|The Truth Which Sets Free - Destiner Press|
For free online reading simply click on the Chapters listed below.
An exposure of the false teaching of Christianity concerning the reason for evil and suffering. This is one of the most challenging and deepest areas in the Word of God.
The following four booklets are now also included in the Addendum of The Truth Which Sets Free.
Now revised and included here in this Addendum of The Truth Which Sets Free
Original booklet published by the Olive Press
Raising the Dead
Copyright © by Peter Dunstan
1. THE GOD WHO RAISES
2. RAISING THE DEAD NOW
3. BORN AGAIN
4. WE FOUND IT!
5. THE PLAN OF GOD
6. A GRAVE SITUATION
7. RAISING HELL
8. COME ALIVE!
9. ABUNDANT LIFE
10. WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
Scripture quotations from the
Revised Standard Version of the Bible
Copyright © Div. of Education,
National Council of Churches of Christ in U.S.A. 1946,1952,1971,1973.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Todays English Version (TEV)
from the Good News Bible New Testament
Copyright © American Bible Society 1966,1971,1976.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1. THE GOD WHO RAISES
"...the God who brings the dead to life and whose command brings into being what did not exist." (Romans 4:17 TEV)
When the widows son died the prophet Elijah took the body into a private room and appealed to God to return the boys life. Elijah was known as a man of great faith. But he was not relying on his faith, he was relying upon a God whom he believed had power even over death. He realized that nothing would happen unless it was in accordance with the will of his Lord. And it was. He brought the boy back to the widow saying, "See, your son lives." (1 Kings 17)
Ezekiel was faced with an even worse situation, a valley full of very dry bones. "Can these bones live?" asked the Lord. Ezekiel had no answer. It was impossible. "Lord," he replied, "You know." So God gave Ezekiel a message for the bones and when he spoke the bones came together, and they became bodies of flesh. But they were still dead. Again Ezekiel spoke as God commanded him and a wind blew upon the bodies and they came to life. This was a demonstration of the power and purpose of God concerning his people. "And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live...then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord." (Ezekiel 37)
Martha was a person who needed to learn that when God speaks things really happen, and when her brother fell ill Jesus deliberately waited until he was dead before he answered her plea for help. Poor Martha. She believed that Lazarus would rise on the last day but she thought that nothing could be done about death in the present age. "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus told her. "Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" Martha confessed that she did believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the predicted Messiah. But she still doubted, and when Jesus ordered the stone door to be taken away from her brothers grave, she objected, saying that a four-day old corpse would stink terribly. But Jesus would not be put off. "Lazarus, come out!" he called, and the dead man came out wrapped up in his grave clothes. Jesus commanded the people to set him free. (John 11)
Then came the resurrection of Christ himself after he had been brutally killed. This sensational news rocked the city of Jerusalem as the apostles confidently proclaimed that "this Jesus GOD raised up, and of that we are all witnesses." (Acts 2:32) The apostles also remembered that Jesus had told the Jews, "Destroy this temple and I will raise it up." (John 2:19) The Jews did not understand. They thought he was speaking of the Jerusalem Temple. But the apostles came to realize that Jesus meant he was going to raise his own Body from death. Then they finally grasped that Jesus was not merely one who had been raised, but also the One Who raises.
The life and death of Christ would have been a message of utter defeat without his resurrection. The apostles staked the rest of their lives on the fact that Jesus was alive and seated at the right hand of God. If this was not true then their faith was a pathetic waste of time. As Paul put it, "For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised; then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:16,17) True, the apostles were themselves granted the same power to raise dead people who later died again of natural causes. But their faith was firmly grounded in One who had risen forever, who had ascended to the very throne of heaven to put his people right with God for all eternity.
True faith then, is very much a resurrection faith. The message itself is sometimes called the evangel of resurrection. (Acts 17:18) The widow believed that Elijah was a messenger of God when he raised her son. Many people believed in the Lord when Peter raised Tabitha. The apostles readily worshipped the risen Christ. Thomas called him "my Lord and God" and Jesus accepted this. (John 20:28) Each resurrection supported the truth of the Word of God. That is why such great signs accompanied the prophets and apostles. God had selected them to seal his message into the Scriptures for all time. But now the message is complete in the Bible, and such miracles have ended. They are not necessary...or are they? Actually, the Scripture is filled with evidence that God is raising the dead, even now.
2. RAISING THE DEAD NOW
"Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." (John 5:25)
The mark of all human religion is the idea that man is like a drowning sailor who can be saved by the offer of a helping hand if only he will reach out and hold on. In the Word of God salvation is not such a natural concept. It is supernatural. According to the Scriptures the sailor is already drowned. It is not simply a matter of healing the sick but raising the dead. Jesus once told a would-be disciple who wanted time to bury his father to "leave the dead to bury the dead." (Matthew 8:22) Those were harsh words, but Jesus knew that the true state of man was indeed a state of death. How did man come to be in this situation?
When God first created man in His image, He gave him a certain restriction and explained the penalty for disobeying that command. "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." (Genesis 2:16,17) The fruit itself may have been harmless in itself, a symbol of obedience. He could have everything except that one thing. Adam disobeyed, and found out the catastrophic cost of a creature defying his Creator. The Scriptures do not suggest that Adam merely fell that day because of his sin, but that he actually died. In Gods appraisal he was a dead man. And, because Adam had deliberately permitted Satan to capture his will, God blocked his way to the tree of life and made him a prisoner in a world of death. These same things, a captured will and a life chained in disobedience, are passed on to all mankind. The only way out is for God, if He so pleases, to save in His grace. (Romans 11:32; 2 Timothy 2:26)
Adam became a sinner and he did what all sinners do. First he tried to hide from God. When he saw that that was impossible he tried to make himself acceptable to God by covering himself with leaves. But God did not accept his efforts and prepared a covering for him Himself. All of us find ourselves in this vicious circle of sin and death. We sin because we were born sinners, and we are also sinners because we ourselves commit sin. "Sin came into the world by one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result death spread to the whole human race, because all men sinned." (Romans 5:12 TEV) In Psalm 51 King David, lamenting his evil nature, confesses that he was not only born but even conceived in sin in his mothers womb. Thus no man enters the world without sin, except One, and that is the gracious side of the story. In Adam all die, but all in Christ shall live. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
Jesus came, not because man was alive or free, but because he was dead and chained. The apostle Paul was utterly amazed that Christ had died for the enemies of God, the ungodly, the helpless, the slaves of sin. (Romans 5:6,10; 6:20) Here was mankind, dead in sin, "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead through our trespasses made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with him and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show us the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:5-7)
So, according to the Word of God, a person in Adam is dead. He may not look dead but we accept this truth by faith. In the same way, a person in Christ has been miraculously raised from the dead and is already seated with God. This will not be made visible until Christ is revealed from heaven, but it is nonetheless true now. When the head of a family buys a new house the children might rightly claim, "We bought a new house," even though they did not do it themselves. Likewise because Christ has been raised as the Head of his Body, his family, they are also raised. Hence the prophet Hosea could say, 750 years before Christ, "After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up," (Hosea 6:2) and Paul could assure New Testament believers, "You have died with Christ and are set free from the ruling spirits of the universe...you have been raised to life with Christ." (Colossians 2:20; 3:1 TEV)
Christ is absolutely central in Gods miracle of raising his people from their state of death. Before Jesus was born Joseph was told, "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will (not may perhaps, but surely shall) save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) He is not merely a possible Savior but a certain Savior. He does not simply offer salvation (for that would not help a dead man) but he also performs it. He speaks it, and he works it. "Follow me," he commanded and the disciples left their work and willingly went after him. Lazarus, come out!" he ordered, and Lazarus obediently came out. But not everyone was happy about such a Savior. Many preferred their own human concepts of a Messiah, and this Jesus really upset their ideas with his ways.
"It is the Spirit which gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe," explained Jesus. He knew exactly which of his followers were false, especially Judas. "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After he said this, a great number deserted him. They could not accept the real Christ, the absolute Lord of salvation. Then Jesus questioned the ones he had selected; "Will you also go away?" Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:63-70)
There are countless millions of people today who claim that "Jesus is Lord" and yet have rejected the real Christ over this very same issue. They do not see the world as a spiritual graveyard. They imagine that there is something man can do to make himself alive to God. Jesus saw right through such people in his own day, people who really thought they were servants of God. They were certainly devout, said their prayers, read their Scriptures, were enthusiastic and busy, but Christ described them as whitewashed tombs, clean outside and still dead within. Who then, we might ask, can be saved? With men it is impossible. With God it is indeed possible. But a miracle must happen. There must be a new creation, a resurrection. "For as the father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the son gives life to whom he will." (John 5:21)
3. BORN AGAIN
"Flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit gives birth to spirit...the wind blows wherever it wishes...it is the same way with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:6.8 TEV)
The concept of rebirth is found in all forms of human thought, ancient or modern, primitive or advanced. In fact this idea of obtaining a new lease of life, an inner change, is usually found at the heart of the human religious system. Jesus once had a talk with a religious leader on this subject, but Jesus was speaking about something very different from the notions in Nicodemus mind. "Truly, truly, I say to you," Jesus told him, "Unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God." This was an important point, and Jesus said it again, "You must be born from above." (John 3:3,7 translated literally from the Greek.)
Nicodemus thought this meant being born a second time by mans own will. He thought there was something man could do to be born again. He had not thought very deeply about the miracle of birth. For no one decides whether, when or where they shall be born. No one even decides to whom they shall be born. It is entirely the decision and doing of someone else, and that is exactly what Jesus was explaining about the birth from above. "The wind blows wherever it wishes...It is the same way with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 TEV)
Now almost any religious person in the world will say that man must surrender himself, confess his faults and be committed to his Savior in order to be reborn. Some will even lay these actions out in a number of stages or logical steps, a do-it-yourself "how to be born again" guide, as if more people would become children of God if only they knew how. This back-to-front gospel is the oldest and most common distortion of the Bibles message. It is called salvation by works, mans effort rather than Gods grace. The true spiritual birth is not something man takes for himself; it is something he receives, a miracle that happens to him. It is a gift of God to his people in Christ. "But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood (not through their natural parents), nor of the will of the flesh (not by self-decision), nor of the will of man (not by the persuasion of others) but of God." (John 1:12,13)
Just as a newborn babe exerts a strong desire to live, so too the newborn child of God willingly comes to Christ. Some infants may have a sudden birth, others have a long laborious delivery. So also the children of God realize their birth in different ways. Some take longer to walk in their new life. Others take longer to speak of their faith. But before any of them could do anything at all they had to be conceived and born, and that had nothing to do with their own will. Many newborn infants even have to have their breathing started for them by someone else. In the same way salvation to eternal life is not something left up to mans own efforts, otherwise he would surely perish. "So it depends not upon mans will or exertion, but upon Gods mercy." (Romans 9:16)
Paul was born by grace from above even while he was actively working against the Word. Peter was amazed when he realized it could even happen to a non-Jewish family, and he had to do some explaining to the other apostles. The Spirit of God had come as he planned and pleased, and so the apostles were convinced that God, in His mercy, had "granted repentance" to the Gentile world. (Acts 11:18) The apostles had no reason to believe that it was unfair of God to regenerate or pass by whomever he wished. Jesus had made it quite clear to them, "You did not choose me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16) Since everyone is guilty of sin and stands rightly condemned, God is only "unfair" in that he saves anyone at all. That is the meaning of grace according to God. "I will have mercy on whom I wish, I will take pity on whom I wish." (Romans 9:15 TEV) "So then," accepted the apostle Paul, "he has mercy on whomever he wills and hardens the heart of whomever he wills." (Romans 9:18) True regeneration depends entirely upon the will of God, not the will of man.
Of course, there is a very definite place for mans will in spiritual life. The person who is really born of God will certainly strive to follow Christ and please his Father. Salvation is not revealed by someone standing up to be seen by men and promising to follow Jesus, it is shown to God by a life which does follow Jesus. Even so, we must never rely on anything we experience or do. Many people believe they are born again because of a personal feeling or decision to follow Christ. But the Bible firmly warns that, "He who trusts in his own mind (or heart) is a fool" because "the heart (of man) is deceitful above all things," too corrupt to be relied on. (Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 17:9) We are called to trust solely in Jesus, not in our decision to believe. That is where Christ finally pointed Nicodemus.
It is vitally important to understand the lesson of birth because there is also such a thing as a false pregnancy. It happens when a woman is so convinced that she is having a baby that her body actually swells, but there is no child inside. The very thing can happen when people are persuaded that they can cause their own birth by their own will, when the conviction of the Word of God is replaced by the pressure of others to make some visible act of the flesh, when the drawing power of the Spirit is replaced by the emotional atmosphere created by mans seductive gimmicks. Jesus told a story about this very thing. He showed that just as the Son of Man sows good wheat seed so too the Evil One sows weeds right alongside them. In fact, Satans gospel is so subtle it can be very difficult, at first, to tell the wheat from the weeds. But Christ knows who was born from above and who was born again of the Devils seed, and he explained that they would all be sorted out in the end at harvest time. (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)
4. WE FOUND IT!
"The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, Come with me!...So Philip found Nathanael and told him: We have found the one of whom Moses wrote in the book of the Law, and of whom the prophets also wrote. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth." (John 1:43-45 TEV)
"We found Jesus, the son of Joseph," said Philip, an excellent example of a new child of God who, in his immature excitement, claims things that are not in fact true. It was Jesus who found Philip, and Jesus was not the son of Joseph. Philip was slow to see these things as he grew up in the faith (John 14:8.9) but Nathanael was a deep and quick thinker from the start. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, he said about him, "Here is a real Israelite; there is nothing false in him!" Nathanael asked him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you when you were under the fig tree, before Philip called you." "Teacher," answered Nathanael "You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (John 1:47-49 TEV) Nathanael knew that Christ had found him long before he met Christ.
Many, many times God has commanded man to seek him, and yet man, by nature, is spiritually blind and in deliberate rebellion against God. He cannot even see the kingdom of God unless he is born from above. (John 3:3) He cannot receive spiritual truths. "The natural man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14) He simply will not seek God in the right way (Romans 3:10,11) nor does he truly want to come face to face with the living Lord. "And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) Such commands for man to seek God merely reveal that he is not able or willing to truly do it, and therefore a Savior is necessary to bring him into the true light. In our natural state we can no more do anything to get right with God than we can change the color of our own skins. (Jeremiah 13:23) So, in His grace revealed through Christ, He finds us.
Now the Word certainly does state that man must repent and believe if he is to be saved. Indeed, he who does not repent and believe is clearly not alive. However, this does not mean that man is somehow awakened by his own acts or efforts rather than by Gods grace. Faith and repentance are not the cause of salvation but rather the essential fruit of it. True faith and repentance are not something the natural man can simply decide he will produce. They are gifts from above. "God may perhaps grant that they (those in Adam) will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape the snare of the devil, having been captured by him to do his will." (2 Corinthians 2:25,26) "For it has been granted to you (those in Christ) that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake..." (Philippians 1:29)
A person who is dead can only produce a natural faith, but the faith that saves is supernatural. It works through a heart enlivened by Gods undeserved mercy. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this (faith) is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9) If faith is a divine gift, how then can God condemn someone for not believing? The Scripture says clearly, "He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:18) How can man be already condemned if he is not able to do the right thing from birth anyway?
The reason for this condemnation is that Adam, who was once able to do the right thing, chose not to, and the condemning guilt of his disobedience rests upon the whole human race. Many people naturally reject that we are condemned by something done by another man, and they likewise reject that we are saved by something done entirely by someone else. The vast majority of Christians even deny this fundamental truth of the Word. The Scriptures say that men are indeed condemned by the disobedience of Adam, and that believers are saved by the obedience of Jesus. "So then, as the one sin condemned all men, in the same way the one righteous act sets all men free and gives them life. And just as many were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man, in the same way many will be put right with god as the result of the obedience of one man." (Romans 5:18,19 TEV)
God sees the whole human race in terms of two men, Adam who sinned, and Jesus who did not. Everyone in Adam is declared guilty, condemned and lost. Everyone in Christ is declared innocent, freed and found. We became sinners in Adam and can be put right with God in Christ. In ourselves we still fall short, but God continually accepts his people as perfect in Christ, because Christ has entirely paid for their faults and has been accepted at the right hand of God. "That is why Abraham, through faith, was accepted as righteous by God. The words he was accepted as righteous were not written for him alone. They were written also for us who are to be accepted as righteous, who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from death. He was given over to die because of our sin and was raised to put us right with god." (Romans 4:22-25 TEV)
If then, we are granted the living faith described in the Bible, we can never maintain that we found God or put ourselves right with him by something we did. It was God who found us, and He put us right with Himself by something Christ did. "Who then will accuse Gods chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! Can anyone condemn them? Christ Jesus is the one who died, or rather who was raised to life and is at the right side of God. He pleads for us!" (Romans 8:33,34 TEV)
5. THE PLAN OF GOD
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established." (Proverbs 19:21)
When God effectively calls people to Himself and we turn to him He embraces us straight away and accepts us as righteous, not because of our act of repentance but because He has called us and put us into Christ, and God cannot find any sin in His Son. We become new creatures raised by the Spirit of God Who opens our eyes to His Word. Man, by nature, cannot grasp this truth. When the natural man, especially the religious churchman, approaches the Word of God he only digests half-truths, the parts which appeal to his flesh, and thus he attempts to live by bread alone. He does not wish to hear the whole truth, nor is he able to hear it, because it is hidden from him by the plan of the Sovereign Lord. Here are some of those hidden truths, which men cannot see clearly, and against which many churchmen rage in the darkness.
The natural man prefers his own ways however, and the plan of God greatly upsets his soul. Churchmen in particular will seek to alter the sense of Gods Word and will even cut a sentence right in half so that the whole meaning of the message is changed, and these distortions become enormously popular. Examine the Scriptures above and consider the words often omitted when they are used by many religious people today. Quoting John 1:12 without the rest of the sentence in verse 13 is also a prime example. Why do Christians do this? Simply because they want to invent another plan. They want a strategy to convince themselves and their flock that the creature can save himself by his own actions. This is a sad delusion of the mind, for the Scripture emphasizes that the natural man cannot please God. (Romans 8:8) He is trapped in his own carnal nature.
On one hand the natural man may be like the Egyptians in the time of Moses, very religious but in reality persecuting the true people of God to the bitter end. His plan is to follow after the Israelites by crossing the Red Sea, but he is destined to perish in the water. On the other hand the natural man may be like the Israelites enslaved in Egypt, chosen to cross the Red Sea in safety one day, but unable to free themselves from the Egyptians. The only choice they could freely make as slaves was to be obedient or die under the whip. But God had already planned their deliverance. Sending Moses, God rescued His people in His own time, in His own way, in His own power and in His own grace. Likewise all of us are found in spiritual chains, and we are only free and able if God makes us so. When Jesus explained this to the religious people who knew the story of Moses very well, they denied that they were in bondage. They claimed to be free. "Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth: every one who commits a sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not belong to the house always; but a son belongs there forever. If the Son makes you free, then you will be really free." (John 8:34-36 TEV)
This then, is the saving Way of the real God, the Lord of the Bible, "He who calls out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power, not one is missing." (Isaiah 40:26) Thus all that the Father gives to Christ will indeed come to him and not one will be cast out. This is the very thing that Jesus revealed to his disciples that he had come to accomplish. "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your Son, that the Son may give glory to you. For you gave him authority over all men, so that he might give eternal life to all those you gave him. And this is eternal life: for men to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ whom you sent." (John 17:1-3 TEV)
Christ did not want his disciples to live trusting in half-truths, relying on something they did for themselves. He wanted them to know that God has a very definite plan to save his people from the fate of this sinful world, just as he had a definite plan to rescue Israel from Egypt. This plan is now fully revealed to us through Christ, but it existed long before Jesus appeared on the earth. In fact this plan was made before the world even existed. "Before the world was made, God had chosen us to be his in Christ so that we would be holy and without fault before him." Why did God do this? "Because of his love, God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would bring us to himself as sons; this was His pleasure and purpose. Let us praise God for his glorious grace for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son!" (Ephesians 1:4,5 TEV)
6. A GRAVE SITUATION
"Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)
There is a famous painting by Holman Hunt which shows Christ knocking on an old door that is so overgrown with weeds and vines it looks as if it has never been opened before. There is no door handle on the outside, so the Savior must patiently wait like a "perfect gentleman" for the reply of the sinner inside. He does not want to interfere with mans choice. But, since we know what happened in Adam, we know that whoever is behind that door is in fact quite dead. He may as well be in a coffin, separated from Christ by a nailed lid! This sad picture of salvation is really no salvation at all, and every time we see this picture again we find that nothing has happened. Jesus is still standing there...waiting. In fact this is a perfect image of the gospel of the Christian church.
Jesus promised that he would enter if a person heard his voice and opened the door. But that does not mean that Christ was depending on man. A dead man clearly cannot help himself. He "has ears but does not hear." Jesus carefully explained this to the very churchmen who thought they possessed freedom. "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your fathers desires." Again he said to them, "He who is of God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is because you are not of God." (John 8:44,47) Later Jesus said much the same thing to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, to whom the churchmen had delivered Jesus for the death sentence. He who is of the truth hears my voice." (John 18:37) In order to hear the voice of God man must be born of God, alive to the truth. The natural man cannot open the door to eternal life any more than a dead man can open his own ears. It depends completely on Christ, the One "who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one shall open." (Revelation 3:7)
The human image of salvation (pagan and Christian) presents a God who merely offers to help man but relies on the will of man for the response. This is perhaps the universal example of the "way which seems right to a man but the end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12) Christ not only offers life but he also gives it to whoever he wishes. He does not need a handle on a door to work out his purpose. God is Spirit, and the Spirit blows wherever He wishes. He does indeed interfere with our sad state. If this were not so, no one would ever be saved. In His mercy, God delights in raising people from death, creating in them a new heart that is able to respond to Him. "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to walk in my ordinances." (Ezekiel 36:26,27) "I will give them a new heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I shall be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart." (Jeremiah 24:7)
It is very true that God commands man to get himself a new heart (Ezekiel 18:31) but we know that the natural man is unable to do this. Likewise Christ commands his disciples to be as perfect as God Himself (Matthew 5:48) but no man except Jesus has ever done so. These instructions are like the Ten Commandments, which Jesus rolled into two perfect commandments, continually showing man how flawed he is, how utterly unable to save himself, and how much he needs to be clothed with the Saviors work from start to finish. But the natural man thinks just the opposite. He imagines that such commands mean he can be saved by his own actions, and he ends up like the man who entered the wedding feast in his own clothes. Sooner or later he comes face to face with the King who says to him, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?" He is unable to answer so the King tells his servants, "Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:11-14)
Christ does not save us because we have earned our salvation by hearing and believing; he saves us in order that we may hear and believe. Thus the believer is saved by grace, through faith. He believes because he has been saved. "I tell you the truth:" said Jesus, "Whoever hears my words, and believes in him who sent me, has eternal life. He will not be judged, but has already passed from death to life." (John 5:24 TEV) The religious man will not accept this way of salvation. He cannot see the point of spreading a message that tells men to seek God if men cannot do this unless God grants them permission. All he can do is create another gospel to which men can respond of their own volition. Churches are full of these people. Indeed, churches were created for these people. And that is not really surprising, for Gods ways are not mans ways. Only when the Spirit gives people new ears, new minds and new hearts will they be able to see that salvation is entirely an act of God, taking them from darkness and death into light and life. "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:12)
7. RAISING HELL
"Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold, 1 am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17,18)
According to the Word the human race is lost, not wanting to know the real God or able to seek him in the right way. "None is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God." (Romans 3:10,11) Every one of us is born facing the wrong direction and we deliberately walk in that direction, carrying with us a one-way ticket to Hades, personally signed for us by Adam. But, in the midst of this creation which the Lord has purposefully subjected to futility (Romans 8:20) there is a brilliant ray of hope, the grace of God. "For God has made all men prisoners of disobedience, that he might show mercy to them all." (Romans 11:32 TEV) And this mercy is shown to us in the one Man who has walked in the right way, who has satisfied Gods standards and has gained acceptance in heaven.
While all men make their way towards hell, captured by Satan to do his bidding, this one Man has lived a life fully pleasing to God. And as time passes the Father reveals some of the lost whom he gave to Christ before the creation, and the Spirit breathes upon them and raises them and they turn around and follow in his footsteps. Now this will be very offensive to those trying to save themselves by their own actions, and they will almost certainly abuse those who have received a free ticket without doing anything to deserve it. But that is what grace is all about, and those in Christ are secure for the very reason that they were saved by an act of God and not by their own feeble inclinations. In Christ they are completely safe, because he has already made this journey, all the way from death and hell to the throne of God.
Can anything or anybody prevent those in Christ from being saved? No, for that would mean that Gods purpose failed. "For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love," claimed the apostle Paul, "there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39 TEV) No created thing (that includes the elect believer himself who is a creature) can or ever will cause the loss of someone whom God has given to Christ. "For I have come down from heaven," explained Jesus, "not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up at the last day." (John 6:38,39)
There are, of course, those who appear to follow Christ and then give up, never to return. By doing this they reveal that they were never really born of God. They received the call but were born of their own will. Perhaps someone told them that all they had to do if they wished to be saved was raise a right hand. So all that was raised was a natural right hand. That kind of resurrection will not last. But the person who is born from above enters the kingdom by the will of God, and God does not reverse this gracious decision. (Romans 11:29) True, there are severe warnings about falling away (Hebrews 6:1-8) and such warnings are for real, but at the same time the salvation of true disciples is assured. (Hebrews 6:9-20) Such warnings should keep the children of God awake and on guard, and if they do stray towards death their Father will surely punish them. But even this discipline is a source of comfort because it proves that they are truly His children and not illegitimate believers. (Hebrews 12:5-8)
God has shut the gates of death behind His children just as He closed the Red Sea behind the Israelites who were rescued from Egypt. True, there were "children of no faith" in Israel just as there are false disciples of Christ; churches are packed with them, unfruitful branches that are cut off sooner or later. But God keeps his own and they trust him. That is how a small portion of Israelites remained faithful in Elijahs time. "So too," explains Paul, "at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:5,6) God bought his people with the price of His Sons life, and he has no intention of losing that which cost him so much. He gives them eternal life that does not fade and cannot be lost. "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:27-30)
When Jesus came down to raise his people from the jaws of hell it was not merely salvation made possible but salvation made sure. Christ, in becoming a man, completely provided everything needed for his people to be accepted by God. In his living a life of perfect obedience to God from birth to death he satisfied Gods demand for righteousness, and in dying he absorbed their penalty for sin as intended in Gods plan. This is the New Covenant which was sealed in Christs blood. Since Christ is entirely acceptable to the Father so too the people that God puts into Christ will be forever satisfactory to Him because of what Christ has done. "I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do; and now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made. I have manifested your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word." (John 17:4-6)
8. COME ALIVE!
"Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead! And Christ will shine upon you." (Ephesians 5:14 TEV)
Just as Lazarus could not have come out of his tomb without the command of the Word of God and the reviving power of the Spirit so too we are unable to move ourselves towards God unless He raises us and awakens us to His Son. God does not do this in response to something we first think or do; He gives life purely out of his grace, according to his own good pleasure and plan. "He saved us and called us to be his own people," declared Paul, "not because of what we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. He gave this grace to us in Christ before the beginning of time, but now it has been revealed to us through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus. For Christ has ended the power of death and through the Good News has revealed immortal life." (2 Timothy 1:9,10 TEV)
True, the Bible commands man to be baptized, but man does not save himself by his outward act of baptism. After all, the Jews, who obediently circumcised themselves in the belief that it showed them to be Gods people, were told by Stephen in New Testament times that they possessed uncircumcised hearts and that, religious as they were, they actually resisted the Spirit of God. (Acts 7:51) Anyone can be baptized or circumcised, but the inner operation, the spiritual creation of a new heart of faith, is something which God alone can perform. (Romans 2:28,29) And He does this to whomever he wishes through the Good News of Christ. "And when the Gentiles heard this they rejoiced and praised the Lords message and those who had been chosen for eternal life became believers." (Acts 13:48 TEV)
The natural man with his "uncircumcised heart" may actually grasp that he cannot save himself by his own work of perfectly fulfilling the Law of God, but all he can do is replace this with another set of rules or "spiritual laws" which seem an easier way to get himself right with God. Some Jews, for instance, have a tradition that if every Jew prayed at the same time for Messiah to come then he would appear. But the Bible shows that God has fixed a definite day for Christs return (Acts 17:31), not when man feels like calling him down. The "evangelist" Charles Finney thought that if enough "Christians" believed and behaved correctly they could usher in a millenium, as though God would follow their timetable instead of His own! Likewise other people teach the notion that Christ will come into a persons heart only if and when he is invited. But this too is a ludicrous salvation by mans work, the upside-down do-it-yourself gospel of the church. It is God who invites man, no, commands him, to repent and believe; and God keeps a definite appointment with every one he intends to save. True, every one who rightly calls upon Him will be saved, but that does not mean He saves us because of our plea (work), we call upon Him in the right way only if He first saves us through the life of His Son (grace). "Let thy hand, O Lord, be upon the man at thy right hand. Then we will never turn back from thee. Give us life and we will call upon thy name." (Psalm 80:17)
Once God has awakened us to Christ then we no longer remain in our old ways. "Instead, give yourselves to God, as men who have been brought from death to life, and surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes." (Romans 6:12,13 TEV) Those who are raised are chosen and destined by God from the beginning to have changed lives. (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2) In fact, no one will be saved without a changed life. But, at the same time, man is not saved by his changed life. Jesus dramatically explained that those who thought they would be saved simply because they prophesied or cast out demons in his name were in for a shock. We need more than a changed life to be right with God. We need a life of absolute perfection. Not even the most devoted, Spirit-filled disciple can provide that, because he must confess (if he is elect) that at the end of the day he has still fallen short, an unworthy servant whose works are like dirty rags. (Luke 17:10; Isaiah 64:6)
Believers possess a life of perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ alone. This was the Messiah that the prophets awaited. "And this is the name whereby he shall be called: THE LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jeremiah 23:6) It is his righteous life, which we are to hold by faith, that fully and finally saves, and that is what the Good News is all about. The gospel is not a testimony of mans wonderful change or mans personal experiences of God, or mans coming alive. Every religion in the world offers such navel-gazing and self-glorification, especially Christianity. The message of truth is about the one perfect Life that came alive and rose to Gods right hand. That is the testimony according to the apostle John. (1 John 5:9-12)
All other gospels, especially those that come from the experience of man, are accursed, wrote Paul to the Galatians. The Galatians had fallen for the idea that man could be saved by something he did himself, so Paul exposed their folly in strong language and presented them again with the basic gospel of grace, that man is saved only by the work of Christ. "As for me, I will boast only of the cross of our lord Jesus Christ; for by means of his cross the world is dead to me and I am dead to the world." (Galatians 6:4) Likewise Paul had to remind the stumbling Corinthians in two corrective letters that they had no reason to boast because they had not chosen God, neither were they righteous in themselves. God had chosen them, the weak and foolish, and provided them with a righteousness held for them in Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:27-30)
"I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance," wrote Paul to the Corinthians, "that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and raised to life on the third day, as written in the Scriptures; that he appeared to Peter, and then to all twelve apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 TEV) They had become obsessed with the saving activity of God in themselves, indeed, they had been infiltrated by rank unbelievers, living in dreadful sin, and it is no mere coincidence Corinth was one of the first places where men turned from the Word and erected a church. Paul, however, focussed on the saving activity of God in Christ, because he knew it was that message which God uses to make men come alive. "For I made up my mind to forget everything while I was with you except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross." (1 Corinthians 2:2 TEV)
9. ABUNDANT LIFE
" the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice...Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep...I came that they might have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:3,4,7,10)
Christ made it quite clear to some people that they did not belong to his flock. They may have read the Scriptures deeply in search of life, but that did not get them any closer to the real Life. (John 5:37-40) But to his own, to those whom he brought out and called by name, Jesus promised abundant life. The idea that he was promising this life to everyone may be very popular, very Christian, and very churchy, but it is also completely false. God may freely give or freely withhold as he pleases. He may soften or harden hearts, open or close eyes, according to His gracious will (Romans 11:7,8) and thus He completely decides the fate of each individual person, be it wonderful or terrible. To put it in the words of John the Baptist, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven." (John 3:27)
The Scripture reveals that "The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble." (Proverbs 16:4) The New Testament describes these people as "creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed," and "vessels of wrath, made for destruction." (2 Peter 2:12; Romans 9:22) It is true that they are guilty of sin and have only themselves to blame, yet it was God who ultimately decided their fate. "They stumble because they disobey the word (their fault) as they were destined to do (Gods plan)," explained Peter. (1 Peter 2:8) Jude even described such people as false believers who creep in amongst the faithful to "pervert the grace of God" (their fault) but who were "long ago designated for condemnation" (Gods plan). (Jude 4) Obviously then, God does not have a wonderful plan for everyone (at least it will not seem wonderful from their point of view, awesome yes, great and terrible, certainly.)
But God does have a wonderful plan for His people in Jesus Christ. And this plan is found only in Christ, because only Jesus unfailingly did what pleased the Father. (John 8:29) Only Jesus has fully satisfied God, and God has made this known for all eternity. "Behold my servant, my chosen, in whom my soul delights," He says of Jesus, and again, "This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him!" (Isaiah 42:1; Luke 9:35) That is why the Good News about abundant life is really a message about this one Man, the Shepherd who laid down his perfect life so that his sheep could be put right with God forever. In fact his sacrifice was the very center of Gods plan. Men may have been responsible for betraying and killing him, but he was "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" just as "it had been determined" beforehand. (Acts 2:23; Luke 22:22)
So God has revealed the abundant life that He has in store for His people in the person of His Son, and through the death of Christ He has made this life available to them. This is indeed Good News, but it only appears as Good News to his flock, to those who are granted to believe. To those who do not belong or believe it is an absurd story. "For the message about Christs death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost," wrote Paul, "but for us who are being saved it is Gods power." (1 Corinthians 1:18 TEV) Paul knew that this gospel could not be a welcome message for anyone except those whom God intended to save. "For those who are being lost, it is a deadly stench that kills. For those who are being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life." (2 Corinthians 2:16 TEV)
Since it is Christs work alone - his doing, his dying - that has won the abundant life, it is a delusion for men to try and grasp it through their own efforts, and God simply requires all men everywhere to give up relying on their own ideas and believe in this truth. That was all that the thief on the cross beside Jesus could do when he was being saved. The other thief turned up his nose, but this one could smell the "perfume" of Christ, and Jesus, recognizing the mark of his Fathers mercy, promised him Paradise. (Luke 23:43) "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day...No one can come to me unless the Father draws him, and I will raise him on the last day." (John 6:40,44)
10. WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
"Even as the Father is the source of life, in the same way he has made his Son to be the source of life. And he has given his Son the right to judge, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be surprised at this; for the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear his voice, and they will come out of their graves: those who have done good will be raised and live, and those who have done evil will be raised and condemned." (John 5:27-29 TEV)
The final resurrection and judgement at the second appearance of Jesus Christ are sure and certain facts. They are guaranteed to take place because Christ has already appeared once to make provision for the judgement and he has himself already been raised forever. "And just as it is appointed for all men to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 7:27,28) No man knows when that time will come, only that it will come on the day chosen by God.
God has given clear warning of this final reckoning. He "commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man he has appointed and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:31) God is not pleased that any should perish but rather wishes them to repent (2 Peter 3:9) and He desires all to be prepared for that day. He has Himself freely provided the one sure escape from condemnation in the Man of his choosing, namely Jesus Christ. True, God will be looking at every individual to see if his life was obedient or wicked, and no one who appears empty handed shall avoid condemnation. But again, we need far, far more than a renewed or "Spirit-filled" life to save us. We need a life of pure, faultless perfection, and we may possess this solely by faith in Gods Son.
Only in the person of Christ are God and man brought together satisfactorily. Only Christ was good enough to make peace between God and man, and that will be clearly revealed when all men experience the resurrection power on the last day. Like all resurrections, this final one will not be an invitation which depends upon mans will, for when the voice calls it will happen whether men are alive or dead to God. And when it does happen everyone will at last see that there is only one righteous; that no one, absolutely no one in heaven or earth, is worthy except the Lamb of God who ransomed a people for himself out of all the tribes and nations of earth. (Revelation 5:1-14)
"And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, and in the world below, and every creature of the sea - all creatures in the whole universe - and they were singing:
To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb,
Be praise and honor, glory and might,
For ever and ever."
(Revelation 5:13 TEV)
Study Guide for Raising the Dead
"And her spirit returned, and she got up at once; and Jesus directed that something should be given her to eat." (Luke 8:55)
THE DEATH OF MAN
Genesis 2:15-17. Adam was free to obey God.
Genesis 2:17. Adam died the day he disobeyed.
Genesis 3:17-19. God made him a prisoner of his disobedience.
Genesis 3:21. God gave him a covering not made by human hands.
Genesis 3:22-24. God blocked his way to the tree of life.
THE FAMILY OF MAN (IN ADAM)
1 Corinthians 15:45. Adam is the head of the human race.
Romans 5:18. All are counted guilty, condemned by his sin
Romans 5:19. His sin makes them sinners.
Romans 5:15; 1 Corinthians 15:22. In him all men die.
Romans 3:11. Not one truly understands or seeks God.
Romans 11:32. God has made all prisoners for the sake of mercy.
Jeremiah 13:23. They cannot change themselves by their own will.
THE NATURAL MAN
Ephesians 2:1,5. He is dead in sin and trespasses.
Ephesians 2:2. He is a son of disobedience following the devil.
1 Corinthians 2:14. He does not understand things of the spirit.
John 3:19. He prefers darkness to the light of Christ.
Acts 7:51. He has an uncircumcised heart, resists the Spirit.
John 8:34; Romans 6:20. He is a slave to sin.
Romans 8:8. He is in the flesh, cannot please God.
Ephesians 2:5. Man is saved by grace, even while dead in sin.
Romans 9:15. God has mercy on whomever he wants.
Romans 9:16. It does not depend on mans will but Gods mercy.
2 Timothy 1:9. Not mans doing but Gods loving purpose.
Ephesians 1:4. Gods sons chosen before the world for His pleasure.
John 15:16. We did not choose him, he chose us.
John 3:27. No one can receive anything except by grace.
Romans 11:5,6. Grace must be without mans effort in order to be grace.
THE FAMILY OF GOD (IN CHRIST)
Colossians 1:18. Christ is the head of his family.
Romans 5:18. All are counted innocent by his righteousness
Romans 5:19. His obedience makes them righteous.
1 Corinthians 15:22. All in Christ shall live.
Romans 4:22-25. They are right with God because Christ arose.
Colossians 2:20; 3:1. They have been raised in Christ. Seek above!
Ephesians 2:6. They are seated at Gods right hand now, in Christ.
THE SAVED MAN
Ephesians 2:1-6. He is made alive with Christ and raised.
Romans 6:17. He is obedient from the heart by Gods grace.
1 Corinthians 2:12. He understands the things of the Spirit.
John 3:21. He comes to the light so that his life is clearly seen.
Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 24:7. He has a new heart to know God.
John 8:26; Romans 6:22. He is a slave of God, free to obey.
Romans 8:9. He is in the Spirit, if Christ is in him.
Romans 7:14. He is also carnal. He continues to fall short.
Romans 7:25. He struggles to serve God but also sins.
Isaiah 64:6; Luke 17:10. His works are soiled, an unworthy servant.
1 John 5:9-11. The wonderful testimony is about Gods Son.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Of greatest importance, his dying and rising.
1 Corinthians 1:18. It is nonsense to the lost, power to the saved.
2 Corinthians 2:16. It is a stench to the lost, perfume to the saved.
Galatians 6:14. Boast only of the sacrifice of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:1,2. Only Gods work in Christ, his sacrifice.
John 5:25. Even now the dead who hear his voice shall live.
John 8:47; 18:37. Those of God, of the truth, hear his voice.
John 6:44,65. No one comes to Christ unless the Father draws him.
Matthew 11:27,28. The Son reveals the Father as he wishes.
John 6:37. All whom God gives to Christ will come, no outcasts.
Acts 2:38,39. The Spirit is promised to all who are truly called.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31. Consider your call, God chooses the weak.
Isaiah 40:26. No one is missing whom God calls by name.
Matthew 22:11-14. Not all who appear called are chosen.
John 3:7. You must be born from above.
John 1:12. The true birth does not involve mans will.
John 3:6. Flesh cannot cause birth from above.
John 3:8. The Spirit gives birth to whomever He wishes.
John 6:63. The Spirit alone gives life - flesh cannot do it.
John 5:21. The Father raises and the Son gives life as he pleases.
John 17:1-3. The Son gives life to all whom the Father gave to him.
Psalm 80:17. New life causes man to call on God.
John 5:24. He who believes already has eternal life.
John 3:18. Man is responsible for not believing in Gods Son.
John 11:25-27. Faith involves mans will. He must exercise it.
Philippians 1:29. God must grant faith.
Ephesians 2:8. Faith is a gift of God.
Matthew 7:22,23. Not all who believe have saving faith.
Acts 13:48. Those chosen for eternal life will truly believe.
Acts 2:38. Man must repent. It involves his will.
Acts 17:30. God commands all men to repent.
Acts 11:18. God grants repentance as he pleases.
2 Timothy 2:25,26. Repentance is a gift of God.
John 6:38,39. The Son loses nothing that the Father gives him.
John 17:4-6. Those given to Christ keep his word.
John 10:27-30. Jesus gives eternal life, it can never perish.
Romans 8:37-39. No created thing can separate God from his people.
2 Peter 3:9. God is not pleased that any should perish.
Romans 9:18; 11:7-10. God hardens the heart of whoever he wishes.
1 Peter 2:8. They disobey as they were destined to do.
Jude 4. They pervert grace; they were planned to be condemned.
Proverbs 16:4. God has made the wicked for their trouble.
Romans 9:22; 2 Peter 2:12. Made for destruction, born to perish.
John 8:29; Matthew 3:17. Jesus always pleased the Father.
Romans 5:6-8. Christ died for the ungodly, the helpless.
Colossians 3:1-4; Acts 2:23. He was raised to Gods right hand.
John 11:25,26. He is the resurrection and the life.
Romans 8:1. There is no condemnation for those in him.
1 Corinthians 1:30. He is our righteousness with God.
Jeremiah 23:6. He is our righteousness.
Luke 22:22; Acts 2:33. He is the Predestined One.
Isaiah 42:1; Luke 9:35. He is the Chosen One - listen to him.
Revelation 5. He is the Worthy. One - worship him.