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Hugs From Heaven

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love giving and receiving bear hugs at church. Of course I realize not everyone does, so if you’d rather have a hand shake that’s fine, and if you’d rather, a fist pump will do too, especially if you think you have a cold. If you would rather not touch at all, I am happy to just smile and wave at you. With my Christian sisters I accept sideways hugs, so as not to misconstrue the intent of the hug. Of course some of the old-fashioned elderly ladies have no concept of a sideways hug, and just give me a huge bear hug as though I was their son, and so I graciously just grin and “bear” their big bear hugs. I know their motives are pure.

Some people are afraid to hug or touch others, for fear of it being misinterpreted, and that is exactly what Satan wants! Satan knows how important appropriate hugs and touching are to one’s physical and emotional health. In Matthew 8:2-3 Jesus heals a man’s leprosy by saying “I will, be thou clean.” But He touched the man in order to heal his loneliness. Of course we should only touch people who want to be touched, and only the appropriate ways I already described.

Now in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26 Paul says to greet each other with a “holy” or “sacred kiss,” depending upon the translation you use, but it all translates to a literal kiss. I am not suggesting we give literal kisses today, and would prefer a hug myself, but my point is that the Bible encourages appropriate touching beyond husband and wife. If you are not sure what appropriate touching means in your Christian culture, I strongly recommend, no, demand that you stick with just smiling and waving. Smiles cure loneliness too.

Do you know that the Holy Spirit likes to give big bear hugs too?

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NKJV

This is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. The father, who represents our heavenly Father, ran out and fell on his son’s neck. Does that mean he tripped and fell on his neck? No, of course not! It means he gave his son a big bear hug. The phrase, “fell on” is an old English term for “bear hug.”

When Peter was speaking to the Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit “fell upon” them, we can see that as the Holy Spirit giving them a big bear hug!

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. Acts 10:44 NLT

Again we see the phrase “fell upon” which does not mean tripping and falling, but actually giving a big bear hug! The Holy Spirit loves to give bear hugs! Let that sink in.  When God sends His Spirit, He’s not sending us power to do legalistic works in legalistic self righteousness. No! When God gives us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit gives us a big bear hug, giving us all of heaven’s love so that our works and righteousness will be filled with God’s love!

I published an article a while back, about how I was praying one night that God would continue supporting my ministry so I could continue sharing His love with others. The following morning I went to my church community center, where an elderly lady from church gave me a big bear hug, and told me that God knew about all my needs and that He would continue supporting my ministry. It was as though she heard my conversation with God the night before. That is when I realized the bear hug she gave me was just as much from God, as the words of hope she shared.

Friend, as important as physical hugs are, you may have had some unfortunate experiences that prohibit you from giving hugs or receiving them. And when I say prohibit, I mean  you may even be legally prohibited because of a mistake you made in the past. God wants to restore and heal you. He wants to forgive and change your life, and if you are never able to physically hug another person on earth, please know the Holy Spirit’s hugs are real. Ask for the Holy Spirit and let God give you a big bear hug!

You can study this week’s SS lesson on the Holy Spirit here. 

The Gift of Tongues in the Bible

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I hadn’t been a Bible Worker very long, when I found myself talking to a man who felt he was led by the Spirit because he spoke in tongues. However, it was not the Bible version of speaking in tongues, where “every man heard in his own language.” He was speaking things no one understood. He told me about a Pentecostal prayer meeting he recently attended, where he was “filled with the spirit,” spoke in tongues and ended up at a hotel with a lady he met at the meeting! I assured Him the Holy Spirit would not have led him to do such a thing. He would not listen to me. He was on an emotional high, going strictly by feelings.

This man was not the only one who put emotions and feelings above Scripture. Not long after, I began studying with three members of a 7th day Pentecostal church in west Texas. They explained the wonderful emotions that overtake them when speaking in tongues. Interestingly enough, I preached in their church a handful of times, but they never spoke in tongues while I was there. Still, for the longest time, they put their emotions over Scripture, telling me they knew it was real because they felt it. I sure am glad Jesus did not put feelings above the Word of God, after fasting 40 days in the wilderness, when Satan questioned if He was really the Son of God. I am glad I don’t put my emotions before the Scriptures, when John tells me if I confess my sins, God is faithful to forgive me, even though I still feel terrible about what I have done. It took me several years of study and friendship before this trio were convicted and put God’s Word above their feelings, and were baptized into my local Seventh-day Adventist Church.

What I find ironic, is how many people sincerely believe that a church has to speak in tongues in order to be spirit filled, while at the same time scoffing at the Seventh-day Adventist Church for claiming to have the Spirit of Prophecy. Fact is though that the Spirit of Prophecy is an identifying mark of God’s last day church, and not speaking in tongues.

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.  Revelation 12:17 NKJV

the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10 NKJV

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 NKJV

God’s church has the Spirit of Prophecy, and the Spirit of prophecy is the gift the Bible tells us to pursue above all others, and not speaking in tongues. Why?

Because…

Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 1 Corinthians 14:22 NKJV

According to Acts 2:6 Biblical speaking in tongues is when people hear the gospel in their own language. About ten years ago I heard a young lady preaching, who was a student at Southern Adventist university near Chattanooga Tennessee. She spoke of a mother she knew who was at a local park with her 6 year old English speaking daughter. The daughter met a little Spanish girl at the swings, and started talking to her about Jesus. The two little girls continued talking, when both of the girls’ mothers became amazed they speaking to each other, because the English girl only knew English and the Spanish girl only knew Spanish! God created a miracle so they little girl could hear about Jesus in her own language just like on the day of Pentecost. According to 1 Corinthians 14:22 speaking in tongues is for the unbeliever to hear the gospel in their own language. It is not for the believer in church, because she is there because she has already heard the gospel. That’s why she is there. So, the prophesying is to be used in the church for those who already believe. This is very important to understand. We are not supposed to use the Spirit of Prophecy to beat unbelievers over the head with- or believers for that matter. The Testimonies for the church are directed to the church, not unbelievers. It was the same in Isaiah’s day.

Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Isaiah 58:1 NKJV

Isaiah was given the Spirit of Prophecy to show the church its sins, not the world. The world is to be told their is a Savior, and then be instructed with the Spirit of Prophecy, not before. What that means to us today, is we need to be telling our neighbors that Jesus loves and died for them, and not that they need to stop eating cheese or drinking with their meals. But I digress.

So Biblical speaking in tongues is when someone hears the gospel in their own language. Speaking in tongues does not need to be used in the church. It needs to be used outside the church to share the gospel with unbelievers in their own language. When unbelievers accept the gospel and become believers, they are welcomed into the church, where the gift of prophecy is shared with them.

To study more in the Bible about speaking in tongues, please click here. 

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

The Real Reason Why There are so Many Different Christian Denominations

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have heard it said, there are many different Christian denominations because the Bible can be interpreted many different ways. This simply is not true, and an insult to God, making it look like He is not smart enough to provide a Book that can be understood, or has trouble explaining Himself. After the cross, there were many home churches and synagogues, but there were no denominations. It was all one church. This church was severely persecuted after the cross. But then something worse than persecution met the church, and that was compromise!

The great adversary now endeavored to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God and to believe in His death and resurrection, but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the platform of belief in Christ. Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. Some of the Christians stood firm, declaring that they could make no compromise. Others were in favor of yielding or modifying some features of their faith and uniting with those who had accepted a part of Christianity, urging that this might be the means of their full conversion. That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan was insinuating himself into the church, to corrupt their faith and turn their minds from the word of truth.
Most of the Christians at last consented to lower their standard, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to be converted, and united with the church, they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. The foul leaven of idolatry, thus brought into the church, continued its baleful work. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into her faith and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted, and the church lost her purity and power. There were some, however, who were not misled by these delusions. They still maintained their fidelity to the Author of truth and worshiped God alone. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 42-43 

The problem was not that the Bible was not plain enough to understand. The problem was that superstition and sin were welcomed into the church to make the church vogue and world friendly.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV 

The problem Paul is describing to Timothy does not have anything to do with the Bible being contradictory or too hard to understand. It has to do with people not wanting to know the plain truths of the Bible and wanting to believe lies and fables instead.

This happened in the very beginning. God clearly told Adam and Eve that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. Satan told a simple lie, “Ye shall not surely die” and without any evidence or further ado Eve bought it because it sounded good! See Genesis 3:4. Today Satan’s lie is being taught from pulpits even though the Bible is very clear that the dead are resting in their graves right now, waiting on the resurrection, while  1 Timothy 6:16  tells us plainly that only God is immortal.

Now not everyone has chosen to believe a lie. Some have actually been deceived because of things they were sincerely taught wrong. This is the fault of those who were spreading lies intentionally, and not the fault of the Bible authors not being able to write clear enough to be understood. Of course preconceived ideas, that originated from these lies  hinder our understanding of the Bible. Revelation describes a 1260 year period of spiritual darkness, when Bibles were replaced with superstition. However a reformation came, bringing the light of God’s Word. In Revelation 18:4 God calls His people out of the darkness of Babylon’s false teachings and into the light found in the Bible. So, with so many lies and preconceived ideas, how can we find Bible truth?

Lets be open minded or “fair minded” when studying Scripture, putting all preconceived ideas away, and search (searching and casually reading are two different things!) the Scriptures to see if what we are being told is true.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:11 NKJV

Let’s compare Scripture with Scripture letting the Bible interpret itself so that we get the big picture. We can’t draw conclusions from one simple verse. We must compare verses to let the Bible interpret itself. For example, in Ecclesiastes 12:7 it says when man dies his spirit returns to God who gave it. That alone sounds like we go to heaven when we die, only because of our preconceived ideas we have heard from the father of lies.  When we compare Scripture we read in Job 27:3 that the spirit is simply our breath. So all Ecclesiastes 12:7 is saying, is that when we die God takes away His breath. That is all. Isaiah tells us to study by comparing multiple texts.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line,

Here a little, there a little.” Isaiah 28:10 NKJV 

Fortunately we don’t have to try to do all this on our own. We can pray when we study our Bibles, and if we are studying with an open mind, comparing Scripture with Scripture, the Holy Spirit will lead us into ALL truth! Thank God for the various Christian denominations, who have exposed various Satanic lies, and have helped us recover various Bible truths. As we continue studying the Bible we will be led into all of God’s truth, instead of just various truths.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…John 16:13 NKJV

Yes Satan’s lies, and the church replacing God’s Word with fables and superstition took the church into the dark ages. But God’s Word is victorious (Of course God always had His people in every age who went by the Bible instead of superstition) in bringing us out of the darkness and into the light of God’s love!

You may study more Bible teachings in the light of God’s love here. 

When You Just Need to Talk to Jesus Face to Face

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When we go through Job-like experiences and trials, we sometimes wish that Jesus was right here with us, so we could talk to Him face to face instead of just reading the Scriptures. We think Jesus would have something new to say to us outside of Scriptures, that would fit our unique experience. However, let’s see what often happened when people in Scripture talked to Jesus personally.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:3-4 NKJV

The tempter tries to get into a theological debate with Jesus, but instead of thinking up clever, witty comebacks Jesus just quotes what is already written in Scripture. I’m thinking we should do the same. So in this discussion, even though the tempter had a personal conversation with Jesus, nothing was revealed you and I could not already find in Scripture.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?Luke 10:25-26 NKJV

Once again Jesus does nothing more than take the lawyer to Scripture. The same Scripture you and I have even though we’ve never had a physical person to Person talk with Jesus, like many wish for.

In Luke 24 Cleopas and his friend are walking towards Emmaus, when they meet Jesus. They don’t realize who He is as they tell Him about their doubts about what happened that crucifixion week. Now here they are talking to Jesus personally, and what does He do? He doesn’t tell them anything other than what was already written in Scripture!

 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24:27 NKJV

So here we have three cases of someone getting to actually have a real live physical one on one conversation with Jesus, and each time nothing was revealed but what was already written in the Scriptures. Could it be that everything we need to know about life’s trails is already in the Scriptures? Later Cleopas and his friend said, ““Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 Friend, has there not been times when you have read the Scriptures and your heart burned within you as though Jesus was talking personally to you? Its because He was! Someone once said, “I may know a lot of books, but the Bible is the only book that knows me!”

Several years ago my church had an agape communion feast. It was supposed to be a time for personally healing and restoration. The leader assigned us a partner to pray with. My partner refused to pray with me because I had a different opinion about a local issue. I would prefer to not give that member the satisfaction of reading this, and triumphing in that they successfully hurt me, but they did. What God had designed to be a healing time, this member had used to bring me pain. I questioned God as to why He would let this happen? This was a sacred feast and yet someone used it for evil. God did not answer me audibly, but once again He through the Spirit pointed me to Scripture. We were celebrating an agape feast, similar to the Passover super. That night Jesus wanted someone to pray with, but his disciples failed Him. Sure they were not mean spirited like this church member, but still they let Him down, and Jesus had to experience the post agape feast praying alone just like I did! I realized I felt His pain and He felt mine! When I realized Jesus and I had shared a unique situation together,  that brought healing! Through both providence and Scripture Jesus revealed Himself to me.

In chemistry you have a classroom where you learn theory, and a lab where you learn practicum. When we go through trials like Job, we have the Bible to learn theory, but then we have the world as our lab where we put it into practice. Through practice Jesus leads us by His Word and providence. As different lab experiments turn out uniquely so does our providence, but God has given us His Word in the Scriptures to guide us all, even in our unique experiences.

This is why Paul said the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, but not only for getting our 28 fundamental beliefs. He went on to say for all our instruction in righteousness, as we become just as complete in Him as we are individually unique in Him.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Day God’s Love Made the Universe Stand Still

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is a saying, “kids who are loved at home come to school to learn. Kids who are not loved at home come to school to be loved.” Is it any different in Sabbath School? Is it also true that God’s children (ages 0-125) who know they are loved come to Sabbath school to learn, and those who don’t yet know they are loved, come to Sabbath School to be loved?

I can still remember sitting at my desk in my 4th-grade classroom at Tulsa Adventist Academy, listening to my teachers, Miss Fisher and Mrs. Krueger, lecturing us about something. I don’t really remember exactly what it was about, but we must have been struggling with our grades, because all I remember is, both teachers told us, “If you only learn one thing this year learn this. We love you!”  Now we were loved at home. We were loved at church and school, but as educated as my teachers were, they knew the most important thing is not money or a degree. It’s love. Without that nothing else matters, and when you know you are loved, nothing can stop you!

For the love of Christ controls and compels us, because we have concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died (2 Corinthians 5:14 Amplified Bible)

So while humanity tries harder, and reads self-help books and tries 12-step recovery programs, Paul says it is by looking at the cross and knowing we are loved that we get all our power to succeed. I remember John the Baptist telling everyone to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John 1:29. He didn’t tell them to try harder next time. He told them to look at the Lamb. Let His love soak into you.

As legalistic humans we are always wanting to promise to try harder next time. But the answer is not promising to try harder. The answer is letting yourself be loved.

In Jeremiah God mentions how Israel had not kept the promises they had made, so He was going to make a better promise. His promise would be better because He is the the One making the promise instead of them. He is the perfect Promise-maker while we are lousy promise-makers!

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NLT)

So God promises to do for us what we could never even promise to do for ourselves, much less even try harder to make happen. God is the One promising, and He is the One who is accountable to make it so. Please notice something very important though. Its in Jeremiah 31:3 NLT, several verses before He promises to write His law on our hearts.

I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

Just like my teachers realized all the book knowledge in the world doesn’t mean a thing without love, God feels the same way. Knowing all the laws and having them memorized in your mind and knowing them all by heart doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know how much God loves you!

Friends, there is no reason for you to promise God you are going to try harder and do better next time. He has already promised you! We don’t need to promise God what He has already promised us! What? I don’t have any work to do myself? Well yes, and I will let Jesus tell you Himself, exactly what your work is.

 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 NLT

Our work is to believe God’s promise that He loves us with an everlasting love, and He will place the principles of His love (also known as His law) in our hearts!

This is why John never told us to try harder! Just look at the Lamb and let His love soak into your heart till your heart is saturated with His love, which is also His law. You don’t need to promise God anything. Your work is to believe the promises God has made to you!

In 2017, I don’t need too many self-help books. I don’t need to try harder. I just need to look at the Lamb in 2017 and fall in love with Jesus! His love will change me in ways I could never change myself. After all, all the self help books and promises of better performance don’t mean a thing without love!

So just how good is God at keeping His promises to love and save us? For brevity, let me share one example. You can read about it in Joshua 9-10.

The Gibeonites used deceit to trick Israel into letting them in on the covenant God had made with them. Even though Israel was not supposed to make a covenant with anyone living as close as the Gibeonites, they did. Later when the Gibeonites were under attack, they called upon Israel to save them, and even though the Gibeonites had used deceit to secure this covenant, God was so relentless in keeping His promise of love, that He caused the sun to stand still until the Gibeonites were all rescued! God fought for Israel as Israel fought for the mischievous Gibeonites. Let that soak in. The Gibeonites were in no way worthy of any of God’s blessings, but God was still so loving and faithful to His promise that He made the sun stand still until they were all rescued! Talk about a love that moves heaven and earth! And this powerful love was given to the most undeserving people! So, scientifically speaking, the greatest power in the universe is not gravity or the suctioning power of the black hole. God’s love overruled all those powers and made the solar system stand still. Imagine what this love can do in your heart! 

God’s powerful promises and love are also for you and me. In Hebrews 13:5 God promises to never leave us or forsake us, but the Amplified Bible is the only English version that even begins to grasp what God is actually promising.

for He has said, “I will never under any circumstances desert you nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless, nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you- assuredly not!” Hebrews 13:5 Amp version.

If we know we are loved we can come to Sabbath School to learn, and we can learn while we are loved, but we can’t learn without love.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 NLT

—and the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT 

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Liberal Towards Others, Conservative Towards Ourselves

“I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off
criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” Job 16:4-5 NL
T

Seems Job’s friends were being easy on themselves, but hard on Job. How often do we see this today? In the church and in politics we hear of two camps – liberals and conservatives. However we are seldom in one camp or the other. Many of us are liberal in some ways and conservative in other ways. Or we are liberal towards ourselves, but conservative towards others. In other words, we cut ourselves some slack, but we expect everyone else to step it up a notch and hold to the standard. Is that how we should be?

Let’s look at Jesus as our example. Was He in the liberal camp or the conservative camp? Like us, He was in both camps, but instead of being liberal towards Himself, and conservative towards others, He was the exact opposite. When He fasted in the wilderness 40 days, He was conservative towards Himself, but when He worked a miracle to feed the multitude He was liberal towards others.

It is rare to find someone who is truly 100% liberal or 100% conservative. I have heard some preachers preach some pretty liberal sermons, but saw them actually live pretty conservative lives, while I have also heard preachers who preach quite conservative sermons on such topics as diet and Sabbath keeping, but in their personal lives, they are quite liberal in what they allow themselves to eat or do on the Sabbath.

I have met several families who follow Jesus’ example of being liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves. One Sabbath I brought my cheese enchiladas to church, only to find out there was no fellowship dinner that day. A family that was strictly vegan, invited me to their home. They told me, “bring your enchiladas over to our house, and fellowship with us. You can warm them up in our oven, and eat them while we eat what we have prepared.” First they realized how important fellowship is, and did not tell me how terrible I was for eating cheese or tell me I could not bring it into their home. They were liberal towards me, but conservative towards themselves.

Years later I was eating with another family, who had generously given large sums of money to the church for evangelism and had recently given an extremely generous contribution for a youth mission trip. However, in the course of conversation they mentioned, what appeared to me, to be a relatively modest vacation one of their children wanted to take, but the parents said, “We don’t have that kind of money.” Wow! I thought to myself, they can give thousands to evangelism and mission trips, but when it comes to their own vacations they say, ‘We don’t have that kind of money to take a modest vacation for ourselves.” They were liberal towards the needs of the church but were conservative when it came to their own wish list.

As I read the book of Job, it appears to me that he was conservative towards himself but liberal towards others. It appears to me also that his friends were liberal towards themselves but conservative towards Job. So when Job’s entire community, including himself, were conservative towards Job, but everyone including Job were liberal towards his friends, this created a very unbalanced and unhealthy community. A church and community become balanced when like Jesus, each member is liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Two Resurrections and the Second Death

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Bible teaches two different resurrections. Jesus spoke of one resurrection for those who are saved, and another resurrection for those who are lost.

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:28-29 NKJV

Paul was aware of separate resurrections for the saved and unsaved when he wrote that when Christ comes the saved will rise first. This means everyone who has died will come back to life again. Some for eternity, and others long enough to see their condemnation is just, and then to die for eternity.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 NKJV

The saved will then judge the unsaved for a thousand years.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them….. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power…Revelation 20:4-6 NKJV

The saved only die once. When they are resurrected in the first resurrection they will live eternally. They will not die a second time. But when the unsaved are resurrected at the end of the thousand years, Satan will tempt them to try and destroy the New Jerusalem, and that is when the fire will come down from God and destroy them. They will be tormented day and night forever, or in other words for the rest of their lives-until they die, and will never live again. 

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, 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. Revelation 20:7-10 NKJV

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14-15 NKJV

The unsaved will then experience the second-eternal death, never to live again, while the saved enjoy the new earth for all eternity, never to die again. We see these concepts in the story where Jesus resurrected Lazarus.

When Jesus first heard Lazarus was sick He said,

This sickness is not unto death…John 11:4 NKJV

Yes, Lazarus died, but that was not the end of the story. Jesus raised Lazarus back to life! So we can be sure that when our loved ones, who are in Christ die, that is not the end of their story either. They will be raised back to eternal life. Another reason why Jesus may have said Lazarus’ sickness was not unto death, is because Jesus refers to the first death as sleep, since after all, after the first death everyone will be woken up again at one of the resurrections.

He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” John 11:11 NKJV

Lazarus’ sisters were disappointed, when Jesus allowed him to die. Jesus said something very interesting to his sister.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. John 11:25-26 NKJV

What did Jesus mean by “though he may die, he shall live?” I believe Jesus was referring to the first resurrection, where the dead in Christ will live to never die again. What did Jesus mean by “whoever lives and believes in me shall never die?”Remember Jesus referred to Lazarus sleeping. Jesus refers to the first death as sleep. If we live and believe in Jesus we may sleep, but we will be raised to life in the first resurrection, to live for eternity, and will never die the second death of the unsaved, which is the true and eternal death.

This is where we see the amazing love of Jesus! Jesus tasted the second death for us! 

He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9 NKJV

Jesus calls the death before the resurrection, “sleep.” Hebrews 2:9 does not say that Jesus “slept” for everyone, but “died” for everyone. Revelation 14:10 speaks of the unsaved drinking from a cup. I believe that is the cup that Jesus chose to drink for us in Gethsemane. See Matthew 26:36-46. I believe the cup in Matthew 26 and Revelation 14 is the second death. Remember, Jesus does not save us from the first death, which He calls sleep. We die that death ourselves. Jesus saved us from the second death, and therefore must have tasted the second death. An inspired writer, who wrote very passionately and lovingly about Jesus’ sacrifice agrees.

Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 753.

When Lazarus died or fell asleep as Jesus called it, He told his sister Martha,

“Your brother will rise again.” John 11:23 NKJV

Because of Jesus dying the second death in our place, if you have a brother or sister sleeping in Christ, you may say with Martha,

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” John 11:24 NKJV

And when those who are sleeping in Christ are awaken, they will live forever never to taste the second death.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.