Departed Spirits

J Frank Norris
J Frank Norris

The Abodes of the Departed Spirits

by Dr. J. Frank Norris (1877-1952), Long Pastor

1st Baptist, Fort Worth (TX), Temple Baptist, Detroit (MI)

(He was the pastor of both churches at the same time)

We have previously shown, according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, the following two facts: first, that man has a soul (spiritual nature) and, second, that at death the spiritual nature separates or departs from the body.

Inasmuch as we have learned that death is but the separation or departure of the spirit or spiritual nature from the body, the next logical question to be asked by every thinking person would be, “WHAT BECOMES OF THE DEPARTED SPIRITS? Are they roaming about in space or do they depart to some definite place? If so, what place?”

First, it can be clearly and emphatically stated that the spirits of the departed DO NOT roam about in space. The Bible makes it clear that there is a definite abode for them.

In order to get a correct understanding of the subject, it will be necessary to consider and distinguish between the PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE ABODES OF THE DEAD. We must also get a proper knowledge of the words as they are used in the ORIGINAL HEBREW AND GREEK TEXTS, and not as the translators have rendered them in the King James Version. It would be impossible to arrive at an accurate understanding of Death, Heaven, and Hell, from the English Translation, without first going direct to the original Hebrew and Greek.

WHY? The following Scriptures as rendered in the King James Version, will illustrate the predicament.

Christ said in Luke 16:22, 23, “the rich man also died, and was buried; and in HELL (Hades) …” The original word (Hades) is here translated Hell.

In Matthew 23:33 Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell? (Gehenna).”

The original word (Gehenna) is also translated Hell.

In II Peter 2:4, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned but cast them down to HELL (Tartarus) …”

Here the original word (Tartarus) is also rendered Hell.

So you see, HADES, GEHENNA, TARTARUS, are three different words, and are the names of three different places, and are all translated in the King James Version by the one word, Hell.

Now then, when reading the English word Hell in the New Testament, how can we possibly know to which of the three places the writer was referring? One can readily see why it is necessary to go directly to the original text to arrive at a correct understanding of the subject.

Now let us turn our attention to a similar situation in the Old Testament.

You remember Jacob thought his son Joseph was devoured by a “wild beast” and said, in Genesis 37:35, “I will go down into the GRAVE (SHEOL) unto my son mourning.”

Here the original word is SHEOL and is rendered GRAVE by the translators.

Psalm 16:10: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in HELL (SHEOL).” Here again is the same original word SHEOL, but this time it is not translated grave as in Genesis 37:35, but it is rendered HELL.

In Numbers 16:30, concerning the wicked that die, it says, “They go down quick into the PIT (SHEOL).” Here again, in the original, is the same word SHEOL but this time it is translated neither GRAVE nor HELL, but PIT.

Thus it is easily comprehended why it is absolutely necessary to use for our foundation, words from the original Hebrew and Greek texts.

Where Are the Departed Dead?

Continuing with the thought, TO WHAT PLACE DO THE SPIRITS OF THE DEPARTED DEAD GO? The Bible makes it clear that the place of the spirits of the departed dead is called SHEOL in the Old Testament Hebrew, and HADES in the New Testament Greek.

The Hebrew word SHEOL means PLACE OF THE DEPARTED DEAD. The word is found 65 times in the Old Testament. Thirty-one times it is translated “HELL”, thirty-one times, “GRAVE”, and three times it is translated “THE PIT.”

The Hebrew Old Testament word for the place of the departed dead is SHEOL, and the Greek New Testament word for the same place is HADES, the abode of the dead – the unseen state.

Perhaps some sincere seeker for the truth is saying “How do you know that the word SHEOL in the Old Testament Hebrew means the same as Hades in the New Testament Greek?”

The following reference will prove the point.

It was prophesied of Jesus the His soul should not remain in SHEOL and His body should not see corruption. Psalm 16:10: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (SHEOL), NEITHER WILT THOU SUFFER THY Holy One to see corruption.”

The Hebrew word that appears here is “SHEOL.” THIS SAME VERSE IS QUOTED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT GREEK. Acts 2:27: “Because thou will not leave my soul in hell (HADES) neither will thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.

This is positive proof that the Hebrew word SHEOL has identically the same meaning as the Greek word Hades, because this very same verse of Scripture is written both in the Hebrew and Greek, and the word rendered for SHEOL is Hades.

As additional proof on this point, it is well to note that the “Septuagint” version of the Old Testament, translated from Hebrew to Greek by seventy scholars in the year 275 B.C., invariably renders SHEOL by Hades.

Then SHEOL in the Hebrew, or HADES in the Greek, is the same place, and means THE ABODE OF THE SPIRITS OF THE DEPARTED DEAD.

Now then, Judge Rutherford, and all those who adhere (The Jehovah’s Witnesses) to his theory, in attempting to establish the fact that there is no abode for departed spirits, would like to have us believe that Sheol or Hades IS NOT the place of departed spirits, but that it means the GRAVE where the bodies are laid. He tells us that SHEOL means the grave – the condition of death, not the abode of spirits.

BUT AGAIN WE FIND THAT THIS IS NOT SO. SHEOL IS ONE PLACE, AND THE GRAVE IS ANOTHER. They are not the same. The following considerations furnish definite proof of the distinction between SHEOL, the abode of the departed spirits, and the grave, the resting place of the body.

The Grave for the Body Is Clearly

Distinguished from the

Abode for the Spirits

FIRST: the words for grave in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, are altogether different than the words Sheol or Hades. The Hebrew word for “grave,” into which only the “bodies” of the dead go, is qeburah, and the Greek mnēmeion. These are used many times in the Scriptures. Jacob could not join his son in the grave, but he could join him in the “place” for departed spirits.

This is definite proof that SHEOL does not mean “grave,” as the grave for the body, but is the abode of the departed spirits.

SECOND: the word SHEOL is NEVER USED IN THE PLURAL, for it is ONE PLACE (abode of spirits) but the word for “grave” is used many times in the plural, proving that there can be many “graves” but only one SHEOL.

THIRD: we never read of a person having a SHEOL, but we often read of a person having a “grave.” This proves that SHEOL is the abode of spirits and not the grave for the body, inasmuch as a person cannot have a SHEOL but he can have a “grave.”

FOURTH: the body is never said to be in SHEOL and the “spirit” is never said to be in the “grave,” which again proves that SHEOL is not the grave.

FIFTH: no SHEOL was ever dug by man or was ever located on the earth, but this CAN be said of graves. Therefore we know that SHEOL is the abode of the departed spirits and not the grave – the place of bodies.

Other Scriptures clearly distinguish between the abode of the spirits and the resting place for the body which further proves that SHEOL or Hades is not the grave, as Rutherford claims it is.

SIXTH: in the final judgment, both the GRAVE and HADES will deliver up the dead. Revelation 20:13, “Death (the grave, the abode of the body) and hell (Hades, the abode of the spirit) delivered up the dead which were in them.” This distinguishes between the two, and shows that Hades is not the grave.

SEVENTH: Christ has the keys of both. Revelation 1:18: “Behold I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell (Hades, the abode of the spirits) and of death (grave, the abode of bodies.)” This again shows that Hades is not the grave.

EIGHTH: Christ’s soul was not left in Hades neither was His body left in the TOMB (Acts 2:27). Here again the grave is clearly distinguished from Hades the abode of departed spirits, which shows that Hades is not the grave.

NINTH: when Jacob’s twelve sons sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery, they deceived their father Jacob by bringing to him Joseph’s blood-stained coat, making him think that a “wild beast” had devoured Joseph (Genesis 37:35). Jacob’s sons and daughters tried to comfort him but he would not be comforted, and said, “I will go down into the ‘GRAVE’ unto my son mourning.”

The original word in the Hebrew where this word is rendered “grave” is SHEOL.

Judge Rutherford, in trying to show that SHEOL is the grave or the place where bodies are laid, says, “It is easy to be seen that Jacob expected to go to the TOMB.” But we shall prove that this word SHEOL does not mean grave – the place of bodies, but that it means the place of departed spirits.

From what Jacob thought and said we can see that he did not intend to go into the “grave” or tomb to meet his son Joseph, but into the abode of the departed spirits. As proof of this we know that Jacob did not believe that Joseph was in the grave, for he believed that a “wild beast” had devoured him (Verse 33). Therefore it would have been impossible for Jacob to go to the grave to meet Joseph if a wild beast had devoured him, but where he really intended to meet him was in the abode of the spirits of the departed dead.

This clearly shows the distinction between the grave and the abode of the departed spirits, and proves that SHEOL – Hades is not the grave for the bodies, as Rutherford says it is.

The following account of Jacob’s death sets forth the same truth:

TENTH: Jacob is said to have been gathered unto his people at the moment of death (Genesis 49:33), though his body was not buried with the bodies of his ancestors till months afterward. “And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.”

Jacob died in Goshen in Egypt, but was buried in the land of Canaan. They were forty days embalming the body, and the mourning in Egypt continued thirty days longer. Joseph then obtained permission of Pharaoh to go and bury his father (Genesis 50:10), so that at least eighty days elapsed between the gathering unto his people, and the burial of the body in the cave of Machpelah in Canaan.

Jacob was “gathered unto his people” at the time of his death, by the departure of his SOUL to the souls of Isaac, his father, and his grandfather Abraham. It is certain that his BODY was not then gathered to his people, at the time he expired, nor till seven weeks later, therefore his gathering to his people was not to their bodies in the graves, but to the place where they were in their disembodied state.

Consequently, the place of departed spirits, which is Hades in the Greek, Sheol in the Hebrew, is not the same as the grave for the body.

These ten considerations conclusively prove that Judge Rutherford and all those who believe in his theory are definitely wrong when they say that Hades means the grave, for Hades, the abode for the departed spirits has been clearly distinguished from the grave for the body.

HADES or SHEOL THEN, IS NOT THE GRAVE, the abode for the body, but the place of departed spirits.

In studying its location, we find that in 20 of the 65 Old Testament passages that refer to SHEOL, it is located downward. In Genesis 37:35 Jacob said, “I will go down to SHEOL.” In New Testament references to Hades, we also find that it is located downward. Matthew 11:23, “Thou shalt be brought down to Hades.” Luke 10:15, “Thou shalt be thrust down to Hades.” Never do we find the Scriptures locating SHEOL-HADES on the earth or above the earth, but always downward.

Thus far it has been established, from the Scriptures, that man does have a soul, and that at death the soul separates from the body, and that it departs to the place called Sheol or Hades, which is not the grave, but the abode of the departed spirits of the dead. We are now ready for the next logical question that follows.

What is Revealed About the

Place Called SHEOL?

What kind of a place is it?

The reader will notice that thus far in the discourse on SHEOL nothing has been said relative to the righteous and the unrighteous. It has been merely stated that the spirits of all the dead, regardless of moral distinction, righteous or unrighteous, departed to SHEOL.

When we turn to our Bibles to learn what kind of a place it is, we find that the Old Testament sheds very little light on the subject. Nothing is said in regard to the spirits of the righteous and unrighteous. The Old Testament merely tells us that all the dead departed to SHEOL. It makes no distinction between abodes for the saved and he lost. Thus, it can be said that in the Old Testament, the light, as to the state of the departed dead, is in the twilight stage.

Perhaps this question comes to the mind of some sincere seeker for the truth. Why is it that the Old Testament is almost silent on the future state? Why does it leave us with so little information? The Bible clearly answers that question. The time for the revealing of the conditions beyond the grave had not yet come in the Old Testament days. It was reserved for Christ to “BRING LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT THROUGH THE GOSPEL.”

And that is just what Christ did. We know Christ came to save sinners, but II Timothy 1:10 also tells us that His coming “hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” The Old Testament teaching which is in the twilight stage on immortality and conditions in Sheol, is now made manifest, or revealed, by Christ through the Gospel.

Notice the Scripture verse does not say that when Christ came He brought life and immortality into EXISTENCE, but he brought it to light – He brought it into revelation – He revealed it. LIFE AND IMMORTALITY EXISTED IN OLD TESTAMENT DAYS, but now it is made manifest, or revealed, by Christ through the Gospel.

Now then, since Christ was the one who has brought immortality to light, we must accept His statements. We should learn what His teaching was regarding the conditions in the abode of the departed.

WHAT WAS CHRIST’S TEACHING REGARDING ALL THE DEAD, BOTH SAVED AND LOST, IN HADES?

His teaching is found in Luke 16:19-31, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus. This gives us a description of the abode of the departed dead as it was in the Old Testament days and in the days of Christ’s earthly ministry.

[Editor’s note: Luke 16:19-31 is discussed more fully in Dr. Norris’ message on Hell, which we hope to print later.]

This message from the pages of The Biblical Evangelist, Editor, Dr. Robert L. Sumner – Used by Permission.  Website: http://www.biblicalevangelist.org

Dr. Guido Died

Michael Guido, The Sower
Michael Guido, The Sower

On Saturday, February 21, 2009 “The Sower,” Dr. Michael Guido, passed away. Surrounded with friends, family and staff who had gathered in the hospital, “The Sower,” who was 94, went to be with the Lord at approximately 9 PM. An official statement from Larry Guido will be forthcoming soon. (Click on The Sower Devotionals http://www.guidogardens.com/index.htm under “Salvation Links.”)

http://www.guidogardens.com/index.htm

Michael Guido, known affectionately around the world as “The Sower” is now in heaven rejoicing with old friends and new acquaintances whom he met for the first time as a result of his life-long ministry. Quietly, after a final, peaceful day in Candler County Hospital, and surrounded by family and friends, he slipped gently and gracefully into the presence of His Lord and Saviour. His life was grounded in a selfless ministry which he shared completely with his beloved Audrey, his wife of sixty-six years. Together they traveled extensively throughout the United States, conducting evangelistic crusades until they were involved in a near-fatal automobile accident. Following a lengthy stay in an Atlanta hospital God moved in their hearts to begin a radio ministry while returning to Metter, Georgia.

From that seemingly simple decision, a radio program is now broadcast on 435 radio stations and has evolved into a television ministry that is carried on one hundred television stations as well as cable and satellite systems and the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network. Each month nearly 32,000 homes receive Sower publications, and the popular “Seeds From the Sower” is published in over 1,500 newspapers. Wikipedia states that Metter, Georgia,” may best be known as the home of ‘The Sower’ who has delivered short evangelical Public Service Announcements on late-night television shows nationwide for decades. His studios are located at Guido Gardens, where a large holiday light show takes place each Christmas season. The multiple camera angles and delightful introduction music in his commercials are of high acclaim.”

Although 94 years old at the time of his death, Mr. Guido was working on three new projects. One was a cartoon strip for children, another was a crisis ministry intervention team that would be available to respond to accidents, natural disasters and emergency situations wherever they occur. However, his most important concern in the last moments of his life was for his Guido Center for Christian Training. He deeply believed that training others to do what he did in ministry and in serving His Lord would be the greatest legacy he could leave. His final vision was to construct a classroom for the Center and name it the Audrey F. Guido Educational Building. In fact, the final prayer that he prayed in public with two of his friends was that “God would give me this mountain to train soul-winners.” To accomplish his dream, the Ministry is suggesting that donations to build the facility be made to the Guido Evangelistic Association in lieu of flowers.

There will be a viewing of Dr. Guido in the Hamstra Worship Center on the campus of Guido Gardens on Saturday, February, 28, 2009 from 10:00 a.m. until8:00 p.m. A service of praise and worship for the countless “Friends of the Sower” is scheduled for Sunday, March 1, 2009, at 3:00 p.m. in a tent that will be erected on the Campus. “Mr. Michael” is survived by his wife Audrey and Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence Guido, his brother and “sister-in-love”. “Larry” is his successor and the president of the Guido Evangelistic Association.

Book Reviews

THE BIG BOOK OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES by Norman L. Geisler & Thomas Howe; Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI; 66 Sections, 615 Pages; $26.99, Paper

As we noted in our original review, “The authors, strong inerrantists, argue that the Bible has difficulties, but not errors.” This edition has two sections for each difficulty: the “Problem” and the “Solution.” Most apologetic books lists various ‘problems,’ then discuss them. This one follows a format that is chronological and its 66 sections deal with the 66 books.

Bible Difficulties
Bible Difficulties

We’ll say at the start of this review, Difficulties is an excellent book, well worth your investment if it is not already in your library. We note the latter because it was previously published as When Critics Ask back in 1992. At that time we reviewed it in our November 1, 1992 issue, giving it high marks. (Then it was hardbound for $22.99; now it is paperback for $4 more! Inflation is still with us – but this is still a bargain.)

Dr. Robert L. Sumner

Dr. Robert L. Sumner, Reviewer

In short, if you have a problem with why Matthew seems to indicate Jeremiah wrote Zechariah 11:12-13, instead of trying to figure out what kind of a heading in the book this problem would be listed under, you would just go to Zechariah 11:12-13 for the explanation. It is a big improvement over the usual apologetic style, in our judgment.

Bible Difficulties is good research material, very helpful; as the subtitle puts it, Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. And, as we said above, if you don’t already have it, get it!

This review provided by Dr. Robert L. Sumner.

Our God-Breathed Book: The Bible
$19.95
The apparent conflict between Christ’s deity and humanity was fought out years ago, so that now Bible believers all accept the fact that Christ was perfectly human, yet without a trace of sin or a limitation of His deity. The similar paradox of the eternal perfection of the Word of God, “settled forever in heaven,” yet given in human words through human personalities, has not been so well explained and thought out.  We believe that here Dr. Rice has gone further in clearing up this matter than has before been done.  The teaching agrees closely with that of Gaussen, Warfield, Harris and Young.  Here you will find the truth, witnessed by devoted and learned Bible scholars Charles Feinberg, R. Laird Harris and S. Maxwell Coder, as well as other trusted fundamental scholars, that the Bible was settled in God’s mind in every detail before written down on earth and that God prepared the men who wrote–Isaiah is “a polished shaft,” for example (Isa. 49:2)–and that God even prepared and controlled the environment and character and feeling of the writers so that they wrote down God’s revelation in His inspired words.  Here the Bible’s clear claim to being God-breathed, perfect, eternal, is expounded; the greatest Bible expositors and authors on inspiration are quoted, questions are answered, fallacies explained, all with a holy devotion to Christ and to the Bible as the very Word of God.  There has been a great need for a scholarly, thoroughly trustworthy exposition of what the Bible claims for its own inerrant, authoritative inspiration recorded in God-breathed words.  Here, evangelical faith and scholarship combine with evangelistic warmth and crystal clear, flowing language.  This is the documented result of forty-eight years of Bible teaching, preaching and writing, followed by monumental labor to prepare this volume.  We believe the book will prove itself an indispensable classic setting the standard for Bible believers for years to come.
Can be ordered direct from Sword of the Lord Publishers, Murfreesboro, TN,  or from any Christian Book Store, or Amazon.Com  Retail price, $19.95

Beacon World Missions

Peter & Mary
Peter & Mary

Beacon World Missions is a mission work I personally support and one I urge you to prayerfully con-sider helping.  I have known the two founders, Peter and Mary Mucher for well over 20 years.  They are worthy of your prayers and your financial support.  I placed a link to their website under “Links.”  Click on it and get to know these good people.

There are people over in the Ukraine who have come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord because this couple cared enough to go.  One of the sweetest stories Peter shared with me is the young lady who gets on public buses and gives out copies of the Christian paper, The Mayak.   This paper is printed in the Ukrainian language.  That is big time!    -Editor

Peter F. Mucher was born in 1939 to Ralph E. and Esther Mucher. He was one of ten children that made up this Christian home, and when he was six years old his father led him to the Lord. In 1957, Peter joined the United States Army and served in the military for two years, and in 1958 he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Reynolds. They have three grown married children, Jonathan, Katrina and Hans Stephen, and nine grand children. All our children have accepted the Lord as their Savior and are active in their home churches, and six of our grands have been saved and baptized.

In 1963, Peter founded Mucher Construction, Inc. and operated this company until 1977 when he sold it to his brother, Philip, before going to Nigeria, Africa to construct several communication buildings for the Nigerian government. While he was in Africa God spoke to his heart and he surrendered his life to serve Him. He came home and enrolled at Oklahoma Baptist College in 1980 and graduated in May, 1983. He was ordained, and in 2004 was given an honorary Doctorate through Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Eufaula, Oklahoma.

Shortly after enrolling in college Peter felt God’s call to begin a video production ministry to help small country churches be exposed to the preaching of great men of God. In 1982, he started Beacon Video Production which is still in operation today. Peter went to Ukraine in 1992 to videotape a documentary for another mission and his heart was broken for these destitute people who had not heard the true presentation of the Gospel of Christ for more than 70 years. God broke his heart to help make a difference in Ukraine, particularly the Zhitomir Region. That very year he began to help build and establish churches and brought humanitarian aid to this country to assist with their physical need. In 1995 Peter founded Beacon World Missions, Inc. (a non-profit 501 (c) 3) ministry) so others could donate financially with medical and other humanitarian items. With much prayer and trust in the Lord, Beacon World Missions has helped aid several orphanages, start five churches, and sent tons of food, clothing and medical supplies to orphanages and hospitals in the Zhytomyr Region of Ukraine.

In 2005, after much prayer and seeking God’s will, we began printing a Christian newspaper called The Mayak, which has a salvation message, a spiritual growth message, a thru-the-Bible study, and articles for the children and teens. Our first printing was 1,000 copies in March 2005, and today we print 5,000 copies that are being sent in bundles to seven former Soviet Union countries, including many cities in Ukraine. God has blessed this effort with numerous salvations and rededications. In January 2007, we challenged our people to read the Bible through this year, and will give each person who completes reading the Bible a certificate at the end of the year.

Our new endeavor for 2008 is to reach the 5.5 million Russian people in America by printing and distributing The Mayak in their communities. We have already made contact and had calls from some who want to receive the newspaper. Our major goal is reaching strategic areas (churches and laymen) who will help with finances for printing and distribution. We know God has given us the passion to reach these millions and will open doors for this outreach.

A Message for the New Year

The Untrodden Path

and the Gracious Guide!

By Jack MacArthurDr. Jack MacArthur

“And he said, My presence shall go with you, and I will give thee rest.”   – Exodus 33:14

“. . . for ye have not passed this way heretofore. And Joshua said unto the people. Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”   – Joshua 3:4-5

What does the future of the year hold for you and for me? Health or sickness, happiness or tragedy – we don’t know. We don’t know how the next twelve months will affect our families, our personal lives, our country, our world.

Certainly there is no more apt description of our earthly existence than the words of James that tell us, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then is gone” (James 4:14). Some who, last January, greeted the New Year with carefree laughter and high hopes have since been flung to their knees in grief. Some have known disappointment, piercing sorrows, crushed hopes, broken health and severed friendships. However, for others there has been gain and blessing. We agree universally that in our complicated lives nothing is secure, nothing is certain. Every year we hear message after message of a new year, rosy with outpourings of optimism, but lately its pessimism is almost universal.

Some years back U.S. News & World Report took a poll of over 1,000 Americans that was very pessimistic about the coming year and a new one today would probably indicate the same. However, the poll never asked any questions about the moral and spiritual condition of the nation, but many of us see the tide of godless humanism, immorality, sensualism and materialism rising like the Anti-Deluvian flood.

On demand abortion continues with its ghastly slaughter of the unborn innocent and the purveyors of smut continue their nefarious business on the basis of a constitutional right. The anything-but-gay community continues to advocate what has become a death-dealing lifestyle and the media continues to destroy the sanctity of commitment in marriage, the structure of the home, and, in fact, all of the basic principles of virtue and morality taught in the Word of God.

No wonder, as Carl Henry said, we are like a meteor sinking in the night, a generation that has lost its reason. Perhaps we are sowing seeds from which we may reap a more awesome and awful harvest than we have ever known. It is not necessary to be a prophet to discern the flares of powerful trends and impending dangers.

How evident it is that we live in a constantly changing world, one that is changing, it would seem, not always for the better but more frequently for the worse. But we can gloriously declare that in Jesus Christ there is soul security in this insecure world, and spiritual certainty for an uncertain hour. How reassuring to know that the end of history is not some plan of the godless humanists, not some nightmarish dream of the Kremlin, but the end of history is the invasion of our world a second time by the matchless, peerless, regal Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank God, even as another year has tapered into history, we can rise above our changing world, with all of its pessimism and believe with unswerving conviction that even though everything else may change, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

But let me take you to my text. After forty years of wandering in the barren waste of the Sinai Desert, the people of Israel, after a whole generation had died, were now on the border of a new land – which they had left Egypt to possess – with only the Jordan River separating them. By this time, Moses had gone home to be with God. Joshua had become their leader, and though their yesterdays had been an endless and at most morbid experience of wandering, chastening and defeat because of their disobedience, at last, through the parting of the waters of the river Jordan, they were to enter the fair land of Canaan, the land of hope and expected fulfillment, “the land flowing with milk and honey.”

“Tomorrow,” the unknown tomorrow, they would tread a new and untried path and the promise was that God would do wonders among them. And so Joshua called upon them to sanctify themselves – sanctify means to set apart for His glory – for the next experience that awaited them.

The best assurances for God’s wondrous tomorrow is today’s consecration to His cause. It matters not what tomorrow holds; God’s people are prepared for it, if they are living in a close, vital relationship with Him. This miraculous event in the history of Israel is fitting for our meditation as we enter upon the untrodden path of the New Year, as we contemplate the unknown tomorrow in the life of each of us. And it is irrevocably true that “no man knoweth what shall be on the morrow.” There will be new problems to solve, new tragedies to endure, new trials to be met, new temptations to overcome, new opportunities to grasp, new tasks to perform, and new blessings to enjoy.

It Will Be a Way of Testing

James tells us that the testing of our faith is more precious than gold that perisheth.

As Israel crossed the Jordan, it was an unfamiliar way, and it was not an easy way, nor will it be for you and for me. Our God has not promised His people an easy way, although there are those who hold out this promise; nor has He ever promised His people an easy time in this world. As a matter of fact our Lord said, “. . . in the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33), but He gave us a glorious promise when He said, “. . . but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

From every standpoint Israel was to face difficulties. They were to be up against the swelling tides, the huge walls of Jericho, the great giants in the land. There were cities to be conquered, but faith in the unfailing promises and presence of God was to overcome all those difficulties. It had always done so before, and it would do it again – and it did!

In recalling the incident, you remember that as soon as the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s presence with Israel, touched the waters, they parted. The lesson for us is that “today” must often see “tomorrows” waiting duties without seeing how they are to be accomplished, but the followers of the Ark of God need have no fear that the God to whom it belongs will not take care of it, and of them who follow. Certainly for us there are to be difficulties in the New Year, but none that He who goes before us is not familiar with and equal to.

As you know, it is customary before a jet liner, or for that matter any airplane, takes off into the blue empyrean, to carefully check each item in connection with the ship’s performance in the interest of maximum safety. One indispensable check is that of the navigational instruments. They must be in working order to insure the right direction of the ship. Direction for life, as for an airliner, is the thing that counts on the journey. My dear friend, Paul Myers, “First Mate Bob” of the “Haven of Rest” radio program, often quoted the little poem:

One ship goes east,

another goes west,

While the self same

breezes blow;

It’s the set of the sail,

and not the gale,

That determines the

way we go.

Direction, plus time, equals destiny. That is why the Psalmist says, the steps of a good man [righteous man] are ordered by the Lord. How dimmed our vision, how uncharted our lives, how faltering our feet, how futile our efforts, how impotent our strength, how purposeless our journey without the guiding hand of God. Without our Lord Jesus Christ at the helm of our lives, we are mere victims of the whims of fate.

We are taught by the Word of God that we need the testing of our faith for the greater experiences to be enjoyed, and the greater work to be done, for nothing is proven until it has been tested. For each of us it is going to be a way of battle and hardship, and it is imperative that we be armed and properly equipped. The Holy Book gives us, in comprehensive and minute detail, the kind of armament we need.

Listen to these wonderful words: In conclusion be strong – not in yourselves, but in the Lord, in the power of His boundless resources. Put on God’s armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that ye may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness as your breastplate, the gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet, and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times, with every kind of spiritual prayer; keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women (Ephesians 6:10-17, Phillips Paraphrase).

We will not be able to withstand this evil day, the burning missiles of the wicked, the floodtides of immorality, the vaunted indecencies, the armored forces of corruption, unless we are thus armed. Nor will we be able to serve effectively and achieve without such equipment. The Israelites knew there were battles to be fought, Jerichos to fall, enemies to conquer and victories to win, but they knew the Lord was their captain, their power, their strength, and His presence their inspiration. His word was their guide, and this assured them of victory. It is interesting that the only time they ever suffered defeat was when they failed to follow the Word of God. “God was their help in ages past,” and He would be their strength now. No wonder Joshua cried in a dark hour, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon, and the sun stood still” (Joshua 10:12,13).

Glorious truth: there is a sovereign, just, faithful, loving God who will fight our battles for us. And we can exult in the triumph of the Apostle Paul, I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13).

It Will Be a Way of Provision

As the swelling tides of the Jordan challenged the progress of the Israelites, the divine provision of their crossing was immediately present and God is saying to us today, as He said to the people of ancient times, And thine ears shall hear a word behind them saying this is the way, walk ye in it. Where God says, Go, and what God says, Do, there is always provision for those who have the faith to obey. I have found such comfort all through my ministry in the words of our Lord in John 10:4, when He said, “. . . when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them. . .”

In that wonderful 11th chapter of Hebrews, we have eloquent testimony that where God leads there is provision for them who have the faith to follow Him. We see the victory of faith in the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua. Then the writer, in sheer ecstasy of faith’s great victories, goes on to say, And what other examples shall I give? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon and Barak and Samson, and Jephthah, and David, and Samuel and all the prophets. These people all trusted God, and as a result won battles, overthrew kingdoms, ruled their people well, and received what God had promised them. They were kept from harm in a den of lions, and in a fiery furnace. Some, through their faith, escaped death by the sword. Some were made strong again after they had been weak or sick. Others were given great power in battle. They made whole armies turn and run away and some women, through faith, received their loved ones back again from death. But others trusted God and were beaten to death, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free – trusting that they would rise to a better life afterward. Some were laughed at and their backs cut open with whips, and others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning and some by being sawed in two. Others were promised freedom if they would renounce their faith, then were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in dens and caves. They were hungry and sick and ill treated, too good for this world, and these men of faith, though they trusted God and won His approval, none of them received all that God had promised them, for God wanted them to wait and share even better rewards that were prepared for us (Paraphrased, Hebrews 11:32-40).

If disappointments are a just ground for despair; the whole world would be saddled with its gloomy death. We are to face difficulties with faith in God. Things looked discouraging in the humanness of our Lord Jesus Christ, but nevertheless He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem.

All our days will not be victorious. We may lose some battles, but thank God there will be victories, and ultimately we will win if we follow our Lord. And defeats are no less valuable for us than victories. There are triumphant entries into Jerusalem and black nights in Gethsemane. There are days when joys are sung with rapturous acclaim. Life has its bitter and it also has its sweets.

It is imperative that we trust and follow God in the imperious hours of black despair, believing with all our hearts the promise, As thy days so shall thy strength be (Deuteronomy 33:25), and that, all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:29).

With our trust in God, Jordan’s billowing waves will not prove a hindrance to stop us, but a highway to aid us. A man of faith can say with Dr. Alexander Blackburn, “It is better to walk in the dark with God, than to run in the light alone.”

It Will Be a Way of Certainty

and Security

We are constantly surrounded by uncertainties. We are called upon to “fight the good fight of faith” We battle against the prince of the power of the air and “against the hosts of spiritual wickedness in high places.” But the outcome of the warfare is already decided. Menacing floods may dispute our way, but the waters shall be divided tomorrow. And to those of us who faithfully follow the captain of our salvation, who will run with clear vision and act with full conviction of duty, the old story of our text will repeat itself in our lives at every single crossing. Our great high priest has stood in the midst of the slime and the mire of sin, that we may plant our feet upon the immovable rock of His salvation. And whatever barrier may challenge our progress, like Israel on that memorable day, we shall on dry ground pass “clean over.” Not only is there surety for tomorrow, but there is surety for all the tomorrows that are to come into the lives of every one of us.

To those who have experienced the new birth, who have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come, God’s tomorrows are glorious. Yes, we who love the Lord Jesus Christ can face the New Year and all the years that God allots to us with calm confidence. When Moses set about upon that great journey to lead the children of Israel across the trackless waste of the deserts and into the Land of Promise, he wanted to make absolutely sure that he had a safe, capable guide, for more than anything he needed guidance, and so there was wisdom as well as caution in the request of Moses that someone should be sent to guide them through the wastes of the wilderness. It was in reply to that request that God said, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (Exodus 33:14). To this Moses answered, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (Vs.15). And that is His promise, “Lo, I am with you always…” “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee!’ As God went with the children of Israel, so God will go with His people today.

What could be more wonderful, than to have the glory of His presence? For many years, this was the theme song of the Voice of Calvary program:

I have seen Him, I have known Him,

And He deigns to walk with me;

And the glory of His presence will

be mine eternally.

Oh, the glory of His presence,

Oh the beauty of His face,

I am His and His forever,

He has saved me by His grace.

In pastures green? Not always;

Sometimes He who knoweth best,

In kindness leadeth me by weary ways,

Where heavy shadows be,

And by still water?

No, not always so;

Oft times with heavy tempest

’round me blow;

And o’er my soul the waves

in billow go.

But when the storm is loudest

And I cry aloud for help,

The Master standeth by and

whispers to my soul,

‘Lo, it is I.’

Above the tempest wild,

I hear Him say,

‘Beyond this darkness lies

the perfect day;

In every path of thine

I lead the way.’

So whether on the hill tops

high and fair I dwell,

Or in the sunless valleys

where the shadows lie –

What matter? He is there.

It Will Be a Way of Opportunity

God is saying to His Church, “Wake up, the world is on fire, and here you are sleeping in harvest time. Wake up, the world is lost and you have the message that will save it. Wake up, hearts are aching in the night and you have the balm that will heal them.”

We must become involved, work, hammer; forge ourselves into usefulness. We must not be contented with mediocrity. How easily we excuse ourselves from spiritual responsibility in the interest of “other opportunity.” We must throw ourselves into the stream of Christian service with reckless abandonment. Let us set new priorities in our lives and put service to the Lord Jesus Christ where it belongs, at the very top of the list. Such a spirit will change tallow candle resolutions into fires of flaming activity. The Christian life demands determination, purpose, dedication, commitment and faithfulness. We need to see our opportunity for Christ and to seize it with desperation. Time is running out and furthermore life is fading. The coming of our Lord, or death, may be nearer than any of us dream. We must work now. We must give now. “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Israel had come to a new epoch in her life, a crucial, decisive hour. The clock of the centuries had struck. Forty years had been spent in wandering. Joshua’s voice sounded in their ears, as their eyes beheld the swollen tides of the Jordan. “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” And then he went on to say, “You shall know that the Lord is among you.” They were to move on to see the blessings of God.

If we are following Him we will go trustingly into the unknown tomorrow with the memories and strength of the undead yesterdays. “Tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Believe it!

How wonderful is that faith that expects God to work in its behalf and He never fails. Joshua said, “For tomorrow. . .” Yes, “Tomorrow” all vacillating will be over. “Tomorrow” Jordan will be crossed. “Tomorrow” the victors will sing their song. “Tomorrow” God will kiss away our sorrows forever. “Tomorrow” blood will cease soaking battle fields, and nations will be marshaled at last under the blood stained banner of the Prince of Peace. “Tomorrow” burdens will be lifted, tears will be dried, and joy will sound its enchanting, rapturous music throughout the world. “Tomorrow” a new sunrise will splendor the earth with its golden tapestries.

The mystic veil will swing back and eternity will be in full view. Our hearts will leap. Our tongues will shout. Our joy will be full. Our quest will be realized. Beloved, as we embark upon the untrodden path of 2004 and face the unknown tomorrow, we can know that our tomorrows are all known to Him, and nothing can or will happen that is not in His plan and purpose, and for our best interests. How assuring to face the New Year in the consciousness of Christ’s eternal presence, and His unchanging promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.”

Our matchless Christ is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end, the One in whom history will find its consummation, the great coming King of kings and Lord of lords. In Him and with Him we are ready for all the tomorrows!

What God has promised:

God hath not promised skies

always blue,

Flower strewn pathways all

our lives through;

God hath not promised

sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow;

peace without pain;

But God hath promised

strength for the day,

Rest for the laborer;

light for the way;

Grace for the trials,

help from above;

Unfailing sympathy,

undying love.

– Annie Johnson Flint

Yes, beloved, with Him we are ready to begin a New Year!

This message published in The Biblical Evangelist. Used by permission

Protect Your Family

 
 
PUT YOUR CAR KEYS BESIDE YOUR BED AT NIGHT

Simple Safety PlanThanks to my cousin, Max Sewell, for this important safety tip.  This tip may save your life or the lives of your loved ones.  A PERSONAL NOTE: Had I practiced this one It would have saved my car.  It was stolen out of my garage (Keys were inside the car). 

Tell your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your parents your Dr’s office, the checkout girl at the market, everyone you run across.

Put your car keys beside your bed at night. If you hear a noise outside your home or someone trying to get in your house, just press the panic button for your car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies.

This tip came from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Next time you come home for the night and you start to put your keys away, think of this:

It’s a security alarm system that you probably already have and requires no installation. Test it. It will go off from most everywhere inside your house and will keep honking until your battery runs down or until you reset it with the button on the key fob chain. It works if you park in your driveway or garage If your car alarm goes off when someone is trying to break into your house, odds are the burglar rapist won’t stick around… After a few seconds all the neighbors will be looking out their windows to see who is out there and sure enough the criminal won’t want that. And remember to carry your keys while walking to your car in a parking lot. The alarm can work the same way there …… This is something that should really be shared with everyone. Maybe it could save a life or a sexual abuse crime..

P.S. I am sending this to everyone I know because I think it is fantastic. Would also be useful for any emergency, such as a heart attack, where you can’t reach a phone. My Mom has suggested to my Dad that he carry his car keys with him in case he falls outside and she doesn’t hear him. He can activate the car alarm and then she’ll know there’s a problem.

Please pass this on even IF you’ve read it before. It’s a reminder.