249. The Veil is Taken Away

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Acquainted with perfection

Live consistent with who you really are, inspired by the loving kindness of God. Do not allow current religious tradition to mould you into its pattern of reasoning. Like an inspired artist, give attention to the detail of God’s desire to find expression in you. Become acquainted with perfection. To accommodate yourself to the delight and good pleasure of him will transform your thoughts afresh from within (Rom 12:1-2 Mirror Bible).

“Become acquainted with perfection”. We know that God is perfection. But have you ever considered this? His image of us is also perfection! Perfection is what He sees in us when He calls us and gives us a destiny in sonship. Our own view may have been distorted by our experiences of life and the things we believe, but His original intent and purpose remain unchanged. He still sees us as we really are, therefore only He can bring about the transformation in our thinking that will enable us to ‘live consistent’ with that.

We have to get to know Him. There is no methodology that will achieve this consistency outside of relationship with Him. If we do not see God as He really is, there is no possibility of seeing ourselves as we really are. Our unrenewed minds are veiled by the constructs of our own consciousness. And even though we may ditch our old understanding of who God is, if we merely replace it with a new understanding which is also a construct of our own minds, then that will not be accurate either. What we need is a renewed mind and a continual, living relationship.

Taught to conform

But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Cor 3:14-16).

This veil is our old religious or DIY belief system that causes a hardened mind. Justin Paul Abraham points out that in the church we have been very good at teaching people what to think, but not how to think. Most of us have been taught to conform, either explicitly or implicitly. But conformity to ideology, theology, doctrine and cultural norms actually limits our creative thinking and our sonship. We must turn to the Lord for the veil to be taken away.

To turn is to engage metanoia, the word which is normally translated ‘repentance’ but which really means a radical shift of thinking. We know that the more we try to turn away from something, the more we will focus on the thing we are trying to turn away from. The solution is to turn towards something else instead, and to focus on that. To remove the veils and renew our minds we need to behold God face to face, to engage Him heart to heart and mind to mind, so that we can become like Him. We can do this through meditative encounters. As we open the eyes of our heart, as our imagination is activated, we can begin to see, hear and perceive true reality. Our encounters with God will begin to challenge what we thought we knew about Him.

Expand my reality

I had a number of encounters with God which created cognitive dissonance within me. Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (or psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values, especially when something happens to highlight the contradiction. This was very distressing, but it served to expand my reality of God and myself. I had a choice, to fight to hold onto what I had always thought to be true or allow the Truth, Jesus, to renew my mind.

I had engaged God’s heart many times with my spirit, outside the limitations of time and space, where my unrenewed mind could not function rationally. Then one day God said “Let me show you My mind.” I am not going to describe it visually, but it felt like being in the middle of a continuous, harmonious conversation between Father, Son and Spirit, in which I could hear faint echoes of my own name.

Again I heard the Father say ”Let Me show you something” and I briefly glimpsed reality from His perspective. I saw that He was connected to everyone that had ever lived, is living or will live, all at once; that is around 108 billion people and counting. He was connected to everyone in the ‘now’, knowing every choice and every decision made every microsecond, and His loving desire was to bring good out of every choice, to redeem even the most stupid decisions of every single person. What amazing love!

Meanwhile we know that the love of God causes everything to mutually contribute to our advantage (Rom 8:28 Mirror Bible).

Same old

Unless our minds are renewed we will find ourselves stuck in the ‘same old, same old’ life. We want to know who God really is and who we really are in Him, yet our past belief and experience limit our capacity to grasp what is really true. Our mind has the capacity to go way beyond its present conscious awareness. We need our minds expanded, though not with psychedelic drugs or anything of that kind: engaging the mind of God will do it. He is omniscient, He knows all there is to know, so engaging His mind will likely be an image-busting experience for us. Are you willing?

Communion

One simple way we can encounter the mind of God is through communion. Renewal of the mind through communion breaks the neural pathways linked to old mindsets and establishes new neural networks, new perspectives, that can be continually renewed. I have shared my original communion prayer with you on this blog before, but I will close this post with a version I wrote to help me renew my mind through engaging with the body and blood of Jesus.

When we take communion we fellowship, sharing life, partaking of His life by focusing and fixing our eyes on Him. As we eat His flesh and drink His blood we are engaging with His life, His essence, His mind and His thoughts.  We engage by faith: not just reciting the words parrot-fashion but meditating on what we are asking and experiencing the reality.

Applying the Body and Blood of Jesus to the renewal of the mind:

I eat your flesh and drink your blood so that I will have the Mind of Christ.

I engage in the body and blood of Jesus and I embrace the transforming power of the Mind of Christ contained within it.

I engage the record containing the light, sound and frequency of God’s consciousness for the renewal of my mind, back to its eternal condition.

I embrace the record of the dimensions of the kingdom released in my mind by the thoughts of God to renew, rewire and restore my brain and thinking.

I engage God’s thoughts and apply them to my mind for health and wholeness, to break and remove all negative neural pathways linked to my conscience.

I speak to my marrow and command it to be a new source of blood that will renew and rewire the cells of my brain so that I can think like a son of God.

I apply the frequency of God’s thoughts resonating with truth to transform my mind into the Mind of Christ by removing all lies and breaking all strongholds.

I command every neural pathway attached to negative memories and ungodly behaviours to be broken and new neural pathways aligned to truth to be formed.

I apply the blood of Jesus to all negative and impure memories and break all connections to sin and trauma – Mind and thinking, be renewed!

I apply the blood of Jesus to all negative images within my imagination and all negative belief systems within my reason centre – Mind, be cleansed!

I call my mind to resonate with the thoughts of God contained within the Mind of Christ and come into alignment and agreement with an eternal perspective.

I choose that my brain and mind be conformed to the likeness of my Father and Brother in heaven to release the creative capacity of sonship

Let the word of God be breathed into my mind, unlocking its true capacity and releasing the supernatural abilities of God.

I trigger the ability for telepathic communication, telekinetic power and transmutation abilities.

I trigger the ability of creative thought, translation, bilocation, pre- and post-cognition and time travel.

[Click here to download a copy of this prayer to print for your own use or to share with others. Opens in a new tab or window.]

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248. Multicoloured, Multifaceted Reality

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

We have looked at the mind in various ways within previous teaching. The Transformation series dealt with ‘trauma to transformation’. In Gateways, we considered the subconscious mind, the heart and the negative effects of our memories. The gateway of imagination was about activating the eyes of our heart to see the spiritual realms and in the gateway of reason we began detoxing our minds from the poisonous lies of destructive thinking.

These are all important processes in maturing as sons. But now we will be asking God to actually rewire our brain and the construction of our minds and our consciousness. Adam had abilities we have now lost. As sons of God, we should expect our mental abilities to be far superior to those we currently enjoy. It is our framework of beliefs which creates that limitation.

Savant syndrome is a condition in which a person with a developmental difference demonstrates abilities far in excess of what would be considered normal, often at the cost of healthy emotional development. The savant’s mind is wired differently. God wants to restore a whole range of abilities to his sons but in the wholeness and oneness of spirit, soul and body.

Religious tradition

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2).

These two processes, not conforming and being transformed, must run in parallel if our minds are to be renewed. We need to let go of the old DIY ways to embrace the new reality of our sonship with a new mind.

Live consistent with who you really are, inspired by the loving kindness of God. Do not allow current religious tradition to mould you into its pattern of reasoning. Like an inspired artist, give attention to the detail of God’s desire to find expression in you. Become acquainted with perfection. To accommodate yourself to the delight and good pleasure of him will transform your thoughts afresh from within (Rom 12:1-2 Mirror Bible)

Renewing our minds will enable us to know God and therefore know our true selves so that we can live in a new level of reality. So far we know only a tiny fraction of what there is to know. Patterns of belief have formed in us because of what we have been taught: religious tradition can be a big problem for Christians, even for those of us who thought we had escaped the bounds of religion decades ago!

When we align ourselves in relationship and engage personally with God’s good pleasure in us, He will transform our thoughts from within and give us a whole new way of thinking – about Him, about ourselves, about everything.

The mind of Christ

For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).

This is not ‘might have’ or ‘will one day have’. We have the mind of Christ. Christ is the anointed one and the anointing is the divine enabling power of God. It is not a brain transplant: we do not have the actual mind of Jesus but we can have the restored, equipped mind of a son of God.

Jesus demonstrated an amazing range of unexpected abilities including telepathy, transmutation, pre- and post- cognition, telekinesis, becoming invisible, quantum tunnelling and creating reality.

Since we have the same empowerment that He had, we can do the same kind things He did. In fact, He told us we could do greater!

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father (John 14:12).

We have the mind of Christ to enable us to do things like that. Do we believe it?

When we really believe something, we will act on it. What we believe, whether truth or lies, will actually influence our behaviour. God does not want our intellectual assent but rather a belief that transforms the way we live. Lies will never enable us to be who God created us to be; only the Truth we know by personal experience (Jesus) will enable us to be free to be the real us.

So does what we claim to believe match up with what our actions indicate we really believe? If we find ourselves living in opposition with our supposed beliefs, let’s be willing to ask what the real truth is. Let’s be proactive and engage the Truth and let the Truth expand our reality to transform our lives. Let’s be willing to ask the questions that will bring a truth that we can live by.

Wired up

Even if we do believe that we can do greater things than Jesus, do we know how? Is our mind wired up correctly and connected to those abilities?

There is a popular myth that we only use 10% of our brains. That is not true, we actually use most of our brains but we only understand how 10% of the brain functions. We do not know how neurons from different areas of the brain collaborate to form consciousness or why some areas of the brain appear disconnected and some abilities are not yet (re)activated. I am sure that God does not want them to remain dormant in us, but He desires that we come into the fullness of our sonship.

Neural pathways are like superhighways of nerve cells that transmit messages. As messages travel over the superhighway many times, the pathway becomes more and more defined so that habits and beliefs form. Most of our pathways are formed by repetition, but trauma can cause a pathway to form instantly, as we saw before.

Deconstruction and Renewing

God spoke to me: “Allow your mind and your consciousness to be expanded beyond all that you presently know and have experienced. Experience the reality of all that is, all that will be and most importantly all that can be within My heart. Son, let your monochrome existence become filled with my multicoloured, multifaceted reality.”

It is always exciting when God says something like that, but I know by now that usually these things do not come without cost (and probably some unforeseen consequences as well). Expansion means being stretched, it causes tension. It is much more comfortable only to look at things the way we have always looked at them, only to see what we have always seen, and therefore only experience what we have always experienced. When God asks us to look at what can be, at things we have never seen, that creates the possibility that we will experience things we have never experienced before.

The way my mind was constructed made it impossible for me to experience that reality. It was not something that could change gradually and imperceptibly; something dramatic was called for. And so for me the whole of 2017 was a year of deconstruction and renewing. I experienced what I can only describe as a head explosion. I will share more about that in future posts.

God shows no favouritism, and everything He offered me He will offer you. Are you prepared to submit to whatever God needs to do in you? If not exactly prepared, are you at least willing? If so, tell Him and cooperate with what He says and does to make it a reality for you.

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247. Limitless Grace and Mercy

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott –  

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor 4:3-4).

…for their minds have been blinded by the god of this age, leaving them in unbelief. Their blindness keeps them from seeing the dayspring light of the wonderful news of the glory of Jesus Christ, who is the divine image of God (2 Cor 4:4 TPT).

The ‘god of this age’ refers to the religious systems, governing structures and self-help solutions of this world. A religious veil has blinded many to God who is love, light, spirit and fire. The true image of God has been veiled, with the result that some people, perhaps ourselves included, have not been able to see the reality of who He truly is. Does our ‘God’ look exactly like Jesus? Does our ‘God’ look exactly like love?

The DIY tree path

This veil began to be drawn over the truth when Adam and Eve chose to follow the wrong path, the path of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, what I have called the DIY tree path. In losing sight of God they also lost sight of themselves and the true image of their sonship. They became slaves to their own do-it-yourself efforts to restore what they already had: love, acceptance, approval, affirmation, significance and purpose in relationship.

Mankind has been doing the same ever since.

We have tried many solutions, including power, position, money, materialism, religion and other relationships. All that DIY has done is cause us more pain, leading to more unsuccessful self-medication. All our religious systems are DIY attempts to please or appease God, hoping to get back what was lost. Sadly, if we do not know the relational truth about God and ourselves, we are actually helping to keep the veils in place:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt 5:14).

We are supposed to be the light that enables people to see God but that light will be dimmed or distorted if we are hidden behind a mask or a veil of religious deception ourselves.

False reality

Our own minds are inevitably veiled by the things we already believe. Our mindsets, world-views and strongholds can all be veils or filters over our minds that obstruct and filter how we process reality. These constructs within our minds and consciousness frame our world, what we believe and how we interact. We see the world – and God –  through the lens of our own understanding. It is a distorted view, a false reality, but while it persists it is real to us.

Confirmation bias

To make matters worse, we often have confirmation bias operating. Defined as ‘the tendency to interpret new evidence as a confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories’, confirmation bias is particularly prevalent in the area of religious beliefs. Our theology and doctrines tend to cause us to interpret everything through their filters. It takes a significant experience, often almost a trauma, to shake us loose from the limitations of what we already believe.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding (Prov 3:5).

God is wooing us into a deeper level of intimacy with Him in relationship. When we encounter God we want to make sure that we are not relying on our existing understanding but only on continual living relationship (so we must beware of replacing our existing understanding with a new, equally flawed one). There is a new level of experiential relationship with God (Father, Son and Spirit) that is being unveiled to us, a new level of communication with God (the ability to hear and see what God is revealing); a new mind, the mind of Christ, continually flowing from our relationship with Him rather than just new theology or doctrines (a new DIY construct).

When we are able to behold God (Father, Son and Spirit) as He really is, then we can become conformed to the image of sonship that we see within Him.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2).

In the past, I believed I could renew my mind by memorising Bible verses and confessing them trying to believe them. I have come to understand that we are renewed from within, not from the outside, as we relate to God who is Father, Son and Spirit in us (and we are in Him).

Beyond all expectations

This is my testimony of how this came about for me. Early in 2016 I heard God say:

The mists around the closed and clouded minds must be dissipated. The hindrances and entanglements must be removed so that the limitations of minds that are stuck in what has been can become free to embrace what can be so that it can become what will be. The veils must be removed and restrictions lifted to embrace the limitless potential of My reality. The Way, Truth and Life are to be experienced not conceptualised and contained.

The limits of what is possible must be removed for My purpose to be achieved. You must begin to entertain limitless grace and mercy to be able to grasp what is true reality, beyond all expectations. New dimensions of everything can be yours if you are willing to let go of the old and embrace the challenge of the new.

A radical shift

In order to know God who is Father, Son and Spirit, and to know our identity in sonship in Him, we need our minds deconstructed from the wrong frameworks, from all our limited, restricting belief systems.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to metanoia? (Rom 2:4).

We need a metanoia, a radical shift of thinking, to enable a relationship with the Truth to reveal true reality. Most Bible versions translate the word as ‘repentance’, but metanoia has nothing to do with saying sorry or doing penance for our past: Jesus dealt with that on the cross and made us righteous once and for all.

Conversations with God

He called me to make some laws and legislative decrees on the basis of what He had told me. As I did, I expected Him to use them to free others from their worldly and religious mindsets. I had no idea that He was instead going to use my own words to iconoclastically deconstruct my conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind!

It began with Brexit, the vote about whether the UK should remain within the European Union or leave it. I was pondering how to vote when He asked me “Why do you normally vote the way you do?”

In the conversation that followed, I realised that I had made huge assumptions about which party He would want me to support, not only over this issue but more generally. I had always voted on principle, but God showed me that the principles I was voting on were my own, not His.

So I asked Him which way the Brexit vote would go. He told me, and asked me which way I was going to vote. “Leave,” I replied, “because You have told me that is the way the vote is going to go.” Another assumption! It turned out that God wanted me to vote the opposite way so that He could teach me how to respond when my choice was defeated.

This series of conversations with God (and I will write about them in more detail elsewhere) opened the door to the possibility that I had many more assumptions and presumptions about God, the Bible, theology and doctrine than I thought, and they were acting as veils and filters in my mind.

So the process of my deconstruction and renewal began in earnest.

Cognitive dissonance

It is impossible to see Him as He is when our minds are confused with our own distorted ideas about Him. Every time a stronghold in the mind is broken down, it makes way for a resurrection of fresh revelation. This is not an easy process; there is a lot of eating humble pie to do. And some of those strongholds are beliefs deeply cherished by ourselves and by others; one reason I initially held back was that I knew this was going to cause trouble.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort we experience when we realise that we hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values simultaneously. This often happens when new information manages to get through the filter of confirmation bias and threatens to disrupt the balancing act in our minds.

The encounters I had with God challenged what I believed about Him. This put a stress on my brain that felt like a restrictive band around my head. The pressure was only released when I gave in and stopped trying to hold on to my old way of thinking.

‘The Great Iconoclast’

Andre Rabe writes, “Jesus comes to make you an atheist to the god of your own making. He comes to bring an end to your way of subjecting God to your own understanding”. John Crowder says, “It is only at this place where our ideas and our faith are completely devastated that we have an opportunity to meet the God who transcends all our ideas about God.”

Jesus Himself constantly challenged the accepted thinking of His day: “You have heard it said (rabbinical tradition) but I say to you…” He turned their religion on its head; love replaced religious duty and obligation.

C.S. Lewis called God ‘the Great Iconoclast’ and wrote, “There are three images in my mind which I must continually forsake and replace by better ones: the false image of God, the false image of my neighbours, and the false image of myself.” (The Great Divorce).

Are we ready to let God renew and transform our thinking? He will not be confined to our limited, static perceptions of Him. We cannot keep an infinite God in a box made by the finite capacities of our understanding. God does not dwell in manmade temples, theological constructs or ideologies. God dwells in our spirits and in our hearts.

We need a transformation, a revolutionary change of mind. We need the veils of our understanding exploded and stripped away. We have a relationship with the Living Word, the ultimate source of revelation who searches the deep things of God and makes them known to us. We must not let our current understanding keep us in bondage to the limitations of our past experience.

Everything we receive must come through personal encounters with God. Our encounters will never contradict scripture but may not be directly found in it. They will definitely challenge the religious belief systems which reduce everything to a set of rules or doctrines.

Our old mindsets, thinking patterns and religious world views will keep us in old trusted ways of behaviour and will limit our abilities to engage in the heavenly spiritual realities that are being unveiled in our day. Are we prepared to embrace and spread the revolution? Some of the doctrines and beliefs we once deemed foundational may turn out to be just the skewed projections of our own fearful, fallen assumptions about God. He is about to explode the DIY myths we have invented; myths which actually obscure who He really is from our view.

Love bombs

I saw angels with light wands marking us out, and others, for laser-guided love bombs. God wants to explode those love bombs over you, penetrating your mind, your heart, your whole being with His love for you, revealing your true identity as a beloved son.

Live loved, love living and live loving.

Invite Him to release those love bombs over you. Let your heart and mind be cocooned in love. Let Jesus reveal His love for you. Let the Father reveal His love for you. Let the Spirit explode His love in you. Let the love of God touch your mind. Let Him encounter you with love that will explode and destroy any wrong image of Him. Let Him remove the veils that obscure and distort Him.

Let Him explode your limited reality.



Join us for our final Sons Arise! intensive of the year which is on this very subject. Expanding Our Reality – Deconstruction and Restoring Consciousness runs from October 30th to November 1st 2018.
Click here or on the image above for more information (via Eventbrite).
Find all our Sons Arise! events at freedomarc.org/sonsarise


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Image: Thank you to Johannes Plenio for the fabulous nature image used as a background for our header. Find more images from jplenio on Pixabay.

246. Gnashing Teeth and Goats

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Recent posts on ‘hell’ have prompted questioning among our readers. That was their purpose – not to stir up controversy for the sake of it but to encourage us all to examine our beliefs about this subject and where those beliefs have come from.

We have looked at the occasions on which the actual word appears in English translations of the Bible, and then in the last post I shared with you the series of encounters with God which led me down this route in the first place. But we promised that before we move on we would also examine the passages where the word itself does not appear, but ‘the Bible clearly says’ that some people go to a place of eternal torture when they die.

Weeping, Gnashing of Teeth and Outer Darkness

“Weeping and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! That is obviously a reference to suffering eternal physical torture in hell.”

Is that so?

Look at what happened leading up to Stephen being martyred in Acts 7:54: his accusers (members of the Sanhedrin) became furious and gnashed their teeth at him. Weeping and gnashing of teeth was an expression not of tormented pain and anguish, but of rage.

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them (Matt 21:45). The only reason they did not seize Jesus then and there was because they were afraid of the public outcry.

It was not the general mass of humanity that Jesus was speaking of when He talked about gnashing of teeth and the outer darkness in Matt 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30 and Luke 13:28. It was this group of self-righteous individuals who would find themselves outside the covenant they were so sure was their birthright. In that ‘outer darkness’, having failed to heed Jesus’ warnings, they would respond with defiant anger.

Sheep and goats

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matt 25:46).

To be fair, you can understand why people tell us ‘the Bible clearly says…’. Our English Bibles certainly seem to. But we need to look at the Greek words used by the original writers of the New Testament books.

Firstly, what do we understand by ‘punishment’? Kolasis is the word used here, and it means ‘correction’, not ‘retribution’. Greek had a word for retributive punishment, timoria, which is never used of God in the New Testament. God’s discipline is always restorative.

Secondly, the Greek language had no word for ‘eternal’. They could have invented one if they had wished to: the language was exceptionally well-suited to building new words from component parts. They did not need the word because they did not have the concept. The root of the word used here, aionios, is ‘age’. For Greek speakers, an aion could mean a lifetime, a generation, or a longer period of time – but always of finite length. So not never-ending, not forever and ever, not eternal.

“Ah, but the same word appears in both halves of this sentence, and since ‘eternal life’ is everlasting, then the punishment must be, too.”

That depends on what aspect of the life we focus on when we read ‘eternal’. Surely it is not primarily the length, but the quality. The life being promised is the-God-kind-of-life: and the punishment therefore is the-God-kind-of-punishment: restorative and corrective, not retributive.

There are other reasons to treat this passage with caution, too. The sheep and goats in the parable are nations, not individuals. The criterion for escaping ‘eternal punishment’ is good works, not faith in Jesus. So if you are prepared to assert that whole nations will be sent to heaven or hell – based on their works, not on faith – then you can reasonably use this passage to argue your case for an ‘eternal hell’. So far I have not come across anyone in any theological stream who is prepared to do so.

“The eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels? That’s clear enough.”

The more I consider this phrase, the more I am inclined to Chuck Crisco’s view that it refers to ‘the accuser and his messengers’, which is a perfectly valid translation of the Greek words used. The Law, the religious system and those who fought to preserve it were heading for the fires of the Temple Mount and Gehenna at the end of the Old Covenant age (aion) in the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Rome (AD70).

But if that is a step too far for some, let’s consider the purpose of fire. The Greek word is pur, from which we get words like ‘pure’ and ‘purify’. Jesus came baptising with the Holy Spirit and with fire and Paul said that everyone’s work will be tested with fire. I believe we will all go through the fires of purification to restore us to our original design and identity as sons by removing anything that distorts that image. We can engage with that fire now, or wait until we die (I advise option 1). There is a fire which awaits everyone who has not gone through it already but it is for purifying and correcting, not for destroying. It is the consuming fire of God’s passionate love. And my testimony is that even those who did not accept Jesus while alive will still get to choose when they experience that fire after death.

So what was Jesus’ point in this story of sheep and goats? ‘Brothers’ was a term used by Jews to refer exclusively to other Jews. Again (as throughout these chapters of Matthew’s gospel) I would suggest that in His love He was setting out a warning to the religious-yet-unbelieving Jews, especially the leaders, who instead of serving ‘the least of these my brothers’ (the believing Jews) would imprison and kill them instead.

Lazarus and the rich man

We touched on this before, and for an in-depth look into this parable we recommend Brad Jersak’s analysis in Hell in a Handbasket.

The context of Luke 16 is all about wealth and true riches. In the verses immediately preceding this parable Luke tells us that the Pharisees were lovers of money. Jesus is not offering a treatise on the afterlife, but a warning about putting your trust in riches and failing to help the poor. Jesus quite literally means that the rich and poor of that age will see a reversal of fortunes in the next.  Losing your soul for temporal gain is the cost of materialism and the results of living a DIY self-righteous life (Matt 16:26).

Abraham’s bosom is not a biblical phrase but a mythological or cultural one found in the Babylonian Talmud. Jesus is using a culturally accepted idea as the background for his story.

Aspects of the story make a crass literalism awkward: how does the rich man communicate with Abraham across the chasm? Does everyone there have a direct line to the patriarch? Does someone being incinerated in a furnace care about thirst? Are these literal flames? And since hades precedes the resurrection of the body, do we have literal tongues with which to feel thirst? Is this also the literal Abraham? Do the millions in his care take turns snuggling with him? Or is his bosom big enough to contain us all at once? How big he must be! And so on into implausibility. Taking the parable seriously means we mustn’t take it so literally. (Brad Jerzak – Why The Lake of Fire, Tormented Lazarus & Gnashing Teeth Can’t Conjure Up Eternal Torture).

Do we think that when we are in heaven we will be able to see our loved ones in ‘hell’, talk to them but offer them no hope, yet be happy with that?

Eternal destruction, away from the presence

… when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thess 1:7b-9).

If you believe in hell as eternal conscious torment, the word ‘destruction’ does not work for you. If you believe in the annihilation of the wicked, the combination of ‘eternal’ and ‘destruction’ makes no sense. However you look at it, we need to delve deeper.

The words in bold are all poor translations: diké (translated penalty) means justice, judicial hearing, legal decision; the related word ekdikesis (translated retribution) means that which arises out of justice; aionion (eternal) we know means pertaining to the age; olethros (destruction) means the state of being lost, lostness; apo (translated away from and from) does indeed mean from, but in the sense of coming out of or coming from and not separated from. Matthew DiStefano points out that the phrase Eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord (olethron aionion apo prosopou tou Kyriou) in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 mirrors exactly that in Acts 3:19: Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (kairoi anapsyxeos apo prosopou tou Kyriou). No one translates that ‘times of refreshing away from the presence of the Lord’.

So Paul was encouraging the Thessalonians that there was a judicial decision about to come from the Presence of the Lord which would have a consequence for those who were persecuting them: it would involve a state of lostness pertaining to the age. Or you can read it as God’s consuming-fire-presence delivering a justice that totally ruins their lostness.

This is not about some future end of the world event or afterlife experience but what Jesus prophesied would occur in that generation (and did occur in AD70) – but even then, God’s justice is always restorative for everyone.

The Lake of Fire

Four verses mention the lake of fire in the Bible, all in Revelation 19 and 20. Revelation is an apocalyptic book, symbolic and cryptic in nature, the only one of its kind in the New Testament but very common in Jewish and Greek literature. Only those ‘in the know’ and immersed in the culture in which it is written will fully understand the symbolism. Symbols can represent multiple concepts. One thing is certain: apocalyptic literature is never intended to be read literally.

We can get clues about some of the symbols because they also appear in the book of Daniel, including the beast being cast into the blazing fire (Dan 7:11). Just as Daniel’s beasts were figurative, representing various nations, so too is the lake of burning sulphur figurative. The book of Revelation is not a prophecy for the far distant future but was an immediate warning to first-century Israel that just as Sodom and Gomorrah fell in fiery destruction, so too the Jewish religious system was in danger of ending in the same manner.

The ‘book of life‘ mentioned is a commonly understood concept in the Jewish tradition and refers back to the law where according to the Talmud this book is opened every Jewish new year on Rosh Hashanah.

In Revelation 20:14, we see Death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire. Here the lake of fire may well represent God’s (completed) triumph over evil, sin, the grave and death through the power of the cross. Many of the early church Fathers saw the lake of fire as a spiritual place where everyone in humanity was purged of their unbelief and sins so that they could eventually believe in God. I believe it is fed by the river of fire which flows from God’s throne.

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10).

Forever and ever is a poor translation of to the ages of ages. Brimstone (Greek: theios, closely related to the word for ‘God’) was regarded as having power to heal and purify. Basanizo (translated torment) is ‘testing with a touchstone’ (in other scriptures it is translated as tossed or battered by waves, straining at the oars of a boat, and being in labour while giving birth).

Conclusion

Enough! No matter how many objections we address, how many scriptures we dig into, we know that some will not be persuaded. These posts are really not intended for them but for those who discover that God is already on their case – and even they will probably come up with other verses or passages not included in this brief survey. There are far more comprehensive treatments of the subject elsewhere; we have referenced some of them in the text and below. But ultimately all of us are going to need to go to God, in whatever way we know how, and hear what He has to say to us about the questions we have.

Fire and passion

We can all experience the fire and passion of God’s love today for ourselves. Let’s not hide from it or try to avoid it.

Son, it is time for everyone to embrace the fire
to experience deeper love
and the purification that My consuming fiery love brings.

Son, call on Me to stoke the fires
and increase the intensity of the heat
to reveal hearts, minds and motives. 

So I call for the purification of fire.
I call for the fire of love to penetrate the hardest, darkest areas of our hearts.
I call for the refiner’s fire to burn away the dross of self.
I call for the light to shine, to expose the things hidden because of shame.
I call for love’s overcoming power to reveal and break every chain tethering God’s people to the DIY path.
I call for the passion of God’s heart to be revealed in His wrath directed towards all brokenness and lost identity.

Let the consuming fire of God’s love burn in our hearts and minds to restore us to true sonship.

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
Older related posts
Resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

*Freedom Apostolic Ministries receives a small commission for sales of the book through this link.

View story at Medium.com

245. What Jesus Did

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

In the last two posts I have quickly outlined what the Bible really says about ‘hell’. That has caused a certain amount of controversy (to put it mildly). But I am not trying to invent a new theology or doctrine, or even ask you to believe what I believe, and this time I am simply going to share my testimony with you.

Renewing my mind

In recent years, God has given me experiences that demonstrate the strength of His love, profoundly challenging my beliefs and what I used to think the Bible was saying. This all happened as part of the removal of the manmade constructs of my mind, and it was not an easy process for me as those mindsets, doctrines and theological frameworks of my thinking were very strong.

For 3 weeks I felt severe pressure around my mind, almost like a physical pain. God was challenging me to reconsider the issue of ‘hell’ but my long-held belief systems discouraged me from doing so. You see, I had even been to the fire. I had had visions of people in anguish in what I called ‘hell’. So I purposely held back, even though frequent love-encounters were making it increasingly difficult to deny what I now believe. That is, until Jesus actually took me back to the fire to see.

Satan’s trophy room

Wisdom’s heights was my entrance.

Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice? On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance of the doors, she cries out (Prov 8:1-3).

Some years ago, I was a given a seal and staff and went through a door on Wisdom’s heights. It was a tunnel of fire which opened into a place of extreme restriction and sadness: satan’s trophy room. There I saw 3 things:

  • The sparkling diamond trophies of the destinies of those living and dead who had not believed the good news
  • Stolen mantles and crowns
  • An area of the heritage of my generational family lines

Now Jesus took me back there. He showed me the heritage area and I looked at the family line of my father’s father.

Jesus said to me, “Do you want to see this restored?”

I asked “How?”

Into the fire

Then He showed me a door I had not seen when I came before. He explained that the door had been there all along, but my framework of beliefs would not allow me to see it. Then He gave me a silver heralding trumpet and we went through the door into the fire. There were thousands of people there from that part of my family line, not talking to one another; isolated individuals who appeared to be in anguish of soul. They were not being tormented; there was no devil there with a pitchfork or anything like that. They were there, on their own, in a place of consuming fire.

So I looked to Jesus, hoping He was going to do something. He just stood there looking right back at me. So eventually I preached the good news to them, though not very well! I felt rather tongue-tied and overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with love, actually, and of course completely unprepared. But at least I told them that they could accept Jesus and come out.

I figured Jesus must have given me the trumpet for a reason, so I blew it. He turned to walk out, and there was no way I was going to stay in there on my own, so I followed Him back through the tunnel of fire. I went through the door back to Wisdom’s heights and this time I saw that the door was like a fiery sword (I knew that a fiery sword guards the way to the Tree of Life).

I looked back and a few hundred people had followed us to the door. As they approached I saw them kneel, I heard them confess Jesus as Lord and they walked out and through the gates into Zion.

Authority

I turned to Jesus. “What have you done to me? I’m in trouble now! How do I explain this?”

Jesus said “Just tell people that you are doing what I did – and I told you to do what I did, and greater things. This is just the beginning”.

I asked Jesus why so few of them had followed us out of the fire. If it was me and someone offered me a way out, I would have been out of there as fast as I could. This is what He told me:

“You can only preach with authority to the degree that the fire has consumed generational things in you. That is why not everyone responded. Keep presenting yourself to the fire of the altar and you will be able to reach more of your generational lines. Embrace the coals to touch areas of your life that have come from your generations; that will give you authority.”

So I present myself as a living sacrifice on the altar in the temple every day.

Back again… and again

Since that first time, I have been back to engage each of my 4 generational family lines and preached the good news to them. When I was in China in 2017 someone gave me a silver heralding trumpet just like the one Jesus had given me. One morning while I was there I woke at 3am and felt a strong desire to engage the altar and ask for the fiery coals to touch a specific area of behaviour, the area of divorce.

As I did, I began to feel intensely loving towards everyone in my generations who had been divorced, not angry or resentful, and I began forgiving them and blessing them. Once I finished I went to the fiery place again. I preached to all my generational lines with boldness, blew the silver trumpet and this time many more responded. They followed me out, came to the door, confessed Jesus as Lord and went through.

Later, on a Sunday morning here at Freedom as I was embracing the fire another area surfaced. I again went back and preached with renewed boldness and once again many more responded. Another time, I wondered what it might be like if I took communion down into the fire. So I went back there and offered communion, the body and blood of Jesus, to those who were in the fire. Yet again, many responded!

More recently I became aware that there were many in that place with fractured souls, what we sometimes call ‘stuck parts’, mostly caused by trauma in their lives. They were double-minded, triple-minded or worse and were unable to make a decision to follow Jesus. So I asked Jesus to come with me and I told them they could come to the Prince of Peace (shalom means ‘wholeness’) and be made whole. Vast numbers of them did so.

My strong desire is to empty that place, but for that to happen I need to embrace the fire myself. I need to be good news and demonstrate that good news in my own life.

I have now had many experiences of going into the place of fire both for personal refining and on rescue missions. The fire of God is for purifying and refining and removing all the dross in people’s lives. They are waiting for someone to come and share the good news with them.

Testimony

One day, before I even mentioned this publicly, a friend I meet with online said he had something to share with me. He had been engaging in heaven when some of his family members came up to him. He was surprised and said “I didn’t know you were believers in Jesus!” And they said, “We weren’t. But we remembered that you said your whole household would be saved, and Jesus came and preached the good news to us, and that’s why we are here.” This really did not fit my friend’s theological box, as he put it. He was encouraged when I then shared my experiences too.

Since then (and especially after this topic cropped up in several of my regular online mentoring groups) I have had conversations with others and I have heard many testimonies of people who have gone into the fire and preached the good news as Jesus did. After I shared this in the Vision Destiny 2017 series I had a number of emails from people thanking me for opening up the discussion as they had been afraid of sharing their experiences because of the reaction they knew it would cause (a reaction I have experienced for myself).

Labels

This view of the fire as purification and a place from which people could be rescued is not some strange new doctrine. This was the position of many of the early Church Fathers and others across the church spectrum through the last 2000 years: Clement of Alexandria, St. Macrina, St Gregory Nyssen, St Isaac of Nineveh (and many other Fathers), and moderns including Fr. Sergei Bulgakov, St. Silouan the Athonite, Fr. Alexandre Turincev, Metropolitans Kallistos Ware and Hilarion Alfeyev.

There are many accusations people throw at you if you start talking like this. You will be called a heretic, and a Universalist (I am neither). I do not believe that all roads lead to God. I am not even a Christian Universalist because I do not believe that it is guaranteed. I believe that Jesus gives people the choice. I like what the article Hell in a hand basket says about hopeful inclusivism: “We cannot presume that all will be saved or that even one will be damned. Rather, we put our hope in the final victory and verdict of Jesus Christ.” But I do not accept any of these labels  – as soon as you accept a label you

  1. immediately narrow your options to the views espoused by those who carry that label.
  2. are assumed by others to believe everything they think that an [insert label here] believes.

Objections and accusations

Some will say “If people are going to be saved anyway, then what is the point of preaching the gospel?” Is that not a rather selfish view? Do we not want people to know and enjoy relationship with God now? Or to find and fulfil their destiny in this life? And I certainly do not want anyone to go into the consuming fire of God’s presence without knowing Him. It is not a pleasant place to be if you don’t know Him. If anything, I find I want to preach the good news more than ever.

They will also say, “Well, if there are no consequences to my behaviour then I might as well just keep on sinning.” If that is true, then they are only behaving as they do out of fear. They are living under the law, not grace (whilst they sadly shake their heads and accuse us of promoting ‘another gospel’). Why on earth would we want to keep on sinning, when sin messes up our relationship with God and everything else in our lives and its wages are death?

Embrace the fire

It is best not to argue with people. We can share our testimony, and just love them whether they agree with us or not. We are not looking to provoke controversy, enter into fruitless disputes or draw people into making accusations. These posts are not intended for those who only want to fight their corner and prove that they are right. They are for those who are open to lay down their own presumptions and assumptions, to engage with God for themselves and allow Him to reveal the truth about His love for them and for all His creation; for those who will embrace that truth and be part of the ‘restoration of all things’ (Acts 3:21).

Jesus told me to release this message and encourage the Joshua Generation to arise and be bold, to come to Him and He will open the gates to reveal the consuming fire and show them the way just as He has shown me. I believe we all have the ability to engage the fiery place and do what Jesus did, to preach the good news to those spheres that we are mandated to engage.

The refining fire of the altar is where the authority to preach will be given. As we embrace the fire with urgent desire, great authority will be released to us. I believe we get to choose when we go to the place of fire. We can go now, or later, but God is a consuming fire and we cannot escape His love. That love is an unquenchable fire, intended to refine and purify us.

Let’s choose to embrace the fire now.

Related articles from Freedom ARC

“Three views of hell: burn forever, annihilation, restoration… How did you come to yours?” – Mike answers George’s question here on YouTube: Supernatural Mentoring Monday 12th March 2018 Washington or scroll down to view the video in full on this page.

Resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

Image attribution: the image used at the head of this post is by 7trumpetsmusicband [CC BY-SA 4.0
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Supernatural Mentoring Monday 12th March 2018 Washington

244. The Hell Delusion

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

Pagan myths repackaged

It is factually inaccurate to claim that Jesus spoke more about hell than about any other single subject. He did not. The whole Bible is completely silent about ‘hell’. For the first five centuries, few Christians held a doctrine of eternal torment either for the wicked or for unbelievers. But over time, pagan myths about the afterlife were repackaged and passed off as Christian.

We looked briefly last time at the four Bible words traditionally translated ‘hell’. In this post we will go into them in more detail. Let’s be prepared for the Spirit to reveal the truth to us and not get stuck in tradition.

Sheol (Hebrew)

Strong’s Concordance says:

Sheol (H7585) she’ôl From H7592; hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates: – grave, pit, hell.

All good, right up to the last word: ‘hell’ has been added there, only because the compiler has already decided that some scriptures where this word is used are talking about ‘hell’. The true meanings of the word, ‘grave’ or ‘pit’ have no context of punishment at all. Most modern Bible versions now translate this word accurately.

Hades (Greek)

Hades (G86) hadēs From G1 and G1492; properly unseen, that is, “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls: – grave, hell.

‘Hades’ is used only 11 times in the New Testament, including 4 times by Jesus (and some of those are the same story in different gospels). It does not relate to punishment. It is the Greek equivalent of ‘Sheol’ and has been ascribed the added meaning of ‘hell’ in exactly the same way.

In these Bible verses we will use Young’s Literal Translation, which is not easy to read but uses ‘hades’, the actual word in the original texts, and not the invented word ‘hell’.

  • And you, Capernaum, which unto the heaven was exalted, unto hades you shall be brought down (Matt 11:23, Luke 10:15). “Capernaum, you think you’re so great but soon you’ll be nothing.” There is no context of punishment.
  • And I also say to you, that you are a rock, and upon this rock I will build my assembly [ekklesia], and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). We, the ekklesia, are going to overcome the grave. We do not need to be fearful of death.
  • There are 2 uses of hades in Acts, both quoting a single OT reference to Sheol, that the Messiah’s soul was not left to hades, nor did His flesh see corruption (Acts 2:27, 31).
  • Breaking the power of death: Where, O Death, thy sting? Where, O Hades, thy victory? (1 Cor 15:55).
  • 4 times in Revelation
    • and he who is living, and I did become dead, and, lo, I am living to the ages of the ages. Amen! And I have the keys of the hades and of the death (Rev 1:18). Jesus has the keys of death and the grave – to set people free, not to lock them up!
    • and I saw, and lo, a pale horse, and he who is sitting upon him – his name is Death, and Hades doth follow with him (Rev 6:8). A personification of ‘the grave’, or perhaps the Greek god who, in that mythology, rules over the place of the dead.
    • and the sea did give up those dead in it, and the death and the hades did give up the dead in them, and they were judged, each one according to their works (Rev 20:13). Again, simply ‘the grave’ (and according to this verse, judgment comes after the dead come out of it, not before).
    • and the death and the hades were cast to the lake of the fire – this [is] the second death (Revelation 20:14). Death and the grave are not the end. They are to be put somewhere else, and we will look at this ‘lake of fire’ in a future post.

None of these references relates to torment or punishment. The only use of ‘hades’ which may appear to do so is in Luke 16:23, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

  • and in the hades having lifted up his eyes, being in torments, he doth see Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

There are several things to say about this passage:

  • This whole story may not be original to Jesus. Its roots can be traced back to the Hebrew traditional text Gemara Babylonicum, which dates from Israel’s captivity in Babylon.
  • The primary characters in the story are not distinguished from one another by righteousness or wickedness but by wealth and social standing.
  • This whole section in Luke’s gospel is a series of lessons about trusting in riches and failing to help the poor, directed primarily at the religious leaders and their supporters. Jesus’ purpose in (re)telling the story was not to give a literal account of what the afterlife looks like.

We will look at this parable again later in this series. Meanwhile, there are links to articles on the subject at the foot of this post.

Tartarus (Greek)

Tartarus (G5020) tartaroō From Tartaros̄ (the deepest abyss of Hades); Greek mythology the place where the Titans were incarcerated. To incarcerate in eternal torment: – cast down to hell.

This last sentence in the definition was a total invention of the compiler.

‘Tartarus’ is only mentioned once in the New Testament:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment (2 Peter 2:4).

If they were ‘reserved for judgment’ then they had not yet been judged and it would have been unjust to subject them to punishment. This is not ‘to incarcerate in eternal torment’.

Gehenna (Greek)

Gehenna (G1067) of Hebrew origin ([H1516] and [H2011]); valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem.

Gehenna is the Greek word for the Valley of Hinnom, a literal geographical feature outside the gates of Jerusalem. It was an evil and dark place, used for a variety of evil acts (including child sacrifice to Molech); literally a place of perpetual fire, a rubbish dump filled with so much trash (including dead bodies during the time of Isaiah) that the fires never went out and worms would never die from lack of food.

Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter (Jeremiah 19:6).

Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, when dead bodies were literally thrown into Gehenna during the siege by the Roman army. Rather than eternal ‘hell’, Gehenna was a physical place for dead bodies.

Jesus used the word ‘Gehenna’ in 11 instances. In all of them He was talking about kingdom life here and now, not about the afterlife (whether ‘going to heaven’ or ‘going to hell’).

Here are all those references:

  1. Matthew 5:29
  2. Matthew 5:30
  3. Matthew 18:9
  4. Mark 9:43
  5. Mark 9:45
  6. Mark 9:47

#1-6 are all the same concept: Jesus is using the imagery of the most disgusting location in Jerusalem to illustrate how destructive sin is (see also #12).

  1. Matthew 10:28
  2. Luke 12:5

#7 and 8 are the same passage in different gospels: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Suppose this is referring to God (and there are plenty of other possibilities), it does not say ‘punishes’ or ‘torments’, nor mention ‘eternal’, but only says ‘ is able to destroy’. Perhaps this might be a good proof-text for annihilationists, but not for those who believe in eternal conscious torment in ’hell’.

  1. Matthew 5:22

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery Gehenna”.

So the difference between saying (1) ‘You good-for-nothing’ and (2) ‘You fool’ is enough to make the difference between (1) being sentenced to death by stoning and (2) being tortured for all eternity without hope of reprieve? That seems like an unreasonable escalation in punishment between two offences most of us would struggle to distinguish.

In reality, Jesus is raising the standard of behaviour to include thoughts and emotions, emphasising how powerful our thoughts and words are. He is demonstrating how little it takes to negatively affect us, how just a bit of unresolved anger pollutes our lives and how unforgiveness lands us in a torture chamber of our own making.

  1. Matthew 23:15

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourselves”.

The Pharisees were all about perceived righteousness. They obsessively followed every directive of the Law and made a show of their piety. They were self-righteous DIY-ers. Jesus was telling them that their own “righteousness” was like dung. They were proud of being ‘children of Abraham’ but He called them children of the refuse heap and compared them to those who sacrificed to idols.

  1. Matthew 23:33

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of Gehenna?

They were going to end up outside the covenant. Some of those listening may actually have had their dead bodies dumped over the city walls into Gehenna during the Roman siege of AD70.

  1. James 3:6

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by Gehenna.

Evil from one body part corrupts the whole body.

Fear and love

Religion uses the fear of an angry God and the fear of hell to keep us in order.

But God calls us to simply love Him, ourselves and each other: no religious rules, nothing complicated about it. He is not angry with us, He is always the same: loving, faithful and full of grace and mercy. He has never changed. He has shown us how to love: He loves us so much that He was prepared to come in the flesh and die for us, even when we saw ourselves as His enemies. If we loved like that, the world would be a different place.

I am not saying

I am not saying you should believe what I believe. I am offering you the opportunity to lay aside common misconceptions of what the Bible says so that you can read what it does say and engage with God for yourself to find out what He is really like.

Note: The quotations in the header image of this post are from published articles sent to us in reaction to our previous post, 243. Not Counting Their Trespasses. Please excuse us for not linking to those articles. If you really want to find them, just google the phrases.

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
Older related posts
Resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

Engaging The Father conference

      • Do you want to go deeper? Deeper into intimacy with God, deeper into God Himself, deeper into the Truth (Jesus), deeper into revelation?
      • Do you want to go higher? Higher into the creative light realms, into the heart and mind of God outside of time and space, to engage with who He created you to be?
      • Then get this conference set recorded at the Freedom Centre in Barnstaple, UK in March 2018. Price £30.

243. Not Counting Their Trespasses

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott – 

Good News?

As I have chronicled in these posts, God has personally started to walk me through encounters that continually challenge my perception of who He is.  I am on a journey of discovering the true nature of God as love and as a result I find myself questioning and often rejecting the established doctrines and theological positions of the modern-day evangelical church.

God has shown me that I (and the church, and the world) have been badly deceived by ‘do-it-yourself’ religion. Nowhere does this deception show up more clearly than in our approach to evangelism.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19).

This is the message of reconciliation at the heart of the gospel we are called to preach. And the word translated ‘world’ is actually the Greek word ‘kosmos‘, which is even wider than we might have thought. Yet when I looked closely at how we have done evangelism, even here at Freedom, I uncovered a fear-based system which originates from a wrong perception of God as angry, vindictive and cruel.

Religion has hijacked the gospel, made ‘escaping hell’ its focus and used the threat of eternal damnation to scare people into the kingdom. “Good news! (But first, the bad news…)”. My own conversion experience was like that. I heard sermons about hell and judgment week after week and decided I needed ‘fire insurance’.

Hell? Not going there…

For most Christians, hell is a given, an unquestioned doctrine. Hell fits their doctrinal system. God is love but He is also just. He must punish sin. Hell is the punishment for sin. Simple.

Or is it?

I knew it would take a while to address this issue properly, and I resisted broaching the question of ‘hell’ for some time, as if it were some kind of ‘no-go’ area, but God would not let me be. It just kept resurfacing, both in my encounters and as I prepared the ‘new versus old’ teaching module in the Engaging God programme. It is a concept that is generally accepted in most (if not all) religions and in wider society, but I knew deep down that something in what I had been taught was not consistent with the Father’s love.

Think again

This is where we come back to the scripture from 2 Corinthians which says that God is not counting their trespasses against anyone:

Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19).

The whole cosmos has already been reconciled and no-one’s trespasses are counted against them. So from God’s perspective what need is there for a ‘hell’?

And, despite the limitations of the translations we use which I touched on in the last post, there are plenty of other familiar passages which might prompt us to think again too:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
Who is the us that Christ died for, a select few or everyone?
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all… (2 Cor 5:14).

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom 5:10).
God is not angry, even with those who may feel like His enemies.

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:13-14).

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:22).
In each part of this statement, all refers to the same people… all, as Peter confirms:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God… (1 Peter 3:18).

Angry forever?

Pitying and merciful is the Lord; lenient and full of mercy. Not unto the end shall He be provoked to anger, nor into the eon (age) will He cherish wrath. Not according to our lawless deeds did He deal with us; nor according to our sins did He recompense to us (Psa 103:8-10, Septuagint).

“I shall not punish you into the eon (age), nor shall I be provoked to anger with you perpetually” (Isaiah 57:16)

“I will heal their apostasy (unbelief), I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4).

My own experiences of God are characterised by love, grace and mercy, not anger and fear. God does not stay angry forever, so why would He punish people forever? His love is more powerful than all our sin put together. It is far stronger than the lies and deception designed to keep us separated from Him:

“Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

Rather than meaning torment and punishment, in this passage fire is a depiction of passion and unrelenting love: God’s love is a flame that can never be quenched or extinguished and He is unrelenting in pursuing us for relationship.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18).

How can God punish people if He is love? The two are incompatible. He cannot and He does not. God’s justice is always restorative.

Perpetual Conscious Torment

The idea of ‘hell’ as a place of perpetual torment is so prevalent in the world’s religions and cultures that if you mention ‘hell’, most people have a pretty clear image of what you are talking about: it probably includes fire, demons with pitchforks and people in torment. This image has been propagated by literature through the ages and more recently by films and TV shows but it was not the view of the early church.

The writings of the Old Testament and Jewish literature throw up various different views of the afterlife, including annihilation or sleep until judgment, but eternal torment after death was not a Hebrew concept at all. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible comments, “Nowhere in the Old Testament is the abode of the dead regarded as a place of punishment or torment. The concept of an infernal ‘hell’ developed in Israel only during the Hellenistic [Greek] period” (i.e. beginning in the fourth century B.C.).

There are even some people today who teach that at the resurrection, God will give unbelievers new bodies specifically designed to withstand eternal torture. What kind of a god is that? Is that really the God who was perfectly revealed in Jesus?

But what about…?

By now, you may be thinking of passages of scripture, even of Jesus’ own teaching, which seem to contradict what I am saying. What about the sheep and the goats, or the rich man and Lazarus, or the outer darkness where their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? I promise we will look closely at each of those passages (and others) in coming posts.

Jesus never warned anyone about ‘hell’, nor did Paul or any of the other New Testament writers, nor did God tell Adam that he and his descendants would go to ‘hell’ as a result of the fall. There is no word for ‘hell’ in the Greek or Hebrew language. It is not a biblical concept at all.

Four separate words have been translated into the single English word ‘hell’ and in reality each word has a different meaning:

  • Sheol (Hebrew) grave or place of dead
  • Hades (Greek) unseen world, grave, underworld
  • Tartarus (Greek) prison for angels
  • Gehenna (Greek) name of a valley outside Jerusalem used as a fiery rubbish dump.
  • In English, the word ‘hell’ comes from Proto-Germanic ‘haljo’, whose root ‘halija’ means ‘a concealed or covered place’.
  • The Norse god Hel is Loki’s daughter, and in that mythology she rules over the evil dead.

Yet our most popular English translations are full of the word – including some you might be surprised at:

The Message=56
King James Version (Authorised Version)=54
New King James=32
New Living Translation=19
New Century Version=15
English Standard Version=14
New International Version=14
Amplified Bible=13
New American Standard=13

On each occasion that the translators have used the word ‘hell’ in these versions, they have only done so because they already believed the passage was about ‘hell’. Instead of translating what was there, they have read back into the text their preconceived notions of what it meant. Other versions do not include the word at all:

LXX (Septuagint)=0
Young’s Literal=0
Concordant Literal=0
Complete Jewish Bible=0
World English Bible=0

Orthodoxy

The religious institution and its supporters will insist that if you question the doctrine of ‘hell’, you are rejecting what has always been agreed upon by the Church. It is not so. Orthodoxy is a myth, and it is high time to rethink this subject.

Because if God is love, if God is good, if God is not angry, if God does not require appeasement or sacrifice, if God does not punish us then what is the purpose of ‘hell’?

Does ‘hell’ as we know it even exist?

We will look at this again.

Note: In these posts I can help you clear away some of your false preconceptions and assumptions (if you are willing) but I am not going to attempt to convince you to see things the way I do; if you really want to know where people go after they die, you will need to ask God to show you.

Free resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

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239. The Things They Now Believe

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

“Good souls many will one day be horrified at the things they now believe of God” (George Macdonald, 1824-1905).

For me, that day has come. As I have encountered God, He has shown me that more and more of the things I believed about Him were not really true. He has been really considerate and taken me in stages through this process, because it would have been too much for me if He had done it all in one go. Will you let Him do the same for you?

Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, but that is not the picture religion paints at all. A whole host of doctrines widely accepted without question by most believers today do not really line up with a God who looks like Jesus. Since God is love, I am now very suspicious of any image of God that does not look like love.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

One such doctrine is ‘penal substitutionary atonement’ (PSA): that Jesus died to appease God’s wrath. We will look at God’s wrath, anger, eternal judgment, punishment, eternal conscious torment and hell later in this series of posts, but PSA is the key to all these others. It is a really warped view of God which has Him saying ‘I will kill My Son to show you how good I am’.

Does God’s anger really need to be appeased? Almost all human justice systems come from the DIY tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and are based on retributive justice, making offenders pay for their crimes one way or another. If we are hearing a little more about restorative justice today, it is because people are realising that retributive justice does not work. But God’s justice is and has always been restorative. The fear of punishment is not a good motivator. ‘There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love’ (1 John 4:18). Why would God use fear of punishment to keep us in line?

It was man who came up with a ‘GOD’ who required appeasement (look at any primitive religion). But the truth is that ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire’ (Ps 40:6, quoted in Heb 10:5) and ‘You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering’ (Ps 51:16).

‘Redemptive violence’

“You have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness…” (Matt 23:23).

The Pharisees’ religion was all legalism, missing out truth, justice and mercy altogether, and in the ‘Christian religion’ (itself a contradiction in terms), a belief system of so-called ‘redemptive violence’ will inevitably affect the way we relate to others. We will steward the cosmos from that angry, retributive perspective. That is the ‘GOD’ image we will reflect to a broken world which needs healing, not punishment.

But God is not as we have been led to believe. The corrections of God are always restorative. The judgments of God are pure and bring mercy and life:

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face.
(Ps 89:14 NKJV).

Mercy and truth always go before Him. His justice is mercy and love, not punishment and retribution. Even painful truth is revealed only for our good and healing.

“God is a God of fierce judgement. I sense God’s burning judgement falling upon many of you today. He has made up His mind and the verdict is unchangeable. His judgement is: ‘You are forgiven, loved and accepted’. So, enjoy your judgement” (Benjamin David, Facebook post).

The cross

Jesus warned his disciples that He was going to the cross. He did not say He would suffer the just punishment for our sins at the hands of His Father but that He would suffer at the hands of men:

Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44).

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matt 16:21).

For He was teaching His disciples and telling them: “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” (Mark 9:31).

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up” (Matt 20:18-19).

Look also at Mark 10:33-34, Luke 18:31-33, Luke 24:6-7, John 18:3-6, John 18:12, John 19:14-18, Acts 2:23, Acts 2:36, and Heb 12:2.

Jesus suffered at the hands of ruthless men, Jews and Gentiles, representing the religious and political systems. They agreed to condemn Him to keep their DIY system in control. Men crucified Jesus, and God used our punishment of Him to bring restoration and reconciliation.

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through by our transgressions, He was crushed by our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed (Isa 53:3-5).

There is simply nothing in scripture to support the idea that Jesus went to the cross to suffer the fiery wrath of His Father so that we could escape it. ‘We ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted’ but that is not how it really was.

The purpose of the cross was to undo the consequence of Adam’s sin, a loss of identity which produced spiritual death. It was a demonstration not of God’s wrath against humanity, but of His love towards humanity. When Jesus took the sin of the whole world upon his shoulders He was showing us the depths of God’s love.

“Our Father never needed a sacrifice; we did. And we, as one man, with one accord damned His Son, and our Father accepted our ‘faith’ and our ‘will,’ and our ‘decision’ to crucify His Son as the means to establish a real and everlasting relationship with us inside our faithless betrayal. This is salvation. This is adoption. This is redeeming genius and love almost beyond our wildest imaginations” – C. Baxter Kruger.

Atonement, propitiation

In the New Testament the Greek word katallagé (reconciliation) is often misleadingly translated ‘atonement’. ‘To atone’ is to make amends, to make reparation for wrongdoing. However, this old covenant word used to describe how a sacrificial animal covered people’s sin is not a word used in the new covenant. And animal sacrifices were not tortured by the priest, they were just killed.

Hilasmos (‘propitiation’) is another word which has been translated in a way which assumes an angry deity who needs to be appeased. It comes from the verb hilaskomai, meaning ‘to conciliate, be merciful, forgive, show favour’. It does not mean ‘atone’.

“But the church has always believed this!”

It hasn’t. Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) may be a commonly held view in evangelical circles today but it was not formulated until the 11th century, by Anselm of Canterbury. Personal encounter with God could never lead us to the conclusion he reached through scholasticism, a method of study that emphasises reason, research and constructive criticism.

PSA is a man-made, demonically inspired doctrine of distortion. It only sounds plausible to us because we have been conditioned to accept that God is angry with us.

Forsaken

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Ps 22, quoted by Jesus on the cross in Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34).

This was Jesus’ cry of true identification with us in our brokenness and in our deepest, darkest pain. It was our separation He felt. Most of those who heard Him would know the rest of the psalm, including v24:

For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

We have seen before that God the Father never left Jesus the Son. Do we really imagine that the Triune God was somehow pulled apart at the cross? Whose side was the Holy Spirit on? The whole concept is preposterous when you know God for yourself. And yet we happily sing:

“One final breath He gave
As heaven looked away…”
(Forever by Brian Johnson, Kari Jobe, Christa Black Gifford, and Gabriel Wilson).

Heaven did no such thing.

The wages of sin

The cross was God showing the world that He was willing to take on flesh and die – for us and as us – not to pay off an angry God who couldn’t stand the sight of us. Jesus did not save us from God, He saved us from death (the wages of sin). The aim of Jesus’ death was to make personal, healing, life-giving, forgiving contact with us sinners, at the root of our sin and alienation.

A battered reed He will not break off, and a smouldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory (Matt 10:20, quoting Isa 42:3).

God’s justice does not break people; it heals those who are broken.

“God doesn’t need to punish anyone. “Sin is its own punishment.” … No one gets away with anything. There are terrible consequences for our actions, but God is forever with us, weaving grace into our stories to redeem even the worst situations for our good” (Brad Jerzak, ‘Unfundamentalist Parenting in The Shack – Part 1’).

Meet God

But please, don’t believe anything I say. Not without meeting God for yourself.

How much of what we believe has been handed onto us by someone else? Reading books, hearing sermons, just picking it up from being in a particular stream or community… none of that is a valid substitute. Get your revelation direct from Him, otherwise you are just leaning on someone else’s understanding (when, according to Proverbs 3:5, you ought not to even lean on your own). My understanding has come from my own personal experience, but it is no good to you. You need your own experience.

So meet God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Meet Him face to face and find out what He is really like. Let Him reveal Himself as the Truth. And be prepared to lay aside anything which does not line up with Who He is.

This blog post is adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme. Find out more…

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233. Wider, Deeper, Longer, Higher

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

Face to face

From the beginning we were created to have an intimate relationship with God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-38 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind” and in John 14:6 that the only way we can come to the Father is through Him. Face to face engagement reveals the reality of who God truly is – Love – and exposes the untruths we may have assimilated over the years. Jesus is the ultimate expression of that Love, so if it doesn’t look like Jesus then it probably isn’t Love.

God wants us to know the truth of who He is and who we are as His children. It is the tactic of the accuser to get us to think wrongly about God and about ourselves. As long as we see God as having a dark side, we will never trust him completely. There will always be a slight fear that contradicts love.

Quantum physics 1.01

For example, somehow we have come to believe that God cannot look upon sin, and that He has to turn His face away. If it were true that He could not look upon sin, we would not be here! Quantum physics 1.01 tells us that if He were to stop observing us, we would cease to exist.

On the cross, when Jesus quoted the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was drawing people’s attention to the content of the whole psalm and its relevance to the events playing out before them. But He had previously told his disciples:

“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).

We can clearly see that the hour He was referring to was His crucifixion. According to Jesus, the Father never turned His face away from Him. He was right there with Him.

God’s justice

How could we have got this wrong? The answer is, because we have got something even more fundamental wrong too. We think that on the cross Jesus was taking our punishment for us, suffering the wrath of a vengeful God in judgment that should have fallen upon us. We are used to our human justice system which requires retributive justice – payback – but the truth is that God’s justice is always restorative. We will look at this whole subject of the atonement in detail in another post, but for now let’s consider what the cross was about, if not punishment.

The sin

The original Greek word for ‘sin’ used most often in the New Testament is ‘hamartia’. It is a noun (the sin) not a verb (to sin). ‘The sin’ is the sin of Adam, choosing to follow the DIY pathway of the tree of knowledge of good and evil rather than the pathway of the tree of life. From Adam we all inherited spiritual death (which is a lost relationship with God and lost personal identity), so like Adam we are living in something less than God’s original blueprint or design for us, not recognising our true identity as a person made in His image.

So the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 NASB), but God has a solution ready: for as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). ‘The sin’ did not need to be punished, as religion would have us believe, but forgiven, corrected, dealt with and removed. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness by doing ‘good’ things (that is the DIY tree again): forgiveness is God’s gift to each of us in Christ.

The word of reconciliation

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19).

The Greek word for ‘the world’ in that verse is ‘cosmos’: it certainly includes the whole planet, and much more besides. Jesus came to reconcile and restore absolutely everything and everyone in the whole of creation back into relationship with God. That is exactly what He accomplished through his death and resurrection, and now we all share in the victory of the cross and resurrection life. In relationship with God we all have a restored identity, knowing we are accepted, forgiven, blessed, and made righteous.

Since we now have the same ministry of reconciliation that Jesus had, we choose to show love and mercy to others just as He has shown love and mercy to us. What is more, the more we engage with the real God, the wider, deeper, longer and higher we perceive that love and mercy to be.

This blog post is adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme. Find out more…

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232. The Greatest Scandal of the Age

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

New things

“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”
(Isa 42:9)

Think of everything in your life that has already come to pass… and now God is saying ‘I declare new things’. Everything that is old has gone, everything that may have brought feelings of unworthiness, guilt and shame, and it has all gone because of the power of the cross.

The old things can no longer be of any use to us, if in fact they ever were. God has already decreed and declared for us a new place of relationship. We need to be aware that the old things have gone, so that we can accept the new things that the power of Jesus’ resurrection has opened up for us.

As those who are called to rule and reign as sons of God, we need to know God as our Father, otherwise we will operate as if we were orphans, as if we did not have a relationship with Him. What is more, we are made in God’s image, but if the image we have of Him is distorted then we will act in a distorted way. So if our view of God has Him as angry and vengeful, that is exactly how we will be as sons – and if you look at the world, it is an angry, vengeful place. Much of that has come from the way religion has presented Him: even though people may not ‘believe in God’, that is still the image they have of the God they don’t believe in. So God wants to reveal Himself to us, and to the world, in a completely different way.

Scandal

God spoke to me towards the end of 2016 and said,

“Son, the greatest scandal of the age is about to be exposed. Many will not believe it but the truth of who I am (and therefore who you are as My sons) will be revealed. The lies of religion will be exposed to the pure light of truth. The great I am is about to reveal Himself as the lover of your souls in what will amount to a whole new reality”.

So everything that we have believed about God and the version of reality that religion has presented to the church and the world, God is about to expose as a complete lie. And when it is exposed we will be able to see the truth of who God is and who we are.

The sin

We can engage God face to face, because it was never Him who hid from us, only the other way round. When Adam and Eve fell, and God came to find them in the Garden, He did not say ‘What have you done?’ He said, ‘Where are you?’ They were hiding because they were focussed on what they had done, but He was still looking for relationship. The enemy will always try to keep us focussed on what we have done, but God never is.

Sin is not really about behaviour, it is not about what we have done wrong. The most common word for ‘sin’, used 174 times in the New Testament, is ‘hamartia’. It is a noun, not a verb, ‘the sin’ rather than ‘to sin’, and it is not about our ‘doings’ at all. Religion is mostly concerned with ‘doings’: as if all these bad things we have done mean that God does not really like us, and does not want a relationship with us. But whatever we may have done does not affect how God sees us or how much He loves us. We just think it does.

The DIY tree

Sin brings its own consequences. Young’s literal translation of Romans 6:23 says,

For the wages of the sin [is] death, and the gift of God [is] life age-during in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The sin did not need to be punished but forgiven, corrected, dealt with and removed. This is what Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection. He did not come to deal with our individual actions, as much as He came to deal with sin as a power, something that was at the very root of our situation. It was the sin of Adam in following the DIY path of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, trying to become like God by his own do-it-yourself efforts. That is what Jesus came to deal with; everything else is just a consequence of that.

Although the serpent said “If you eat of this tree you will become like God”, the truth was that Adam was already created in the likeness and image of God. Adam failed to grasp and hold onto his true identity and likeness from God’s perspective. So whilst God has never changed how He sees us, Adam suddenly saw himself as less than he was. In this spiritual blindness about himself and about God, he lost sight of the fact that he shared and participated in God’s own image and likeness.

That blindness has affected everyone ever since. We try to hide and cover up our nakedness with fig leaves because we have believed a lie about how God sees us. We do not see ourselves the way God really sees us or the way He created us to be. The spiritual death we have inherited is fundamentally a loss of relationship with God and a loss of personal identity.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:22).

Just as we all inherited that spiritual death and blindness from Adam; just as we all shared in the spiritual-soul-death that it created, so we all share in the victory of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection life.

Love

When we do engage God face to face, we will see what He is really like. God is love. Everything He does is love. Think of that, then compare how religion has depicted Him! Often those non-believers I mentioned earlier seem to be fine with Jesus but they are not so sure about ‘God’. Jesus came to share the truth of who He was and who His Father was. In reality, He is not some sort of schizophrenic, He does not have a split personality. Father, Son and Spirit are in complete unity, and if you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father.

This blog post is adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme. Find out more…

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