Walt Whitman, George Stuart, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Thomas Jefferson all rejected, doubted or didn’t think an after-life mattered enough to consider it.
God grants us the right to an opinion on the subject. He won’t force Heaven on anyone. If we want to believe that none exists, too bad for us. For no one unprepared to be there will be there. Make no mistake: while God gives us freedom to draw conclusions, we have none that determines the after-life.
Some, from what they call near-death experiences, have concluded that only reward, not punishment, exists after death. The book Life After Life recorded the experiences of such people. Some, who had previously believed in Bible teaching, revised it to match their experience.
What did it prove? Only that they saw in their experience what they expected to see—subjective hopes fulfilled. In reality, it’s nothing but a rebirth of 2000 year old Gnosticism.
II Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 20:12, among many other passages, teach reward or punishment after death. Indeed, God warns us that we are not only judged by what we do here, but both good and bad are recorded. If unforgiven, all sin remains recorded, so no doubt exists, with no appeal possible.
Do not let Satan deceive us with what humans SAY they have discovered in near-death experiences when their experiences are patently contrary to what God’s word TEACHES.
End Part I
Turned host from guest at Cleopas’s house, Jesus vanished when the men recognized him. His appearance had served its purpose and offered dynamic proof that he Lived!
But he won’t disappear when we accept him as Savior and Lord. True, he won’t offer additional evidence to convince us he’s ALIVE when he’s offered what he considers sufficient proof. But Jesus will always be with his people so they can always demonstrate his resurrected life. Remaining in Emmaus only long enough to reveal himself served Christ’s purpose, so he left. Remaining continually in us can we now demonstrate his presence is necessary, so he stays.
If we’re here and wonder about Christ’s bodily resurrection, understand: the men of Emmaus also wondered. And only his personal appearance convinced them. Important fact, then, it isn’t true that our hope is an empty tomb. All the empty tomb produced were questions and speculation. Only the Living Christ in bodily form produced evidence, that produced conviction, that produced proof, that produced Faith. As only by having Jesus Christ ALIVE in recognized bodily form would God distinguish Christianity from the mystery religions so popular in the empire. Only that produced EVIDENCE that bolstered faith in many disciples through many difficult times.
A.P. reporter Joseph Gilbert stood before the speaker’s platform at Gettysburg to record President Lincoln’s speech in shorthand. Having previously covered the President, he felt comfortable with his style and strong voice. Fascinated by Lincoln’s earnest intensity, he almost immediately stopped taking notes and began listening, looking at the President, not at his note pad. The reporter had become a spectator.
Whatever our stage of education as a disciple—neophyte, upper classman, graduate or post graduate—incrementally become focused solely on Jesus. Only then will we become so involved with his life and teaching that we forget our surroundings, other people, our questions, our doubts and our own lives also.
Jesus Christ, the personal WORD of God in human form, makes the same impact today. He’s vehemently ALIVE! He crackles with spiritual intensity. He’s Terribly and Awesomely TRUE. Fini
Why did Jesus TEACH the men of Emmaus on the road, but REVEAL himself at the meal? The first reason is in Conquerors – more than blog, Part II.
Second, because he wanted his people to know: only by living in his teaching do we develop a robust confidence in his truth. So many believers satisfy themselves with reading what other Christians think about Jesus. And what they experience with him.
That’s okay so far as it goes. There’s always a place in the kingdom for the combined testimony of his people. However, since no one can tell us about Jesus better than Jesus, we must personalize a Bible-based discipleship.
After Jesus disappeared, the men noted that their hearts burned within them as JESUS SPOKE on the road. They BURNED, but didn’t know WHY. After the meal, they KNEW. In that encounter God’s word and human experience met to create authentic discipleship. The practical impact of that is: Christians, read your Bible. Read the Gospels. The Epistles. Have someone read it to you if you can’t yourself. Listen to it on tape if you can’t do that. Don’t think we can’t understand the Bible because we’re laymen. The Holy Spirit intellectually prepares every serious student to understand God’s word as he spiritually sensitizes us to receive God’s Son in the word.
Then we not only KNOW the Son of God but KNOW WHY we know him! To know that he isn’t TRUE because we believe it, but we believe it because he has convincingly proved it. End Part III
The Master’s disciples’ usual human fixation on death—final and devastating—meant they wouldn’t have STOLEN his body, as Jewish leaders claimed. First, HOW could they steal the body? Guarded by 16 armed-to-the-teeth Roman soldiers ordered to prevent it? Beyond HOW, WHY would the disciples want to steal his body? Could they find comfort in Christ’s corpse when his life had aggrieved them? Would they show people a corpse as proof they could live again?
Omitting much of what the passage suggests...while the men of Emmaus thought and proposed and questioned and debated, Jesus mysteriously joined them—as a stranger, invading their privacy; tutoring their ignorance; rebuking their unbelief; awakening their hope; stirring revival in them.
All in such fascinating conversation that the seven miles felt like a yard, and they too quickly arrived at the village—where only their insistent invitation kept him from walking on.
That leads to our second couplet: Meal/Mystery.
Why did Jesus TEACH them on the road and REVEAL himself as they ate? First, because of the custom mealtime symbolized in that culture. When a host invited a guest to his home the guest automatically reversed rules and became ruler.
Thus, once at table Jesus seamlessly transitioned from guest to ruler of Cleopas’ house. Expressing his Lordship of their life, not merely the forgiveness of their sins. Jesus warns every disciple: if we want his forgiveness, we shall have it, but it comes with an obligation on our part. When he knocks on the door of our mind, we open the door, he’ll come in AND when he does, HE’S the BOSS.
Forget self-improvement, self-discovery, self-fulfillment or anything else about SELF! The personal pronoun “I” has use in discipleship only in saying I DIE to self. Every-after is CHRIST lives and rules and monopolizes us! End Part II
Roman gladiators could kill their opponents in the arena, but die from wounds suffered in the fight. They nevertheless received the title of Invictus—the unconquered—a dubious distinction. That’s like the title of “World’s Oldest Human”. You won’t hold it long. For victory to be worthwhile, the victor must LIVE on to enjoy it.
Believers faced that problem by sunrise—11 hours or so into the First Resurrection Sunday. Rumors flew that Jesus had risen from the dead—but no one had seen HIM Alive. Women had seen angels in the tomb who said he lived. Disciples had raced there to see grave clothes wrapped carefully, but didn’t see Jesus. Every fragment of information in those early hours suggested his resurrection. No scattered fragment contradicted the rumors. Nevertheless, Jesus himself remained UNAVAILABLE. That discrepancy posed an insoluble dilemma for disciples. That’s the way the day passed among disciples all day long, Sunday, Number ONE as hours later two disciples walked to Emmaus. A stranger approached and engaged them in conversation.
Consider two couplets that summarize the encounter.
WALK – TALK
The men had a clear understanding of the facts: they considered Jesus God’s prophet; they knew that hardened religious leaders had caused his death; the testimony of women affirmed his resurrection, exciting without convincing them.
Note: whatever faith the disciples had in Jesus crashed at the Cross. However positive rumors were that he had conquered death, they couldn’t forget: they watched as he died, as loving arms carried him to the tomb; as they placed him in the tomb, as the stone shut him in!
That they all KNEW. Everything since burdened, alarmed, then encouraged and heartened them, but NO Jesus appeared. End Part I
A Highway Through Hell episode had a 70 ton machine mired in a muddy water hole. Al’s three rescue bulldozers had to get close enough to pull the disabled vehicle up, away and from the bog without getting so close to the edge they fell in. They had to maintain their anchor to be rescuer. 4/21/19
Helping sinners escape sin means we get close enough to pull them out without getting so near they pull us in. Jesus modeled what we must emulate. He remained anchored in God throughout his life. As a result he became one of us helping, healing, educating, forgiving—removing the vast catalogue of satanic presence in humanity.
The Master’s life devastates the view that “only if we experience sin can we identify with people sinning.” By anchoring himself in God’s Presence and Love, Jesus remained on holy ground as he reached to snatch sinners from sin’s miry bog.
Levi Strauss founded his Company in San Francisco in 1853 by opening a dry goods business selling clothing, blankets and hankies. Twenty years later the firm received a patent on its riveted-pants. In 1971 it became a publicly-owned Company. In 1985 it reverted to private ownership. In 2019 it once again went public. The 166-year-old Company has re-invented itself under the present leadership by sharpening its focus and image. San Diego U-T, 3/22/19
Which brings us to the question, what can the church do to re-invent itself? The problem question beleaguers church leaders. In a world-culture now decidedly anti-Christian, how do Christians respond?
First, a warning. Never listen to those who want to make the church more popular with the public! The number one priority of Christian leadership in every age is to keep Christian people intimate with God in Christ. To keep us all listening to God speak through the Holy Spirit in his word to water-baptized believers filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
The number two priority for those believers, lay or clerical, doctorate-educated or privately mature through constant study and prayer: re-invent nothing. Preach the Gospel as written. Seek no hot-button issues that please people with your “relevance”. For in each effort we try to be “relevant” we lose our integrity with God and the Spirit’s Power in convincing, convicting and converting sinners.
Remember godly Josiah, architect of the Last Reformation in Judah before the exile. While remaining true to God’s word, he renewed religious life after Mosaic revelation. When he stepped outside that role to a political issue, he met death on the Plains of Megiddo.
There will never be an issue more important for Christians than evangelizing the lost. That’s why Jesus came, and only as his people maintain that emphasis can we maintain our role in society. And that’s done merely by preaching the Gospel, text by text if necessary, issue by issue, personality by personality. But always the Good News and nothing but!
I’ve long held a false opinion about Lincoln, Illinois, my hometown. I had always heard that the city fathers had the choice between the University of Illinois and the State School and Colony—and chose the State School and Colony.
According to a story in the Lincoln Semi-Weekly Star, February 18, 1919, page 5, a Mrs. W. R. Whetsler wrote an objection to a speaker’s reference to the above untruth at a community supper. In its place she offered proof of its prevarication. Fact 1. In 1867 Logan County offered $300,000 and the City of Lincoln $50,000 if the University located there. Fact 2. The legislature in Springfield instead voted on the choice between Lincoln and Urbana. Lincoln received 21 votes, a very small number, Urbana the rest. The State School and Colony didn’t locate in Lincoln until 1875. Roots and Branches, Spring 2019, Published by Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society
In ignorance of the facts, I had always disrespected the Lincoln city fathers. Now corrected, I issue an apology to those long-deceased men. Which goes to show: it’s never too late to repent of past sins. God forgives any sin we repent. He’s kind and gracious. Let us seek him while he may be found to forgive; before he’s faced as Judge.
Archaeologists and historians of past civilizations understand that modern efforts to interpret the past have strict limitations. We have to “take a leap of imagination” to bridge the fixed gulf between THEN and NOW. THEN is a word alien to NOW. The scholars make a huge mistake, however, when they instinctively feel that our opinions and persuasions are almost invariably “prejudices and preconceptions”. Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast, 4
That puts us at an unnecessary disadvantage. It sees the ancient Indians of America as the norm and we as invasive interlopers. They become the standard of correct behavior and we the nihilist of their Good, Excellent, Superior culture. Such scholars invariably consider Europeans as invaders, not as creators. That makes the seven nations of Canaan innocent victims of a predatory Israel. And all Europeans as exploiters of innocent American natives.
The truth is...Europeans did enough harm to be condemned for greed, pillage, and brutality. But they DID NOT have to teach those vices to Indians; they had bloody religious practices that made everyday brutality commonplace. Nor did they teach them war, for warfare had been systemic for longer than the first Americans could remember, and for causes they had long forgotten.
The spiritual truth is, Christians cannot avoid the challenge of calling unsaved sinners from the old rut-worn ways of egotism, humanism and materialism to the foreign concept of a Christ-centered life of self-denial. That’s a challenge some preachers won’t accept because it makes them prophetic oppositionists to behaviors acceptable in our depraved society.
Unlike paleontologists, who see in ancient Americans standards Europeans should never have violated, God’s word calls us to his OLD PATHS because only he determines behavior and lifestyle. Yours for a faithfulness to God’s word that begins, as Jesus did, with the demand to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” Matthew 4:17. The only way any mortal, whatever his educational, financial or cultural fame, will enter God’s presence is through self-denial Matthew 16:24-26.
As it’s the property of rain to be wet, and the property of fire to burn, it’s the property of Jesus to transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body. He says he can do it by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control—an awesome power of creation, of regeneration, of dominion. He can do what he pleases, and he pleases to transform our lowly bodies! Amen.
Our age has lost this hope. Judge by the latest modern procedure to find new life for the body. It’s called cryonics. The blood is drawn from the body. Then a solution is instilled to preserve the organs. Then the corpse is stowed in deep freeze, held in suspension till future medical technology can revive it. The treatment costs at least $70,000, and a few have already been frozen. That is a hope born of desperation.
Jesus has a better idea. Belief in him guarantees eternal life that begins now. If we die, not to worry: Jesus lives. If we decay, worry even less. When Christ is ready, he will reunite soul and body in a glorified, eternal state.
In the meantime, this promise: not only are our victories victories, but our defeats are really victories in disguise. Our sorrows are really joys; all pain is really pleasure, wearing thorns; all weakness is strength, all labor is really rest. And this...even this...death is no end but just a beginning of indestructible life. That is our destiny!
Go to the rest homes and see the infirm; but that isn’t the end. Go to the hospitals and see the sick; but that isn’t the end. Go to the graveyards and see the dead; and that isn’t the end. Against all that, go to Revelation 22:1 and see “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Go to Revelation 21:9 and see “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Then go to Revelation 21:3 and hear, “A loud voice from the throne saying ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
To finish the tour, go to Revelation 21:5 and hear God say, “I am making everything new!...it is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” And none of all that will be the end either. No. But, praise God, praise God!! It is the Beginning that has no end!