Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Reality Of Heaven And Hell

The unbelievers (those who do not believe that there is a God who created heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who rules the universe) do not believe in the existence of heaven and hell. These people believe that death will be the end of everything and all things. In short, they are the so-called atheist.

The canonized Bible tells us that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This heaven is defined by God himself by saying:

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament (the heavens or the sky) in the midst of the waters and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven…” (Gen. 1:6-8 KJV)

In Luke 16:19-31, the LORD Jesus Christ himself related the story of the RICH MAN AND LAZARUS, as follows:

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades (or hell), where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31 NIV)

This must be a true picture of Hades (or hell) because it was related by Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life; no one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6 KJV). Meaning, any statement made by Jesus Christ is absolutely true. God never tells a lie. It is impossible for God to lie, according to the Bible (Numbers 23:19 and Hebrews 6:18). This story is related by Jesus Christ to let the living know and warn us what happens to us in the next life or world to come if we behave like the rich man, or like Lazarus, poor but a believer of Christ (God in the flesh).

Let us analyze carefully the import or meaning of the aforequoted narrative story of Jesus Christ.

In verse 23, hell really exists and it is a place of TORMENT (KJV) or AGONY (also vs. 24-25, 28 NIV).

When someone dies, he/she is consigned to either heaven or hell. There is no intermediate or other place: it is only heaven or hell. Once there, the soul of the dead one can no longer be transferred from hell to heaven or from heaven to hell. No amount of repeated petition by prayer of the living loved ones will cause the transfer of the soul from hell to heaven (vs. 26, 29-31). This is the very reason why true and genuine theologians do not believe in the existence of an intermediate place called “Purgatory”. Indeed, we can find nothing said in the canonized Bible about purgatory. Consequently, there is reason to believe that there is no such place. It is here now while we are on earth that we can prepare ourselves to qualify to enter the kingdom of God – HEAVEN.

Only the Bible (Word of God [Moses and the Prophets] can convince people about God on the existence of heaven and hell (vs. 31). If someone does not believe the Word of God (the Bible), then no one else can convince that someone, even by someone who rose from the dead (Luke 16:31).

Beginning at Chapter 18 of the book of Revelation, the Bible mentions heaven. This is repeated in Chapter 19:1 and in 20:1. In Rev. 21:1, the Bible says, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth! for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. Then John further described the new heaven and hell as follows:

2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard 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. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6 He said to me: "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. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Rev. 21:2-8 NIV)

Since the Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and “For the wages of sin is death…” it seems very difficult if not impossible to enter heaven or the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23-24 NIV). Imagine the physical impossibility of a camel to go through a “needles eye”!

The lesson is: We must believe the canonized Bible; act on it; repent of our sins; accept by FAITH the LORD JESUS CHRIST as our LORD and ONLY SAVIOR, and be assured of a place in Heaven.

The Bible tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceived ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9 NIV). For the repentant-believer Jesus Christ “died for his sins” (1 Cor. 15:3 and 2 Cor. 5:21 KJV).

Thus, Jesus Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life: He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (spiritually)” (John 11:26 NIV). He demonstrated this truth by resurrecting Lazarus, His friend (a believer) even after the latter died and was buried already for four days (John 11:38-44 NIV).

Heaven is as real as hell. The believer’s destiny is Heaven. He will live there with Jesus Christ (God) forever.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Fate of the Wicked and Righteous Compared

The anonymous Psalmist in Psalm 92 compares the wicked and the righteous in this manner:

vs. 7. Although the wicked flourish like weeds [or grass KJV], and evildoers blossom with success, there is only eternal destruction ahead of them [or it is that they shall be destroyed for ever, [KJV] (NLT).

He continued, saying:

vs. 12 But the godly [righteous KJV] will flourish like Palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. 13For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. 14Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they shall remain vital and green [they shall be fat and flourishing KJV] 5They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is nothing but goodness in him! [the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him [KJV] (NLT).

The New Living Translation (NLT) Bible makes this commentary.

Palm trees are known for their longlife. To flourish like Palm trees means to stand tall and to live long. The cedars of Lebanon grew to 120 feet in height and up to 30 feet in circumference, thus, they were solid, strong and immovable. The Psalmist saw believers as upright, strong, and unmoved by the winds of circumstance. Those who place their faith firmly in God can have this strength and vitality.” (NLT p. 922, July 1996 Edition).

Why do I usually make reference to King James Version (KJV)? Because in Theology, the KJV is a translation nearest to the original Hebrew or Greek in which languages our Old Testament and New Testament were respectively originally written. And why do I often make reference to the New Living Translation (NLT)? Because “this translation is accomplished by translating entire thoughts (rather than just words) into natural everyday English. The end result is a translation that is easy to read and understand, and that accurately communicates the meaning of the original text”.

The Psalmist said: “Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green”.

Again, I go back to one of my favorite expressions: “Experience is the best teacher.” When I was a young practitioner of the law profession, I was always nervous to face the Judges who usually are old, and well known successful practitioners before they were appointed to the judiciary. It is only when the trial of my case is done that I feel relieved. But now that I am old, I do not feel nervous anymore because I am always older than the oldest Judge (who has not retired), and being well experienced in the practice of the profession, I am conversant with the procedures of trial, and even the Judge address me as “Sir” in our conferences in the chambers, during pre-trial proceedings, which makes my younger adverse counsel “nervous.” I chose not to elaborate further. Imagine usually a very strict Judge addressing me “Sir” in the presence of my adversary counsel and his client!

The wisest man (King Solomon) that ever lived on earth whom the Bible tells us, “no one is wiser before him and after him,” said: “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise; Why should thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish; why should thou die before thy time?” (Eccl. 9:16-17 KJV). Meaning, going to the extreme is not good for us.

The Bible tells us also, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6 KJV). Who are those who may be considered old? In our society today, a child is up to 12 years old; a youth is 13 to 25; 26 to 40 or 45 is middle age. Beyond this age may be considered matured up to 49. Age 50 and above may be considered old. Thus, Moses who was commissioned by God to liberate the Israelites (Hebrews) from their Egyptian bondage was 80 years old (with enough experience in life). Indeed, he was really old then! He died at the age of 120 and was buried by God himself. Moses said: “Seventy years are given to us! Some may reach even eighty. But even the best of those years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we are gone” (Psalm 90:10 NLT).

Abraham of old was called to active duty by God when he was already 75 years old. And these two personalities did some important missions worth recording in the Book of all Books – the Bible – the “Manufacturer’s Manual” for mankind.

In modern times, during World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur who was already a retired General of the U.S. Army was recalled to active duty when he was already 64 years old. In politics, Sir Winston Churchill became a Prime Minister of England at the age of 77. And these men did an excellent job in their respective field of endeavor.

Why old people are called to active duty? Because, I repeat for emphasis, “experience is the best teacher”.

How did I acquire a multi-million corporation client with 200 employees, consisting of mechanics, welders, aircon technicians, mechanical engineers, accountants, etc., that rebuilds and assembles Korean-made cars? The President of this corporation one day in 2003 after being disappointed with his former “younger” lawyer in a certain case, asked for recommendation from the staff of the court for an old (experienced) lawyer. By God’s will, they recommended me. Since then, this client stuck with me.

Learning from an experienced lawyer from Manila, Philippines, who was my co-counsel in some land cases in a 100-hectare residential subdivision in Davao City, Philippines, called the Davao Central Park Subdivision, who told me that very rich clients are usually stingy, but he said, “ask for what is abundant with him and he will readily give it to you.” So, every time I win a substantial case for this vehicle re-builder and assembler client, I ask a car for my fee. He would readily give me one of my choice, of course, a slightly used one almost brand new, and the bonus is that the brand new tires, batteries, and repairs, if any, are also free. Now, by the grace of God, I have more cars than I need. Praise God!

For those growing old like me, thank God for His blessing of old age. Just be “planted” in the courts of God, and you will flourish like Palm trees and grow strong like cedars of Lebanon. Even in old age, you shall bear fruit, you shall remain vital and green and flourishing, and receive manifold blessings both material and spiritual. To God be the glory!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Use What You Have

The Bible tells us that every person has been endowed by God with at least one talent or ability. Some are fortunate to have more than one. Everyone on judgment day will be called to account for what he has done to his endowed talent or ability.

Whatever be our talent or ability, we are called to do and exercise in all fidelity and in a way that will glorify our God. If by the use of our endowed or God-given talent or ability we glorify God, necessarily and inevitably as night follows day, we will be successful in all human endeavors that we engage ourselves, whether physically, financially, spiritually, or otherwise. Thus, the Bible tells us,

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:23).

Let the mechanic be a diligent and faithful representative of Him who toiled in the lowly carpenter’s shop in Bethlehem of Judea. Let all who carry the name of Jesus Christ so work that others, by seeing their good works, may be led to glorify our God.

The Bible tells us of certain human abilities or spiritual gifts, as follows:

6” God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.
7 If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.
8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” (Romans 12:6-8).

The great Apostle Paul reminds us that these various spiritual gifts should be done or exercised in LOVE - the greatest emotion and joy in all our life, which is “the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:14). It is because of LOVE that God sent his only begotten Son to sacrificially die on our behalf in the cross of Calvary to save every believer (those who repent of their sins and accept by faith the Lord Jesus Christ as their only LORD and Savior) from eternal death (John 3:16).

Thus, Paul continued:

9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good.
10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
11 Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.
12 Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful.
13 When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.
14 If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
15 When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow.
16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
18 Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.
19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written. “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it”, says the Lord.
20 Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.”
21 Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (vs. 9-21)

Those who have been blessed with superior talents or spiritual gifts should not look down on those who are less gifted than themselves. The smallest or humblest trust or spiritual gift like ushering is from God. With the blessing of God, the one talent as spiritual gift through diligent use or exercise will be doubled, and the two used in the service of our Christ (God in the flesh) will be increased to four, etc.; and thus the humblest believer may grow in power and usefulness in God’s kingdom here on earth and in the world to come.

We are responsible only for the talents which God has bestowed upon us, and He expects us to use our talents and spiritual gifts to the best of our ability to prosper in life physically and spiritually.

Those who thus prove their fidelity can be commended and rewarded; but those who loiter in the vineyard, those who do nothing, or do negligently the Lord’s work, will never succeed or be blessed.

If we desire greater usefulness in any human endeavor, we must go to work as diligently and as best as we can. Let us work with steady patience, and do our very best, irrespective of what others are doing. Make the best investments possible with our entrusted talent or spiritual gift in the very place where our work will count the most before God. Remember, God placed us where we are.

When Moses was commissioned by God to liberate the Israelites from their bondage with the Egyptians, he complained that he was a nobody to be a liberator of numerous people who are wise but in bondage. The Lord God asked him, “What is in your hand?” Moses had only his staff (baston in Tagalog). God told him to throw it away and by a miracle of God, it became a snake. Like Moses of old, let us use our talent or spiritual gift already available in our hand, and God will show us miracles beyond our wildest dreams. Let us make use or exercise our ability, talent or spiritual gift with all diligence and our loving God will bless us miraculously.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Is Jesus God?

After the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ in three days as confirmed by the Lord Jesus himself when he said: “Destroy this temple (referring to his own body), and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:18) is enough evidence that Jesus is God himself. Who else can resurrect the dead except God?

Christ came to the world to reveal the character of the Father and to redeem the fallen race. The world’s Redeemer was equal with God. His authority was as the authority of God. He declared that He had no existence separate from the Father. The authority by which He spoke and wrought miracles was expressly His own, yet He assures us that He and His Father are one (John 10:30).

No man has seen God the Father. When God spoke to Moses as recorded in the Old Testament, he revealed himself through a burning bush (Exodus 3:2-6); only His voice was heard by Moses. In Gen. 1:26, during the creation, the Bible says, “And (the Father) said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: xxx”. Man xxx is the image and glory of God: xxx” (1 Cor. 11:7); Christ who is the image of God xxx”. How does the Lord Jesus Christ look like? He looks like man. In Colossians 1:15, Jesus Christ is described as “the image of the invisible God xxx”.

The Bible records the conversation among Thomas, Philip and the Lord Jesus as follows:
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” (John 14:5-11 KJV)

The unbelieving Thomas, when the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Him showing the imprint of the nails in His hand remarked, “My Lord and my God”.

The glory of the Father was revealed in the Son; Christ made manifest the character of the Father. He was so perfectly connected with God...” that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in Him” (John 10:38 KJV); that He who has seen the Son had seen the Father.

When Jesus spoke as recorded in the canonized Bible, we can be sure that is the truth and nothing but the whole truth. We can rely on His words and His promises that they are the truth and they shall surely come to pass 100%.

If we receive Him by faith (because we can no longer see or talk to Him personally) as our personal Savior, He promised to restore to us the image of God and to redeem our soul which had been lost through sin by his substitutionary death in the cross of calvary.

Jesus Christ himself said: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), and, moreover, the Bible tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD” (John 1:1 KJV), and then it further says, “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld [or saw] His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 KJV). In other words, Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.

Let us be reminded once more by what He said very positively, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). No one goes to heaven unless he passes through or believes by faith on the Lord Jesus Christ as his only Lord and Savior, the King of all kings, the LORD of all Lords. The choice is ours. God will not force us to decide. Whosoever will.