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Hell-Fire: A Twisted Truth Untangled

22 Oct

By Joe Crews

 

One of the most theologically confused subjects in the Bible is that of hell. It has been fumbled by the clergy and distorted by the laity until the word has become best known as a common vulgarism and expletive. Everywhere people are asking the same questions: What and where is hell? What is the fate of the wicked? Will a God of love torture people throughout eternity? Will the fire of hell ever burn the wickedness out of sinners?
These are questions which deserve sound Bible answers, and the controversy surrounding the subject should not discour- age us from exposing all the truth as it is in Christ. First of all, we need to understand that there is a heaven to win and a hell to shun. Jesus taught that every soul will be either saved or lost. There is no neutral place, and there are no second prizes. “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, And them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Matthew 13:41-43.
In view of these two ultimate destinies for all who have ever been born, how earnest we should be in seeking to find the right way. Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The only absolute safety for anyone is to take exactly what Jesus taught about hell. His doctrine is the only one which is wholly dependable and true. He said some will be cast into the fire, and some will shine forth in the kingdom.
Strangely enough, Christ has been charged by many religious leaders with teaching a falsehood on this subject. They have accused Him of teaching that an immortal soul flies away from the body at death to either heaven or hell. This is not what Jesus taught at all. He never gave the least intimation that some disembodied soul separates from the body at the time of death. And surely He did not ever give the impression that the wicked suffer an eternal torment as soon as they die.
Now let’s get a sample of what Jesus really taught on the subject of hell. “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell …” Mark 9:43. These words of the Master prove beyond any shadow of doubt that it is the body which goes into the fire, and not some mystical soul. In Matthew 5:30 He spoke of the “whole body” being cast into hell. That means hands, feet, eyes, and all the other members of the physical body.
In contrast to the doctrine of Christ, modern pulpits resound with dramatic portrayals of imaginary souls leaving the body at death-souls that have neither substance nor shape. This view, popular though it may be, is totally contrary to what Jesus taught. Mark it well, for the great Master Teacher spelled it out repeatedly in the gospels-those who are cast into the fire of hell will go there with hands, feet, eyes, and all the physical features of the body. They will not go in some ethereal state of formless spirit or soul.
Now we are prepared to examine four great facts from the Bible which will illuminate most of the questions which have been asked about the fate of the wicked.
Punishment After the Judgment
The first important fact about hell is this: The unsaved do not go to any place of punishment as soon as they die, but are reserved in the grave until the day of judgment to be punished. Christ explicitly taught this truth in the well-known parable of the wheat and the tares. After the householder had sown the wheat in the field, his servant came to report that tares were growing among the grain. His question was whether he should pull up the weeds while they were still very small. The householder’s answer was, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:29, 30.
Now follow the words of Christ as He explains the meaning of the parable: “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:37-42.
No one can simplify the parable by enlarging on what Jesus said. It is so clear that a child can understand it. He said the tares represented the wicked people, and that they would be cast into the fire “at the end of the world.” It was in the harvest that the separation would take place, and He plainly stated, “The harvest is the end of the world.” How can anyone misconstrue these words of Christ? The whole idea of the wicked going into the fire at the time of death contradicts our Lord’s specific teaching that they would be cast into the fire at the end of the world.
Since the judgment also takes place after Christ comes we can see how impossible it would be for anyone to be punished before that time. Justice demands that a person be brought into judgment before being punished. Peter declared, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” 2 Peter 2:9. That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? Suppose a man should be brought into the court accused of stealing, and the judge said, “Put him away for ten years; then we’ll try his case.” Listen, even a human judge would not be that unfair! He would be impeached for such an action. Surely God would not be guilty of such a farce.
If we let the Bible mean what it says, there can be no doubt on this point. The wicked are “reserved” until when? Until the “day of judgment.” To be what? “To be punished”! This means they cannot be punished before that judgment day. Does the Bible tell where they are reserved until then? Christ Himself said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28, 29.
How plain! Jesus said that both good and bad will come forth from their graves to receive either life or damnation. This proves that from the time of death until they come forth in the resurrection they are not receiving any recompense or punishment. It all happens after they come forth. They are reserved until that day just as Peter indicated, but Christ spelled out where they will be reserved-“in the graves.”
If plainer words are needed, listen to Jesus speaking in Luke 14:14, “Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Or hear Him again in Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” When is “then”? When He comes with His angels. No reward or recompense is handed out until the resurrection of the just, when He comes with all the angels. These verses are beyond controversy. Taken in their context, they contain no ambiguity or hidden meaning.
Again Christ is quoted in the very last chapter of the Bible, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Revelation 22:12. Here He reminds us that “every man”-every person-will receive his just reward when Christ returns to this earth. Job declares “that the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction. They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.” Daniel wrote that they which “sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2.  Can there be any doubt where the wicked are reserved before facing resurrection, judgment, and punishment? We have the testimony of Peter, Daniel, Job and the Master Himself. There is no room to quibble. They are reserved in the grave.
Now we come to the second great fact about hell: None of the unsaved will be cast into hell-fire until after the second coming of Jesus at the end of the world. Although we have already seen substantial evidence on this point, let’s look even more. Describing the punishment of the wicked, John wrote: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.
No Second Death Before the Resurrection
Here the lost are pictured in the fires of hell, suffering the punishment for their sins. And what is that punishment? “The second death,” says John. Do you realize what this proves about the wicked? It proves they will not be cast into the lake of fire until after the resurrection takes place. These people die the second death in the fire, but they cannot suffer a second death until they get a second life. They lived the first life in this world and died the first death, going into the grave. Before they can die a second death they must be resurrected-they must be given a second life. This, of course, is what happens at the end of the world. Jesus said, “All that are in the graves shall come forth.”
Now after getting that second life in the resurrection, the wicked will be punished for their sins in hell-fire, “which is the second death.” By the way, that second death is the final, eternal death from which there will be no resurrection. But the point to be noted is the time of this hell-fire punishment-it is after the resurrection at the end of the world. It does not take place at the time of the first death as so many have been led to believe.
Does the Bible tell us how the wicked will be cast into the lake of fire? Yes, it does. John describes the dramatic events that take place at the close of the millennium. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” Revelation 20:7-9.
Here at the end of the millennium all the wicked people who have ever lived will come forth in the second resurrection. After describing how the righteous would come to life and reign with Christ during the thousand years, John wrote, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” Revelation 20:5.
The rest of the dead, of course, had to be the wicked, and their resurrection will provide opportunity for Satan to take up his continuing battle against God and the saints. He goes out to gather the host of lost ones, who have been raised from the dead. He has people to deceive once more, and he convinces them that they can prevail against the New Jerusalem which has descended from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:2). As they march up and encompass the city, the wicked are suddenly cut down by the devouring fire which rains upon them from heaven. This is the hell-fire which is the final punishment for sin.
Location of Hell
The Bible clearly asserts that this fire devours the wicked right here on “the breadth of the earth.” Every Bible writer who speaks on the subject of hell adds new insight on this second death of the wicked. Peter states: “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7. Then he goes on to describe the day of the Lord which will melt the very elements with fervent heat.
The language of Peter is very explicit about the place of punishment for the un- godly. He says this earth is reserved for that fire which will bring judgment and perdition to the wicked. Their punishment will be in this earth. Isaiah declared, “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.” Isaiah 34:8, 9.
The prophet portrays the entire planet enveloped in the destroying fire. Even the streams and dust are transformed into an exploding combustion of pitch and brimstone. Isaiah says this is God’s vengeance and “recompense” at the end of the controversy.
David adds to the testimony with these words, “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” Psalm 11:6. Notice that he uses almost the same words as John and Peter in describing the fate of the wicked. All agree as to the place of the punishment (the earth) and the agent of punishment (fire).
This brings us to the third great fact about the subject of hell. Hell as a place of punishment will be this earth turned into a lake of fire at the Day of Judgment. But this also raises some other very interesting questions about the fate of the lost. One of the most intriguing and puzzling has to do with the length of punishment. How long will the wicked continue to live and suffer in that fire?
No one can answer that question precisely because the Bible says they will be punished according to their works. This means there will be degrees of punishment. Some will suffer longer than others. But one thing we can say with certainty-the wicked won’t live in that fire throughout eternity.
Hell-Fire Not Endless
There are several reasons for being so sure on this point. First of all, this earth is also declared to be the final home for the righteous. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek: For they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. Peter, after describing this earth exploding and burning with a great noise, saw a new earth filled with righteousness. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:13.
The wicked cannot continue to live in this planet because it has been specifically promised, in its entirety, to Abraham’s spiritual seed (Romans 4:13). After being purged of all the curse of sin, it will revert to the first dominion, and to God’s original plan for it. It will be finally what God intended it to be-a perfect home for a perfect people.
In the second place, the wicked cannot continue to live in this earth because they have never trusted Christ for eternal life. It is only the righteous who receive the gift of eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. …” John 3:16. But what about those who don’t believe in him? They surely will perish. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. Please don’t miss the pointed simplicity of these verses. The wicked are never promised life. They are promised death-eternal death. Only the righteous are promised life-eternal life.
But there is only one way to get life without end, and that is through faith in Jesus. John describes it this way: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11, 12. Let me ask you a question: Do those wicked ones in the lake of fire have the Son of God? Of course not. Then how could they have life? John says, “Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15. Will those murderers in hell-fire continue to have life for eternity? Never.
It would be the rankest heresy to believe that eternal life could be obtained from some other source than Jesus. Where would the wicked get it? Paul declares that Jesus Christ “hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:10. Inspiration reveals no other source of immortality except through the gospel of Christ. Where is a text in the Bible which describes the conferring of immortality upon the wicked? You can read often about the righteous receiving it, but never the unbeliever.
Paul said, “Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
This text speaks of a certain point in time when the righteous will be instantly changed into immortal beings. That time is still future. It occurs when Jesus returns, at the last trumpet sound, when the resurrection takes place. Nowhere in the Bible do we read of the wicked being changed in this manner. And it is precisely because they never receive this gift of eternal life that they are unable to keep living in the lake of fire.
It is inconceivable and unreasonable to fabricate such an event. It is contrary to the Bible and repugnant to the senses. Ezekiel declared, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. No matter what we understand a soul to be, let’s accept the simple Bible fact that it can die and will die as a result of sin.
If the wicked live eternally in the fire, then they have the same thing as the righteous except in a different place. Who could give them eternal life but Christ? John 3:16 settles this issue so clearly and simply. Those who do not believe in the only begotten Son will perish. They will die. They will die the second death-an eternal death from which they will never be raised. That death will never end. It is an endless, eternal punishment, because it is an endless, eternal death.
Unquenchable Fire
Someone may raise this question: What about the unquenchable fire that burns the wicked? Doesn’t that mean it will never go out? Of course, it doesn’t. To quench means to extinguish or put out. No one will be able to put out the fire of hell. That is the strange fire of God. No one will be able to escape from it by extinguishing it. Isaiah says of that fire, “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor a fire to sit before it.” Isaiah 47:14. After it has accomplished its work of destruction, that fire will go out. No one can deliver themselves from its flame by putting it out, but finally not a coal will be left. So say the Scriptures.
Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would burn with a fire that could not be quenched (Jeremiah 17:27), but it burned down to ashes (2 Chronicles 36:19-21). Read those verses and see how the Bible uses the word “quench.” It does not mean fire that will never go out. It only means what it says, “unquenchable.” It can’t be quenched.
And what can we say about the expressions “eternal” “everlasting” which are used to describe the fires of hell? There is absolutely no confusion or contradiction when we allow the Bible to supply its own definition of terms. Many make the mistake of applying modern definitions to those biblical words without reference to their an- cient contextual usage. This violates one of the most fundamental rules of interpretation.
The fact is that eternal fire does not mean a fire that will never go out. The same expression is used in Jude 7 concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
It is quite obvious that Sodom is not still burning today. The Dead Sea rolls over the place where those ancient cities once stood. Yet they burned with “eternal fire,” and we are told that it was an example of something. What is it an example of? “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” 2 Peter 2:6.
There it is! That eternal fire which brought Sodom to ashes is an example of what will finally happen to the wicked. If this text is true, the same kind of fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha will also burn the wicked in the lake of fire. It will have to be eternal fire. Does that mean it will also burn the wicked to ashes? The Bible says Yes. “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch … And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1, 3.
No words of any language could make it more forceful or clear. This eternal fire burns up eternally. Even Satan, the root, is finally consumed. How consistent the whole picture appears as we let the Bible explain its own terms. What devious manipulation of words would be required to evade the obvious meaning of these words. Yet those who have been prejudiced by a lifetime of tradition can read those words “burn them up … they shall be ashes” and still insist that the wicked are alive and suffering.  Admittedly, there are some ambiguous verses on this subject, but we are finding that they all harmonize when the context is considered, and the Bible is allowed to be its own commentary.
Even Christ’s words in Matthew 25:46 are not confusing when we the obvious meaning. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Many are troubled over the expression, “everlasting punishment,” but notice that it does not say “everlasting punishing.” Whatever the punishment is, it will last eternally. Does the Bible tell us what the punishment is? Of course. “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. So Jesus was simply saying that the death would be everlasting. It would never end. It would never be broken by a resurrection.
Paul simplifies it further with these words: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished … ” Now, listen, Paul is going to tell us what the punishment is. “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9. So the punishment is everlasting destruction – a destruction that is everlasting. From it there will be no resurrection or hope of life.
But what about that worm which dieth not? Many have read the words of Jesus about hell, “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:45, 46. Some have interpreted the worm to be the soul. Is that what Jesus meant? Nowhere in the Bible is there any allusion to the soul as a worm.
In this instance Jesus used the word “Gehenna” for the word “hell.” It so happened that Gehenna was an actual place of burning just outside the walls of Jerusalem. No doubt, Christ’s listeners could see the smoke curling up from the Valley of Gehenna, where dead bodies and garbage were constantly being burned. If anything fell outside the destructive flames, it was quickly consumed by maggots or worms. With the vivid scenes of utter extinction before their eyes, Jesus used the Gehenna fire as an example of the complete destruction of hell-fire. The fire was never quenched, and the worms were constantly at work upon the bodies-a picture of total destruction.
Perhaps the most easily misconstrued text about hell is John’s allusion to the smoke ascending “for ever and ever.” For those who are unfamiliar with other uses of this phrase in the Bible, it can be very confusing indeed. But a comparison of verses in both Old and New Testaments reveal that the words “for ever” are used 57 times in the Bible in reference to something that has already come to an end. In other words, “for ever” does not always mean “without end.”
Many notable examples could be cited, but two or three are noteworthy. In Exodus 21, the conditions are laid down concerning the law of servitude. If a servant chose to continue serving the master he loved rather than his freedom when it came due, then his ear was to be pierced with an awl and the Scripture declares, “He shall serve him for ever.” Verse 6. But how long would that servant serve his human master? Only as long as he lived, of course. So the words “for ever” did not mean without end.  Hannah took her son Samuel to God’s temple, where he would “there abide for ever.” 1 Samuel 1:22. Yet in verse 28 we are plainly told, “As long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.” The original meaning of the term “for ever” indicates an indefinite period of time. Generally it defines the period of time in which something can continue to exist under the circumstances prevailing. Even Jonah’s stay in the whale’s belly is described by him as “for ever.” Jonah 2:6.
Someone may object that this could also limit the life of the righteous in heaven, because they are described as glorifying God forever. The terms are the same for both the saved and the lost. But there is one tremendous difference in the circumstances involved. The saints have received the gift of immortality. Their life now measures with the life of God. Immortality means “not subject to death.” The words “for ever” used in reference to them could only mean “without end,” because they are immortal subjects already. But when “for ever” is used to describe the wicked, we are talking about mortal creatures who can die and must die. Their “for ever” is only as long as their mortal nature can survive in the fire which punishes them according to their works.
Soul and Body Destroyed
This brings us to the final fact concerning the fate of the wicked. After the unsaved are punished according to their sins, they will be wiped out of existence, both body and soul. Jesus states it very simply, “And fear not them which kill the body … but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28.
In the light of this statement, how can anyone continue to claim immortality for the wicked? Jesus, the only One who can bestow the gift of life, rejects the possibility that those in hell can continue to live in any form whatsoever. The life will be snuffed out for eternity, and the body will be annihilated in the flames.
The psalmist wrote: “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” Psalm 37:20. “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.” Verse 10.
The most powerful, definitive words in human language are used to describe the destruction in hell, but people still insist that the writers do not really mean what their words express. “Destroy,” “consume,” “burn up,” “devour,” “death”-do these words have some mysterious, opposite meaning in the Bible than they have in other books? We have no reason to think so. The fact is that theology has made an ogre out of our great God of love. He has been portrayed as more cruel than Hitler. Even though Hitler tortured people and experimented with them, finally he allowed them to die. But God will keep these deathless souls alive for the purpose of seeing them writhe and scream throughout eternity, so the theologians claim.
God’s Justice Vindicated
Not only is such a picture misrepresentative of God’s love, it also distorts His justice. Think for a moment about the implications of a doctrine that would consign every lost soul to an immediate, never-ending hell at the time of death. Suppose a man died 5,000 years ago with one cherished sin in his life. His soul would go instantly into the fire to be tormented for eternity. Then picture another death; that of Adolph Hitler, who supervised the deaths of millions of people. According to the popular doctrine, his soul also would immediately enter hell to suffer eternally. But the man who was lost because of only one sin, will burn 5,000 years longer than Hitler. How could that be just? Would God deal in such a manner? It would contradict the Bible statement that each one must be punished according to his works.
There are two extreme views in current circulation concerning the punishment of the wicked. One is Universalism, which contends that God is too good to allow anyone to be lost. The other is the awful doctrine of endless torment which would perpetuate for all eternity a dark abyss of anguish and suffering. Both are wrong. The truth lies in between. God will punish the wicked according to their works, but He will not immortalize evil in the process.
I truly believe that many honest souls have been turned away from God because of their revulsion at this misrepresentation of His character. They can’t love someone who would arbitrarily keep evil people in endless torment with no purpose in view. No rehabilitation is possible. Only a vindictive spirit of revenge could be served by such an unspeakable arrangement. Is God like that? After hearing the Bible truth about hell, a bank president threw his arms around my shoulders and said, “Joe, I’m a believer again. For years I’ve been an agnostic because I had been taught that God would torture the wicked eternally.”
No More Pain Or Death
Someday soon God will have a clean universe. All the effects of sin will be banished forever. There will be no sin, no sinners and no devil to tempt. It will be just exactly like God planned it in the beginning.
John described that future home in these words, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4.
Can you find any room in those precious words for any suffering on the part of anybody in the whole recreated universe? God said crying and pain would be no more. Do you believe His Word or do you choose to believe man’s surmising? Just four verses before writing this promise, John described how the wicked would be cast into the lake of fire. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” Revelation 20:15; 21:1.
That lake of fire is right here on planet earth according to Revelation 20:9. But please notice that this place where the wicked burn will pass away, and God will re-create the new earth in its stead. The new Jerusalem descends before that fire devours the wicked, and afterwards, according to verse 4, there will be no more sorrow, pain, crying, or death.      In order for no more pain to exist, there can be no eternal hell existing either. The two things are mutually exclusive of each other. We should thank God every day that His plan will finally bring an end to suffering. Satan will not be here to cause pain, and God promises that His new kingdom will not even contain a shadow of a pain.
Hell Not Intended For Us
Finally, we should rejoice that hell was never intended for you and me. Jesus said it was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41. If we stumble into that fire, it will be the most colossal blunder we could ever make. You would have to go there over the broken body of Jesus Christ and in spite of the Father’s love, the Holy Spirit’s pleading, and the heavenly influence of a million angels. The most unanswerable question in the whole world is this: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” There is no answer because there is no escape except through Christ and His cross.  No one will be lost because he sinned, because everyone has sinned. No one will be left out of heaven because he lied, stole, or committed adultery. The only reason anyone will be lost is because he refuses to turn away from his sin into the arms of a loving Saviour who stands ready to pardon and cleanse from all unrighteousness. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

Armageddon

22 Oct

By Joe Crews

ISRAEL’S FINAL WAR
The signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty on March 26, 1979, marked an emotional moment in the history of the Middle East. After years of bitter animosity punctuated by military conflict, an Arab nation and a Jewish nation embraced each other with promises of peace.
What did it signify for the little pocket of Zionism whose struggles for survival have drawn United States approval and support? Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, before his death, was unable to provide the security and permanent peace which has eluded Israel since the days of Abraham. The answer to Israel’s dilemma is clearly revealed in the fantastic prophecies of the Bible.
According to the Word of God, Israel will not find true deliverance from her enemies until it is secured for her by the kings of the east. Her last war has not yet been fought. The book of Revelation describes an alliance with some powerful defenders who finally destroy the oppressors of Israel and establish her in eternal security. Those allies are given the enigmatic title “kings of the east” in Revelation 16:12. They actually intervene to deliver Israel during the war of Armageddon, described in the Bible as the final conflict to take place on this planet. All nations will be involved in this battle, but Israel will be the only victor.
Our purpose in this study is to answer a number of questions. What is the nature of that final war of Armageddon? How can all the countries of the world be involved in it? How is it possible for only one group, the people of Israel, to survive this holocaust? Who are the mysterious kings of the east that effect her victory? And finally, how is Israel delivered from her enemies by the drying up of the Euphrates River, as described in Revelation 16:12?
First of all, we need to find out if the present nation of Israel is the same Israel which is designated in the book of Revelation as the people of God. Some tremendous prophecies are found in that book, most of them concerned with saving the embattled remnant group of faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Those followers are sometimes referred to as the “tribes of Israel” and spoken of in the context of Jewish customs. Does this mean that the literal nation of Israel—the one which is fighting with tanks and bombs—will completely reverse itself and become Christians? Will they lay aside their Zionist ambitions to kill their attackers and espouse the peaceful principles of the Sermon on the Mount—the one about loving the enemy and turning the other cheek?
Millions of Bible students believe that this kind of spectacular conversion must take place in order for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. They base their belief upon the prophecies found in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, etc., regarding Israel’s restoration and final triumph. Are they correct? It is true that the prophets painted glowing word pictures of Israel’s future and recorded scores of promises about her authority over other nations. But is the Israel of the Old Testament the same Israel of the book of Revelation? Were the promises unconditional and irrevocable? Will the literal, fleshly descendants of Abraham turn en masse to the Messiah, be restored as a nation, and saved as a people?
PROMISES TO ISRAEL CONDITIONAL
A careful study of the Bible reveals that those promises of the Old Testament were not unconditional promises at all. Repeatedly, the nation of Israel was warned of the dire consequences of disobedience. Both blessing and curse were set before them, depending on obedience or disobedience. Because of continued patterns of rebellion, God allowed them to be decimated and scattered into Babylonian captivity for seventy years. Many prophets were raised up by God to foretell their return from that captivity. Some modem commentators have made the mistake of applying those prophecies of restoration to some future gathering of Israel. They refuse to see that the restoration spoken of by Isaiah and Jeremiah has already taken place.
There is neither time nor space to record here a fraction of the graphic threats of rejection made to Israel. Over and over God gave warnings like this: “And if thou wilt … do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever … But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments … Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people” (1 Kings 9:4-7).
Finally, as related through the prophet Daniel, God allotted a probationary period of 490 years for the Jewish people to see what they would do about the Messiah (Daniel 9:24). That prophetic time period of 70 weeks (a day for a year, Ezekiel 4:6) began with the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem (Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 B.C., Ezra 7:11) and ended in A.D. 34. In that same year the gospel began to go to the Gentiles, Stephen was stoned, and Paul went forth to begin his unique ministry to the non-Jews. The occasion marked the formal and final separation of Israel from its covenant relationship.
Jesus had explained to the Jewish leaders in the clearest possible language that their rejection of Him would seal their own rejection as the children of the kingdom. “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43).
There is no mystery as to why the hundreds of specific Old Testament promises were never fulfilled to Israel. They utterly failed to meet the conditions of obedience. Otherwise, they would have inherited the earth, been delivered from all their enemies, and made Jerusalem the worship center for all nations.
WHO IS TRUE ISRAEL?
The big question is this: Will God’s promises fail just because the literal descendants of Abraham did not meet the terms of the covenant? Were the promises transferred to that other “nation” to whom Jesus said the kingdom would be given? Or must we still put our faith in some future turnaround that will restore national Israel to the divine favor? All those points will be completely clarified the moment we establish one basic rule of biblical interpretation. Without this principle in mind no one can properly understand the books of Daniel and Revelation, nor can we identify the true Israel of today.
Here is the rule: There is a primary, local, literal application of prophecy which points to a future, worldwide, spiritual application. By applying this principle to the Old Testament Scriptures there is absolutely no confusion as to the place of Israel in prophecy and history.
All the glorious promises were primarily aimed toward immediate blessings that God wanted to bestow on the nation. But in a secondary sense they pointed forward to a larger spiritual fulfillment on a worldwide level. Even though the local fulfillment failed when Israel failed to be faithful, the promises were never nullified or withdrawn. They will be honored, but only to that “nation” which Jesus said must replace the Jews as receivers of the kingdom. Who is that nation and people? The New Testament is saturated with the most explicit statements as to who the new Israel is.
Peter describes those “which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God” in these words: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Here is the new nation which replaces the nation of Israel. The Gentiles who will receive the true Messiah now enter into the New Covenant, ratified by the blood of the cross, and become the true spiritual Israel of God. They who were not God’s people become His “holy nation.”
Will they receive the very same promises that were given to Abraham’s descendants? Indeed, the Bible says that they are counted as the actual seed of Abraham. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). Paul makes it even clearer in Romans 9:8. “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Again, Paul wrote, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart” (Romans 2:28, 29).
Notice that true Israel will be characterized by circumcision of the heart and not of the flesh. What is heart circumcision? “Ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). Don’t miss the significance of that text. Just as the Old Covenant was represented by the cutting off of the physical flesh, so the New Covenant would be exemplified by the cutting off of the fleshly nature of sin. In other words, all who accept Christ and are born again are the truly circumcised and the only true Jews. And according to Paul they also will inherit the promises made to Abraham.
After the crucifixion of Christ, there is not one indication that the literal Jews were accorded any recognition as the children of God. It is true that the door was left open through the preaching of the apostles until A.D. 34 , the end of Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy. But from that time on no recognition is given to Israel as a nation. Israel henceforth is God’s people, made up of all those who accept the Saviour, whether Jew or Gentile. The Old Testament imagery and terminology is still used, especially in the book of Revelation, but Israel is now the church.
So we can see that there was no failure of the promises at all. They simply were transferred to the true spiritual Israel, which is the church, made up of all true believers in Christ. And the things that will happen to the church spiritually were foreshadowed by what happened to ancient Israel in a literal sense. Let’s look at a simple example of this principle in operation.
In the midst of Ezekiel’s portrayal of Israel’s victory over her enemies and influence over the nations, he began to describe a magnificent temple that would be built. Several chapters (40-48) are devoted to the precise measurements and physical appointments of that temple. Yet the temple has never been built. Other prophets referred to the program of building or restoring such a temple. Amos prophesied, “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11).
Many modern interpreters apply this promise to some future construction of a physical temple. But the Bible principle is that there is a secondary, worldwide fulfillment which is not physical, but spiritual. The New Testament confirms this by explaining how the prophecy of Amos has been fulfilled. “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up” (Acts 15:14-16).
Please notice how the Old Testament temple prophecies apply to the living church! The physical temple has now become the spiritual temple of the church, made up of Gentiles and all true believers. No one should now be looking for any restored, literal temple to be built. The body of Christ’s church is now the temple (1 Corinthians 3:16), and we are the “lively stones” of that “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).
Some have felt confused because much of the Old Testament terminology is carried over into the New Testament description of the church—words like kingdom, nation, Israel, temple, Jerusalem, Zion, tribes of Israel, etc. Even Christ said to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, (literal Israel) and given to a nation (spiritual Israel) bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). This is one reason the futurists and dispensationalists believe the book of Revelation pertains to the literal Jew in modem Israel. But there is no cause for such confusion. The explanation had been so clearly made in so many places that the New Testament writer assumed all were aware that the church now replaced national Israel.
THE TWO BABYLONS
As we enter into a study of Armageddon, it is tremendously important to keep this great rule of interpretation before us. The vast confusion on prophecy today stems from ignorance of this principle. Let us repeat once more that the kingdom prophecies given by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc., have a double application—one to be fulfilled locally; the other to be fulfilled on a worldwide scale in the last days. And the church takes the place of the nation as God’s true chosen people. With this background we are prepared to study the subject of Armageddon. That world-ending conflict is tied closely to the things we have just stated about spiritual Israel and a secondary application of prophecy. A most amazing parallel exists between what happened to ancient Israel and the events concerning spiritual Israel in the book of Revelation.
Ancient Israel Spiritual Israel
Jer. 50:33,34 Persecuted by Babylon Rev. 17:6
Dan. 3:13 Forced to worship image Rev. 13:15
Dan. 4:30 Called “Babylon the Great” Rev. 17:5
Jer. 51:13,14 Babylon sits on many waters Rev. 17:1
Isa. 44:27,28 Rescued—dried Euphrates Rev. 16:12
Jer. 51:6-8 Called out of Babylon Rev. 18:4
Isa. 45:1 Rescuer called the anointed Dan. 9:25
Isa. 41:2, 25 Both rescuers from east Mat. 24:27, Rev. 7:2

You will notice that God’s people had almost the same experience in the Old Testament and the New Testament. They were forced to worship an image and were rescued by someone from the east who dried up the river Euphrates to set them free. Within this broad outline there are scores of other astonishing similarities between the two Israels—one literal and the other spiritual.
It is obvious that the church—God’s people of the last days—will be persecuted and threatened with death just like ancient Israel. In the book of Revelation they are delivered from spiritual Babylon in connection with the battle of Armageddon. “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. … And he gathered them together in a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-16).
These verses are filled with great meaning. They reveal that three powerful forces will be utilized by Satan in preparing the way for Armageddon. Those three—the beast, dragon and false prophet—stir up the political powers of earth to take part in that war. It is apparent that those three are religious powers, at least in their claims, because they work miracles to impress the governments of the earth. Miracles are only operative within the realm of religion.
Time and space does not allow us to give all the biblical evidence to show how these three symbols incorporate all the modern forms of counterfeit religion. Rejecting the authority of God’s law and choosing the easy traditions of pagan worship pattems, these combined ecclesiastical systems will wield a mighty influence in drawing all the world into the battle of Armageddon.

ARMAGEDDON—SATAN VS. GOD
Before we try to determine the identity of the “kings of the east” and what it means to “dry up the river Euphrates,” we must understand more clearly what Armageddon really involves. The Scriptures picture it as the final decisive struggle which climaxes the age-long war between Christ and Satan. The entire world is involved because the good and evil people are scattered among all nations of the earth. Armageddon represents the all-out effort of Satan to destroy the people who dare to obey God in the face of threatened torture and death.
Armageddon is but the climax of a 6,000 year program by Satan to keep God’s people from being saved. As the adversary, whose self-seeking caused him to be cast out of heaven, Satan declared his purpose to overthrow God and take over His universal government. Listen to his boast in Isaiah 14:13, 14. “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
This incredible claim of Satan exposes the heart of his plan to set himself up in place of God. To subvert the worship of God’s subjects to himself it would seem both natural and necessary for Satan to build his appeal around religion. Working in the guise of counterfeit religious systems and false worship, he has woven a clever composite of truth and error down through the ages. His masterpiece of deception will occur at the end-time when he works through the beast power to enforce a mark of loyalty on every person. Those who refuse the mark will be sentenced to death, and thus, the final obstacle will be removed for Satan to claim all creation as his followers. So reads the blueprint of Satan’s strategy.
GOD DWELLS IN ZION
Now notice, again, where Satan wanted to sit. He said, “I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.” Why did he say that? This point is very important. The expression “mount of the congregation” is undoubtedly referring to the holy mount of God’s dwelling place. Throughout the Bible it is spoken of as mount Zion. “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:2).
The striking thing is that God’s place, mount Zion, is located in the sides of the north. Now we understand why Satan wanted to sit on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. That is where God will gather His people, His congregation. Mount Zion is a place of safety. Satan wants to destroy the congregation or people of God. He would penetrate the very elect by his deceptions and take them, along with the throne of God. The psalmist said, “Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion” (Psalm 9:11).
Originally, Zion was the designated spot where the temple was located, in the north part of Jerusalem. Later, it came to be known as a symbol of the city of Jerusalem. It also is applied throughout Scripture to the whole of God’s people. But after the Jews rejected Jesus the term Zion became the designation for the church. Thus in the New Testament it no longer identifies an earthly location, but a people—the people of the church who are scattered throughout the world, or else the spiritual place of God’s presence and protection.
All through the Bible God is described as drawing or gathering His people to Zion where they can be safe with Him. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, … call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation” (Joel 2:15, 16). “For in mount Zion … shall be deliverance” (Joel 2:32). In Revelation 14:1 the redeemed are pictured as having been delivered from the beast power of the previous chapter and are safe in mount Zion. “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.”
But while God programs a gathering of His people to Himself in Zion, Satan also has a gathering program. It is a gathering of his forces for Armageddon. “For they are the spirits of devils … to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty…. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:14, 16). This gathering is to counteract God’s gathering His saints to mount Zion. Joel also speaks about that same gathering; “Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about … Let the heathen … come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat … The Lord also shall roar out of Zion … but the Lord will be the hope of his people” (Joel 3:11, 12, 16).
This is another description of that final conflict called Armageddon. The valley of Jehoshaphat is just another title for the place of battle. It will involve every nation on earth. The “heathen” is a term to describe those who are not God’s people. Satan will marshall the kings of the earth and all the wicked people to oppose the faithful saints of God. The Lord will be involved in the battle (“The Lord shall roar out of Zion”), because He fights for His people. In essence, it is a tremendous contest between Christ and Satan with followers of both sides being involved.  Here is where we get to the heart of the subject. The verse calls attention to the Hebrew word for Armageddon. Apparently, the word is rooted in the Hebrew term “har moed,” which means “mount of the congregation” or “mount of the assembly.” Do you see where this leads us? That same term (har moed) was used by Satan when he said, “I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation.” This ties the battle of Armageddon to the original threat of Satan to capture and destroy the congregation of God—in mount Zion.
And the final attempt of the evil one to carry out his threat reaches down to the very last events of this earth. John the Revelator described it under the sixth plague. He saw unclean spirits going out to the kings of the earth, working miracles, and gathering them to Armageddon. These are religious forces working on the political rulers and influencing them to destroy God’s faithful ones.
If you want to read the thrilling account of God’s part in Armageddon, study Revelation 19. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war … And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses clothed in fine linen, white and clean … and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:11-15).
Several things stand out in this symbolic picture of Christ and His second coming. The armies of heaven make war and “smite the nations” (Verse 15). These are the nations which were stirred by evil spirits in Revelation 16:14. Christ prevails in this Armageddon clash. Notice that this war is described as treading the winepress of the wrath of God. In Revelation 15:1 the seven last plagues are designated as “the wrath of God.” Since the battle of Armageddon is set up under the sixth plague, and the plagues are called the wrath of God; and since Christ’s army makes war by treading the winepress of God’s wrath, we must conclude that Revelation 19 is a clear picture of Armageddon.
Incidentally, the vials of the wrath of God were poured on the whole earth. “Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.” (Revelation 16:1). This is why all the nations are involved in Armageddon. The good and evil of all the world will be drawn into it. Since God’s people are scattered in every country, the entire earth is spoken of as being affected by the plagues, one of which is Armageddon.
EUPHRATES DRIED UP
We are now prepared to examine Revelation 16:12 and let the Bible interpret the “drying up of the great river Euphrates” to prepare the way for the “kings of the east.” Whatever these events are, they occur as Armageddon approaches a violent climax.
In order to understand this prophecy, we must refer to the parallel experience of ancient Babylon. Six hundred years before Christ was born, the pagan kingdom of Babylon was the great enemy of God’s people. For 70 years they held the Hebrew people in subjection and bondage. Finally Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus the Mede, and the Israelites were delivered. Cyrus came from the east and captured Babylon by diverting the Euphrates River, thus getting access under the water gates of the channel. God said to Babylon, “I will dry up thy rivers. … Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus … to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut” (Isaiah 44:27; 45:1). God “raised up the righteous man (Cyrus) from the east” (Isaiah 41:2). Cyrus is referred to by God as the “anointed” and “the righteous man.”
According to the principle of interpretation, the literal account in the Old Testament must be applied in a spiritual sense at the end-time. Thus, we read in the book of Revelation about spiritual Israel (the church) being oppressed by ‘‘Babylon the Great’’ (Revelation 17:5, 6). This Babylon is not a physical kingdom but a counterfeit religious system manipulated by Satan. God’s people are finally delivered from the power of spiritual Babylon by the drying up of the waters of the river Euphrates. “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (Revelation 16:12).
The startling similarity to the Old Testament story is obvious, but we must remember that the secondary application cannot be literal. The immediate fulfillment is always literal and local, but the last-day fulfillment reaches worldwide and has a spiritual application only.
So we do not expect a literal Cyrus to dry up a literal river to deliver a literal Israel. We have already discovered that all God’s true people are spiritual Israelites. Now what does the water represent? “The waters which thou sawest … are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, andtongues” (Revelation 17:15). In this chapter Babylon the Great is pictured as sitting “upon many waters” (Revelation 17:1). The waters are identified as people and nations who give support to the great Babylon harlot (false religion) who persecutes the true saints (Revelation 17:6).
So the drying up of the waters would represent the withdrawing of support by those people who had been followers of the Babylon system. This is one of the final events that happens just before the coming of Christ. The people recognize that they have been duped, and in a rage they turn on each other. Zechariah describes what takes place under this seventh plague as Armageddon reaches its climax. “And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem (God’s people); … And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the Lord shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour” (Zechariah 14:12, 13).
John described the scene thus, “These shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16).  Just as literal Euphrates in ancient Babylon was turned from an asset to a means of destroying her, so the supporting waters (people) of the spiritual Babylon turn into the means of her destruction. This drying up of support prepares the way for the “kings of the east” to come and deliver the people of God from the hand of Babylon.
WHO ARE THE KINGS OF THE EAST?
Who are these “kings of the east”? Here is one of the most exciting aspects of the battle of Armageddon. Just as God’s place in Zion was located in the “sides of the north,” so His approach is always referred to as from the east. Why? Because anciently Zion was the actual hill north of the city of Jerusalem. Anyone coming from the east had to angle north because of the impassable deserts, and come into Zion from that direction. This is why both north and east are used in the Bible for God’s quarters. “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God” (Revelation 7:2).
Christ will return to this earth from the east. “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:27). The “kings of the east” are exactly the same as the armies of heaven in Revelation 19 who triumph over “the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies” (Verse 19). God’s glory was described by Ezekiel as coming from the east. “He brought me to the gate … that booketh toward the east: And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east … and the earth shined with his glory” (Ezekiel 43:1, 2).
John revealed the breathtaking majesty of Christ leading the armies of heaven to make war. “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses … And he hath on his vesture and his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:14, 16). What a picture! The kings of the east riding forth against “the kings of the earth” and of the whole world. Spiritual Babylon and all the forces who followed her are destroyed by the King of kings who shall reign forever and ever.
Cyrus, the man from the east, who saved literal Israel from the hands of ancient Babylon, was a type of the “kings of the east” who wouldsave spiritual Israel from Babylon. Just as Cyrus was called the “anointed one” and “the righteous man,” so Jesus was designated by the same titles.
By now we can easily conclude that the second coming of Christ is really the only hope of Israel. God and Christ, the true Kings of the east, will burst upon this world at the midnight of man’s extremity. When the mark of the beast is being enforced and every human plan of escape has dissolved, God’s faithful ones will be snatched from certain death.
ALL EYES ON THE EAST
What a tragedy that millions of Christians are looking in the wrong direction and expecting events to transpire that can never take place. Their eyes are fixed on the east all right, but on the Middle East where hate-filled sons of Abraham try to destroy each other with American and Soviet weaponry. What kind of travesty it would be to expect those political planners and militarists to fulfill the beautiful predictions of Isaiah’s “lion and lamb” world of peace.
True it is that, for a moment, Isaac and Ishmael may stop fighting. It is also true that one of the signers of the agreement is called Israel. But let no one still cling to the empty hope that this Israel has anything to do with God’s true people. They have been replaced by another nation, obedient and faithful—who have come from every kindred, tongue and people. They are the true Israel. They will never take up arms to fight anyone. They will live as Jesus lived and choose death before dishonor.
The frail confederacy of peace signed March 26, 1979, would be less than futile, even if national Israel were still the chosen people of God. Years ago a similar alliance was formed and God appraised it in these words: “Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. … For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose. … This is a rebellious people, children that will not hear the law of the Lord” (Isaiah 30:3, 7, 9).
God is looking for those who will trust in right instead of might. To such He will provide deliverance from every enemy through the conquering kings of the east. Let us take our eyes away from the oil fields and politicalintrigues of the east and fix them on the eastern skies, because it is from there that our true allies will save us.
CLOTHED FOR ARMAGEDDON
Now we have been able to harmonize all the verses of Revelation 16:12-16 except that strange verse 15, which appears to be completely out of context with all the others. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the placing of such a verse in the setting of Armageddon? “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Then follow the words, “And he gathered them together into a place called … Armageddon.”
What do proper clothes have to do with preparation for the approaching contest between Christ and Satan? And why is the wardrobe important for the ones waiting for Jesus to come? Revelation 19:7, 8 gives the surprising answer: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Like a searchlight these words illuminate the meaning of Revelation 16:15. Those garments symbolize the righteousness of Christ with which every soul must be arrayed who would be ready to meet the Lord. The battle of Armageddon will be fought over the issue of Christ’s righteousness. Only those who have trusted completely in the merits of Christ’s sinless life and atoning death can triumph with Him over the forces of evil. “And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
Here is the winning combination which finally will cast down the accuser of the brethren. The saints gained the victory by their simple faith in the sufficiency of the cross. No confidence in the flesh. No faith in the works of the law to justify. His merits alone to cleanse and to empower. So the combination is threefold: 1) faith in the righteousness of Jesus, 2) fearless sharing of the “word of their testimony,” and 3) “they loved not their lives unto the death.” In other words, they would rather die than sin.
When the cross has done this to a person, he can survive all the concentrated attacks of a thousand Armageddons. Demons, fallen angels and Satan himself must flee in terror before the authority of a Christ-filled life. True faith produces full obedience, and therefore, true righteousness by faith includes sanctification as well as justification. Those who would lay down their lives in death rather than disobey God will be the only ones who will refuse the mark of the beast.
Multitudes, with something less than true righteousness by faith, will not feel that obedience to all the commandments is worth dying for. Many will reason that Christ’s obedience has been imputed to them, and therefore they need not be concerned about the works of the law. Such do not understand the full gospel. It is the “power of God unto salvation”—not just forgiving power, but keeping power. We are not just saved from the guilt of sin, but from the sin itself.
So Armageddon and preparation to meet Christ focus on a personal relationship with the Saviour. Clothed in the armor of His righteousness, the saints will prevail even in the face of a death decree. If you do not have the sweet assurance of that spiritual protection now, puton His robe this very moment. Woven in the loom of heaven, it contains no thread of human devising. Shattering the authority of sin in the life, it claims the merits and the power of Christ’s life and atoning death. May this be your experience today.

Reflecting Jesus

22 Oct

By Ellen G White

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Eph. 4: 29.

I have a continual longing for Christ to be formed within, the hope of glory. I long to be beautified every day with the meekness and gentleness of Christ, growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ up to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. I must as an individual, through the grace given me of Jesus Christ, keep my own soul in health by keeping it as a divine channel through which His grace, His love, His patience, His meekness, shall flow to the world. This is my duty and no less the duty of every church member who claims to be a son or a daughter of God.

The Lord Jesus has made His church the depositary of sacred truth. He has left with her the work of carrying out His purposes and His plans to save the souls for whom He has manifested such interest, such unmeasured love. Like the sun in relation to our world, He rises amid the moral darkness– the Sun of Righteousness. He said of Himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8: 12). He said to His followers, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matt. 5: 14). . . . By reflecting the image of Jesus Christ, by the beauty and holiness of their characters, by their continual self- denial and their separation from all idols, large or small, they reveal that they have learned in the school of Christ.

The Scripture says of Christ that grace was poured into His lips that He might “know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary” (Ps. 45: 2; Isa. 50: 4). And the Lord bids us, “Let your speech be alway with grace” (Col. 4: 6) “that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4: 29).

In seeking to correct or reform others we should be careful of our words. They will be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. . . . All who would advocate the principles of truth need to receive the heavenly oil of love. Under all circumstances reproof should be spoken in love. Then our words will reform but not exasperate. Christ by His Holy Spirit will supply the force and the power. This is His work

From God’s Amazing Grace – Page 300

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