The Commandments of God

Many people will have heard of the commandments of God, even those who are not Christians. When they think of them, they will probably bring to mind the *Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) given by God at Mount Sinai to His chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2) via Moses (Exodus 19). The Commandments were part and parcel of the Law of God consisting of the first five books of the Bible (Nehemiah 9:3).

According to Paul the Apostle, the Law of God, known as the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:24-26; Ezra 7:6), is for those ‘who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God (Romans 3:19).’

Certain teachers of God’s Word, the Bible, incorrectly say that Christians are to obey the Ten Commandments, including the fourth commandment to honour the Sabbath, but Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, for they are not saved (justified) by obeying it, but by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:27, 28; Ephesians 2:8, 9). Christians live by faith in the Son of God (Romans 1:17) who reveals God’s righteousness apart from the law (Romans 3:21).

The fact that Christians live by faith does not mean they are lawless, i.e., without law (1 Timothy 1:9); they obey the Law of Christ, but what is the ‘law of Christ’? Galatians 6:2 specifically uses this term with the meaning of bearing ‘one another’s burdens’. However, obeying the ‘law of Christ’ is so much more; it is acting in accordance with the teachings of Christ and those of the New Testament prophets (2 Thessalonians 3:4, 6; 1 John 2:8) who were led by the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16).

So when it comes to obeying the Ten Commandments, apart from the Sabbath commandment, a Christian will endeavour to obey them, in faith. Furthermore, he will obey Christ’s greater commandments (Matthew 5:21-48).

Unlike the Old Testament Jews, New Testament Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and through the power of the Spirit (Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5) they can overcome sin; they are not helpless. Their bodies are not yet redeemed (Titus 2:13,14), but their souls are (Psalm 55:18; 71:23)! Because of the indwelling Spirit they can be servants of righteous in Christ (Philippians 3:7-9), and they can be lights that shine in the darkness of the world (Matthew 5:14-16).

* Summary of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)

1) I am the LORD your God; you shall have no other gods before Me.

2) You shall not make a carved image of anything and worship it.

3) You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

4) Remember to keep the Sabbath holy and do no work on it.

5) Honour your father and mother that your days may be long.

6) You shall not murder.

7) You shall not commit adultery.

8) You shall not steal.

9) You shall not bear false witness.

10) You shall not covet.

The Greatest Commandment and the Second (Matthew 22:37-40)

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’

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The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God

The Bible is all about God (Luke 24:44-45) and His *relationship with His creatures; in particular His relationship with human beings. We are of prime importance to Him (Deuteronomy 7:6), for He created us for the purpose of having a relationship with Him. The relationship He desires is for us to love Him (Deuteronomy 6:5) as He loves us (John 13:34; John 15:12). This is a corporate relationship of oneness in Him (1 John 4:12-16).

However, there is a profound difference between us and Him. He is God, the Creator, Holy and Sovereign (Acts 17:26). Since He is the Creator, Holy and Sovereign He is so very different (Psalm 113:4-6). As a starters, He knows about all things, because He made them (Genesis 1:31-2:1), and in His sovereignty He sustains them (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). As He sustains them He demonstrates His omnipotence, and His omnipresence (Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 23:23, 24).

So He is omnipotent, omniscient (Psalm 139:1-12), as well as being omnipresent. You can therefore observe the contrast of vast differences between God and us. By comparison we are insignificant, and yet to Him so very precious (Matthew 10:29-31), as He demonstrated by sending His only begotten Son to die for us (1 John 4:9) so that we can have a relationship with Him.

If we are to have meaningful, loving relationships with Him, we must learn about Him and have a way of communicating with Him. In these respects He does not leave us in the dark, simply to grope around for Him (Acts 17:27). Instead, He reveals Himself by coming to earth as one of us, i.e., Jesus, a Man (Matthew 1:23) with a body like other men who die, and yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). While here on earth He tells us about Himself and His desire for us to love Him, and after His crucifixion and ascension His Father sends the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) to indwell all believers (1 Corinthians 6:19).

In our frailty, weakness and total dependency on the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit we can **pray to the Father for His upholding, for strength and guidance, and for help in our present need. And, since He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13), the I AM (Exodus 3:14) who is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present, He can satisfy (Psalm 91:16) our desires. We can be assured He will answer our prayers according to His purpose and for our good (Romans 8:28).

Because our trust is in the only God (Mark 12:32; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5), He has assured us that we shall be like Him and see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). Indeed, we have a foretaste of things to come, since He has made us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and He has given us glimpses of ***His glory. By the Spirit He has already transported us to His heaven, for we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

*God/Man Relationships


***The Glory of God

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Peace (2)

This is my second article on the subject of ‘peace’.

To see the first one, please click this link:

John 16:33 ‘“These things I have spoken to you, and in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”’

Peace is what most of us dream about. Every day we hear of relentless destruction, havoc and death, caused by waring factions in different parts of the world. Strife, pain and suffering is experienced by many people. We ask God, “Why?” and the answer comes back, “Because of sin,” which is the natural disposition of men and women (Romans 3:23) since the time of Adam when he rebelled against God (Romans 5:12).

Satan, once an angel in heaven (Luke 10:18), was the perpetrator of rebellion. He and his angels warred against Michael and his angels, and he was cast to the earth (Revelation 12:7-10), where he roams to this day (Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8). In the form of a speaking serpent (Genesis 3:1) he craftily sought Eve in the Garden of Eden, and tricked her into believing she could be like God (Genesis 3:5). She need only take things into her own hands and eat of the forbidden fruit, which she foolishly did (Genesis 3:6).

Adam followed suit (v 6), and we all know of the disastrous consequences for his offspring, who, being like him rebel against God. As a consequence, no one can do good (Romans 3:12). Their desire is to do evil (Proverbs 4:14-17; Micah 7:2-4).

But for the past two-thousand years there has been a way out, whereby this cycle of rebellion could be broken. God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16) came to the earth for this very reason, to overcome sin and satan (1 John 3:7, 8). By dying on a cross and by rising from the dead He demonstrated his power over sin, death and satan, and He freely frees His elect from their clutches (Romans 5:15-17).

Meanwhile, He allows satan to continue roaming the earth with his demons (Luke 11:17-20) of destruction. In coalition with the unregenerate, they make war, maim, kill and destroy, and they will continue to do so (Matthew 24:6, 7: Luke 21:9, 10) until Jesus returns to the earth (Luke 21:27) to execute justice (Psalm 99:4; 146:7; Isaiah 66:14-16) and to bring peace (Jeremiah 33:6). Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and He will surely establish peace (Psalm 29:11; 37:11) in His new heaven (Luke 19:38, 42), new earth and new Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:12, 13).

Fortuitously through Him, there is a way out from the cycle of evil, and that is for people to trust in Him and His saving power (Psalm 31:1, 14). When they trust in Him and repent (Mark 1:15), He rescues them from the dreadful consequences of their former rebellion (Psalm 103:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). No longer are they destined for hell (Psalm 49:15); instead, they can look forward with joy to a bright future (Revelation 5: 9, 10). They will be raised from the dead (Romans 8:11) in the likeness of their Saviour (1 John 3:2).

They will know and experience His peace (John 14:27; 16:33).

Some Biblical texts containing references to peace.

Leviticus 3:6 ‘If his offering as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord is of the flock, whether male of female, he shall offer it without blemish.’

Leviticus 26:6 ‘I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.’

Numbers 6:26 ‘The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.’

2 Samuel 24:25 ‘And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.’

1 Kings 8:63 ‘And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the LORD, twenty-two thousand bulls and one hundred  and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.’

1 Chronicles 22:9 ‘Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days.’

Psalm 29:11 ‘The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace.’

Psalm 34:14 ‘Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.’

Psalm 37:11 ‘But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.’

Psalm 119:165 ‘Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.’

Psalm 122:6 ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.”’

Isaiah 9:6 ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

Isaiah 26:3 ‘You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.’

Isaiah 42:7 ‘I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD do all these things.’

Isaiah 48:22 ‘“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”’

Isaiah 52:7 ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”’

Isaiah 53:5 ‘But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.’

Isaiah 57:18 ‘“I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,” says the LORD.’

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

Luke 2:14 ‘“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”’

Luke 12:51 ‘“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”’

Luke 24:36 ‘Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.”’

John 16:33 ‘“These things I have spoken to you, and in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”’

John 20:21 ‘So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”’

Romans 5:1 ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Romans 15:33 ‘Now, the God of peace be with you all. Amen.’

Ephesians 2:14 ‘For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,’

Philippians 1:2 ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

Colossians 1:19, 20 ‘For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fulness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood on the cross.’

Colossians 3:15 ‘And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.’

2 Thessalonians 3:16 ‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.’

James 3:18 ‘Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.’

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Philippians 4:8, 9 ‘Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.’

The Greek word used in the above passage for ‘meditate’ has the meaning: to think about, turn over in the mind and to seriously ponder the subjects of meditation. The writer of Philippians, Paul the Apostle, in chapter 4, verse 9 of his letter, wanted his readers to also take into account, ‘The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me.’  He wanted them to meditate on all of these things.

If they did, the ‘God of peace’ would be with them (v 9). The way forward for them (Philippians 3:13) would be as for Paul. He wanted them to look to the future, and to press on with their heavenly calling (Philippians 3:13, 14, 20). They were not to dwell on the sufferings and difficulties of living in the world, a world that persecuted them for their beliefs and practices (Philippians 1:28, 29). They were to be,‘as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15).

Part of the process of pressing on, ‘till the day of Christ’ (Philippians 1:10), was this business of meditation – focussing on the goodness, the loveliness, and the purity of Christ, and they would find peace by being in Him (Philippians 4:9). They were to rejoice in Him (Philippians 4:4), because He had freed them from the law of circumcision (Philippians 3:2, 3). They were to ‘stand fast in the Lord’ (Philippians 4:1). He would complete the work He had begun in them (Philippians 1:6).

They were to meditate upon all of these things.

Both in the Old and the New Testaments we see frequent mention of meditation. The Psalms have numerous passages reflecting on the benefits of meditation. Even in the very first Psalm, and verse 2, we read, the psalmist’s ‘delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.’

There is great delight and satisfaction in meditating on the Word of the Lord (Psalm 1:2; 104:34; 119:48, 97). There is instruction and understanding through meditating on the Scriptures (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 49:3; 119:27, 99). There are benefits from focussing on the Lord through meditation (Psalm 104:34; 143:5; 145:5; 1 Timothy 4:15).

Unlike other forms of meditation practised by the world in their religions, Christian meditation focusses on the Word of God (Joshua 1:8), and particularly on Christ who is ‘all ‘to them (Colossians 3:11). God can be very pleased with those who meditate upon Him (Psalm 104:34).

A collection of biblical texts on the subject of meditation

Genesis 24:63 ‘And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming.’

Joshua 1:8 ‘This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.’

Psalm 1:2 ‘But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.’

Psalm 4:4 ‘Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.’

Psalm 19:14 ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to Your sight.’

Psalm 49:3 ‘My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.’

Psalm 63:6 ‘When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.’

Psalm 64:1 ‘Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation; preserve my life from fear of the enemy.’

Psalm 77:12 ‘I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds.’

Psalm 104:34 ‘May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.’

Psalm 119:15 ‘I will meditate on your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.’

Psalm 119:27 ‘Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on your wonderful works.’

Psalm 119:48 ‘My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments; which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes.’

Psalm 119:97 ‘O, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all day.’

Psalm 119:99 ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.’

Psalm 119:148 ‘My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.’

Psalm 143:5 ‘I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands.’

Psalm 145:5 ‘I will meditate on the glorious splendour of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.’

1 Timothy 4:15 ‘Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress will be evident to all.’

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Anyone who has read the Bible will know that Eve was the first ‘person’ to disobey God (Genesis 3:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:14), and Adam also disobeyed Him. They both ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9, 16, 17), which God forbade them to do. Although present with Eve at the time of temptation (Genesis 3:6), Adam did not intervene and challenge the untruths of the serpent (Genesis 3:4, 5). He went along with his ploy. Instead of rejecting Eve’s invitation to eat of the fruit of the tree (v 6), he voluntarily disobeyed God.

God had warned him that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Genesis 2:17), and it follows therefore, his offspring would also die (Romans 5:12). They inherited his fallen nature of disobedience, which the Bible calls ‘sin’. The breaking of God’s laws and lawlessness is sin (1 John 3:4).

Sin justly deserves God’s wrath (Romans 4:15) and the punishment of everlasting hell (Matthew 25:31-46). God is righteous (Psalm 116:5), holy (Mark 1:24; Psalm 99:9; Revelation 4:8) and just (Psalm 7:11); therefore He must punish transgressors of His laws (Psalm 89:32). He does this by sending them to hell:

All of us deserve to be punished and put to death (Romans 1:32) for we are all guilty of sinning (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve to go to hell. There are no exceptions. It is only through God’s mercy and grace that that He saves anyone from hell (Psalm 103:10-13; Ephesians 2:8, 9). They are saved through the atoning sacrifice (Romans 3:25) of His Son, Jesus, who died on a cross at Calvary (Luke 23:33) and suffered (Hebrews 13:12) the agonies of hell on their behalf (Hebrews 2:9). He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51), from where He rules, and ultimately will judge all mankind (1 Corinthians 15:25-28).

He is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25), and He is merciful (Romans 9:22-24) to those whom He chooses (Romans 9:15, 18). He is the author of both life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20), light and darkness (Genesis 1:1-4).

Those who believe and trust Jesus through the enabling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), understand the Spirit-inspired Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16), and the continuity of God’s sovereignty from the time of creation. They observe Him ruling with justice, mercy, forgiveness and love. They acknowledge Him as their sovereign God who will bring fruition to His creation. He will judge all mankind and separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). His sheep will live with Him forever in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-27), but the devil’s goats will be cast into the everlasting lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), along with his cohorts (Revelation 20:10).

In the new creation of the New Jerusalem there will be no disobedience, only a perfect state of unified love within the Temple, i.e., the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22).

A random collection of Biblical texts about disobedience

Leviticus 26:14-16 ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all my commandments, but break my covenant, I will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume your eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.’

Deuteronomy 28:15 “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I commanded you today, that all these curses will come upon you: (Verses 16-68 all sorts of curses.)

Ezekiel 5:7, 8 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have multiplied disobedience more than the nations that are all around you, have not walked in My statutes nor kept My judgments, nor even done according the judgments of the nations that are all around you’ – therefore thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I, even I, am against you and will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of all nations.”

Romans 5:19 ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’

Romans 10:20, 21 ‘But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” But to Israel He says, “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”’

Romans 11:32 ‘For God has committed them to all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.’ (Both Jews and Gentiles – all the elect – not everybody.)

Colossians 3:5-7 ‘Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.’

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When I was a youngster my father, possibly detecting an inclination in me to disobey, showed me his leather shaving strop which he kept on a hook under the kitchen sink, and he said, “Now look boy, remember where this is. If I need it to tan your backside it is ready to hand.” The fact is he never had to use it for tanning my buttocks! I didn’t get out of hand, and if I failed with a minor task, he was always there to support and help me.

I recognised my Dad’s authority, and I appreciated his deterrent, but  I appreciated much more his care, love and concern for me. He was a good father; he was never loud or selfish and he was always kind. Why would I have wanted to disobey him?

As I consider my Heavenly Father, I see in Him a Figure far more caring, far more loving; a Father who sacrificed His only Son (John 3:16) so that I shall have an inheritance in His kingdom (John 14:2), where there will be no need for a deterrent to make me think twice about disobeying Him. His kingdom is a kingdom of love, where all its citizens are like Him (1 John 3:2), the God who is Love (1 John 4:8). This is a place where the only rule is ‘love’, and the only desire is to love (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is a state of complete freedom (John 8:36).

Jesus, the Son of God, who died in my place demonstrated His love for me (Romans 5:8) by obeying His Father unto death on a cross (Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42). He came to earth to fulfil the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Not once did he sin (Hebrew 4:15); not once did He disobey; not once did He not love, but He paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving His life in exchange for mine (Romans 5:8). This act of selfless love satisfied the just wrath of His Father for my sin and for my sinning against Him (Romans 3:25). Jesus was punished and suffered on my behalf (1 Peter 4:1).

Those who are in Him, i.e., true believing Christians, are not required to obey the Law of Moses (Hebrews 8:13) which was only applicable to the Old Testament Jews (Exodus 19:5) and was uniquely and obediently fulfilled by Jesus (Matthew 5:17). Believers in Him have been given freedom from that Law through the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:28), which made the Old Testament law obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). That does not mean Christians are free to sin; far from it (Romans 6:15)! They are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is the law of love. They are to love God and to love one another (1 John 4:7) and to love their neighbours as themselves – even to love those who hate them (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27).

While here on the earth each saint lives in the ‘tent’ of his body (2 Peter 1:13, 14), which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). His desire is to live a holy life, obedient to God (Acts 5:32), as Christ was obedient to His Father (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8). He looks to the total redemption of his body and soul when he will be united with the Father and the Son in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10, 11, 22). There the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:9) will reside in him and all the saints.

In this final, perfect kingdom of God, there will be no disciplining for the breaking of God’s law, for all will dwell in Him (John 14:17, 18; 17:20-23) in a state of perfect freedom (Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1).

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What are the first thoughts that come into your mind when you hear or read the word ‘hell’? Do you conjure up a macabre scene like that depicted in a painting of hell by *Hieronymus Bosch? Do you believe such a place exists?  Well, the Bible speaks of it as being a place of torment.

So it was that the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame (Luke 16:22-24).’”

Hades is the word used here, and it is found in the Greek of the New Testament. It is the equivalent of Sheol in the Old Testament – the place or state were the departed spirits of the lost are held captive until the final White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). Immediately after that judgment, Death and Hades will be ‘cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).’

Sheol is the Hebrew word for hell, which can also be interpreted as grave or state of death: ‘For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks? (Psalm 6:5).’ They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave (Job 21:13)’ and, ‘The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forgot God (Psalm 9:17)’

Another word used in the New Testament for hell is Gehenna, and it is a figurative representation of it spoken by Jesus in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33: Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:15). James used it once in his Epistle (3:6). Gehenna was the valley of the sons of Hinnom, a glen to the south of Jerusalem where idolatrous Jews once offered their children in sacrifice to Molech (2 Chronicles  28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2-6). In the course of time it became a dumping ground for the city’s waste, where all sorts of rubbish was continuously burnt, and it became a symbol of hell, the place of everlasting destruction.

One of the most frightening descriptions of Gehenna is in Mark 9:43-45: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”

There is another word in the New Testament used for hell, and that is Tartarus, which can only be found in 2 Peter 2:4: ‘For God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.’ This is a separate, secure abyss of Hades where the angels who rebelled (Jude 6) are incarcerated.

* Hieronymus Bosch

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