The Bible Made Plain

The Churches’ Hellish Teaching About Hell

 

Some years ago, during my morning walk, my thoughts were about the various religions of the world. Each religion has its own theme. There is a religion of fear, a religion of sex (phallic worship), a religion of legalism, a religion of hedonism, and even a religion of ultimate personal extinction, or nirvana. But what about the Christian religion? It is supposed to be a religion of love. But underlying that love is a terrifying fear in most Christians, and by ‘most’ I mean the members of the churches that believe in an eternal hell fire for the incorrigible wicked. And such churches are the vast majority in Christianity. These churches with its blazing beliefs in the afterlife has fear as one of its main components for drawing and keeping its followers – the fear of being eternally scorched alive in unquenchable flames if they dont accept salvation on the terms of the church.

As I pondered these thoughts during my walk, I saw a booklet lying in the dust of the road. The title, coincidentally, was: ‘What Does the Bible Say About Hell?’ The booklet was published by Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Here are a two passages from that book on the subject of hell:

‘While the Bible says that most people are headed for the lake of fire, many of them don’t look as though they deserve a fire reserved for the devil and his angels. Evil men like Stalin or Hitler or serial killers might seem to qualify, but not the rank-and-file of people who seem to live basically decent lives. Yet from the Bible’s point of view, such evaluations are extremely misleading and even deceptive. The Bible shows us that the fires and blackness of hell will make eternal statements about (1) the true wickedness of public enemies and (2) the true wickedness of good people.’

‘Bertrand Russell said he decided to become an atheist when he read the words of Jesus about hell…He knew that it doesn’t make sense to say you believe in Christ while rejecting what He and His book say about an eternal “lake of fire” ’.

So is poor Bertrand, for whom I have a lot of respect for the profundity of his thoughts and the blunt honesty of his writings, going to be cast headlong into the lake of fire because he rejected belief in a God that would do such thing as roast alive people who did not believe in his Son?

The subject of hell is among the most vital for the understanding, peace and joy of God’s people in every church. And because it is so vital, Satan has taken extra efforts to ensure that this subject is among the most misunderstood ones among God’s servants in all the ages, including in our generation.

Hell, as taught by most Christian churches (except for some ‘heretical cults’ – about which I will write later in this message), is one great, if not the greatest, reason people become atheists or skeptics. For no sensible person can reconcile a loving merciful God, as seen in the person of Christ, with a God who burns his incorrigible children over and over again in hellfire, not for a few years, but for ever and ever and ever without end. That is the official teaching of the traditional Christian churches, foremost of which is the Catholic church. That is of course, the official teaching of some other religions, too.

Listen to what one prominent member of a Christian denomination says about the subject of hell:

‘It was my first visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was standing before The Last Judgment, a painting by the 15th-century Dutch artist Jan van Eyck.

On the floor, directly in front of the painting, lay a sheet of paper bearing a few hastily written words. An earlier visitor had placed it there, and it had not yet been removed by museum personnel.

The words, large and in quotes, were intended as an alternate title for the painting. They were chilling in their impact: “The Case Against Christianity”.

They stopped me cold.

What had prompted the visitor to level such a charge?

I took a closer look at the painting. At the top of the canvas, in heaven, sits an impassive Jesus, surrounded by a host of angels and an adoring multitude of the saved. At the bottom, in hell, is a writhing mass of the damned, suffering brutal torture at the hands of hideous demons.

The contrast between the rather prim majesty of heaven and the harrowing nightmare of hell is striking. And – as the note-writing visitor had intended – it poignantly frames an age-old question:

How can the concept of eternal suffering in hell be reconciled with a God of mercy and love?

For many, this is indeed a case against Christianity. They want nothing to do with a Christian God who could sit back and watch his children roast for eternity in a subterranean chamber of horrors. A deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness, they feel, could not be the true God.’*

‘The Battle Over Hell’ By Keith Stump. Copyright Plain Truth Ministries, 2001. Keith Stump is an author, script writer, historian and archaeologist.

This writer’s church takes a neutral doctrinal position on hell, which means that they are not overly resistant to the idea of sinners being condemned to burn eternally in hell.

However, most mainstream churches have a clearer position. The book ‘Christian Beliefs – Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know’, published by Zondervan, states the following about one of the core beliefs of Christianity:

‘At the final judgment, those who have rejected the claims of Jesus will go to a place of eternal punishment. That place of eternal punishment, the Bible tells us, is hell.

The Bible’s descriptions of hell are difficult to read, and they should be deeply disturbing to us. Jesus speaks of hell as “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” and he says that those who have rejected him will also go there (Matt. 25:41). It is a place where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). It is a “place of torment” (Luke 16:28). John tells us it is a place where those who rejected Jesus will, along with the devil and his angels, “drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger” and “be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the presence of the Lamb” (Rev. 14:10). The “smoke of their torment” will go on “forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Rev. 14:11).’

At the end of the chapter on this subject of hell, there are ‘Questions for Review and Application’. Among the questions are, ‘What does the Bible tell us about hell? How does your understanding of hell make you feel? Why does it make you feel that way?’

Let me give you my own answers to those three questions, assuming I believed the churches’ teaching about hell, as outlined in this book.

Answer to the first part of the question: If that’s what the Bible tells me about hell, I don’t want to ever keep the Bible a single day longer in my house, but cast it into the furnace. Instead I would go and purchase a copy of Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’ and read a passage from it as my daily devotional.

Next answer: It makes me feel horrified, terrified, and repulsed by such ‘God’ as much as I am by the Devil.

For the last answer, I repeat a part of the  quote by the guy who visited the Metropolitan Museum: ‘How can the concept of eternal suffering in hell be reconciled with a God of mercy and love? For many, this is indeed a case against Christianity. They want nothing to do with a Christian God who could sit back and watch his children roast for eternity in a subterranean chamber of horrors. A deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness, they feel, could not be the true God.’

But praise be to my Great God, that my beliefs about him are as different from some of the teachings of mainstream Christianity as God is different from Satan.

Incidentally, it is the subject of hell and the eternal burning of sinners in it that God used as the channel to bring me back to his Son, after I had decided to disbelieve in Christ and had thrown all my decades-old collection of Bibles and Christian literature into the garbage bin. I have told the story of my re-conversion to Christianity elsewhere in some other message, but it is very relevant in this message too.

In 1999, after I cast away all that I had been taught from childhood about God and Christ, I began my search from scratch to find the true God and his revelation to man. Finally, I was able to shortlist my findings to two sources that claimed to be the Word of God. They both had many similar teachings, and I couldn’t discern which was the true one and which was the counterfeit, or if both were counterfeits. I knew both could not be equally true, for in many of their core teachings, they contradicted each other.

In my utter confusion, I knelt down at my living room couch with the two books before me. I placed my right hand on one and my left on the other, and lifting my face up to heaven, I cried out, ‘O God, whoever you are, if one of these is your Word, show me which one, that I may seek you and know you through your revelation in it.’

Never in my life was I so confused, never before did I need an answer like I needed then. For if there was no God to answer me and show me what he wanted of me, I knew my life, already having reached rock bottom, could go no further down. I needed a way out, and if that meant embracing a new religion and denouncing my old one, I would surely do it, I determined. This appeal to whoever called himself God was my last attempt to keep my spiritual sanity.

Immediately after the prayer, I opened one book. I read the first passage I saw. I gained nothing new, but only what I had been reading all my life till a few months earlier when I threw away my religion. Then I opened the second book, and the passage was about hell and hellfire and what God does to sinners even while he is burning them alive in the flames (he gives them ‘new skin’, so they could feel the pain all over again, and this cycle continues forever), and immediately an absolute conviction filled my heart about which book was not the Word of God.

I began a slow restudy of the other book, and over the years I learned that the ‘God’ of this book too put sinners in hellfire and burnt them alive in it. But I also came to understand that the hell believed in by Catholics, by Protestants, and by Christians in most mainstream denominations, except for perhaps a dozen or so relatively smaller sects – usually considered as cults by mainstream Christianity – is very, very similar to what the counterfeit book terrorizes sinners with.

Mainstream Christianity’s beliefs about hell is very similar to that of another religion, which teaches that God gives the people in hell ‘new skin’ after the first skin is burnt in hell, so they could feel the pain all over again, and this cycle continues forever.

Here is a section from a book about hell published by the Catholic church. Please read all the quoted passages, for you, if you are new to this subject, will get a clear understanding of what all Catholics, and most Protestants, believe about hell.

‘The Hell There Is!

The doctrine of hell is so frightening that numerous heretical sects end up denying the reality of an eternal hell. The Unitarian-Universalists, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christadelphians, the Christian Scientists, the Religious Scientists, the New Agers, and the Mormons – all have rejected or modified the doctrine of hell so radically that it is no longer a serious threat. In recent decades, this decay has even invaded mainstream Evangelicalism, and a number of major Evangelical figures have advocated the view that there is no eternal hell – the wicked will simply be annihilated.

But the eternal nature of hell is stressed in the New Testament. For example, in Mark 9:47-48 Jesus warns us, “It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” And in Revelation 14:11, we read: “And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ (CCC 1035).

In his 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II wrote that too often “preachers, catechists, teachers . . . no longer have the courage to preach the threat of hell” (p. 183)…

The early Church Fathers were also absolutely firm on the reality of an eternal hell, as the following quotes show…

Second Clement
‘But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire…’ (Second Clement 17:7 [A.D. 150])

Justin Martyr
‘but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons’. (First Apology 52 [A.D. 151])

Athenagoras
‘or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated.’ (Plea for the Christians 31 [A.D. 177])

Hippolytus
‘while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them.’ (Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212])

Minucius Felix
‘Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them.’ (Octavius 34:12–5:3 [A.D. 226])

Cyprian of Carthage
‘An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies.’ (To Demetrian 24 [A.D. 252])

Lactantius
‘The sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire…The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment…Thus, without any wasting of bodies, which regain their substance, it will only burn and affect them with a sense of pain.’ (Divine Institutes 7:21 [A.D. 307])

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors. Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004. IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827 permission to publish this work is hereby granted.  Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004”   Source:catholic.com

What if you were given the responsibility in the Kingdom of God to deal with sinners in the city over which you have been crowned the king?(See Luke 19:17 which shows that you, if you remain faithful to God, will become the ruler of several cities when Christ comes) What, if some sinners, despite all the corrective punishments given to them, still reject God’s way and, would, if allowed to live, continue in that wicked way forever, causing great misery to themselves and to others? They have to be destroyed, for their own sakes and for the sake of the peace and safety of the righteous in your realm. And so, you ask the angels to bind them hand and foot and cast them into hades. As they are bound and about to be thrown into the furnace of fire, you can hear their wailing and gnashing of teeth – the remorse of the unrepentant wicked. You know they are not screaming in repentance, in which case, you would have shown them mercy. They have repeatedly proven they are incapable of repentance, and the moment they are released they would revert to their terrible ways. So the angels cast them into the pit. There are flames all around in the pit, and some of the bodies are not fully consumed yet, and maggots are feeding on the unburned portions of the flesh. Nothing can quench the flames; they are kept perpetually burning. The worms in there too never die but have a continual feasting on putrid flesh.

Now, any wicked body cast directly into the midst of the unquenchable flames would immediately be totally consumed. But apparently, in hell the flames do not shot up from the crevices everywhere at the same time, and if a portion of the unrepentant sinner’s body remains unconsumed by the flames, the maggots would make quick meal of it. But remember, all this while the wicked person is still conscious of everything going on around him, and suffers every bit of the pain as maggots gnaw into him.

So far, all this scene fits perfectly into what general Christianity teaches. And now for the climax of the hell act.

When the screaming of the wicked in hell finally dies out, because all his body has been consumed in the flames or eaten by worms…presto, God gives him a new body (new skin, according to another religion), so he can start feeling the excruciating pain of being burnt alive or eaten alive all over again.

Most Christians do not delve too deep into what their church teaches about hell. But what I am describing here about hell is likely the official view of your denomination, unless you are a member of a cult or one of those odd churches looked down by the heavyweights in Christendom. This is the published official statement of beliefs of most traditional churches.

The Last Judgment by Jan Van Eyck, 1420-1425.

Now, continue to visualize yourself as the king over a certain future city in the realm of Christ. Imagine to your horror, that you find that one of your own children turns out to be an absolutely incorrigible sinner. Now, if such visualizing is impossible, as it is for me, imagine that somebody else is the king and he realizes it is his own wicked son that is being cast over the cliff into the fiery pit. The son falls with a thud on sheol’s floor and is soon fully gone up in smoke or eaten alive. Just as his screams fade out, you hear him screaming again, this time with a fresh body. And this goes on, states the venerated Christian writers, forever and ever as long as God and Satan live.

In human affairs, there is a foundational justice called the Law of Reciprocity. This Law stipulates that the punishment should fit the crime. It is not legal, or moral, even in the conscience of secular humanity to punish a man who has knocked out one front tooth of his neighbor in a fisticuffs by extracting two of his front teeth. The principle of just reciprocity is the framework within which all nations make their laws of justice. This is the principle decreed even by God in the Old Testament.

‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him – fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.’   Lev 24:19-20

‘Discussions of merit, desert, blame, and punishment inevitably involve questions about the fittingness and proportionality of our responses to others, and retributive theories of punishment put the norm of reciprocity at their center. The idea is to make the punishment fit the crime.’
Wikipedia.

The eternal – trillions and trillions of years without end – punishing of the wicked for about 70 or 80 years of sin on earth makes ‘God’ the greatest criminal in the universe in the sight of secular human beings – infinitely worse than the most wicked man who lived on this planet. By comparison, Stalin and Hitler, who killed millions only once – should be canonized and venerated.

Do you now understand why so many sensible people cannot believe in God? If my only option was to believe in such vindictive being as my savior, I would any day prefer to be eternally dead than forever alive in his kingdom. But the God who revealed himself to me has absolutely no semblance to the ‘God’ believed in by hellroast believers.

The Bible mentions another spirit who is acknowledged as ‘the god of this world’. Now this god would simply love to be given authority over the kind of hell believed in by Catholics, and most Protestant and Evangelical churches. He would even thrill to increase the pain sensitivity level in hellfire by a factor of seven.

If you, as a ruler under Christ, with the authority to cast unrepentant people into hell, would never bear to see an incorrigible member of your family suffering in full consciousness in hellfire, how much more would God not be able to bear seeing people created in his own image and likeness suffering perpetual agony. How much more sensitive is God to his people’s feelings than even a mother is sensitive to her child’s feelings!

‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.’   Is 49:15

May the merciful God grant you – if you are one of those who till now have been terrified by the wrong teachings of your church – peace and joy through understanding how merciful our Father in heaven is…even to the incorrigible wicked.

Now what about all those verses in the Bible on which are based the hellish doctrines of the churches? Let’s take them one by one.

‘If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’   Mark 9:43-44

Jesus’ quote about the worm and fire is from Isaiah 66:24.

‘And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.’

The Greek word for ‘hell’ in the earlier quote is ‘Gehenna’.

The Hebrew word for ‘die’ is ‘mooth’. It means ‘to die’, but it equally means ‘put to death’, ‘cause to kill’. Nothing can cause the worm to be killed and to stop their work of consuming the flesh. (And worms normally feed on corpses, not live people, dont they?)

‘Quenched’ in Hebrew is ‘kaw-baw’, and it means ‘to extinguish’, ‘to put out’. Nothing can kaw-baw the flames while it is consuming the flesh.


 The subject of hell, as taught by most Christian churches is one great, if not the greatest, reason people become atheists or skeptics.


There is a deep and narrow ravine with steep, rocky sides located southwest of Jerusalem, called Hinnom. Gehenna is the Greek contraction of Hinnom (Ge Hinnom – land of Hinnom). It had been the place where the idolatrous Jews burned their children alive to Moloch and Baal. A particular part of the valley was called Tophet, or the ‘fire-stove’, where the children where burned. After the Exile, in order to show their abhorrence of the locality, the Jews made this valley the receptacle of the offal of the city, for the destruction of which a fire was kept constantly burning there. The Jews associated with this valley two ideas: that of the sufferings of the victims that had been sacrificed and that of filth and corruption. The word Gehenna – hell – thus came to signify to the Jews as the place the wicked is destined for.

After Christ begins his rule on earth, he will send his angels to gather the incorrigible wicked. The angels will bind them and throw them over the cliff into Gehenna, where they will instantly ‘perish’ – be annihilated (Mat 13:40-42; John 15:6). Part of their bodies not consumed by the flames will be eaten by worms. The decomposing bodies can be seen by the citizens of Jerusalem from the sides of the ravine.

“Month after month and week by week, everyone will come to worship me,” God says. “And then they’ll go out and look at what happened to those who rebelled against me. Corpses! Maggots endlessly eating away on them, an endless supply of fuel for fires. Everyone who sees what’s happened and smells the stench retches.”   Is 66:23-24 The Message

Nothing can put the fire and worms out of action, as long as incorrigibly wicked people continue to exist in Christ’s realm. But as his Kingdom expands over earth, there finally will be no more rebellious persons remaining and nothing more for the flames and the worms to feed on, and so these creatures of hell will cease to exist by themselves, not extinguished or destroyed by anyone. Eventually the ravine of Hinnom will be used by people to traverse from one part of Jerusalem to another. And as they walk they will be unknowingly trampling on the ashes of the wicked which remain in the area.

‘The whole valley [Hinnom] where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.’   Jer 31:40 NIV

‘ “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts.’   Mal 4:2-3

When the Bible speaks of ‘eternal fire’, as in Jude 7, and referred to in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, mentioned earlier, it is actually taking of the eternal effect of the fire. How do we know this. Let’s read Jude 7:

‘as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.’

Sodom and Gomorrah are still not agonizing under the eternal fire. They are eternally destroyed from the face of the earth and serve as a perpetual example of the fate of the wicked.

Before I close there are three more aspects of the truth about hell that I want to show you from God’s Word, so your understanding of this subject can be more thorough.

First, in the quote from the Catholic passage above, the verse in Revelation 14:11 is used to support the doctrine of eternal burning in hell.

‘Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” ’   Rev 14:9-11

The torment with fire and brimstone refers to what the unrepentant wicked will suffer at the end of this age, when angels will pour out on them the final seven bowls of God’s wrath. One of the bowls contain torment with great heat.

‘Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give Him glory.’   Rev 16:8-9

Even throughout the terrible seven bowls of corrective punishment, there will be people who continue willfully in their wickedness. Their flesh at one point of the pouring of the plagues will become so scorched that smoke from it will ascend into the skies and out into space and remain there forever. It is not their torment that ascends forever – as respected theologians in Catholicism and Protestantism believe – but the effect of the torment on their bodies.

The smoke ascending from the wicked will be just like the smoke that will ascend forever when the Lord destroys Edom, the enemy of Zion.

‘For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; indeed it shall come down on Edom, and on the people of My curse, for judgment…For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion. Its streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day; its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever.’   Is 34:5,8-10 [Emphasis mine]

Close Up of The Last Judgment. Wikipedia caption: “A personification of death spreads its skeletal wings over the fallen and damned, a number of whom can be identified by their headdress as members of the clergy.”

The second aspect of the truth I want to show you is with reference to the following verses:

‘Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet…These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.’   Rev 19:20

‘The devil…was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.’   Rev 20:10

Ah, what clearer passage do the hellists want than this verse to vindicate all that they taught their congregations about being burnt over and over again throughout eternity.

If you are using a King James or New King James version of the Bible, you will note that the word ‘are’ is in italics, meaning that word is not in the original Greek, but was inserted by translators of His Majesty King James to make the passage clearer (according to their understanding, received from the Church of England, which too believes in eternal roasting of sinners, especially non-Anglicans). Here are some other translations of the same verse by men with much more translating skill:

‘And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.’   NIV

‘And the devil who had deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had already been thrown’   The Voice

It was the same place where beast and the false prophet ‘had already been thrown’ about a thousand years earlier!

But the verse says, ‘they will be tormented day and night forever and ever’, doesn’t it? Yes, in the English translation again. Not in the Greek. Here the King James Version, but not the New King James Version, translates this portion of the original Greek correctly, as do some other versions, such as the Geneva Bible:

‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.’

The phrase ‘they will be tormented’ is translated from the Greek word ‘basanisthēsontai’. This same phrase is used in Revelation 9:5, where the King James Version has got it wrong, and the New American Standard Bible got it right this time.

‘And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that ‘they should be tormented’ [basanisthēsontai] five months’   KJV

’And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but ‘to torment’ [basanisthēsontai] for five months’   NASV

It is the devil who will be tormented day and night forever, not the two wicked men, who by then would be just ashes somewhere outside Jerusalem, and whose smoke would be floating somewhere in the cosmos.

And finally, the most popular of all the Bible verses quoted by the eternal flames proponents to validate their hellish teachings – the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus:

‘The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.’   Luke 16:22-25

Abraham is referring to the law of reciprocity, which is the basis of the law in the Old Testament. He was saying in effect, ‘In the earlier life, Lazarus suffered and you luxuriated. Now the roles are reversed. Fair and equitable justice.’

The former rich man doesn’t refute this justice, but if you will read the passage further, he just pleads for his brothers. He is not that wicked after all, for in the torment in hellfire his concern is more about his brothers than trying to change Abraham’s mind and save himself in the little time left before the flames consume him entirely.

The rich man is in Hades, which is a Greek word meaning ‘grave’, but translated ‘hell’ in some versions.

‘In the Septuagint (the ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek), the Greek term ‘Hades’ is used to translate the Hebrew term ‘Sheol’ in, for example, Isaiah 38:18. This use refers the term hades to the abode of the dead in general, rather than the abode of the wicked…Thus too, in New Testament Greek, the Hebrew phrase ‘you will not abandon my soul to Sheol’ in Psalm 16:10 is quoted in Acts 2:27 as ‘you will not abandon my soul to Hades’…In all appearances but one, ‘Hades’ has little if any relation to afterlife rewards or punishments. The one exception is Luke’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man, in which the rich man finds himself, after death, in Hades…’   Wikipedia

In all other instances where the word Hades is used in the New Testament, it refers to the ‘grave’, except apparently in the case of the rich man and Lazarus. But, actually, in this case also, there is no need for Bible interpreters to give Hades an unauthorized new meaning. Here too it means what it means elsewhere: the grave.

The rich man awakes in the resurrection to judgment. The flames that he finds himself in could possibly be figurative – burning agony caused by mental torment, for he asks for a drop of water to parch his terrified throat, not for buckets to douse the flames around him. Even if it is a literal flame, it is not likely the flames of Gehenna, in the valley of Hinnom. When he wakes up in the resurrection, he finds a ‘world aflame’ (borrowing the title of a book about the end times by Billy Graham). The whole world is engulfed in war and destruction just preceding the Lord’s return. The resurrection happens just before Jesus descends from heaven, into the midst of history’s greatest conflagration on earth. While the righteous who will awake in this resurrection will be immediately whisked away by angels to a place of safety and be comforted for all that they suffered in the previous life, the wicked will be left in the same place. The ones who repent will be rescued and given their first chance to hear the Gospel of Christ. Those who reject it will be cast into Gehenna and destroyed with eternal destruction.

While we can never be sure what finally will befall the rich man, the very tone of the passage gives me hope that he may turn to the God of mercies and be redeemed from annihilation.

It is God’s greatest desire that not one of his children should perish, that is, be annihilated forever. That is why he sent his Son so that by believing in him, we can have eternal life. But the wicked who deliberately refuse to accept salvation will not be allowed to exist anymore – neither on earth nor in hell. They will eternally miss out on the wonderful life of the saved people in the Kingdom of God. While the righteous will be plucking fruits from the twelve trees lining the stream to Christ’s throne, the wicked will lie oblivious to all that’s going on in the universe. While the righteous will be ascending and descending on earth and other planets, the smoke of the wicked will be ascending further and further away from all habitation of the saints.

‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].’   Mat 10:28

‘Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.   Mat 13:40-43

‘If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.’   John 15:6

‘This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.’   John 3:16. The Message

 

Pappa Joseph

 

*This and other passages are reprinted here under the ‘Fair Use’ provision of the copyright law, section 107 of which permits such usage for nonprofit educational purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

 

 

World Today In Prophecy

The ‘Times of the Gentiles’ Has Begun

The ‘Times of the Gentiles’ is the short period in the end times when the gentile nations will ascend in the world scene. It is also the time when America and Britain and their kin nations enter their very last few years before the Great Tribulation.

When Great Britain ruled the world. General Lord Cornwallis, Commander-in-Chief of British India, receiving two of Tipu Sultan’s sons as hostages in the year 1793.Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India.

 

‘And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.’   Luke 21:24

The Gentiles are essentially the nations that are outside the English-speaking and Protestant commonwealth of nations. The non Gentiles are the peoples of USA, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the mainly Protestant countries of Netherlands, Scandinavia; also a few that are predominantly Catholic, such as France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland.1 Non Gentile peoples are also found in other countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, but they are only minority populations in these countries. The white race in South Africa are also non-Gentiles.

As you may note, the non Gentile nations are the world’s most developed, the most blessed with natural resources, and the most advanced of all nations in every aspect of civilization in the modern era.

These physically and materially blessed nations – nations chosen by God for a purpose – have the following common features: The great majority are English speaking (about five times more than the non-English speaking chosen nations combined) and Protestant. They are all without exception democratic nations. They are all without exception Caucasian genetically.

The great majority of these nations have the Bible as their ultimate religious authority, even if it is only a nominal acknowledgment (as opposed to the Catholics who have the Pope instead). It is from these nations that the Bible was spread to all corners of the world. For these are the nations that God chose to first spread the Gospel of his Son to the gentiles. It is through the missionaries sent by these nations that countries such as India, China, Russia, South America and every other nation where you now find Bible believers, received their Gospel. It is because of these chosen nations that I, whose forefathers worshipped in idolatrous temples and burned young widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands, am a Bible believer and follower of Christ.

Why were these particular nations chosen, and not, say, my race? When I mean chosen, I mean in the physical and national, sense – not spiritual. Spiritually, I and all my fellow believers in Christ are the chosen ones, whatever the color of our skin or however wavy or kinky our hair. (Colossians 3:11-12)

When Abraham showed how much he loved his Creator, even above his miraculously begotten son Isaac, God was so carried away by his act of absolute faith that he made the greatest vow that he as the Eternal could ever make to a person.

‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son…I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’    Gen 22:12-18

This vow of blessings was both on a physical and a spiritual scale. Physically the descendants of Abraham – referred to in the prophecies as Jacob or Israel – are to be so numerous that they are uncountable, just as sea sand and the stars are beyond human estimate.

To the physical Israelites, God revealed himself as ‘YHWH’ – usually pronounced as ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Yehowah’ (wrongly translated as Jehovah in the older Bible versions; modern versions substitute the word ‘LORD’ wherever YHWH is used).

‘I am the LORD [YHWH] your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.’    Ex 20:2-3

The physical blessings began on a national scale with the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt into the land of Canaan, where they began to flourish as twelve tribes, or sub-nations. God gave them his laws so that by them they could be a model nation to the gentiles. Thus, it was God’s plan that through one nation of chosen people he could eventually bring his salvation through Christ to the gentile nations.

‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’    Ex 19:3-6

‘See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?’    Deut 4:5-8

The gentiles that opposed or attacked Israel were, with supernatural help, destroyed or subdued by this chosen nation. This has been the inevitable fate of all their enemies, from the ancient nations which attacked them when they got out of Egypt to the modern nations which tried to annihilate them in the last two World Wars. But the gentiles who willingly submitted to Israel and their God were absorbed as full citizens with all constitutional rights.

‘The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself’    Lev 19:34 NIV

Tragically, the very thing that God warned his people to guard against – a spirit of complacency leading to idolatry – once they take his blessings for granted, did happen, with calamitous consequences for the whole nation.

‘Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.’    Deut 4:9

‘So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land…to give you large and beautiful cities…houses full of all good things, vineyards and olive trees…when you have eaten and are full – then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage…You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you’    Deut 6:10-12

Their eyes began to wander wantonly towards the gentile nations whose gods seemed far more liberal than their Yahweh. Those gods permitted sexual liberty, while theirs permitted monotonously just one bedpartner, and that for life. There were no rigid restrictions imposed by The 10 Commandments. They could have orgies and gluttonous feasts – no more concerns about getting too intoxicated; there werent any proscriptions at all on unclean meats – they could eat rabbits, wild boar, frog legs, and especially lobsters; no death penalty to be terrified of if they wanted to covet their neighbors’ voluptuous wives or their fine breed of donkeys. They could do, speak, and think anything their desires led them to…if only they would exchange the stern Yahweh for these more worshipper-friendly gods. All they had to do was make a few molten calves, overlay them with gold and bow down to them, and occasionally pass a few of their unlucky little ones to pass through the fire so that if for some unknown reasons the calf-gods aren’t too pleased with them, they could be appeased with these untainted-blood sacrifices.

The more the overfed and overblessed Israelites saw how the gentiles enjoyed pleasures beyond measure, the more they craved them, and finally indulged in them. The plague of idolatry and licentiousness very soon became pandemic and the whole of Israel was living just like the worst of the pagans around them. Yahweh, who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt and who prospered them to this level, was no longer in their consciousness; their minds would admit of no supreme Authority that restricted their natural cravings. And God, who never imposes his will on anyone, withdrew.

The God of Hosts (meaning ‘armies’ in Hebrew), who had always gone before the armies of Israel whenever they went to war, stopped being their commander and rear guard at battles.

‘as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” ’    Jos 5:14-15

‘But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.’    Is 52:12

‘But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies.’    Ps 44:9

Without divine protection, the vulnerable Israelites soon became an easy and frequent target for their enemies. The apostate nation suffered ferocious attacks from those who envied them. Whenever their enemies devastated them, they would remember Yahweh and cry out to him. And every time this strange God, whose mercy never seemed to fail, unlike the other gods they had adopted, would forgive and forget how terribly he had been betrayed by his people. Their Commander would then rise, destroy their enemies and deliver them. He would resume his blessings upon the nation…until the people again overfed themselves, made golden images of fatted heifers, and committed spiritual harlotry.

‘Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant. Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath…Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power – the day he redeemed them from the oppressor’    Ps 78:34-42

But this became a routine solution from trouble for Israel. Once they were delivered, they would submit to God for a few years, become wanton again, get battered by their enemies, cry out, and receive deliverance. God realized that his chosen nation will continue like this forever if he allowed it. And so, when Israel’s idolatry and wickedness became rampant one more time as usual, God decided to withdraw his presence for a much longer period than he normally did.

Around 740 BC, the northern nation of Israel, comprising ten tribes, was taken as slaves by the Assyrians to other lands. They never fully repented and hence never were able to return to their homeland till this day.

In 582 BC, the southern nation of Israel, called Judah, was taken as slaves to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. After 70 years of exile, God heard the cries of a repentant people languishing in captivity and caused king Cyrus to issue a decree that allowed the people of Judah, called Jews, to return to their homeland. But the Jews, 400 years after they had returned from exile, again forsook their God – this time by going to the extent of crucifying him. In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, scattering the Jews as exiles all over the world.

But God never for a moment forgot his promise to Abraham regarding his descendants. When Jesus came to the Jews, he made sure the gospel preached to them was also proclaimed to the rest of his chosen nation – the other tribes still exiled in various countries, and now referred as The Lost Sheep of Israel.

‘These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’    Mat 10:5-7

In 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, granting the Jewish diaspora the right to return to their original homeland in Israel. And thus the nation of Israel was once again on the map of the world. Although named Israel, the modern nation comprises mainly the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and a portion of Levi and possibly Simeon.

The Ten Lost Sheep still await their return to their original homeland. But until then, these tribes of northern Israel have been placed in lands more naturally blessed than any other country in the world. Where are they now?

It is not the purpose of this message to get into an exposition of the migrations of the Lost Tribes. You may read that in my other messages. Suffice to say here, the lost sheep of Israel, to whom Jesus had sent his disciples to preach the gospel, began to land in the British Isles, starting with the immigration of a people called the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century AD, followed by waves of Vikings into the Isles from AD 800.

‘The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons …is still perceived as an important and interesting event because it is believed to have been a key factor in the identity of the present inhabitants of the British Isles, involving migration on such a scale as to permanently change the population of south-east Britain.’    Catherine Hills, The Origins of the English

The people who settled in the British Isles over the next few centuries flourished and became culturally, materially and socially the most advanced civilization in the world. Between the late 16th and early 18th centuries they also became militarily the world’s mightiest nation. At its height, Britain was the largest empire in history and for over a century it was the foremost global power.

By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time. The empire covered almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area. At its peak, it was often said that ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’, because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous dominions.

Bible-believing preachers from Britain and other Christian nations such as Netherlands went to all the gentile nations, spreading the Gospel that the original disciples of Christ had given them about one and half millennia ago. As a result, Christianity spread into all the nations. So did the Empire’s political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacies.

While the British were holding sway over the whole world, the nation, true to their ancestors’ nature, again began to forget their God who had given them all their glory and global dominance. The nation’s sense of morality began to decline. The chosen race again wanted a say in their choice of gods.

A group of earnest Bible believers realized that their country was becoming an unGodly nation. Looking for a new start in a new world, one hundred Puritans boarded a ship in 1620, and after a voyage of much tribulation, landed on the shores of America on Christmas day the same year. Thus began the rise of yet another global power.

By early 20th century, the sun on the British Empire began setting. With its moral decline, the empire began a corresponding descent into the economic sinkhole. Germany and the United States began to overtake Britain in material wealth. After the two world wars, Great Britain was no more viewed by the world as ‘Great’ and was no longer even a formidable industrial or military power. British India, the empire’s most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence two years after World War 2. Britain was also forced to grant independence to most of her other colonies. The last vestige of colonial greatness ended with the political transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Today, Britain is literally in a pathetic state of unglory in terms of national pride. Even its so-called ‘crown jewels’ – the corporate icons of a nation’s glorious achievements – had to be sold off to the gentiles for its survival.

‘The scale of what is happening is truly breathtaking. No other economy is as open as Britain’s or makes takeovers so easy’.    The Guardian

Here are a few cases of tumbling national pride:

Airport and Seaport sectors: BAA (British Airports Authority) was sold off to the Spanish construction giant Grupo Ferrovial. London’s Independent called the $19 billion deal ‘the most dramatic example yet of the way in which strategic UK assets are falling to overseas bidders’. Many considered BAA one of Britain’s crown jewels because it owns and operates airports that handle 63 percent of travelers going in and out of Britain. Besides providing jobs for thousands of employees, BAA has played a strategic role facilitating the movement of goods and people into and out of Britain and around the world. In essence, BAA was the keeper for the United Kingdom’s air gates. P&O, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, was purchased by Dubai Ports World.

Automotive: Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, MG Rover, Mini Cooper, are now all foreign owned. (The tragic irony is that Rolls-Royce, now owned by Germany’s BMW, is the company that produced the engine that powered the World War II Spitfire fighter that was so effective in combating the German BMW-built aircraft.)

Electricity and Gas: npower, Britain’s third-largest energy supplier, was bought by German energy giant RWE Power. Another German energy giant, E.On is already Britain’s second-largest electricity and gas provider. EDF Energy, the French state-owned energy giant, is Britain’s fifth-largest electricity and gas provider. Britain’s largest gas utility, Centrica, was sold to Russian state-owned Gazprom. (Gazprom is the company that cut off the gas supply to Ukraine and consequently much of Europe some years ago in what was seen as a political spat between the two governments.)

Nuclear Power Generation: British Energy, UK’s largest electricity generation company by volume, was taken over by Électricité de France. British Energy operated eight former UK state-owned nuclear power stations and one coal fired power station. British Nuclear Fuels, the British state-owned nuclear power manufacturer, sold its power station construction arm, Westinghouse, to Japan’s Toshiba corporation. Engineers and scientists attacked the sell-off for ‘robbing Britain of new-build expertise’.

Water: Britain’s largest water utility, Thames Water, taken over earlier by Germans, was sold to Australia’s Kemble Water Limited, with shares owned by China Investment Corporation and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Thames Water supplies water and wastewater services to millions of Britons and other customers around the globe.

Finance: Abbey National, Britain’s sixth-largest bank and second-largest mortgage lender, was purchased by Spain’s Banco Santander. Another British bank, Alliance & Leicester PLC, was acquired by the Spanish Santander Group. Even the London Stock Exchange, the largest in Europe and the third-largest in the world, has to fight off hostile takeover attempts such as by Nasdaq.

P&O Cruises’ MV Aurora alongside at Dubrovnik, Croatia. P&O was purchased by Dubai Ports World.

I have mentioned only the critical industries where Britain’s crown jewels had to be either pawned or auctioned off. Other sell-offs may not affect national security, but they are all pride-shattering as well – from KitKat to Harry Ramsden’s, Britain’s largest fish and chips chain; from HP sauce to the Body Shop; from Manchester United to Beefeater gin; from Harrods to Savoy; and much more!

Governments in the gentile nations, on the contrary, restrict foreign takeovers. Nations like Germany, France and Spain fight to protect their strategic industry from foreign hands. But the British apparently lack that basic sense of loyalty and pride in the crown jewels of their home country.

‘British politicians of all parties, unlike their continental equivalents, could not care less if British industry…is foreign-owned.’    Times Online

Britain’s leaders are silent about this shocking sell-offs to foreigners, including former enemies. The Guardian says the lack of outcry from the government is because, ‘apart from the US, no other economy needs the inflow of overseas cash so acutely. Britain’s industrial and financial jewels are being auctioned to pay for a record trade deficit…With no end to the trade deficit in sight, the auction will go on until the cupboard is bare…Britain is being sold off at a rate unprecedented in modern times…Yet there is no debate; scarcely an eyebrow is raised. In any other country there would be uproar…With this rate of takeover, within a generation most British workers outside the public sector will be working for foreign companies. The scale of what is happening is truly breathtaking compared with even five years ago.’

And that warning by Guardian was in 2006!

For Little Britain, the loss of ownership of these companies is even more than a security or economic concern – it is a sign that the nation is in its last throes, and that the ‘times of the gentiles’ have begun, according to the unfailing prophecies in the Bible.

Rolls Royce – Britain’s jewel of pride, sold off to Germany.

As the 19th century was the century of Britain’s greatness, the 20th century was the period in which America became the world’s undisputed leading global power in every respect. But American too started following in the steps of her elder sister Britain. It’s become even more idolatrous and its harlotry even more shocking.

‘Son of man, there were two women, daughters of the same mother. They became prostitutes…The older was named Oholah, and her sister was Oholibah. They were mine…Oholah engaged in prostitution while she was still mine…Her sister Oholibah saw this, yet in her lust and prostitution she was more depraved than her sister…I saw that she too defiled herself…But she carried her prostitution still further.’    Ezek 23:2-14

Billy Graham said that America’s greatest sin was illicit sex. And he also stated something I repeat in total affirmation:  ‘If God doesn’t come soon and bring judgment upon the United States, He’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!’2

We can know from the Scriptures that the nation of America, along with the rest of the Lost Sheep of Israel, is more guilty of adultery against their God than any other nation in history. Here are two verses that prove that.

‘But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.’    Mat 24:37-39

In the last days, the spiritual state of the nations chosen by God would be like that of the world just before it perished in the Deluge in Noah’s time.

But its punishment is greater than what Noah’s generation had to suffer.

‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has NOT been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.’    Mat 24:21 [Emphasis mine]

Obviously, the greater the sin, the greater the punishment.

So filthy is the moral state of the so-called Christian nations today that even pagan people in other nations who have not known the true God despise America and her sister nations for their depravity.

‘Remember the days when you were putting on airs, acting so high and mighty, looking down on sister Sodom? That was before your evil ways were exposed. And now you’re the butt of contempt, despised by the Edomite women, the Philistine women, and everybody else around. But you have to face it, to accept the shame of your obscene and vile life.’   Ezek 16:56-58

For one, I have not yet heard of any non Bible-holding nation officially sanctioning gay marriages – a nauseating abomination to God! Worse, there are even mainstream Christian churches that take a soft, neutral stand on this issue, not to mention the many false churches of the synagogue of Satan that call themselves ‘pro-gay’.

‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.’    Lev 18:22

The nations called by God to be a model to other nations, when their sins are greater than those of the nations they are supposed to be a light to, then surely we can expect a swift and terrible penalty on them. America has already become seriously sick as a consequence of her sins, but she refuses to acknowledge it.

‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me…the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the feet even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment.’    Is 1:2,5-6

Every facet of Western civilization is on the brink of total collapse. Already, the US is tottering on the edge of economic depression such as never happened in its history – an economic collapse from which it will never recover, unlike the Great Depression of the 1930s. Wise economists are crying out their warnings. But the nation prefers to listen to the soothing words of its false seers.

If you haven’t yet, please read my message ‘America – the Unthinkable Is Poised to Happen’, where I mentioned that the economist Robert Wiedemer has stated that ‘the people in Washington have failed miserably’. Wiedemer had predicted America’s four-bubble meltdown in the housing, stock, private debt, and consumer spending markets that almost sunk America in 2008. But his predictions were pooh-poohed by the more reputable economists such as former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and his successor Ben Bernanke. Wiedemer now warns of far greater troubles for the nation in the next very few years.

But is America paying attention? The Scripture doesn’t give us much hope for the chosen nation as a whole. But on an individual level, you and your family can be protected from the sooncoming endtime events that will bring terrible suffering upon all mankind, starting with the Great Tribulation of the nations that had betrayed God.

‘Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.’    Luke 21:36

While the good times of the chosen nations are swiftly ending, the gentiles are rising with a domino effect in all the continents with a speed greater than did Britain and US. The gentile nations began their quick ascend on the world scene with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economic rise of the BRICS nations, and above all the rise of the European Union – soon to be a political union, according to prophecy.

In his book, The Great Super Cycle, David Skarica says:

‘The U.S. ‘empire’ is undergoing a tectonic shift of gravity. As when Great Britain lost its empire in the 1940s and ’50s as the world’s economic power shifted to the United States, America now is facing the same dramatic axis shift to Asian economic powers such as China and India.’

America has betrayed its Maker more blatantly than any other of the chosen nations. So flagrant is America’s rebellion against their God that the nation officially banned prayer in all its schools since 1962. No kid is allowed in their premises to thank the One who gave them every blessing. I read a case of a child getting into trouble with the school authorities for even praying over her food. They dont want God to be in their schools. But, funnily they assumed that once God is out, the devil too will stay out. Is it any coincidence that public schools in America are increasingly becoming the devil’s playground for shooting deaths. Here are what some thinking people are saying:

‘American political figures, such as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, as well as Bryan Fischer, a director in the American Family Association, have stated that the removal of school prayer from schools has led to increased school shootings.’    Wikipedia

‘A recent statistical analysis by David Barton graphically illustrates how America has plummeted from righteous living, prosperity and success in the last quarter century. Consider the following chart compiled from his study, America: To Pray or Not to Pray…As you might have already noticed on Mr. Barton’s graph, America’s moral decline rapidly accelerated following one event – the U.S. Supreme Court’s removal of prayer from our nation’s schools. On June 25, l962, 39 million students were forbidden to do what they and their predecessors had been doing since the founding of our nation – publicly calling upon the name of the Lord at the beginning of each school day. The New York school children which prompted the Engel vs. Vitale ruling had simply prayed: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers and our nation.”

‘America has experienced radical decline in each of the four areas which the children’s prayer touched upon: youth, family, education, national life…By the judicial act of forbidding invocation, the Court audaciously elevated a secularized system of education beyond the authority, reach and blessing of God Himself. Worse than taking the Lord’s sacred name in vain is treating it with contempt, denying it its rightful place and stripping it from public use and even from the lips of children. Jesus’ own expressed desire, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them” was also violated by these judges, many of whom were raised in Christian homes.’    forerunner.com

God is no more in America’s schools. He is no more in any of America’s institutions. He is no more going out with US armies anywhere. The Vietnam War was the first indication that God is no more the rear guard of his chosen people’s armies. The blessings that Britain and US have been enjoying for hundreds of years started evaporating since the past four or five decades. Very soon – and I am almost sure that I will see it with my own eyes – the descendants of Abraham are once more going into captivity as slaves.

The Times of the Gentiles will end and the Times of Israel revive only when Christ returns and, one last time, rescues his people from their captivity among the Gentile nations.

China is in the lead among the rising gentile nations.

Before I close, I want to pass on to you a little more understanding about the ‘Times of the Gentiles’.

Israel turned away from God and did not fulfill their purpose of being a light to the gentiles. Now, God is giving the chance to the gentiles. Ironically, it is through the gentiles that God will turn Israel back to him. Paul summarizes the role of Israel and Gentiles in God’s plan:

‘I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not!…No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning…Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it…For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree…

‘I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved…

‘Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead…Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy….For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone…Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!’    Rom 11:1-33 NLT

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1 Please read ‘How to Understand Bible Prophecies for Today’ for understanding on this subject.
2 This statement frequently attributed to Billy Graham, actually originated with his wife, Ruth, during a review of her husband’s manuscript for his book, World Aflame, published in 1965. He had just finished a chapter vividly describing the sinful conditions in America, and gave it to Ruth to read. She was very much sobered by the writing and returned the document to the study where he was writing and laid it on his desk, saying, ‘Billy, if God doesn’t come soon and bring judgment upon the United States, He’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!’ The account was recalled briefly as an illustration in a message by Dr. James Kennedy (pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian, Fort Lauderdale, Florida), entitled ‘Prayer and the World Crisis’, at the National Prayer Congress, Dallas, Texas in 1976. The statement has frequently been requoted by many others since that time.

 

 

The Bible Made Plain

The Seven True Churches of God – In Which One Are You?

 

Before I go to The Seven True Churches let me tell you from the Bible which are the False churches – the ‘synagogues of Satan1 who say they are Christians, but are not.

Members of the false church believe that Christ is a great teacher, or a great prophet, but do not believe he is the Son of God come in the flesh. They also do not believe that apart from Christ there is no salvation, but consider Christianity as one of the pathways to the afterlife.

‘For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.’   2 John 1:7

People who call themselves Christians but are not of the Body of Christ are those who believe that because the Law was done away, there is no such thing as ‘sin’ and therefore acts of sexual immorality are condoned and practiced among them. In this category are the ‘Christians’ who say they are pro-gay, and instead of condemning this abomination they take a neutral stand, or even support it openly.

‘For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all…so speak and do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.’   James 2:10,12

‘I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’   Jude 1:4 NLT

Members of the false church participate in the idolatrous practices of other religions. They have a strong ecumenical attitude towards all other religions and are ready to promote oneness of worship among people of all faiths. They have no hesitation, if invited by non-Christians, to go into the shrines of idols and offer prayers there.

‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.’   2 Cor 6:14-16

The Message version says it forcefully:

‘Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives.’

If a Christian does not fall into one of the above categories, we can safely say he is a member of one of the Seven True Churches of God. That is indeed too wide a categorization of the true church of God, some may think. What about cults such as Jehovah’s Witness and the Christian Scientists, and the Mormons, and hundreds of others like them, they may ask. And what about the Catholic church itself, which bows down to carved and painted images of saints and angels and God beings, and where pedophilia among their priests is no more a rare phenomenon? Aren’t they clearly breaking the Commandments of God?

Oh, yes, they are. Even as the millions of Christians in other true churches who daily start their day by reading and believing what their horoscopes counsel them.

Acts of sin by Christians, committed in ignorance of the Word of God, or in moments of weakness but not willfully in defiance of God’s Commandments, do not unChristian them. They have to bear the consequences of breaking God’s Law. But as long as in their hearts and intent they want to follow Christ and strive to walk in God’s way to the best of their understanding, they continue to be God’s very own and special people.

What about the Church of England, where they have ordained even homosexual priests and its former head took a neutral stand on this issue and did not condemn the abomination in the strongest manner?

If individual members and even church leaders live in continual sin, or condone immorality by their beliefs, that does not make their church a false one. Only if a church’s official doctrines or public stance condone sexual immorality, or worship of other gods, or proclaim salvation by any other way except through Christ, we can confidently say it is of the synagogue of Satan.

Differences of doctrine do not falsify a church. Jehovah’s Witness believes Christ is a created angel, ordained as the Son of God. But despite their error about the origin of Christ, they believe he is the Son of God, and believe there is no name in heaven or earth by which man may be saved apart from Christ. They keep God’s commandments more earnestly and love him more fervently than many other denominations I know of. To think that the Church of England – in some dioceses, at least – acknowledge that a gay member also can enter the Kingdom of God without having to repent of his sinful lifestyle, but not a Godfearing and commandment-keeping Jehovah’s Witness, is to make a mockery of God’s justice.

Sanctioning a polygamous marriage – as the Mormons once did – does not make a church one of the synagogues of Satan. Polygamy is not a sin and nowhere in the Bible is polygamy condemned in the way that adultery and other sexual sins are condemned. But polygamy is certainly not the kind of marriage desired by God, and he strongly advises against it in his Word.

Several of God’s greatest servants had more than one wife; in fact, some of them had hundreds. But, without exception, in the case of every single one of them, their family life had disastrous consequences which continued on to several generations. A polygamous marriage is the surest way to throw one’s marriage and his family life into the abyss of spousal dissatisfaction and hatred between siblings.

But show me one place in the Bible where polygamy is prohibited by law among the lay people of God, and I will revise my understanding of this subject and confess my ignorance. It is prohibited among God’s people who want to be deacons and pastors in God’s church, as we can see in Paul’s instruction to Timothy. But if a person desperately wants to marry a second or even third wife, he may, provided he does not aim for a higher Christian life and provided the laws of his land will allow that.

Bowing down to an image of Mary or a saint is a tragic way to worship the true God. But having a canonized intermediary between the worshiper and God does not make the worshiper a member of Satan’s synagogue, because he is doing it in sincere ignorance of the Word of God. In his heart he is worshiping the true God of Jesus Christ, albeit through a spiritual proxy.

As for the doctrine of having someone to mediate for us in heaven, listen to these plain verses in the Bible:

‘For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus’   1 Tim 2:5

‘In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.’   John 16:26-27

These verses do not mean much to a Catholic, because for him his Church is the final authority on interpreting the Bible for him, not he himself. But that does not make him a false Christian. Nowhere in the Bible is it said that God’s people must have complete understanding of the Holy Scriptures before he can become a member of the true church. What about the innumerable illiterate Christians, many who suffered martyrdom to be faithful to Christ, who could not read a single verse from God’s Word? How did they become Christians? By hearing the Word of God spoken by other Christians.

‘So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’  Rom 10:17

In fact, the common way that people in Paul’s time became members of God’s flock was by hearing about or witnessing the experiences of other Christians.


Only if a church’s official doctrines or public stance condone sexual immorality, or worship of other gods, or proclaim salvation by any other way except through Christ, we can confidently say it is of the synagogue of Satan.


In Which of the True Churches Are You?

Now, presuming that you are in one of the true churches of God, let’s try to discern in which of the seven churches you are likely to belong. The following descriptions are based on Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

You are spiritually a member of the church of Ephesus if your church is doing great works – conducting crusades, sending out missions, establishing charitable institutions, and more. This church cannot put up with those who say they are Christ’s servants but turn grace into licentiousness, such as the leaders of the gay churches.

But there is something seriously wrong about the individual spiritual state of most of her members. The typical member has great zeal and perseverance in preserving the traditions of the church and is actively involved in all her activities, but they are personally not in a state of intimacy with their Savior. The fervor and closeness the church’s founding fathers each had with their Lord is now substituted by works and outward show by the present leaders (the messengers) and consequently by the congregations they pastor. The intimacy which Christ longs to have with each member is missing, so much so that the Lord cares little for the great works of the church as a whole and is ready to cast her out among the false churches if the members don’t repent and return to a close personal relationship with God. Is this your church?

If you are in the congregation of Smyrna, your church is on the very top of the seven true churches. This church is not chastised by Christ in any area of her beliefs and practices. She is so extraordinarily close to Christ and so vociferous in her condemnation of the wrong doctrines and practices in the other true churches that she receives a lot of bad publicity in Christianity. More importantly, she is so intolerant of the false gospel proclaimed by the synagogues of Satan that she opposes it more vehemently than any other church in Christ’s Body. As a result, she is more persecuted by Satan’s agents than any other church. Some of the members are cast into prison because of their faithfulness to Christ, and a few even put to death. Do you recognize this church today?

You are a member of the church that had her founding in Pergamos if you live in a land where Christ is not allowed to be preached and the citizens of that land are not allowed to convert to Christianity. If they do, they go straight to prison for years, or would even be tortured or put to death. But despite this danger, you hold fast to Christ and meet secretly with fellow believers. But even in this church, there are among the members those who have a lax attitude about sexual sins and who have close fellowship with idol worshipers.

If you are a member of the true church of Thyatira, you are very likely to be a Catholic or a member of an Orthodox church where the images of deities and saints are revered. This is the church that has charity missions all over the world, her monks and nuns do humanitarian service to the world more than any other church, and her servants endure more deprivations and hardships than most servants in other churches. Her great missionary works in fact are more in the modern era than at any time in the past.

But this great church has a very serious flaw – she has allowed a spirit masquerading as a heavenly being with a female appearance to influence her to make unGodly decrees for her members and servants, such as bowing down to idols, making alliances with idolatrous nations, and prohibiting marriage among her clergy. These decrees are causing her servants to commit sexual immorality in many places where she has her congregations. Because she refuses to repent of these evil practices even though her Lord gave her enough time to transform, he is going to correct her with ‘great tribulation’ like none of the other six churches have to suffer. But those members in her congregations who have remained faithful to their Lord will be spared the terrible things that are coming upon her.

The names of the congregations that belong to the church of Sardis are well known in the world. They have magnificent cathedrals and membership in hundreds of thousands. They have regular Sunday services, holy days and all other accouterments of a church in active service of God. But Jesus considers her as good as a dead bride. There is no real spiritual substance in any of her works. But she has ‘a few’ members who are still leading a pure life for their Lord. The mainstream Protestant denominations fall into this category of God’s true churches.

If you are a member of the church of Philadelphia (many churches have this as their official name, but that in itself does not qualify them as the spiritual church with this name), you are in a great church, equaled only by the church of Smyrna. This is a true church of God in every respect, and her Lord delights in her thoroughly. As a result, Christ opens many doors for her to proclaim Christ effectively around the world – through tv, online, magazines, crusades.

Of the five churches that receive Christ’s rebuke, I wish above all that you are not a member of the church of the Laodiceans. The members of this church are of two types. The first type of members feel that their lives have been abundantly blessed materially with all that their hearts can desire, and there is nothing more they need from God to make them happier. The second type may not have material and financial abundance, but they feel they have attained an ultimate level of spiritual growth where they feel spiritually wealthier – superior – to all other Christians. But the state of both types is so nauseating to her Lord that her very sight makes his stomach churn and he will feel relieved only if he vomits her out of his system. There doesn’t seem to even a few Christians in this church that please God.

Pray earnestly and perseveringly, and follow Christ ardently so that God will consider you as a faithful member of his true church that pleases him the most.

 

The Promises

I will conclude this message with the promises that God has given to each of his seven churches – after the sinning ones have repented. What he has promised one church, he promises to all seven. I have used various translations of the passages in Revelation 2 and 3 to present the promises in unforgettable language:

‘I’m about to call each conqueror to dinner. I’m spreading a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God’s orchard.’

‘I will allow the one who conquers…to eat from the tree of life found in God’s lush paradise.’

‘I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you’…’The victorious cannot suffer the slightest hurt from the second death.’

‘To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.’

‘I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.’

‘To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!’

‘You’ll rule the nations, your Shepherd-King rule as firm as an iron staff, their resistance fragile as clay pots. This was the gift my Father gave me; I pass it along to you—and with it, the Morning Star!’

‘They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.’

‘They’ll walk with me on parade! They’ve proved their worth! Conquerors will march in the victory parade, their names indelible in the Book of Life. I’ll lead them up and present them by name to my Father and his Angels.’

‘Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue – those liars who say they are Jews2 but are not – to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love. Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.’

‘And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved. Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test. I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown. I’ll make each conqueror a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, a permanent position of honor. Then I’ll write names on you, the pillars: the Name of my God, the Name of God’s City—the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven—and my new Name.’

‘Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!’

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1Revelation 2:9
2‘Jews’ here refers to true Christians. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.’  Rom 2:28-29