We need to remember that our lives here on Earth are just ‘boot camp’. We were not intended to make our home here on Earth yet. We can understand how important this one brief life on Earth is for those who don’t have a place set apart for them, an eternal home, in God’s kingdom. But for those of us who have that promise–we need to keep things in perspective!! We can’t let panic over losing this Earthly life cloud our judgment!

Jesus has promised us that we will be persecuted–and that in these last days, many will die for their faith in Christ and their obedience to His word. We must CHOOSE not to be afraid, because we have His promise that He will always be with us.

For those of you who are afraid for others, who feel an overwhelming responsibility to try to save those on Earth from their sins: IT’S NOT YOUR JOB!! I too have loved ones that are not walking with God–people I would give my life for! Often (and maybe especially so these days) it is best that we step aside and let God work in a person’s heart. We in America are so strong willed and independent, that most of us resist any attempts to control us. It may be, that the more we say, the more we drive people away from Christ!

Wow, those are really radical things to believe . . . Let me explain. Jesus gave us the ‘Great Commission’ of teaching the gospel and making disciples throughout the whole world. The way I see it, with regards to all I know about God and His Word, having been a Christian for almost 30 years–we are to present the gospel, live the gospel, and LEAVE THE CHOICE UP TO THEM!

Am I so callous that I don’t care if most of the world chooses to go to Hell? No, and I want to address that in a couple of ways. Let me start with the one that’s going to matter the most to you: my belief is that people do not burn in hell for all eternity. If I am wrong, may God have mercy on my soul. (This is something you should study for yourself.)

Without Jesus, people do not have eternal life. People without Jesus will be judged by their works and thrown into the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire is the end of the road. Nothing that goes into it comes back out. It burns forever. But man, being ‘made from dust’, is consumed by the fire, once, forever. Without Jesus, people do not have eternal life.

What about Revelation 14: 9-11, where the Bible says that the ‘smoke of their torment’ goes up forever and ever? Clearly, the smoke being visible forever is to serve as a remembrance to all who see it. We see, elsewhere in the Book of Revelation, that prayers–made in the physical realm–manifest as incense to be burned, before God, in the spiritual realm (creating smoke). I believe the smoke spoken of here is symbolic as well.

Although in the physical realm it may be necessary, it doesn’t necessarily follow that in the spirit realm the burning must continue forever and ever for the smoke to go up forever and ever. In fact, when Babylon falls, it is said that ‘the smoke from her goes up for ever and ever’. Babylon is a physical city on planet Earth, which we know cannot possible burn forever.

We see, later in Revelation, that the beast, the false prophet, and later the devil, are thrown into the lake of fire. We are told that they will be tormented forever and ever.

No mention is made of smoke. They do not have physical bodies that would create smoke if they were burned. Nor is it likely that they will be sending up any kind of prayers that would manifest as smoke. They are thoroughly corrupt and are not able to repent.

It also makes sense that they would be tormented ‘forever and ever’ because they are eternal beings. Even fire does not destroy them.

In the same passage in Revelation (14: 9-11), it says that if anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand:

1. He will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath
2. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb
3. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name

(This proclamation goes out near the end of The Tribulation, before the seventh ‘trumpet judgment’ has occurred–I believe that the ‘seven bowls of God’s wrath’ ARE the seventh trumpet judgment.)

The seven bowls of God’s wrath follow this proclamation, fulfilling #1.

The first bowl of God’s wrath, is that ugly and painful sores break out on the people who have the mark of the beast and worship his image. This likely fulfills #3, that there is no rest for those who worship the beast and/or receive the mark.

#2 is not fulfilled by any of the bowls. It could be that it is fulfilled by the final judgment, in the Lake of Fire, but I believe it is more likely fulfilled by the sixth trumpet judgment:

‘Four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was 200,000 . . . the heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur.’

One thing that is important to understand about the book of Revelation, is that things do not take place in the exact order in which they are told. There is a chronological order in the prophecy, but many of the visions serve as parenthetical statements–they go back to the beginning of a subject and get you caught up to where they were just spoken of in the prophecy.

This is much like watching a movie, when you see a subtitle ‘2 weeks earlier’, and then what follows is what happened 2 weeks earlier. (You may even follow it all the way up to the last event you saw in the main story.) Then you return to the main story and continue to go forward chronologically. Revelation does this repeatedly, as well as repeating certain events from different perspectives.

Back to the question, of whether I am so callous that I don’t care if most of the world chooses to go to Hell . . . stop and think about this: if someone hates God and what He represents–wouldn’t spending all eternity in Heaven, with God and Christians, be a hellish punishment for him?

Our character, likes and dislikes, are formed here on Earth. We will be fundamentally the same people in Heaven as we are here on Earth. This is why God works so diligently to form the proper character in us while we are here!

Our understanding of evangelism and eternal life has become really warped. We often, unintentionally, evangelize people by presenting the gospel as though God is desperately trying to meet His own needs by getting people to love and worship Him–or we try to blackmail them ‘into the kingdom’ by telling them they will suffer and burn in hell for all eternity if they don’t accept Jesus!

God wants people who CHOOSE to love Him and who value the qualities that He embodies! He is all about free choice. Understanding His respect of our free choice, can provide the answers to most of our questions about why He allows things to happen on Earth, rather than intervene. It seems to me, that He considers our free choice as something sacred!

There is a passage in Revelation (which means it is relevant for us today) that says:

‘Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’

The way I understand it is like this:

Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’

You aren’t going to change anybody. Present them the truth and let them decide. If they accept Jesus–make them a disciple! Otherwise . . . ‘Next!’ (move on).

Similarly, Jesus tells us

‘Do not give dogs what is sacred, do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.’

If someone is not interested in the gospel, shake the dust off your feet and move on, do not continue giving them more and more!  God’s Word and truth are priceless.  They are free to all who willingly receive them, but not to be wasted on those who don’t.

In I Corinthians 7 Paul says:

‘ . . . And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him . . . But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?’

I know from experience, that when you are married to an unbeliever, there is no peace in your heart when you believe that your spouse is going to suffer great torment in hell for all eternity. Nor does constantly bringing up the subject promote peace–yet how can you not? But, according to Paul, if your unbelieving spouse wants to stay married, it is possible to live peaceably together. The only way that can be accomplished is by respecting their free will.

This bears witness to my statement that it is not your responsibility to save anyone from their sins, not even your spouse!

Also, notice a couple of things.

1. No command is made to the unbeliever. The unbeliever has not submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and therefore receives no commands from the Lord.
2. The respect of the unbeliever’s free choice is so important that it even trumps the marriage vows, in that they may choose to divorce a believing spouse if they wish.

That may not mean much these days, but consider that God hates divorce. His command is that believers not divorce. (Moses had made a concession for those whose spouse is unfaithful–but Jesus said it was a concession, because of the hardness of their hearts; He would rather they forgive.) That should underscore how much respect God has for the free will of unbelievers*. He makes the rules, but He doesn’t make the decisions.

We don’t get ‘brownie points’ for converting people!! Present the gospel, live the gospel, and leave the choice up to them!!

Remember, Jesus has promised us that we will be persecuted–and that in these last days, many will die for their faith in Christ and their obedience to His word. CHOOSE not to be afraid! You have His promise that He will always be with you!!

*(Believers: your free will is to be submitted to God’s will.)

It’s Time To ‘Shake The Dust Off’
God Wants Us To Go To War!!
The God Factor

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