Northwest of Eden #26


Jesus said this regarding man’s last chance to claim the promises. “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:37, 40-42). In the days of Noah, man depended on hand technology and everyone was left behind for the flood to take them. To be back in the days of Noah, one has but eliminate electricity and we would be grinding food with our hands. It was very disturbing to hear Jesus say, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matthew 21:43). To inherit the promises one has to become first a keeper of God’s conditions.

Hosea, the prophet, was instructed to announce, “I will call them ‘my people’ who were not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one” (Hoseea 2:23). It is an epitaph for those that could have avoided being rejected for the kingdom. Character defines and remembers what and who a person or a people is and was. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus was Jesus prediction of what happens to a person of means that cares only for him self (Luke 16:19-31). It was not Lazarus that sent him to hell but his blatant violation of God’s law that protected and demanded that a person, like Lazarus, be assisted. In hell, he begged father Abraham to send Lazarus to cool his tongue. Abraham informed the rich man that it was impossible to meet his request. Then he begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers. They might listen to a dead man. Abraham had this stern reminder, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Jesus was sent to restore Moses and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-20). In doing so, He disclosed the cause for their sin; namely, their hate for what a man of God was asking them to do. “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated me and my Father” (John 15:22-24). Jesus told the blind man whose sight He restored, “For judgment I came into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” When the Pharisees objected, Jesus countered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:39-41). They proved themselves even more guilty when they had Jesus shamefully crucified. Yet, Jesus forgave them because they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:24).

Jesus, to the unrepented sinner, is the cause of his/her demise. To the believer, He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). He has become the reason for division and unrest. This is what Jesus Himself saw would happen to His redemptive mission to mankind. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, put it succinctly, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). The message from heaven was, “Peace on earth and good will to men” (Luke 2:14). The message from Herod the king was, “Kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16). The message from John the Baptist was, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus ended his answer, “And blessed is he, who does not stumble because of me” (Matthew 11:3, 6). Many of Jesus’ disciples were offended at Jesus’ message and mission and they left Him (John 6:60-71). The Jewish leaders chose Barabbas and Caesar over Jesus (Luke 23:18-19; John 19:15). Jesus, Himself, predicted that He would cause divisions and conflicts. “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in the ear, proclaim from the housetop. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Therefore, whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” 

“Do not presume that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in–law against he mother–in-law; a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his own cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I assure you, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:26-42).

The choices Jesus demands that humans must make are based on what it takes not to end up in the wrong cemetery. The Book of Revelation was given for that very purpose. “I warn everyone who hears these words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). This message is to Christians, especially those that avoid this book. To the unbeliever, Jesus said the following, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy” (Revelation 22:10-11). On the day human conscience kicks in and the mind begins to distinguish between right and wrong, man commences writing his own obituary that is also being recorder by the eternal judge (Revelation 20:12). Man’s conscience is his diary and he/she takes with him/her to the grave or Paradise where he/she will rest until judgment day; that is, if he/she dies in the Lord; otherwise, they go to Hades or hell (Luke 23:43; Revelation 13:13). In Paradise, Abraham attends to Lazarus and in hell the rich man pays his dues. It is a garden similar to the one Adam and Eve lost and it is adjacent to heaven. It does not compare to the splendor of the new world Revelation twenty-one talks about. And it is not accessible before judgment day (Revelation 20:11-15). 

The one God has chosen to be the Savior and Judge will read the last will and testament (Acts 10:42). It shall be the biggest court procedure and funeral service at the same time. It shall be a time of instant execution. Jesus compared it to a king that separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). The distinction between the two shall be as clear as day and night. And it shall not be based on what they believed, but on what they had done. The deeds that shall be most valuable shall not have been glorified in public, but served to assist those that had no standing in the world. Jesus illustrated this final event with a Parable of a Wedding Banquet prepared for the king’s son and the king’s people (Matthew 22:1-14). The first invitation to the banquet was simply disregarded. The second messengers were disregarded by some and mistreated and even killed by others. The king sent his army and punished the perpetrators and burned their city. Then the king opened the banquet to the people for whom it was not intended and they complied and filled the place in wedding attire. One individual had the audacity to come to the wedding inappropriately dresses and he was forcefully removed. The Parable is a reminder of what happened to the people of God that disregarded and disobeyed God’s demands. Noah’s people drowned, Assyria destroyed the Israel of the North, Babylon did the same to Jerusalem and so did the Romans. The popes and the reformers used forceful ways to convert people for the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 11:12). Under the new nation with a law that protected all religious persuasions, coercion was no longer applicable. Scare tactics of heaven and hell were just as effective. The point of the Parable is that those regarded themselves as belonging to the king or to God foreclosed on them selves. They voided the invitation and disregarded to appear in the required apparel for the banquet. This was Jesus talking, who believed that He was sent to do the will of His father and He expected and still does no less of His followers. He more than surprised His listeners when He used a Roman officer to predict what will happen to a people that take grace for granted. “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus’ Message was aimed at a people in His day, as it is even today that take God’s grace for granted. If that is the case, then expect some unpleasant surprises (Matthew 24:36-51). Will the memorial be on what is or on what might have been? Will the Epitaph read, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” or “Away from me, you evildoers!”