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The Gospel of Jesus Christ
The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that the grave is NOT the end of life. We cannot study the life of Jesus without seeing that His views of Earth were absolutely NOT the views of men in general. To most people, this world is everything; and to possess it, even in some tiny little bit, is their supreme ambition. Even in their more clear moments when they catch a glimpse of worlds other than their own, these far off visions are like twinkling stars so far off . . . out in the blue, and they soon lose sight of them in the haze of all the seeming strangeness.
To Jesus, Earth was just a very small piece of a much bigger whole, a small piece which was just a dull shadow of reality. Heaven, to His mind was NOT a place of silence and stillness . . . it was a place occupied with people whose movements were intelligent and swift as thought itself. With this far off PLACE, Jesus was perfectly familiar, this being Heaven, which was the dwelling place of His Father, and immeasurable hosts of angels, with Whom He was in close and constant contact, with frequent prayer, and the frequent words telling us how near and how very real the heavenly places were to Him. In the Mind of Jesus, Heaven was the highest part of happiness and light.
BUT Jesus was also familiar with another PLACE that He had also created, that being HELL! SO, blissful and glorious Heaven did have its extreme opposite, that of woe and darkness, a strict PLACE of fear and agony, and which He called the fires of Hell (Mat.5:22; 10:28; 25:41; Mk.9:47; Lk.12:5). Jesus is SO very clear that there are TWO invisible realms, far away from Earth, yet closely touching it from totally opposite directions, and to one OR the other of which ALL the paths of human life are headed, to reach their goal and their self-chosen destiny.
Jesus did not often speak the word "death"; that was too human a word. He preferred the softer names of "sleep" or "departure," thus making death the beginning of life, likening it to a triumphal march from bondage to liberty. "The Valley of the Shadow" to Jesus, was NOT a strange, unfamiliar place. He knew all its secrets, and it was His territory, where His will is supreme. "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living," and as we see Moses and Elias coming to the Mount of Transfiguration, we see that the physically dead, have NOT departed so far away as to take no interest in earthly things. How clearly this is seen in the resurrection life of Jesus, with which this Gospel closes! Death and the Grave have done their worst to Jesus. So insignificant is the blank it makes in His Divine Life! The few hours in the grave were but a brief rest in His Life; for the Resurrection morning brought Him to the higher spaces. And so is it with all human life . . . the grave is NOT our goal. Conditions must change, as the mortal puts on immortality, incorruption (1 Cor.15:53-54).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ shows us in what respects the conditions of the after-life will be changed. In Luke 20:27, we read how that the Sadducees came to Jesus, tempting Him. This religious group denied the existence of spirits and the resurrection. They put before Him an extreme, although not impossible case, that of a woman who had been the wife, successively, of seven brethren; and the Sadducees ask, "In the resurrection therefore whose wife of them shall she be?" Jesus answered, "The sons of this world marry, and are given in marriage: but they that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: for neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection."
Consider how Jesus plays with the word around which the Sadducee mind revolves. To them marriage was the key-word which locked up the gates of an after-life, and threw back the resurrection among the impossibilities and absurdities. But Jesus unlocks and opens the inner souls of these men, showing how, in spite of their intelligence, their thoughts were wrong. Marriage has its place in the life whose boundaries are birth and death, here on Earth. It exists mainly for the perpetuation and increase of the human race. It has to do with the lower nature of man, the physical, the earthly life; but in the world to come birth, marriage and death all will be gone.
Luke 20:35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. (KJV)
And exactly the same truth is taught by the three following appearances recorded in this Gospel. When they appeared upon the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elias had been residents of the other world, the one for nine centuries, the other for fourteen centuries. But while they possessed the form, and perhaps the features of the old body of Earth, the glorious body they wear now is under conditions and laws altogether different. How easy and floating are its movements! Though their bodies possess no wings, it has the lightness and buoyancy of a bird, moving through the air swiftly and silently as the light pulses through the atmosphere. And too, consider the Body of Christ’s resurrection life. It has not yet become the glorified Body of the heavenly life; it is in its transition state, between the two: yet how changed it is! Lifted above the needs and laws of our earth-bound nature, the risen Christ no longer lives among His own; He dwells apart . . . where . . . we know not. When He does appear He comes in upon them suddenly, giving no warning of His approach; and then, after the bright although brief appearance, He vanishes just as mysteriously as He came, and finally passing on the clouds to Heaven.
I am certain that there is therefore some kind of communication between the body of the old and of the new body, although how far the similarity extends we do not know. We can only fall back on the apostle Paul’s words: 1 Cor. 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (KJV) . . . It is no longer the "natural body," but is now a supernatural one, with a spiritual instead of a material form, and under spiritual laws.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that our character determines our destiny. Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (KJV) . . . A man’s life does NOT consist in the abundance of things he possesses. Earthly wealth should NOT be our goal in this life, and it certainly is NOT the proper wealth according to Jesus! ALL worldly wealth shall be left behind as sediment, when they reach the obstacle of the grave, if not before. A man’s possessions do NOT create the true life, nor do they make the real self! It is NOT what a man HAS, but what a man IS, and a man IS exactly what his heart makes him. The outer life is simply the revealing of the inner soul, and what is called character. The meaning of character, is the elusive and silent influence, the fragrance which the soul unconsciously throws out . . . this fragrance can be either a fragrant (a good smell) or the opposite (a rotten, stinking odor).
In this world, character is more than a just condition, for it gives aim and direction to the whole life. Men do not always reach their goal in earthly things, but in the moral world each man goes to his "own place," the place he himself has chosen and sought; he is the negotiator of his own destiny. What we find to be a law of Earth, is also the law of the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jesus was constantly affirming. Our destiny would be our harvest of our earthly deeds, the hereafter would be the after-here. Jesus shows us how while on Earth we may lay up "treasures in the heavens." He draws a vivid picture of "a certain rich man," whose one estimate of life was "the abundance of the things which he possessed," the size and affluence of his barns, and whose soul was required of him just when he was congratulating himself for the years of plenty, saying: "Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry". (Lk.12:16-22). Jesus does not give us the destiny of such a soul. He does this in another parable . . . but He pictures it as suddenly torn away, and eternally separated, from all it had possessed, leaving it, possibly, to be squandered or consumed by the fires of lust. In the eyes of this world, such a man would be thought to be wise and happy, but to Heaven, he is the "foolish one," committing the great, the eternal folly.
The same lesson is taught in the parables of the House-builders (Lk.6:47), and of the Talents (Lk.19:12). In each of these, there comes the unavoidable test, the reckoning of the Lord, a test which leaves the obedient ones secure and happy, the faithful promoted to honor and rewards, but the disobedient, if not buried in the ruins of their false hopes, with no shelter from the unforgiving storm, and the unfaithful and slothful servant stripped of even the little he had, and condemned to eternal dishonor and shame.
In another parable, that of the Rich Man and Lazarus, (Lk.16:19-31), we have a light thrown upon our subject which is very bright. In a few graphic words Jesus draws for us the picture of very strange contrasts. The one is rich, dwelling in a palace, whose imposing entrance looked down upon the bad-mannered crowd. This one was clothed in garments of purple which only great wealth could purchase, and faring lavishly every day. With his perpetual banquets, the rich man lived his selfish, sensual life. His thought was centered on himself alone. He had no thoughts or sympathies for anyone outside his little world. His thoughts certainly did not travel the short distance to the poor beggar who is cast daily at his gate, in hopes that some of the crumbs of the banquet may fall within his reach. Such is the contrast . . . extreme wealth, and extreme poverty. One with hordes of friends, the other friendless . . . for the verb shows that the hands which laid him down by the rich man’s gate were not the gentle hands of affection, but the rough hands of duty or of a cold charity. The one clothed in splendid attire, the other not possessing enough even to cover his sores; the one gorged to near bursting, the other shrunken and starved. Such were the two characters Jesus portrayed in the parable . . . and then, lifting up the veil of shadows, He shows us how the noticeable contrast reappears in the other world, but with a very strange reversing of facts.
Now the poor man is blessed, but the rich man is in utter distress; the one is embraced in Abraham’s bosom, the other enclosed in flames; the one has all the abundant delights of Paradise, the other begging for just a drop of water with which to cool the parched tongue.
So many say that this is just a parable, and must not be taken literally. I strongly disagree! The parables of Jesus were NOT simply word-pictures; they every one of them held an essential Truth. And when we eliminate all this symbolic coloring, there is still left this remaining and basic Truth, that being . . . our character determines our destiny! Our eternal future, my friend, is the shadow of our present selves . . . the good shall be blessed, and the evil shall be unblessed, which means accursed or cursed. Heaven and Hell are tremendous realities, whose pleasures and whose pains lie FAR beyond the sound of our weak words.
When the rich man forgot his duties to humanity; when he expelled God from his mansion and forbid mercy from entering his thoughts; when he left Heaven’s orphan to the dogs, he was writing his book of doom, and passing sentence upon himself. The tree lies as it falls, and it falls as it leans. There surely is a place for the unforgiving, the unregenerate, the sensual, the selfish, the unjust and the unclean, but somewhere out there in the outer darkness, they themselves have helped make that place for themselves. Evil could never compromise or blend with the good, the pure can never be in the same eternal place with the vile. Wherever and whatever our final PLACE may be, NO one is an outcast except the one who casts himself out.
Could there not be an after test, so that character itself could be transformed? Isn’t it possible that the "great gulf" will one day disappear, or at least be bridged over? Isn’t there some way for the then repentant to pass out of its purifying fires? Isn’t there a purgatory of something like some religions teach, so that Hell need NOT be permanent? My friend, such indeed, is the belief or hope of millions! BUT . . . "the larger hope" as they call it, as far as the Gospel of Christ is concerned, is NOTHING but a beautiful but deceptive dream!
JESUS HIMSELF WAS/IS THE "RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE," and ONLY He holds in His own Hands, the keys of death and of hades, and He NEVER ever gives any hint of such a subsequent happening. The Bible speaks again and again of a day of test and examination, when actions shall be weighed and characters scanned, and when men will be judged according to their works. According to works: (Ps.62:12; Pro.24:12,29; Isa.59:18; Jer.21:14; 25:14; 32:19; Lam.3:64; Eze.7:8-9; 18:30; Hos.12:2; Zec.1:6; Mat.16:27; Rom.2:6; 2 Tim.4:14; Rev.2:23; 18:6; 20:12-13; 22:12).
The "Coming" of the Son of Man, in the glory of His Father, with an entourage of "holy angels" shall be the returning of the Lord, and His reckoning with His servants; while again it is at the end of the age, as the angel-reapers separate the wheat from the tares; or as He Himself, the great Judge, with His "Come ye," passes on the faithful to the heavenly kingdom, and at the same time, with His "Depart ye," drives from His Presence the unfaithful and unforgiven into the outer darkness. Jesus does NOT say one word to suggest that the judgment is NOT final. The unfaithful servant is "cut asunder" (Mat. 25:51), the enemies who would not have their Lord to reign over them are slain (Lk.19:27), and when once the door is shut, it is all in vain that those outside cry, "Lord, open to us (Mat.25:11)!" They HAD an open door, but they slighted and scorned it, and now they must abide by their choice, OUTSIDE the door, OUTSIDE the Kingdom, with the "workers of iniquity," where "there is weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Lk.13:28).
Do you see any larger hope in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man? Do you see the "pains of hell" being lessened? Or, in due course escaped altogether? NO! NO! NO! Millions listen in vain for one tiny bit of hope. In vain the rich man makes his appeal to "father Abraham"; in vain he pleads for good Lazarus to give him one drop of water, in vain he asks for a brief lessening of his pain. Between the rich man and any help or hope, is a "great gulf fixed that none may cross," (Lk.16:26) . . . that NONE may cross! These are the words of Jesus, although here put in the mouth of Abraham. My friend, IF this is not final, what is?
We do NOT know what the judgment may be, that is passed upon those who, although erring, are ignorant. We cannot tell, although Jesus clearly indicates that the number of the stripes will vary; according if they knew, or they did not know, the Lord’s will. BUT, for ALL those who had the light, and turned away from it, who saw what was right, but did it not do it, who heard the Gospel of love, with its great salvation message, and rejected it . . . for these there is only an "outer darkness" of eternal hopelessness according to the Holy Word of Almighty God! And what is that outer darkness? It is the darkness of their own inner blindness, a blindness which was willful and persistent in their stubborn hearts and minds?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ therefore teaches that death does NOT alter our character, that our character defines our destiny, and that our destiny once determined is unchangeable and eternal. Revelation 22:11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. (KJV)
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