1/19/15

From Ed Healy... Finishing The Course!



Finishing
The Course!

As the world watches one of the Olympic Games, I think back to when they were here in Lake Placid. In fact, our reporters often give news clips about some of those who won "The Gold" in the 1980 Winter Olympics.  It is history relived.  Often called the Miracle of 1980!

As I observe and reflect upon these events I can draw a parallel to something Paul said to Timothy in [2 Tim. 4:6-8]. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)


Paul had fought the good fight and finished the course, knowing that the victor's crown of righteousness was laid up for him. Yes, Paul knew that he was a winner with Christ as his leader. We, too, can have this same confidence, knowing that the crown of eternal life is ours.

When people compete for the Olympics, they need to prepare for the victory. That moment before finishing, a moment in which the athlete is all charged and can taste the victory, is a time when the hopes and dreams of hard work are so close to becoming reality.

The Olympics will pass and more will come in years ahead for new athletes to work for "The Gold."

Paul tells me that our victory is great because we have the confidence in Christ as being the first to overcome the grave. With confidence, we can draw near to the victory. With faith in Christ we can taste the victory. But, we must finish the course. We must draw near to the cross of Christ that we might receive the crown of righteousness.  The Miracle of Heaven!

From Jim McGuiggan... Enter the Dragon (5): Caine Mutiny

Enter the Dragon (5): Caine Mutiny

 "Carry one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ."   Galatians 6:2

For obvious reasons it's part of Satan's agenda to isolate us one from the other (not just Christians from Christians but Christians from fellow-humans). He promotes fragmentation because he finds us harder to deal with when we stand together. He's a shrewd one and even though we aren't ignorant of his schemes he still dupes us. One of his very successful approaches to his business is to seduce (he can't coerce!) Christians into what they despise and then beat them for engaging in it. "Go ahead and do it. You'll enjoy it. In any case, you do it so rarely. Besides, God will understand. He'd forgive even me if I looked for forgiveness. Go ahead." And after a lot of palaver we do it and the first thing he says is, "And you call yourself a Christian? You hypocrite! How could you do such a thing? Don't blame me. If you had really cared about God as you say you do, as you tell people you do, you wouldn't have engaged in that." Clever little devil that he is.      

Then there's the self-righteous angle that he might be more successful with than with any other approach. He takes a score of truths and so works them that before we're done we think we're the only virgin in a world of prostitutes. But he's slick and we swallow his line, hook, sinker and all. Try to argue us out of our superior spirit and you have a fight on your hands because we pay lip-service to the grace we have received to cover our sins all the while we're isolating others and exposing them. It must give Satan profound satisfaction to divide us against each other. He who came to save us came to reconcile us to God and one another and he who is the World Hater drives us apart, leaving us isolated and covered in shame.
Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Caine Mutiny was adapted for screen by Stanley Roberts in the 1954 movie starring Humphrey Bogart as the paranoid Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, captain of the Caine. Queeg had come from eight years in the Atlantic—which included chasing and being chased by German submarines—to the completely undisciplined crew of the Caine who cared none for the new captain because he insisted on going by the book. He especially troubled one of his officers, a cynical writer by the name of Tom Kiefer who had little love for the navy or the captain. The tension on board the mine-sweeper developed quickly and Queeg continued to widen the gap and deepen the feeling against him. 
On an exercise the ship was ordered to drag a target and while reprimanding a sailor and two of his officers over the dress-code Queeg allowed the ship to do a 380 degree turn and cut his own tow line. The news spread like fire in a paint factory—it was too good to keep, especially since it was at the expense of someone they disliked so much. This added derision to the charge of incompetence. 
A much more troubling incident occurred when the ship was to lead troop-filled invasion boats to within one thousand yards of the beach. The ship came under heavy bombardment and Queeg turned away early, leaving the troops well off the beach and without that extra five hundred yards protection. Added to the dislike, derision and name-calling was an accusation of cowardice. Finally, during a typhoon, the second in command, Steve Merrick, who'd been slow to criticize the captain, relieved Queeg of his command because he and fellow-officers believed the ship was in danger of foundering due to the captain's incompetence.
They were charged with mutiny and the case against them looked bad until the defense lawyer turned the spotlight on Queeg and the captain's deep inner fractures appeared. In his paranoia he speaks with a burning intensity about a gallon of strawberries that went missing, how that he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt with "geometric logic" that they'd been stolen and that someone had made a key for the pantry. He would have proved the key existed, he said, if the naval authorities hadn't withdrawn the ship from active service. He realized, he added, that they did that just to cover for some fellow-officers who'd been disloyal to him. He bore all the marks of a man who had cracked under terrible mental pressure.
All the officers accused were exonerated and went off to celebrate. Later the defense lawyer, Greenwald, who'd got them off, turned up at the party, mocking and gouging them, telling them that for them he had torpedoed Queeg who was a better man than any of them. He insisted that he got them off by leaving out one very important piece of information that would have scuttled their own case. He hadn't mentioned the fact that Queeg had gone to his officers and asked them for help and that in a deep sulky silence they'd turned him down.
It was true. In the early hours of the morning, the captain had called all his officers together. With great difficulty he (almost) apologized for his mishandling of the beach approach. In stumbling speech, with body language that fitted the speech, he wondered if they might not be "able to help each other," wondered if they couldn't all pull together. He said he was open to any suggestions or whatever it was the officers would like to say. Too filled with anger or scorn, or whatever, they sat fuming in silence until he felt obliged to leave, requesting some aspirin from one of them for a severe migraine headache. As soon as he left the talk began and Queeg was roasted again for not openly confessing his fears and mistakes. They were quick to talk, quick to talk about his failures, quick to parade his shame but shamefully silent when the victim needed them to speak in his favour, shamefully silent when he'd asked for their help. All this the lawyer reminded them of.
One of the celebrating officers admitted the truth of all that but he reminded the lawyer, "You said it yourself...he cracked." Greenwald blazed back at them that while they were making money, or on the playing fields in college, or jotting notes for their upcoming novels, people like Queeg were out laying their lives on the line defending the nation. The officers began to understand and feel the guilt of their own offences.
The Queeg character wasn't attractive in the least but he didn't look half bad when compared with Tom Kiefer who made the ammunition for the senior executive officer to fire. Kiefer for all his accuracy was a sickening figure who relished too much his role as the man who had Queeg's number. He "knew" him when others were still bamboozled by him. The wise Kiefer who'd read a few books on emotional and mental therapy knew how everything should be handled. (As it turned out, he was more than smug—he was a gutless wonder who was forced to make his own shameful confession.) But it wasn't just Kiefer, the others let him spread his poison and even Merrick who knew in his bones it wasn't all so cut and dried—in the end, even he let himself be carried away with the "lynch him" mentality. 
     Still, Queeg was a genuine problem, though perhaps not a life-threatening problem (as the SEO later admitted). It wasn't until the defense lawyer was attacking his own clients at the close of the movie that I realized the full significance of the after-midnight meeting Queeg had called. I had sat through the meeting, listened to Queeg's stumbling, watched his obsession with the little metal balls he kept rolling around in his hand and heard him getting as close to an apology as he was able. I even heard his near-appeal for help, for more co-operation between them and his clearly expressed desire that they all pull together. All of that and I still didn't feel its significance until the lawyer underscored it to the vindicated officers. I'd been too intent on nailing Queeg, assessing his behaviour accurately; too intent on convicting him of his error to respond to his muted but genuine appeal for help. Even as a spectator I was out to convict him rather than help him. 
I find this remarkable because I'd always thought I was sensitive in this area. Now I see that I'm sorely in need of the eyes, ears and hearts of those who are much more sensitive than I am.
"Just the same...he cracked." Say what you want about Queeg, say he asked for help, say we turned him down, say we didn't really hear his appeal—say any of that and more, "Just the same...he cracked."
Yes, he cracked, and all the officers were exonerated of mutiny charges. No outsider saw them as a "lynch mob". But would he have cracked if they'd been as eager to go to his assistance, privately and passionately, as they were to deride him? Would he have cracked if he hadn't heard his name whispered among the officers and crew as cowardly and incompetent? Would he have cracked if he hadn't been isolated and punished? Would he have cracked if there'd been one who stubbornly stayed with him, affirming him, running interference for him? 
Would he have cracked if the whole body of officers had gone to him and, having made known their grievances, assured him they were with him, that they'd help him do what needed to be done? Would his insecurity, sharpened by his driving need to "get it right" have led to his cracking if there'd been those who gave him every reason to believe he was secure? Who knowing his failures praised him? Who taking the whole picture into account worked with him in the areas of his weakness? He was putting himself on the line, risking himself despite his failures; cherishing and speaking truth even while he struggled to be loyal to it, even afraid of it—while he was doing that and others were kept safe, some of those he kept safe were willing to call for his public shaming. No! Not just willing but eager to make it so.
    Though they owe the "Queegs" so much, though they were "safe at home" while the Queegs of the world spent days and weeks and months and years and decades bearing witness to a Lord who was purer, finer and nobler than they themselves could ever be—though they owe them so much, and will forever owe them so much, with ease and satisfaction the critics spill the souls of the Queegs all over creation. No! No! Not the souls of the Queegs—only the sins of the Queegs; for the souls of the Queegs are better and bigger and finer than their sins. 
     I want to say again what I've said elsewhere: many of us only know one way to treat transgressors—expose and punish (we call it "holding them accountable"). We don't know how to keep their shame on a "need to know" basis, we often think it should be noised abroad. To some degree we know how to assess wrong, but we have more difficulty hearing an appeal for help. We might be able to recognize a blunt confession and request but we haven't the heart or spirit or sympathy to hear someone struggle to get out what they can't get out. We have even more difficulty believing that our major responsibility is to help rather than punish.
And when strugglers (our children included) hear us talk freely about the sins or blunders of others they take mental and emotional note of it. They imagine their own names passed from mouth to mouth and it terrifies them. They're afraid to speak in defense of other strugglers they know in case it's later construed as dishonorable and a sly covering of their own backs.
And, once convicted, they become suspects in countless situations where they're completely innocent. Of course, that's to be expected, isn't it? "Well, they put themselves in that position. Take a look at their record." And so the capacity to trust diminishes and our capacity for cynicism is increases. It's all perfectly understandable. Yes, but is it? Or is it just another proof that what the poet Burns said about us is true—we're good at rationalizing our own unlikeness to Christ?
When did you last hear one of us righteous confess with anguish and tears: "I'm so unlike Christ. I lack the capacity to be helpful to the struggler!"? When did you last hear one of us tearfully admit, "I'm guilty of the sin of impatience, guilty of the sin of walking on the other side of the road to avoid the one in the ditch!"? We might occasionally suspect ourselves of this but generally, I suspect, we rationalize the matter until we're like Queeg's exonerated mutineers. Yes, on the charge as specified we're not guilty; but is there no guilt in our dealing with our brothers and sisters whose weaknesses aren't ours and whose weaknesses are more visible than ours are? Even the cynical Kiefer knew he'd been guilty of sinning against Queeg and his fellow-officers. If Hollywood can see that why can't we? 
Wait! Just wait until we enter His presence. Then, not only will Queeg's guilt be made manifest, ours will too. Queeg's may go before him to judgement but ours might follow after us. Then the face of the Judge will be frighteningly like all those Queegs we used as punch-bags and our "highly polished" and righteous sins will show up as the gilded trash they really are. And we might hear we've been allies of the Dragon, closing doors all over the world that God meant to be open.
In the meantime remember that it's part of the Satan's agenda to isolate us from our brothers and sisters. If you can bear to do it, watch closely and see how like a predator he slyly isolates the weak and limping before dragging him or her down into the dust to feed on; while we move on, safe, in the middle of the herd.


Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

Are There Degrees of Punishment and Reward? by Kyle Butt, M.A. Alden Bass, Ph.D. Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Are There Degrees of Punishment and Reward?

by Kyle Butt, M.A.
Alden Bass, Ph.D.
Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

Q.
Will there be degrees of reward in heaven? Similarly, will there be degrees of punishment in hell?

A.

Any topic relating to the specific nature of man’s ultimate, eternal abode should be of great interest to all accountable people, since every human eventually will inhabit eternity (see Thompson, 2000a, pp. 33-39; 2000b, pp. 41-47; 2000c, pp. 49-55). It is not surprising, then, that questions of what conditions will be like in the afterlife often occupy our thoughts. Whenever questions of spiritual import are under consideration—as they are when discussing the destiny of the soul—the only reliable source of information must by necessity be the One Who is the Originator and Sustainer of the soul. God, as Creator of all things physical and spiritual (Genesis 1:1ff.; Exodus 20:11), and Himself a Spirit Being (John 4:24), is the ultimate wellspring of the soul (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The Bible, then, as God’s inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), must be the preeminent authority on this subject. It therefore is to Holy Writ that we must turn to answer any question about eternity.

DEGREES OF ETERNAL REWARD

First, it is important to note that every faithful follower of God eventually will receive an eternal reward. Writing in the book of Revelation, the apostle John described in striking language the destiny of the righteous when this world finally comes to an end: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.... He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (21:3,7, RSV). Earlier, John had encouraged his readers with these words: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). John’s coworker, the apostle Paul, referred to those who had served Jesus faithfully as “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). The writer of the book of Hebrews spoke of Christ as having become “unto all them that obey him, the author of eternal salvation” (5:9).
Second, it is equally important to realize that every saint will be rewarded “according to his deeds.” Matthew wrote: “For the son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds” (16:27). Paul used practically identical words in Romans 2:5-7: “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works.” Such a concept was taught even in Old Testament times. Solomon wrote: “If thou sayest, ‘We knew not this,’ doth not he that weigheth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth he not know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12).
Parables from the mouth of the Lord similarly demonstrate that every person will be judged according to his or her deeds. The parable of the pounds, recorded in Luke 19:11-27, is a perfect example.
A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called ten servants of his, and gave them each ten pounds, and said unto them, “Trade ye herewith till I come.” But his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, “We will not that this man reign over us.” And it came to pass, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants, unto whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. And the first came before him, saying, “Lord, thy pound hath made ten pounds more.” And he said unto him, “Well done, thou good servant: because thou wast found faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” And the second came, saying, “Thy pound, Lord, hath made five pounds.” And he said unto him also, “Be thou also over five cities.” And another came, saying, “Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that which thou layedst not down, and reapest that which thou didst not sow.” He saith unto him, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I am an austere man, taking up that which I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow; then wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank, and I at my coming should have required it with interest?” And he said unto them that stood by, “Take from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath the ten pounds.” And they said unto him, “Lord, he hath ten pounds.” I say unto you, that unto every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.
After reading this parable (and the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30), it is clear that certain individuals receive—and thus are responsible for—more pounds/talents than some others. The faithful servant who soundly invested ten pounds was awarded authority over ten cities. The second servant also was recompensed in proportion to the degree with which he fulfilled his responsibility to the master. He wisely invested five pounds, and in return was given authority over five cities. There is no reason to disbelieve, then, that had the third servant been equally faithful, he, too, would have been rewarded commensurate with his investment (which likely would have been authority over one city). This parable, then, teaches the following: (1) all of God’s servants are blessed with varied abilities; (2) all who are faithful stewards of the ability with which they have been endowed will obtain a reward; and (3) God’s stewards will be rewarded based on what they accomplished with the abilities that were entrusted to them. [This is not to say, of course, that heaven is “earned” by any human works (see Thompson, 1999, pp. 47-49). Ephesians 2:8-9 states unequivocally that salvation is a free gift of God, not something bestowed because of any human merit. Rather, the works done in the here and now provide for the Christian an eternal weight of glory—a weight that differs from person to person (2 Corinthians 4:17).]
If believers are to be judged according to their works (Matthew 16:27; 25:31-46; Revelation 20:12), it logically follows that those with the greatest responsibility can expect the strictest judgment. Indeed, the Good Book teaches exactly such a principle. Jehovah charged the prophet Ezekiel:
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die,” and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thy hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; and thou hast delivered thy soul (Ezekiel 3:17-21).
What an awesome and terrifying responsibility that ancient preacher and prophet was given. Millennia later, James offered this warning: “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (James 3:1).
Those who suggest that God will reward every saint equally often appeal to the parable that Christ presented in Matthew 20:1-15 for support of their position. There, the Lord told of a certain landowner who was in need of workers to assist him in his vineyard. The man went to the marketplace to find laborers and, when he had located some men, agreed to pay them a denarius each. About the third hour, he went to the market again in order to seek additional laborers. He went out twice more and then, at the eleventh hour, he found still more men to help. This last group worked only one hour, and yet when the end of the day arrived and all the men lined up to be paid, those “eleventh-hour” workers received their wages first—a full denarius. The rest of the men were given equal dues. When the master finally got to the laborers he had hired first thing that morning, he gave them the same amount he had given everyone else. Those “first-hour” workers were outraged! The very idea that they—who had been hired first and worked longest—should receive the same recompense as those who worked only one hour, was more than they could handle. The text in Matthew says that “they murmured against the householder” (vs. 11). But the man who had hired them responded simply: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” (vss. 13-15).
Those who teach that God will reward each of His faithful followers equally suggest that the denarius in this parable represents eternal life (see, for example: Wright, 1980, 122:531; Coffman, 1974, p. 307), and since every worker received a denarius, the implication is that there can be no “degrees” of reward. This, however, cannot be what the parable is teaching. In his commentary on the book of Matthew, renowned biblical scholar R.C.H. Lenski explained why.
Those who think that the denarius is eternal life, of course, regard the evening as the final judgment or the hour of death. Even in this verse this cannot be the sense, for eternal life is never earned by any man’s work. The combination of a)po/ with do/j (di/dwmi) means “give what is due.” Eternal life is never due anyone either at the time of its first bestowal in conversion or at the time of its full enjoyment when the believer enters heaven (1943, pp. 772-773, emp. added).
If this parable were speaking about final judgment, it would indeed provide a cogent argument for the equality of each person’s eternal reward. But is the parable addressing final judgment and eternal rewards? No, it is not. In Matthew 20:11 the text clearly indicates that the ones who worked all day “murmured against the householder.” In regard to those who did so, H. Leo Boles commented that “they were envious; their eyes were evil” (1952, p. 400). But the Scriptures make it clear that there will be no envy in heaven (Revelation 21:27). Lenski correctly observed: “Here, it ought to be plain, the possibility of making the denarius equal to eternal life is removed. The thought that a saint in heaven may murmur against God is appalling” (p. 775).
In addition, the master of the vineyard commanded the workers who labored in the field all day: “Take up that which is thine and go thy way” (vs. 14, emp. added). Lenski rendered the phrase, “Take up thine own and be gone,” and then observed:
This lord is done with him. And this is the climax of the parable. This u(/page [be gone] cannot mean, “Go and be content with thy wages!” It is exactly like the imperative found in 4:10, and always means to leave, cf., 8:13; 19:21.... This is a man who works in the church for what he can get out of the church. He has what he worked for—and nothing more. He is treated exactly as the hypocrites are who are mentioned in 6:2,5: “Verily, I say unto you, They have received their reward!” i.e., are paid in full.... Those who will learn nothing about divine grace even when they are working in the church will finally be left without this grace; those who are set on justice and refuse to go beyond it shall finally have justice (p. 777).
If we interpret the parable to mean that the master of the vineyard represents God, and the denarius represents eternal reward, how, then, are we to interpret the fact that those who worked all day received a denarius, but were sent away from the master of the vineyard? Can such a view be squared with Paul’s word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17—“And so shall we ever be with the Lord”?
If this parable is not discussing final judgment (and it is not), and if the denarius does not represent eternal life (and it does not), what, then, is the point of the parable? It appears that Christ was instructing His Jewish listeners about the Gentiles’ place in the Kingdom—a topic that, as we learn from later New Testament writings, became somewhat controversial among first-century Christians. The late Guy N. Woods, former editor of the Gospel Advocate, wrote concerning Christ’s discussion:
It is possible, indeed probable, in the minds of many scholars that it was delivered to show that the Gentiles, who came in at “the eleventh hour,” would enjoy in the kingdom (soon to be established when these words were uttered) the same privileges as the Jews who had been the favored and chosen people of the Lord for many centuries. Though last in point of invitation, they were to become first through their acceptance of, and dedication to, the gospel; whereas, the Jews, through their rebellion and disbelief, would be cut off (1976, p. 231, parenthetical comment in orig.).
Numerous conservative biblical commentators have suggested exactly such a view, including Adam Clarke (n.d. 5:194-197) and H. Leo Boles (1952, pp. 400-401). One writer by the name of Watts put it like this:
It is not the design of this parable to represent the final rewards of the saints at the day of judgment, but to show that the nation of the Jews, who had been called to be the people of God above a thousand years before, and had borne the burden and heat of the day, i.e., the toil and bondage of many ceremonies, should have no preference in the esteem of God above the Gentiles, who were called at the last hour, or at the end of the Jewish dispensation (as quoted in Woods, 1980, 122:532).
While the parable of the laborers established that all who are deserving (Jew or Gentile) would inherit a reward, it also emphasized God’s grace. As Lenski remarked:
The warning represented in this parable suggests our responsibility. If we close eye and heart against grace, no matter how high we stand in the church or how much we work, we shall lose life eternal (1943, p. 781).
But what of the denarius? What does it represent, if not eternal life? Lenski concluded—correctly, we believe—that the denarius represents the blessings one receives here on Earth by being a member of the Lord’s church.
The denarius paid at evening constitutes the temporal blessings connected with our Christian profession and work, and these blessings are made ours already during the entire time that we work. Every one of us gets his denarius; every one enjoys the same temporal benefits that are connected with life in the church. They come to the new convert exactly as they do to the old, to the preacher as well as to the [member], to the child as well as to the octogenarian (p. 772).

REASONS FOR UNEQUAL REWARDS

Lending credence to the idea that Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20 is not discussing equality of eternal rewards is the fact that the Bible plainly depicts certain people being awarded a unique and distinguished position in heaven. Revelation 15:3 notes that in heaven “they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” Surely none of us would be so bold as to suggest that the hosts of heaven will sing a song about us as they do about Moses. Furthermore, in Revelation 21:14 John wrote that “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” While we recognize the somewhat figurative nature of certain terms employed by John, the principle nevertheless remains: the apostles ultimately will occupy a place of greater preeminence in the heavenly abode. Also, Luke 16 portrays Abraham as having more prominence and authority in the afterlife than Lazarus. Consider also Mark 10:40, wherein James and John asked the Lord to allow them to sit next to Him in glory—one on His right side and one on His left. Jesus replied: “To sit on my right hand or on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared.” Some glorified beings (whether angelic or human) will occupy a place of distinction beside the Savior—a unique and special place reserved solely for them.
Some have argued against the idea of differing rewards by claiming that heaven will be perfect, and that something perfect can be neither improved nor diminished. However, Jesus observed that “even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more [joy] than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7, emp. added). In at least some sense, then, joy in heaven can differ in degrees. The principle of degrees of heavenly reward—which is taught quite plainly in Scripture—should motivate every Christian to “work while it is yet day, for the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4).

DEGREES OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT

But if there are degrees of reward in heaven, will there likewise be degrees of punishment in hell? Yes indeed. On several occasions, when speaking of eternal torment, the Bible mentions those who will suffer to a lesser or greater degree. And each time such a reference occurs, the punishment is proportionate to the opportunities missed. Those who are blessed with numerous opportunities to obey the gospel and still reject it will receive greater condemnation than those who have little or no occasion to accept Christ. Jesus echoed this sentiment in His rebuke to the inhabitants of the cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades: for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerablefor the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee (Matthew 11:21-24, emp. added).
Jesus offered this censure to those Jewish cities where He had done much of His preaching, and where, on occasion, He even had performed miracles. The citizens of those towns had more opportunity to accept the Messiah than many others living around them, yet they persisted in their rejection of Him. On the other hand, the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon—renowned for their wickedness—would receive a lesser punishment at the Day of Judgment for the simple reason that they had been deprived of direct exposure to Christ’s message and miracles. All were to endure punishment, for all had rejected God’s law. But it would not be equal punishment. The writer of Hebrews further emphasized this point when he addressed the “sorer punishment” that was to befall those who had “trodden underfoot the Son of God” (10:29). Notice also Peter’s stinging statement regarding the terrible fate that awaits unfaithful, backsliding Christians:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first (2 Peter 2:20-21, emp. added).
If Peter’s statement teaches anything, it teaches degrees of punishment.
But perhaps the most convincing argument for the concept of degrees of punishment derives from Jesus’ parable of the wicked servant, as recorded in Luke 12:42-48.
And the Lord said, “Who, then, is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that servant shall say in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming,’ and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the unfaithful. And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more” (emp. added).
The meaning of the last section of this parable is inescapable. All the wicked will be punished; however, those limited in their opportunities to learn about Christ will be punished “with fewer stripes” than those who knew the truth and obeyed it not.
Does the Bible teach degrees of reward in heaven? Yes, it does. Does it also teach degrees of punishment in hell? Yes, it does. The good news, of course, is that heaven’s offer of salvation is open to everyone (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). No one has to go to hell. When Christ was ransomed on our behalf (1 Timothy 2:4), He paid a debt He did not owe, and a debt we could not pay—so that we could live forever in the presence of our Creator (Matthew 25:46). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). Nor should we. As one writer put it: “No one who has been snatched from the burning himself can feel anything but compassion and concern for the lost” (Woodson, 1973, p. 32). As we discover the hideous nature of our sin, we not only should desire to save ourselves “from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40), but we also should be passionate about warning the wicked of their impending doom (Ezekiel 3:17-19).

REFERENCES

Boles, H. Leo (1952), A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury).
Coffman, Burton (1974), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Abilene, Texas: ACU Press).
Kurfees, M.C., ed. (1921), Questions and Answers by Lipscomb and Sewell (Nashville, TN: McQuiddy).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1943), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Thompson, Bert (1999), My Sovereign, My Sin, My Salvation (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Thompson, Bert (2000a), “The Origin, Nature, and Destiny of the Soul—Part III,” Reason and Revelation, 20:33-39, May.
Thompson, Bert (2000b), “The Origin, Nature, and Destiny of the Soul—Part IV,” Reason and Revelation, 20:41-47, June.
Thompson, Bert (2000c), “The Origin, Nature, and Destiny of the Soul—Part V,” Reason and Revelation, 20:49-55, July.
Woods, Guy N. (1976), Questions and Answers (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University).
Woods, Guy N. (1980), “Editorial Note” accompanying an article by Cecil N. Wright, “Are There Degrees of Reward and Punishment in Eternity,” Gospel Advocate, 122:531-532, August 21.
Woodson, Leslie (1973), Hell and Salvation (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Wright, Cecil N. (1980), “Are There Degrees of Reward and Punishment in Eternity,” Gospel Advocate, 122:531-532, August 21.

From Mark Copeland... The Olivet Discourse - I (Mark 13:1-23)

                                         "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                   The Olivet Discourse - I (13:1-23)

INTRODUCTION

1. A challenging passage in the Bible is Jesus’ discourse on the Mount
   of Olives...
   a. Given shortly after He left the temple with His disciples
   b. Recorded in Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 21
   c. Commonly referred to as "The Olivet Discourse"
   -- Our focus in this study will be primarily on Mark’s account

2. It’s difficulty becomes apparent as one considers the diversity of
   interpretations...
   a. Some maintain it is entirely about events preceding the Lord’s
      second and final coming
   b. Others that it is entirely about events related to the destruction
      of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
   c. Yet others believe it contains reference to both events

3. Even those who say it refers to both events differ as to when a
   particular event is described...
   a. Some say that vs. 5-23 refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, and
      vs. 24 begins the discussion about the Lord’s second coming - cf.
      J.W. McGarvey
   b. Others contend that vs. 32 begins talking about the second coming
   c. Others say Jesus switches back and forth throughout the discourse

[At this time, I view "The Olivet Discourse" in Mk 13 as depicting the
destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A.D., though it
foreshadows His second coming.  To see why, let’s start with...]

I. THE SETTING OF THE OLIVET DISCOURSE

   A. THE WORDS OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE...
      1. His parables depicting Israel’s rejection of Him, and its
         consequence
         a. The parable of the wicked vinedressers - Mk 12:1-12; cf. Mt 21:33-46
         b. Matthew includes the parable of two sons - cf. Mt 21:28-32
         c. Also the parable of the wedding feast - cf. Mt 22:1-14
      2. His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees
         a. The warning against the pretentious scribes - Mk 12:38-40
         b. Matthew records a more elaborate condemnation - cf. Mt 23:1-28
         c. Who would fill up the measure of their fathers’ guilt - Mt 23:29-32
         d. Who kill, crucify, scourge, and persecute the prophets, wise
            men, and scribes He would send to them - Mt 23:33-34
         e. Upon whom the blood of all the righteous would come, upon
            that very generation - Mt 23:35-36
      3. His lamentation over Jerusalem, recorded by Matthew
         a. The city who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her
            - cf. Mt 23:37
         b. The city unwilling to accept the love shown to her - cf. Mt 23:37
         c. Whose house would be left desolate - Mt 23:38-39

   B. THE PROPHECY OF JESUS ABOUT THE TEMPLE...
      1. After his disciples were showing Him the buildings of temple
         - Mk 13:1
      2. Declaring that not one stone would be left upon another - Mk 13:2

   C. THE QUESTIONS OF THE DISCIPLES...
      1. In Mark’s gospel, two questions are asked - Mk 13:4
         a. "When will these things be?"
         b. "What will be the sign when all these things will be
            fulfilled?"
      2. In Luke’s gospel, the two questions are similar - Lk 21:7
         a. "When will these things be?"
         b. "What sign will there be when these things are about to take
            place?"
      3. In Matthew’s gospel, the second question is worded differently - Mt 24:3
         a. "When will these things be?"
         b. "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the
            age?"
      4. Observations regarding these questions:
         a. Only Matthew makes reference to a "coming" and "end of the
            age"
         a. Matthew wrote his gospel for a Jewish audience
            1) Who would likely view the destruction of temple as a
               judgment against Jerusalem and the complete end of the
               Jewish age (as evidently His disciples did)
            2) Re: the end of the Jewish age - the end began with the
               death of Jesus making the OT covenant obsolete (He 9:15-16); it ended in fullness with the 
               destruction of the temple and cessation of its OT covenantal sacrifices (cf. He 8:13)
         b. Mark and Luke wrote their gospels to Gentiles
            1) To avoid misunderstanding by non-Jewish readers, the
               disciples’ questions are worded to reflect what the
               Olivet discourse is about
            2) I.e., the destruction of the temple (i.e., "these
               things") and the sign when its destruction would be
               imminent

[When the setting leading up to "The Olivet Discourse" is carefully
considered, the subject becomes clear.  The destruction of the temple is
under consideration, not the second coming of Christ.  Now let’s proceed
to examine more closely...]

II. THE OLIVET DISCOURSE

   A. WHAT WILL NOT BE THE SIGN...
      1. Be careful that none deceive you, claiming to be the Christ
         - Mk 13:5-6
      2. Don’t be troubled by wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilence
         - Mk 13:7-8
         a. Such things will come, but the end (destruction of the
            temple) is not yet
         b. They are only the beginning of sorrows (not the sign of the
            end)
      3. Anticipate persecution and hard times - Mk 13:9-13
         a. You will be killed and hated for His name’s sake
         b. Many will be offended, betray one another, and hate one
            another
         c. False prophets will deceive many
         d. The love of many will grow cold because of lawlessness
         e. But he who endures to "the end" will be saved -- "the end"
            refers here:
            1) Not to the second coming (implying one must live until
               Christ comes again)
            2) Nor to the destruction of Jerusalem (implying once one
               has survived that event, one’s salvation is secured)
            3) But to the end of one’s life - cf. Re 2:10
      4. The gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all nations - Mk 13:10
         a. As a witness to all the nations - cf. Mt 24:14
         b. Then the end (the destruction of the temple) will come - cf.
            Mt 24:14
            1) This would end the Jewish sacrifices, and other remnants
               of OT worship
            2) That which was nailed to the cross, abolished by Jesus’
               death, would pass away - cf. Col 2:14-17; Ep 2:14-16; He 8:13
         c. Was the gospel preached to all nations prior to the
            destruction of the temple?
            1) Note what Paul wrote prior to 70 A.D. - Ro 10:16-18; Col 1:23
            2) Whether we take Jesus’ and Paul’s words as literal or
               accommodative, according to Paul it had!

   B. WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN...
      1. The "abomination of desolation" - Mk 13:14
         a. Standing where it ought not (the holy city Jerusalem)
         b. As foretold by Daniel - cf. Dan 9:26-27
      2. When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies - cf. Lk 21:20
         a. Luke therefore explains the "abomination of desolation"
         b. In 70 A.D., Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem prior to
            destroying it and the temple
      3. Thus Jesus answers the disciples’ question:  "What sign will
         there be when these things are about to take place?"

   C. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU SEE THE SIGN...
      1. Those in Judea are to flee to the mountains - Mk 13:14-20
         a. Don’t delay by going to your homes and getting your clothes
         b. It will be a difficult time for pregnant and nursing mothers
         c. Pray that your flight be not in winter (when travel is
            difficult) or on the Sabbath (when city gates are closed to
            travel)
         d. For there will be "great tribulation", though shortened for
            the elect’s sake
            1) Luke specifies the nature of this tribulation - Lk 21:23b-24
            2) A Jewish general taking captive by the Romans just prior
               to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 offered this
               summary:
               a) All the calamities which had befallen any nation from
                  the beginning of the world were but small in
                  comparison with those of the Jews
               b) In the siege of Jerusalem, no fewer than 1,100,000
                  perished (it was during the time of the Passover, when
                  more than 3,000,000 Jews were assembled)
               c) In surrounding provinces 250,000 were slain
               d) 97,000 were taken captive, some killed by beasts in
                  Roman theaters, some sent to work in Egypt, others
                  sold as slaves
               -- Flavius Josephus, Jewish Wars, quoted by Barnes on Matthew
            3) The "elect" were Christians, spared by a shortened siege
               a) The Jews in the city engaged the Romans in battle
               b) Titus, the Roman general, being called to return to
                  Rome, proceeded to end the siege and stormed the city
                  - Barnes Commentary on Matthew
      2. Don’t be misled by false christs and false prophets - Mk 13:21-23
         a. Even those who show great signs and wonders to deceive
         b. For the coming (judgment) of the Son of Man will be like
            lightning across the sky
            1) Do not expect to find Him in the desert or in inner rooms
            2) When He comes in judgment, it will be swift - cf. Lk 17:22-24

CONCLUSION (Part One)

1. So far, all this depicts a local, escapable judgment...
   a. Where Jesus warned those in Judea of what is to come - Mk 13:23
   b. Where they are given a sign to let them know when to flee - Mk 13:14

2. It does not fit a worldwide, inescapable judgment...
   a. As will characterize the second coming of Christ - 2Pe 3:10-12
   b. As Paul taught the Christians in Thessalonica - cf. 1Th 5:2-3; 2Th 1:7-10

3. Our next study will continue to examine "The Olivet Discourse",
   starting with verse 24...
   a. Which certainly sounds like the second coming of Christ, but is
      it?
   b. Or was Jesus still describing events pertaining to the destruction
      of Jerusalem?

Eusebius (ca. 300 A.D.) in his "Ecclesiastical History" wrote that
Christians heeded the warnings of Jesus in Matthew 24, and fled
Jerusalem when it was surrounded by the Roman army.

May we likewise heed the words of Jesus:

   *  not be misled by false prophets and false christs
   *  not be troubled by wars, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, or even
      persecution
   *  enduring to the end by remaining faithful to Him

...looking forward to His final coming at the Last Day!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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From Gary... Bible Reading January 19



Bible Reading  

January 19

The World English Bible


Jan. 19
Genesis 19

Gen 19:1 The two angels came to Sodom at evening. Lot sat in the gate of Sodom. Lot saw them, and rose up to meet them. He bowed himself with his face to the earth,
Gen 19:2 and he said, "See now, my lords, please turn aside into your servant's house, stay all night, wash your feet, and you will rise up early, and go on your way." They said, "No, but we will stay in the street all night."
Gen 19:3 He urged them greatly, and they came in with him, and entered into his house. He made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
Gen 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter.
Gen 19:5 They called to Lot, and said to him, "Where are the men who came in to you this night? Bring them out to us, that we may have sex with them."
Gen 19:6 Lot went out to them to the door, and shut the door after him.
Gen 19:7 He said, "Please, my brothers, don't act so wickedly.
Gen 19:8 See now, I have two virgin daughters. Please let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them what seems good to you. Only don't do anything to these men, because they have come under the shadow of my roof."
Gen 19:9 They said, "Stand back!" Then they said, "This one fellow came in to live as a foreigner, and he appoints himself a judge. Now will we deal worse with you, than with them!" They pressed hard on the man Lot, and drew near to break the door.
Gen 19:10 But the men put forth their hand, and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the door.
Gen 19:11 They struck the men who were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
Gen 19:12 The men said to Lot, "Do you have anybody else here? Sons-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whoever you have in the city, bring them out of the place:
Gen 19:13 for we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before Yahweh that Yahweh has sent us to destroy it."
Gen 19:14 Lot went out, and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters, and said, "Get up! Get out of this place, for Yahweh will destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be joking.
Gen 19:15 When the morning came, then the angels hurried Lot, saying, "Get up! Take your wife, and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the iniquity of the city."
Gen 19:16 But he lingered; and the men grabbed his hand, his wife's hand, and his two daughters' hands, Yahweh being merciful to him; and they took him out, and set him outside of the city.
Gen 19:17 It came to pass, when they had taken them out, that he said, "Escape for your life! Don't look behind you, and don't stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be consumed!"
Gen 19:18 Lot said to them, "Oh, not so, my lord.
Gen 19:19 See now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your loving kindness, which you have shown to me in saving my life. I can't escape to the mountain, lest evil overtake me, and I die.
Gen 19:20 See now, this city is near to flee to, and it is a little one. Oh let me escape there (isn't it a little one?), and my soul will live."
Gen 19:21 He said to him, "Behold, I have granted your request concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken.
Gen 19:22 Hurry, escape there, for I can't do anything until you get there." Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
Gen 19:23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.
Gen 19:24 Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of the sky.
Gen 19:25 He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground.
Gen 19:26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
Gen 19:27 Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Yahweh.
Gen 19:28 He looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and looked, and saw that the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace.
Gen 19:29 It happened, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the middle of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.
Gen 19:30 Lot went up out of Zoar, and lived in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he was afraid to live in Zoar. He lived in a cave with his two daughters.
Gen 19:31 The firstborn said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.
Gen 19:32 Come, let's make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve our father's seed."
Gen 19:33 They made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father. He didn't know when she lay down, nor when she arose.
Gen 19:34 It came to pass on the next day, that the firstborn said to the younger, "Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine again, tonight. You go in, and lie with him, that we may preserve our father's seed."
Gen 19:35 They made their father drink wine that night also. The younger went and lay with him. He didn't know when she lay down, nor when she got up.
Gen 19:36 Thus both of Lot's daughters were with child by their father.
Gen 19:37 The firstborn bore a son, and named him Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day.

Gen 19:38 The younger also bore a son, and called his name Ben Ammi. He is the father of the children of Ammon to this day.