more effectively for others.

Prayer Lists or Guides

          Like many Jesus believers through the centuries, I, too, often use a written prayer list or guide in praying for others.  But while praying using my prayer list, I attempt to stay “open” to Jesus and the Holy Spirit inviting me to pray for people and events not written on my prayer list.

By joining them in intercession from their universal, eternal “prayer list”—subsuming my own list into theirs’—I am able to pray much more effectively for others.

           Here are two simple illustrations of how this “works.”  I might be praying for missions using my own prayer list when I begin to “see” on the viewing screen of my spirit a family in—let’s say Yunnan Province, China—who are being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus; that’s the Holy Spirit asking me to join Him in praying for that family . . . even though I don’t know their names or specific details (unless He chooses to disclose such details to me).

           Or, perhaps I’m praying for someone on my prayer list when the Holy Spirit “tells” me that person is in some sort of imminent danger.  I immediately pray for God’s protection for that person. Those are only two simple examples of how this type of prayer works.  I could cite innumerable other examples, but I hope those two give you a “feel” for what it’s like to join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in interceding for others.  It’s an amazing, creative, effective, and more power-full way to pray and intercede for others—with much better “results.” In my creative imagination, I “see” the three of us holding hands in a majestic prayer circle while we unitedly and harmoniously agree in praying together to God the Father for others.

           Again, I admit to you that for many years I simply was not an effective pray-er until I learned this method of interceding and praying for others.  For many years, prayer and intercession were actually pretty much of a chore I felt I was required to engage in simply because I was a Jesus believer. Prayer was not meaningful, exciting, or fulfilling . . . nor effective.  But now, well, I can’t even begin to describe to you how exciting it is to join Jesus and the Holy Spirit as we three pray and intercede together for the needs of other people.

           Study those references again in Romans 8 and Hebrews 4 and 7 in their contexts; ask the Holy Spirit to make them “come alive” for you as you begin to join Him and Jesus—and me!—in praying and interceding for other people in an eternal “prayer circle” unlimited by time and space.

Pray Always

          There are numerous biblical references admonishing believers in Jesus to pray.  Ephesians 6: 18 encapsulates and summarizes those references: “Pray always.” The question is never:  “When should I pray?” Instead, the question should be:  “When is there any time or situation when I should not pray?”

          God loves every person very deeply with eternal, ever-giving love, and yearns for us to maintain an abiding, eternal relationship with Him.  Such a relationship grows and is strengthened and deepened as we spend time together with God in praying regularly and consistently.

           Here are some closing thoughts about prayer . . . perhaps the most important words I’ve written for this teaching.  For centuries, many people who believe the Bible have used the very words of the Bible to pray.  What better way to pray than to use God’s own words!  For example, here’s what I’m praying for you—using words from the Bible—this very minute just before I press the “Send” key:

          “Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose grace-filled words can change you into what He wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need within your local community of believers.”                                                                      –Dr Luke in Acts 20: 32

          “I ask God to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength.  And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on his love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Jesus’ love.  Reach out wide with both arms outspread and experience the breadth!  See its unending length!  Plumb the depths!  Rise to the heights!  Live full lives.  Live in the fullness of God!”  -the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3

           “And now to Him who alone can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all Time.  Yes!  Amen!”   — Jude 24 and 25

To Think About: 

           “Hallelujah!  The Master reigns—our God, the Sovereign, the Strong One.  Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give Him the glory! –The Book of Revelation

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc

leservices38@yahoo.com
Revised and Updated January 2019