Hell: A Real & Horrific Place

December 12, 2017

Friends,
Who wants to believe in Hell? I sure don’t. But I do believe God’s Word and it speaks a lot about the reality of Hell. It tells us that it is a horrific place to be thrown into and, contrary to those who wish it means annihilation, it reveals that those who exist there are conscious beings. Believing in Hell is about believing God’s Word above men’s words. Believing in Hell propels us, or certainly should propel us, to warn, to go, to preach –to spread the Good News of salvation-from-condemnation across the earth, just as Jesus commanded us to do.

Jesus has warned us repeatedly about Hell. In Luke 12:4,5 He says, “I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him [God] who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.” Jesus is making it clear that we are to fear God because He is the One who throws people into Hell, and that being thrown into Hell is way worse in comparison to anything that can be done to our life or our body here on earth.

Jesus says it is better to gouge out our eye if it causes us to sin, than for our whole body to be cast into Hell. (Mt. 5:29) He warns that it would be better to enter Life maimed-in-body than to be thrown into eternal fire. (18:8) He warns that those servants who turn wicked (careless / unfaithful) will be cut to pieces and assigned a place with the hypocrites where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (24:45-51) If people are annihilated as punishment for being unrepentant, then how would they weep and gnash their teeth? Jesus says that when He sends away those who won’t make it, including those who ate with Him and listened to His teachings (Luke 13:23-27), “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth…” (v. 28)

When Jesus tells us about the rich man and Lazarus existing in the afterlife, He focuses on what the rich man is experiencing –asking for water to cool his tongue “because I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24), the knowledge that he is there because of his choices on earth and that there is no relief available (v. 25,26), and concern for his five brothers to be warned “so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” (v. 28) Does this sound anything like Hell being “a punishment of annihilation”? Not quite. And would Jesus give us this account if he was not warning us of an actual abode of the damned? Yes, the Lord loves everyone, but if a person deliberately keeps sinning against the Truth he knows, that person is casting off God’s love from himself and is incurring Hell. (Heb. 10:26,27)

Jesus has made it clear that we abide in His love through obedience to His commands. (John 15:10 // 1 John 2:5) If we are outside of His love, then we are under His wrath and remain condemned with the unbelieving world. (John 3:19-21 & 15:6)

So yes, God’s Word tells us that God is love (1 John 4:16), that He loves the world (John 3:16), and that while we were still sinners, He paid all people’s ransom. (Rom. 5:8 // 1 Tim. 2:4-6 // 1 John 2:2) This He did by becoming a sin offering for us (2 Cor. 5:21), thus buying us back, forgiving us, and reconciling us to Himself. (v. 19) Therefore, “how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” (Rom. 5:10) Unification with Christ in His death –AND in His life– is what saves us (ch. 6), and this means living our life completely devoted to God / doing what He commands 24/7 / pleasing Him in every way. (2 Cor. 5:15 // Gal. 2:20 // 1 John 2:6)

But, if we refuse to walk in this dedicated obedience to God, then we are rebelling. Continued rebellion prompts a person to deny the Truth and deceive himself (Ja. 1:22) –which incurs more delusion (2 Tim. 2:18 & 3:13), a return to vomit (2 Pe. 2:20-22), a shipwrecked faith (1 Tim. 1:19), and thus condemnation from God. (2 Thes. 2:10-12) Truly, it is God’s love which causes Him to hate sin and to punish those who refuse to live out the Gift of Christ’s holy Life.

Listen to Jesus’ words in Mt. 25:30 regarding the Master’s lazy servant: “And thrown that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And in verses 41 & 46 concerning those who neglected others: “‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ …Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Jesus is definitely contrasting eternal punishment (in the eternal fire) with eternal life. He is stating that there are two destinations, two places of eternal existence. And that where the Judge sends them is based upon what they have done.

Hell is a real place. It’s a place of torment. Yes, it was prepared for the devil and his angels, but because most people are following the devil instead of Jesus, the people will wind up there as well. It’s their fault, not God’s fault, due to their resistance to walk in God’s love.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Surprise Blessings

December 4, 2017

Friends,
I had the sweetest surprise blessing last Friday. On a whim, on my way home from my parents’ house, I decided to run into Aldi to get a few groceries and when I was standing in line with my cart of at least 20 items, a lovely-looking blonde woman about my age came up and got in line behind me. Since she only had milk in her hand, I invited her to go ahead of me. She declined, but I insisted, so she took me up on it. I asked her if she’d had a good day and she said she had. She then said I’d see why she had hesitated to go ahead of me. I didn’t know what she was talking about so I just smiled confused-like and said “Oh” and continued putting my groceries from my cart onto the belt. I didn’t notice anything more about her or even when she left, maybe because I’d turned my attention to a young man in line behind me who was buying only one item also —some kind of salsa.

“You have only one item,” I said to him. “So go ahead of me.”

“No thanks,” the guy said.

“Please do,” I insisted, but he absolutely would not, said that he was in no hurry, and went to viewing his iPhone.

So, the cashier rang up my items. But when I was about to pay, she said, “Wait a minute. I have to deduct $18.50 from your cost because the woman ahead of you paid that toward your bill.”

I was shocked and deeply moved, for I realized it was the Lord who had determined to bless me, and this in spite of the fact that the odds were against me being the recipient. I mean, the woman’s hesitation to go ahead of me must have meant I didn’t look the part of who she had planned to bless, and then, on my part, I’d tried to get the young man to go ahead of me also.

“Wow, that was a sweet blessing!” I said aloud. Then pointing at the young man, I said, “If you’d gone ahead of me, you’d have received that $18.50!” The guy just shrugged like he could care less, which seemed weird in itself. But I was happy. “I sure wish I could have thanked her,” I said to the cashier.

The cashier told me that the woman had told her that she planned to do the same thing for a stranger every day this month and hoped the spirit of giving would transfer and multiply. I told the cashier that I would definitely help spread the giving spirit and that my mom and I had actually bought some things earlier that day for the treat bags we hand out downtown at the bus stops.

Speaking of the bus stops, I had another very special blessing the day before (on Thursday) while evangelizing with my signs and tracts. Truly, I had many very wonderful conversations and encounters, but one was truly an extra, extra special one directly from the Lord. I’d been down there about four hours and figured it was about time to go, and I happened to see a guy talking to another guy (Matthew) who I’d spoken with earlier. “That sure looks like Darrell,” I thought. Right then he looked at me, but then, surprisingly, he just went back to talking to Matthew, so I decided it couldn’t be Darrell or he’d have recognized me.

After a bit I went across the tracks to check the street clock, but deciding I had a bit more time, I came back. A few minutes later I suddenly saw Darrell approaching me. “Darrell, is that you?” I asked. It was him and he came over and gave me a hug and we were so excited to see each other. He said he thought that might be me, but then I’d disappeared from the corner and then reappeared. We laughed and we were so glad that the Lord hadn’t let us miss talking with each other, since it’d been about five years or more since we’d last seen each other.

“It is always such an extra special blessing to see you,” I told Darrell. “I mean you being the very first person I ever witnessed to down here.”

“Yeah, when was that?” Darrell asked.

“January of 1996,” I answered. “And I didn’t use anything —no signs, or tracts, or even a Bible.”

Darrell and I talked for a while about that day we first met, trying to figure out if it’d been two or three or four other times that we’d seen each other since, and about the Lord and His Word. I encouraged him with several Scripture verses and one thing he said that gave me a surprise blessing was his words, “You seem much stronger in the Lord now. And you’re quoting all these Bible verses.”

I took it as a compliment. I don’t feel any stronger than in January of 1996, but I hope I am, because we should, definitely, always be progressing. I took the compliment as coming from the Lord, and I took the blessing of seeing Darrell as God affirming that my ministry work has indeed been His will, that it’s been for His glory, and that it is a privilege to partner with God in what He is doing in people to bring them deliverance and salvation.

In fact, my husband and I had the privilege today to help another downtown friend. He is living in a tent in someone’s back yard and we brought him blankets and a week bus pass to help him launch his rededication to walking victorious in Christ’s will. We are interceding for him as he begins this new chapter and I ask others to please, please pray for him as well.

So, God has given me many sweet surprise blessings just in the last week, but I can’t go on and on right now. Suffice it to say, when we work for the Lord, He is never lax in sending us all sorts of things to bless and amaze us.

Sincerely,
With love,
Rachel

Jesus Is God’s Full Deity

November 21, 2017

Friends,
Last Thursday while I was witnessing downtown, a black woman came up to me to ask me some questions. She was a small, sweet, grandma-type, and one thing she asked was how she could know that she was interpreting the Scriptures correctly. She mentioned that she watched a lot of preaching on T.V., but she clarified that she meant concerning when she would also read on her own.

I began to answer by talking about how the Holy Spirit, who is God’s Spirit and Jesus’ Spirit (John 14:17,20,23) and who is in the Word (1:1-4,14 & 6:63) explains Scripture’s teaching to us. (14:26) She looked confused and I wondered if I should warn her that ingesting the doctrine of (most) T.V. preachers can cloud our minds with confusion so as to disable us from understanding the clear words of God; but I refrained in case she was unready to hear that.

Somehow though, Ruby (not her real name) diverted my explanation about how to interpret correctly to what she thought was alarming regarding what I said about the Holy Spirit. “Jesus is the Father’s Son,” she said. “He’s not God.”

“He is God’s only begotten Son,” I responded. “But that is in regards to Him being born as a human. Jesus is fully God and the fullness of God.” (Col. 2:9 says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”, but I didn’t get a chance to quote this. Nor did I get a chance to quote Col. 1:15,16 which says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and that by Him all things were created.)

“Well, He is God with a small ‘g’,” Ruby argued.

I told her that no, Jesus is Himself the One God Most High, and that Isa. 9:6 says that the Son will be called “Everlasting Father”; but I only got halfway through a sentence on this.

Ruby was getting agitated. “Are you saying that when Jesus rose from the grave, He resurrected Himself?!”

I was trying not to agitate Ruby but I had to say yes. (I could have read John 2:18-22 & 11:25 and Rev. 1:17,18 to her for starters.)

“Oh no!” Ruby countered. “The Father resurrected Him.”

Just then another person came up and asked me a question. I tried to answer Ruby first, but off she walked in a huff. I felt really bad for her.

And I feel bad for all the people who have this issue confused.

Let’s go back to the Old Testament. Besides Isa. 9:6 there are many other verses that reveal that Jesus is the LORD / Yahweh / YHWH / YHVH. One is Isa. 45:5 where the LORD says, “Apart from Me there is no God.” So the only other gods there are, are false gods, even demons. (Dt. 32:16,17) In Isa. 45:21 the LORD says, “And there is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior, there is none but Me.” In Isa. 43:10,11 we read the LORD declaring, “Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from Me there is no savior.”

The LORD is stating very clearly that He is the only true God and the only true Savior. Therefore, since Jesus declares this of Himself (John 3:13-18 & 8:58 // Rev. 1:8 & 22:12-16)… since Scripture declares this of Jesus (John 1:1-4,14 // 1 Tim. 2:3-6 // 1 John 5:20)… then Jesus is Yahweh. And Yahweh is the Father, the LORD God Creator (Gen. 2:1-9 // Ex. 20:11), the Spirit who created all things (Gen. 1:1,2 // Ps. 104:30) –He who created all things through Jesus (Heb. 1:2) who is the image of (the bodily form of) and the exact representation of Yahweh. (v. 3) Yes, Jesus is the bodily form of the Father and it is Him, the LORD / Yahweh, who physically ate with, spoke with, and stood with Abraham. (Gen. ch. 18) It is Jesus who Isaiah saw and with whom he spoke. As Isaiah says in Isa. 6:1, “…I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted…” and in verse 5 Isaiah cries, “Woe to me! …my eyes have seen the King, the LORD [Yahweh] Almighty.” John 12:41 confirms for us that He who sat in glory on His throne, whom Isaiah saw and spoke with, was Jesus.

I could go on (like with Mark 12:29 and Eph. 4:4-6 and others), but I encourage everyone to study and grasp who Jesus really is. Jesus says in John 8:24, “If you do not believe that I AM, you will indeed die in your sins.” We do not want to be confused and close-minded like Ruby. We need to know who Jesus is and get to know Him well (which comes through trust in and obedience to the Truth / Him), for Jesus taught that Eternal Life is contingent upon this intimacy. (John 8:31-36 & 17:3) Jesus is fully God, the full image of God, the full and exact representation of God’s whole Deity. Jesus is the only Savior and the only God, always and forever, and this we must believe and take hold of unwaveringly.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Our 30th Anniversary Trip

November 8, 2017

Friends,
This last weekend, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, my husband and I flew to Arizona to see the beautiful cliffs and mountains of the Coconino National Forest and of Grand Canyon. We had a great time and thanked the Lord for the opportunity (as well as His help in our mile and a half uphill hike to Sterling Pass!). I also thank the Lord for my husband’s commitment to me, all his help in my ministries, and the Lord’s commitment in protecting us, providing for us, and leading us all these years. Here are some photos we took of our anniversary trip:

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

The Way To Be Known By God

October 28, 2017

Friends,
1 Cor. 8:3 says, “But the man who loves God is known by God.” This is quite a thought-provoking verse, is it not? And doesn’t it encapsulate a major theology concerning our salvation since we know we must love God and be known by God in order to be saved? (Mt. 22:37,38 w/19:17 // Luke 13:27 // John 10:27,28)

Let’s ask ourselves, “Am I known by God / by Christ?” –Known as a friend and member of His family? Jesus has told us that this position (being His friend and family) comes by doing what He commands (John 15:14) and doing His will consistently. (Mt. 12:50 // Rom. 8:9) We must heed the Lord’s voice and follow Him in order to be known by Him and inherit eternal life. (John 10:27,28) A mere claim of relationship with Him, lacking in obedience, does not save. (1 John 2:3-6) Salvation comes by doing what is good (3 John 1:11) –which means rejecting sin by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:13) and being led by the Spirit. (v. 14)

We know that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) But is faith synonymous with belief? It’s not, for the demons believe. (Ja. 2:19) Faith in Jesus is belief, trust, love, and obedience combined. These cannot be separated if we want to keep accessing God’s grace. (John 15:10 // Rom. 5:1,2 // Eph. 3:12 // 1 John 2:28) There may be other sub-ingredients to faith, but we cannot lack these main four or we are not saved.

Let’s look at what Jesus said to the “woman who had lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:37) after she wept and kissed Jesus’ feet while pouring perfume on his feet. He said, “Your sins are forgiven.” (v. 48) And, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (v. 50)

Did the woman ask Jesus to forgive and save her? Maybe, but we’re not told that she did. Therefore, we can see that the Word of God is emphasizing the actions of the woman, and we can see that Jesus equates her actions as being her faith. (Luke 7:50) He emphasizes her works toward Him (v. 44-46) and says that these were motivated by her great love. (v. 47) These love-motivated works of her faith, the passage shows us, is what brought about God’s forgiveness toward her (v. 48) and her salvation and peace with God. (v. 50)

So “the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:3) The person who loves the Lord will make that love obvious. Love for God will be exhibited, displayed, and proven, not just by words, but by actions, for faith is not complete without actions. (Ja. 2:17,22) And these actions will be works of righteousness done in obedience to Christ’s commands. (John 14:15,21,23)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
I had another exciting afternoon yesterday evangelizing at the train and bus stops downtown. One sweet girl I’d met a few months ago came up to me smiling, I recognized her and remembered her name (for I’d been praying for her), and we had a lovely conversation about the Lord and what He’s done for her lately. She is in college to be a nurse and maybe some of my readers will pray for her to walk in the Word always and for God’s favor to rest on her life..? Here is the photo she took of us yesterday and sent to me and she gave me permission to post it:

In the morning I had texted several prayer partners to be praying for me and one was a young woman (I’ll call her Jess here) who I’d met down there years ago. I said if she saw me from the train it’d be great if she got off and would come over to chat. She did show up after her work and I gave her a thank you card I’d written that morning along with a necklace and bracelet I’d made –to let her know how much I appreciate her faithful response to always pray for me when I ask. Truly, I could never do my evangelizing without prayer backing!!!

While Jess and I were talking, a young man who had hung around me for a while a couple of hours earlier came over to me again and asked some more questions. He kept saying he agreed with my answers but he also had some strange ideas. Jess and I prayed with him to know and walk in the Truth and he appreciated it. May some of my readers pray for him too.

While Jess and I were about to say good-bye, a guy (I’ll call him Evan here) showed up next to us who I’ve spoken with many times over the years and who was an evangelist for a while himself until he and his other evangelist friend (a guy I’d witnessed to long before I met Evan) both turned into Calvinists. Though I greeted him warmly, I also right away said, “Evan is a Calvinist and he and I do not agree theologically.”

Well, I had a wonderful surprise, because instead of Evan immediately launching into his typical persuasion attempts, he admitted that he wasn’t really into Calvinism as much now and that God had severely disciplined him so that he was humbled, seeking to make things right with God and others, and was seeking to walk in righteousness. “I was a hearer of the Word,” he said, “but not a doer. And I certainly was in the vomit.” As I listened to him and watched his face and demeanor, I realized he really has changed! This is big to me, because I had prayed a lot, in great sadness, for Evan and our other evangelist friend –that God would open their eyes to the Truth and turn them back from the sin and apathy they were marching further into due to their Calvinistic beliefs –beliefs that were helping them think they were eternally safe to sin and the belief that since everyone was already elected by God from eternity past to Life or Damnation, then evangelism was really a pointless task.

“Wow, the Lord has been answering my prayers,” I thought to myself and I breathed a grateful prayer for it and have thanked God several times since. May He continue to bring Evan and our mutual evangelist friend back from the Calvinist Falsehood, from sinfulness and disobedience, and get them back serving God and spreading the Truth!

Jess and I said good-bye to Evan and then to each other, but I went home yesterday with a renewed conviction: That the Lord works through our obedient efforts even when we don’t know He is doing so. It’s encouraging to get glimpses into His workings, but regardless of whether we see results or not, we can trust God that He is using our prayers and evangelism, and we can thus keep on in faith and vigor doing what He has called us to do.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
It is unfortunate that some church groups promote beliefs that focus more on physical Israel and the Hebrew language than they do on Jesus, on the Good News of redemption, and on our responsibility before God in “going into all the world to teach people to obey all of our Lord’s commands.” (See Mt. 28:19,20)

Belief systems that have a misplaced focus are not pleasing to God, and Gentile Christians who claim to be Jews are believing strange and unbiblical doctrines (to put it mildly). What does Jesus say about it? He says to the church in Rev. 3:9, “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars, –I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.”

Jesus gave another similar warning in Rev. 2:9: “I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (These are certainly strong words!)

If a Gentile church claims they are Jews and claims they are all going to live in the land of Israel –well, how could these Revelation verses not be about them? The Black Hebrew Roots groups, which are quite hostile, –well, it could be about them; but I’d strongly suggest that no-one insist they are a Jew when they’re not. It seems that Jesus is calling any such person a liar, and Rev. 21:8 says that “all liars will be assigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”

But, people rationalize and give their reasons… though I believe it is a very dangerous chance they are taking…

I’ve studied and written quite extensively about the Israel issue –as can be seen here: https://knowgodsword.wordpress.com/sermons/6037-2/ A specific one that may be best to read within this “Page” is this post:

https://knowgodsword.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/never-uprooted-again/

The land of Israel belongs to the Jews. –The Jews whose physical ancestry can be traced back to Jacob. God promised the land to them –as a nation, as a people, as a race.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel