Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

Power vs. Power

There are only two references to the literal blood of Jesus in the gospels.

In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial." (Luke 22:44-46)

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced." (John 19:33-37)

I believe the explicit conclusion that must not be missed about this fact is the true reason that caused the death of Jesus. Remember the words of Jesus Himself.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father. (John 10:14-18)

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. (John 15:9-17)

So, if humans did not kill Jesus (in spite of passages stating that elsewhere), if Satan did not kill Jesus and if God did not kill Jesus but rather Jesus laid down His own life voluntarily, then what is the most important point we need to grasp from this vital truth?

Both of these physical manifestations of blood related to the human body are directly connected with very intense emotional experience. It is scientifically known that when a person sweats blood through their pores it is due to intense internal emotional stress. Likewise it is also known that when a person endures overwhelming emotionally heart-breaking anguish and distress, it is possible for the heart to literally break down and the fluids within the heart to separate into clear plasma and red hemoglobin. And this common denominator tells us clearly that Jesus was suffering from the emotional rejection He felt by the people He loved. And that involved every person included in all of humanity.

There is power in the blood

Let us take a fresh look at the prophecy of Isaiah that has so many clues found in it concerning the truth about the death of Jesus, Isaiah 53.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

The Hebrew word which is translated 'arm' here actually has strong implications related to strength or power. It also refers to the leg or the forearm. The upper legs and forearms possess the strongest muscles in the body. Thus when you want to impress someone with your strength you often 'bare your muscles' to show off how strong you really are.

One of the issues in the war between Christ and Satan involves contention over the issue of power. Satan asserted that God's government based on love alone was too weak to be able to effectively deal with potential problems, problems just like those Satan himself ended up causing. He insisted that it is necessary to institute an additional system of rewards and punishments, threats and intimidation in order to keep law and order safely throughout the universe.

The chaos resulting from his own rebellion and God's apparently weak response he points to as unequivocal evidence of the validity of his claims, because God's love so far has not been able to eliminate or suppress much of the havoc that has resulted. Satan asserts that sooner or later God will have to come around to agreeing with Satan's suggested improvements and utilize some of his methods.

He felt that he had been justified in originally offering his proposals to God's government but became offended when they were rejected. God's rejection of Satan's offer to improve His government led Satan to begin a campaign of subtle insinuations undermining God's credibility among the angels and eventually led to open revolt and the deception of nearly half the angels of heaven choosing Satan's side and finally abandoning their positions in heaven to experiment with a grand new society and a whole new way of living.

Satan has since kept tweaking his invented system of society experimentation based on his own principles in the kingdoms of this world. The systems of so-called justice we are familiar with all rely heavily on force, coercion and threats of punishment to intimidate their subjects to comply with the demands of those in power. As a result of the pervasiveness of this reliance on power to maintain law and order and confusion about the meaning of justice and even the nature of law itself, humanity has come to view God only through this line of thinking and believes without question that God likewise enforces His rules and maintains His kingdom using similar methods to how we do things here.

But the truth is that God does not utilize the methods of Satan. God does have infinite power, but Satan has alleged that God will abuse this advantage if only someone could force Him into desperation. But God declares that true power is only found in selfless love, not in asserting forceful control over others.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NAS95)

Jesus came to this earth to demonstrate the true source of power in the context of this grand conflict of assertions and accusations over God's government and character. He came to eliminate all doubt about the way God might use access to infinite power if it were possible for Him to feel threatened. By becoming a vulnerable human being, susceptible to all the fears and liabilities, physical and emotional vulnerabilities that any of us might feel, He placed Himself in a position unexpected by Satan's forces. They had never imagined that God might condescend to make Himself anywhere near that vulnerable so as to even be able experience fallen human weakness, even to be able to lose own His life.

The entire life of Jesus was filled with constant temptations by Satan attempting to get Him to tap into His access to the extra power inherent in His own divine nature. Satan knew that if he could even for a moment get Jesus to use supernatural power to do anything to gain advantage for Himself that Satan's claims could be vindicated about hidden selfishness within God and God would lose the war. This is why Satan was so persistent in dogging the steps of Jesus every day of His life desperately looking for any way to make Jesus so uncomfortable that He might get Him to do something that could be held up before the universe as proof that God had a hidden selfish streak or a dark spot in His heart that was out of harmony with His claim of being nothing but agape love.

As the life of Jesus came to the final showdown, Satan and all his forces were becoming frantic. They had failed completely up to this point in getting Jesus to use superior power to do anything for Himself even though He had used His Father's power liberally to bless the lives of others. This way of living, in complete humility and dependence on outside power alone was very foreign to the human race at this point. Jesus' life created enormous tension with the experts of religion who had long insisted that God was much like humans or in some ways even more like Satan than like what Jesus was like. His selfless, unconditionally compassionate love for everyone was making Satan's claims very hard to hold up in such light, and he was becoming desperate to win his war over who's version of power was better. Somehow Satan knew that he had to prove before the watching universe that his claim about a hidden flaw in God's character could be exposed given enough time and opportunity. Yet having been given that time and opportunity he had so far failed to pressure or entice Jesus to even once act or even feel in any way consistent with Satan's claims about God.

In the last few days and hours of Jesus' life, Satan went into high gear to bring every last resource of his brilliant mind into focus, to utilize every trick, every deception, every threat, anything at all possible to induce Jesus to at least once feel enough pressure or fear to induce Him to use Satan's kind of power to save Himself. And what is Satan's kind of power? Leveraging any advantage to look out for one's self ahead of others. To accomplish this Satan needed to arouse a feeling of fear or resentment or offense within Jesus that would then cause Him to use His power to do something for Himself.

Jesus was keenly aware of this contest about the right use of power, and to make sure that the watching universe understood His awareness He at times would publicly speak about it openly. This was to put everyone on notice that He was denying Himself just as He instructed those who wished to follow Him to do. But for Him it was a far greater struggle than for any other human being just as His access to power was far greater than anyone else has ever imagined being able to have. He was God, and just having a pure and holy nature within Him made it a huge temptation to just rely on His own natural desires to live a perfect life instead of constantly relying solely on His Father's will for Him.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18 KJV)

The Father had given Jesus power over everything. Jesus knew this. He also knew that he had come from God. And he knew that he was going back to God. (John 13:3 ERV)

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way? (Matthew 26:53-54)

Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." (John 18:35-36)

Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (John 19:10-11)

This last statement put Pilate on notice that there was a far greater authority that he was accountable to than any Roman government under which he served. Jesus made Pilate very uncomfortable as the truth about the larger picture sunk in to disturb his complacency and threaten his future. Pilate knew what Jesus meant but was desperate to maintain the current order and so he tried to ignore the words of Jesus and move on with business as usual.

The entire scenario involved in the crucifixion of Jesus revolved around opposing concepts and methods of power. Pilate, Herod and the Jewish authorities all endorsed and practiced the world's versions of power, reliance on intimidation, force and fear to gain compliance or advantage. Pilate represented political power and raw force and intimidation through violence; Herod represented economic power and the entire world's system of leveraging monetary power over others for selfish ends; and the religious rulers who likewise condemned Christ to death represented religious power that depended on views of God as being complicit with the perversions of worldly power that always exploits the weak for the advantage of the powerful.

Jesus came to demonstrate clearly, not just for humans but before every intelligent creature throughout the entire universe that true power is found alone in agape love, not in selfish manipulation of advantage to exploit or control others. Jesus came to expose the real truth about God's kind of kingdom, a truth that has always been and always will be – that true power and security will only be established when love alone is the governing factor in every heart. Love honors the freedom of every being to choose to live in love or to reject it in favor of selfishness and power. But rejecting love also leads inevitably to death and this is exactly what Jesus came to demonstrate by allowing that choice to produce. It was the choice to reject a God of love that led everyone involved to hate Jesus and His version of God so intensely that they felt compelled to kill Him with every ounce of their strength.

True power

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

This verse is not only alerting us that the power of God does not come from flexing His physical muscle to get His way but rather in self-restraint and in love alone. But this verse also raises a very relevant question of who is going to grasp this vital truth. To whom will this truth about God's character be revealed? The answer is not found as some select group of people but rather is determined by those who choose to embrace it. Those who accept and believe in the real truth about power as defined by Jesus will be those to whom the secret of His power becomes even more fully revealed.

God comes from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise. His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, and there is the hiding of His power. (Habakkuk 3:3-4 NAS95)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

When the reality of the truth about God's use and non-abuse of power begins to soak into our hearts, we will finally be ready to experience the transformation we so need that only comes from an appreciation of this truth about God's heart toward us.

And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

Sweat of the face related to the curse connected with the ground.

I want to return to the passages from the very beginning and visit the connections between the sweat of the face and the ground. I believe there is much more to learn if we will only take time to allow Scriptures to speak for themselves and open our hearts to listen as the Spirit brings in more light.

Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

...cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:17-19)

And the LORD said, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. (Genesis 4:10-11)

Now compare this directly with the One who came to reverse all curses and set captives free.

In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:44)

Jesus came for the redemption of the whole world. Interestingly that includes the ground from which humanity was originally formed. In some mysterious way humans are intimately connected to the earth possibly as much as we are connected to our mothers. In a sense, the ground was Adam's mother, for it was from the ground that he was formed just as every other human is formed from their mother's womb. So in coming to save humanity, there seems to be a lot of evidence throughout Scripture that God is just as intent on redeeming the land as well as the people.

And you, mortal, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say: O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD. (Ezekiel 36:1)

One of the most interesting illustrations of this is found in Ezekiel 36 where the entire first part of the chapter is a monologue of God talking to just the land itself. Nothing indicates He is speaking to people living in the land but rather directly to the land itself as He spells out in detail in His own words.

The latter part of this chapter is one of the most compelling passages in the Bible where God bluntly speaks to His people about the sort of salvation and healing He is intends to accomplish in their lives, and how it has nothing to do with their reputation but has everything to do with His own reputation. It is also a fascinating collection of some of the most encouraging promises found anywhere in Scripture that we would do well to feast on regularly.

But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36:21-23)

Then you shall remember your evil ways, and your dealings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel. (Ezekiel 36:31-32)

Now notice how these promises of salvation through transformation of His people extends back again even to the land itself.

And they will say, "This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined towns are now inhabited and fortified." Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it. (Ezekiel 36:35-36)

Somehow it seems more and more to me that many of these kinds of promises resonate in a far greater context than we have typically allowed ourselves to think about them. What if this last promise relates to our entire planet with the 'nations that are left all around you' indicate the inhabitants of other planets throughout the universe that have been watching with intense interest as God has been working to restore His own reputation through those on this earth who allow Him to make them reflectors of the real truth about His character. This controversy over the competing systems of government has never been isolated to this planet but has always involved the entire universe; we are just the stage on which the issues are being worked out for the education and instruction of many beyond our borders.

For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. (1 Corinthians 4:9 NKJV)

If you recall, when God outlined the nature of the curses brought on by the sin of our first parents, none of those curses fell on them directly as humans. The only objects of the curse at that time were the serpent and the land itself. Later after Cain murdered his brother Abel (the very first death of a highly intelligent creature that had ever occurred anywhere in the universe up to that point) the curse of the land apparently came to affect Cain directly and over time deepened its hold over all humanity.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. (Genesis 6:5-6, 11-12)

I want to point out here that this is a pivotal place in Scripture, for what is more clear here than almost anywhere else is the true nature of God's feelings toward sinners. There is no hint of an angry God in the story of the flood or anywhere else in all of Genesis for that matter; but every indication is given that the grief in His heart was overwhelming. So it makes absolutely no sense to conclude from this that God decided to engage in violence Himself in response to the fact that the corruption of the earth consisted of widespread violence already. Returning violence for violence only intensifies the cycle of violence and furthers Satan's agenda. God will have no part in promoting the cycle of violence despite all assertions to the contrary. Remember, God is light, and in Him is no darkness whatsoever.

God Himself is not corrupted with evil or a spirit of violence even though most all of us have long been led to embrace that notion. God sent Jesus to this earth to endure our violence in order to display its futility, not to endorse it. Remember the words Jesus spoke Himself just when He could have turned to using violence to liberate Himself and His friends from danger. "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." (John 18:35-36)

We have already seen that what caused the death of Jesus was not violent physical treatment, even though He certainly received an enormous amount of that before He died. Yet He explicitly stated before any of that every transpired that no one else would take His life from Him, so we must never assume that it was the violent treatment of men or even demons that took the life of Jesus on the cross. What caused the death of Jesus was grief, the very same feeling that is seen in the heart of God related to the story of the flood. It is an awareness of this deeply grieving heart of God that must become most clear to us (not any false notions about an angry, offended deity seeking revenge or anger gratification) that will work to soften, transform and prepare us to live with Him for eternity.

Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

The One they have pierced.

And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-7)

The true power of God can only become effective to transform our hearts and change our world and even the rest of the universe, as we finally begin to embrace the real truth about the nature of His disposition towards sinners. And this can only happen when we allow the brilliant light flooding from the truth about God as displayed most vividly on the cross of Jesus, to infiltrate through the layers of lies about Him that have so long encased our hearts in fear, doubt and misapprehensions about Him. As the real truth about the enormous grief that has for so long wracked the heart of God over our attitudes and our contempt for His love begins to soften and awaken conviction deep inside of us, we will then begin to experience what is prophesied in Zechariah, a deep and transformational mourning over the One we are finally coming to see as most important to us, even more than an only child.

It was not so much the physical mistreatment and abuse of Jesus that is important to view at the cross. All of that was allowed to take place in part to draw in our attention to discover something far more intimate and profound than just the horrendous injustice of what was done to the innocent God/man. What is far more vital to see at the cross is the gut-wrenching grief of a lover being spurned by the very ones who captivated His highest affections, yet who were betraying and viciously attacking the very One who had only ever treated them with the utmost respect, sympathy and tender love. We must come to see the God who is just like this Jesus and who has never been our enemy but who came to entice us away from the many lies we have been led to assume about Him. He pleads with us through His demonstration of nothing but pure affection and love for us even while we ignore or despise Him, only to be spurned, disbelieved, disowned and finally tortured and abused to the point of death because of our evil beliefs about Him. Yet all the while our hostile feelings and fears are completely unfounded, for they are all predicated on complete fabrications of a professional liar and have no basis in reality.

He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)

Isaiah predicts exactly what has taken place since the death of Jesus. The greatest revelation of the pure love of God's heart that could ever be demonstrated has come to be interpreted in sick ways that enforce horrific images of an angry, offended deity bent on revenge, punishment and appeasement. This deity is presented as being so sadistic that He is even willing to torture His own Son to death just to placate His out-of-control rage towards us. This is the nature of many popular versions of the cross circulating today and presented as the gospel. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Isaiah warns us that this would be our version of those events, but it has never been God's view. It was our abuse, our sins, our iniquities, our punishment that we heaped on Him that broke His heart from all our rejection of Him and killed Him with grief, not some sadistic anger of some offended deity somewhere.

Since what is becoming clear about what really caused the death of Jesus was a broken heart and grief from our rejection of His love for us, then it should now start to become more evident why Scriptures inform us that the blood of Jesus is far more valuable and instructive to us than the blood of Abel, the very first victim of violence.

The blood of Abel compared to the blood of Jesus.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4)

Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. And the LORD said, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. (Genesis 4:8, 10-11)

In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:44)

You say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. (Matthew 23:30-38)

Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it." One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too." And he said, "Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering." When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things. (Luke 11:44-53)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven." This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of what is shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:22-29)

Notice the progression here. Abel's sacrifice is better than Cain's. Jesus' blood is better than Abel's. From our perspective we can be drawn into sympathy with the plight of Abel as we see him succumb to the violence of his brother, enraged because God favors Abel's offering over Cain's. And it is true that Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain, but for different reasons than we often assume. So many times this is styled as simply an issue of obedience – God gave instructions; did you obey or not obey? Cain disobeys, gets miffed that he is not accepted by God and takes it out on his brother. End of story.

But it goes far deeper than this, down into the perceptions about the nature and attitude of the God they were coming to worship. Cain had come to see God as arbitrary, demanding, actually not that different than many religious people today portray Him. Cain felt resentful and resistant toward such a God, and rightfully so, for God never created us for blind obedience but for loving relationships. It is impossible to have a loving relationship with someone you view as controlling, arbitrary, demanding and selfish. But because Cain saw God through this satanic lens the reaction of his heart led him to take a different approach in his worship of God. If God were to approve of his sacrifice He would also have been affirming those dark views of God's character which would have only made things worse.

The natural outcome of holding to such dark views of God's attitude towards sinners is what led Cain to indulge in violence against his brother. Violence is always the end result of such distorted internal pictures of God, for when we believe that God will rely on threats and force to get His way, it is only a matter of time before we will do the same, for we are designed to reflect the kind of God we hold Him to be deep in our own hearts.

Abel on the other hand, saw God differently than Cain and realized his need to trust in God's version of the truth about sin. He saw how sin and distrust of God had caused his parents to distrust each other, and then how God had used the symbol of having Adam kill an innocent lamb after he had sinned to awaken in his heart an awareness of the horrific effects that believing lies about God has on the human psyche. Abel must have sensed that the lamb killed by the offending sinner represented in a faint way the pain that sinners must cause the innocent heart of their loving Father who has done only good for them and simply yearns to bring them back into a relationship of trust and love again. So Abel brought his own lamb, a creature he himself had likely grown to love, and offers it as an offering to the One who had touched his own heart and had helped him to see the real issues involved in salvation.

As the sharp contrast between the two brother's offerings resulted in acceptance or silence respectively, the humiliation of not being accepted so angered Cain and wounded his pride that his jealousy towards his own brother launched him to commit the first murder that ever took place in the universe. Yet this was only a dim revelation of what had already been happening to the heart of God ever since the beginning of the rebellion long before this, as more and more of His own children had been led to turn against Him and spurn His love for them by believing lies that He was not trustworthy.

How does the blood of Jesus far outweigh the blood of Abel? What is it about the death of Jesus that shines far more light onto the problem of sin and evil and the lies about God's heart than the death of Abel could ever do?

Abel was murdered in cold blood by an enraged brother jealous over God's favor for him.
But Jesus was 'murdered' by an entire mob along with multiple systems of power that all viewed Him as a threat to maintaining their status quo and control.

But there is one significant difference – Jesus died of a broken heart before the physical abuse, torture and crucifixion that He also endured could kill Him. What we must begin to see in the blood of Jesus is a revelation of the wounded heart of the Father – which is precisely why the only two mentions in all four gospels of the physical blood of Jesus only refer to symptoms directly indicating the cause of death as coming from extreme anguish of heart, not physical torture. The reason that Abel died was because his brother murdered him. The reason Jesus died was not because of the treatment of His murderers, but much more importantly because of the spurning of His passionate love for each human being (as well as every other creature throughout the universe) who has ever spurned God's love.

Summary of history of the universe past, present and future.
A complete cycle through joy, mourning and restoration to even greater joy.

Thus says the Lord GOD: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald; and worked in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. (Ezekiel 28:12-15)

Heaven began with an atmosphere of joy, peace, gratitude and perfection and there was nothing other than this until disharmony was introduced by the top cherub assigned to cover the very throne of God. It was in him that pride and selfishness began with all the after-effects of sin including mourning.

You are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have amassed wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries. By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth. (Ezekiel 28:3-5)

In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. (Ezekiel 28:16-18)

Consider again the increasing evidence throughout Scriptures that one of the core problems with sin is this issue of violence. So since this is the case, why are we so loathe to believe that God has no part in violence? Why are we still so willing to embrace opinions about God's ways that include violent reactions to evil? Evil can never be overcome by more evil – the New Testament is very explicit about this. So it is time that we accept God's testimony and reject all ideas or teachings or doctrines that implicate evil into God's reputation. We will never be able to effectively share truly good news about God if we keep mingling in false teachings about violence into our beliefs about His character.

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)

The creation of this world was intended to counter the accusations and charges of the enemy that had created widespread doubt and fear about God's character and government everywhere. The beauty that God brought out of the chaos of this isolated planet and how He only used His mighty power to produce perfect harmony and order had convinced the watching universe that God's goodness should no longer be doubted and that Satan's accusations were wrong.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements--surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

Sadly this celebration of God's goodness was short-lived. The victory won by God at the creation of our lovely planet with a new race of beings in His own image was like nothing ever witnessed before, but it was shattered by the tragic loss of God's prime real estate to His arch rival who used subtlety and false insinuations about God's motives and character to enslave and rob our first parents.

The kidnapping of mankind through deceptions about God's character and the resulting distortion of their natures caused them to begin reflecting Satan's character instead of God's heart. This now added to the previous confusion that had been intended by God to be addressed and resolved by theis creation. Now He would need to go back to work again, this time not only to salvage His own reputation but also the beings He had created to accomplish that very purpose. The short-lived joy of the universe turned quickly into mourning as they watched with increasing horror and frustration as the very ones created to reflect and vindicate God now became filled with more and more violence, wickedness, selfishness and ungodliness. All of this only added weight to the contentions that Satan had asserted about hidden flaws in God's character and government and now strengthened his arguments.

The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! (Lamentations 5:15-16)

God's eventual response to finally turn things around and head toward an eventual full vindication was to send His own Son to challenge the misunderstandings and lies about Him that had obscured true appreciation of His character by humanity and the watching universe. When Jesus came revealing the true feelings and attitudes that the Father has for each of His created beings, it finally began to be seen what the real truth was about God, truth that is not at all like what His enemy has made Him out to be.

Only Jesus is able to reveal the true passion of the Father's heart and His yearning for all those He created to live in His love, whether loyal to Him or not. And only Jesus could fully demonstrate the principles of God's government in a way that would model how all beings everywhere could once again rediscover the harmony, joy and peace that had been lost at the beginning of the rebellion.

Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:5-10)

Now we begin to see clearly the process that must be embraced in order to not only escape the tyranny of sin that controls our hearts but can also break the spell of the lies keeping us afraid of God. Jesus points the way toward a new creation that God has planned for the entire universe to experience.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? (Mark 8:34-37)

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. (Zechariah 12:10-14)

As has been pointed out already, it is only through an appreciation of the real truth about the heart of God as displayed most eloquently through Jesus and especially at the cross that can bring everyone to a healing mourning for how we have participated in the wounding of God's heart, a wounding that was so emotionally damaging that it ruptured the very heart of the Son of God on the cross.

This mourning is not a one-time occurrence but rather is something we must begin to practice more and more until it transforms our very way of perceiving reality. It can happen when we come to transition points in our personal life, when we feel isolated, alone and face to face with our doubts, fears, questions and confusion about reality, about life, about God. It is in these moments where we discover opportunities to embrace the light of truth about the heart of God and can choose to take ownership of our involvement in His death. As we obey His invitation to take up our own cross (make ourselves vulnerable instead of defensive) and follow Him into death to our own desires and even our perceived identity, we can also follow Him on into a much greater life than anything we could ever have imagined possible.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock." For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:10-14)

I want to finish this up with something new that has begun to emerge in my consciousness very recently. You are completely free to take any of this with a very large grain of salt if you wish. It is not vital to believe this for our salvation by any means. But for me it seems that the longer I study and meditate on the bigger picture and listen to impressions from the Holy Spirit as I ponder the Word of God, the more the pieces seem to fit together to create greater insights about events and mysteries that are usually considered beyond the realm of demands for conclusive proof. I simply offer this caveat.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)

End of this creation to transition into a new, improved version of creation.

The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; He dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither; the blossoms of Lebanon wither. Mountains quake because of Him and the hills dissolve; indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, the world and all the inhabitants in it.
Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him. But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of its site, and will pursue His enemies into darkness. Whatever you devise against the LORD, He will make a complete end of it. Distress will not rise up twice.
Like tangled thorns, and like those who are drunken with their drink, they are consumed as stubble completely withered. From you has gone forth one who plotted evil against the LORD, a wicked counselor. Thus says the LORD, "Though they are at full strength and likewise many, even so, they will be cut off and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no longer.
"So now, I will break his yoke bar from upon you, and I will tear off your shackles." The LORD has issued a command concerning you: "Your name will no longer be perpetuated. I will cut off idol and image from the house of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are contemptible."
Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; pay your vows. For never again will the wicked one pass through you; he is cut off completely. (Nahum 1:3-15 NAS95)

There are two things in this passage that jump out at me. First, the phrase distress will not rise up twice, or to use the old King James phraseology, affliction shall not rise up the second time, is commonly understood to mean that once sin has been eradicated from the entire universe it will never reoccur again. I fully concur with this interpretation. However, the means by which this will be accomplished is of vital concern and has enormous bearing on how we view God, His methods and His character. If we believe that God will rely on severe punishment for sins as incentive to instill so much fear in the surviving saints left to live with Him for eternity so no one will ever dare to cross His will again, then there is little chance that this incentive would hold for very long. Fear has not worked to keep law and order in this world for very long and this should be evidence enough that God will not rely on such an unstable factor as fear to secure the peace of His universe, particularly since God Himself is love and perfect love casts out all fear. That makes for an impossible formula if you ask me.

Secondly, what I see in this passage are references that indicate to me, along with many other passages throughout Scripture (some of which are quoted below), that God intends to make far more radical changes in the universe than simply reworking our sinful planet here. I am starting to sense something so huge, so profound, so immense and all-encompassing that I am even struggling to wrap my limited mental capacity around it right now. But move on to a few more passages.

The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw three foul spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. ("See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame.") And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon. (Revelation 16:12-16)

And he gathers them together into a place called in Hebraic, Har Megiddo. (Rev 16:16 ECB)

This name refers to the great Battle of Armageddon which has become the theme of popular movies and books but that usually have little to do with what this is really referring to in its context.

Some theologians believe that this name refers to a plain called Megiddo which curiously has no mountain in it. But that plain does sit near to Mt. Carmel which I am told is close to the edge of this plain. The term Har means mountain, so this verse likely implies a decisive showdown in the last days of this world's history similar to the showdown called for by Elijah the prophet where the people of God were asked to choose which version of God they would embrace and worship exclusively.

Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." The people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

What is compelling about this story is that the Baal worshiped in the days of Elijah was strikingly similar to the versions of God and Jesus promoted by popular Christianity today. Baal was believed to be the creator and the benefactor god who provided for the people. Baal was purported to have been killed and then came back to life on the third day and who controlled powers of the sky and the earth. In many respects the teachings about the god Baal were very similar to our opinions about God but with one important point of interest: Baal was a god who demanded appeasement by sacrifice whenever he got angry or offended by the people he ruled, while the God of Israel was to be seen as a God of love, compassion and forgiveness.

Do you see the similarity in focus taking shape today over what kind of God we are to believe and how we are again coming to a crisis point where everyone is called to discern and choose between which version of God they will embrace as the God in charge? Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. (Malachi 4:5)

The demonic forces mentioned in Revelation who gather everyone to a showdown with God would like us to style this as an issue of power competing over which god can exhibit greater force. By diverting our attention with miracles and deceptions they will also leverage Elijah's mistake into deceiving the whole world into embracing their version of God. They will insist that since they are the ones who are vindicated by fire coming down from heaven to honor their side, then any who resist their version of God should be killed as were the prophets of Baal by Elijah.

It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of all; and by the signs that it is allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceives the inhabitants of earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that had been wounded by the sword and yet lived; and it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast so that the image of the beast could even speak and cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. (Revelation 13:13-15)

But we must not miss a very important detail in the story of Elijah. Elijah was not instructed by God to slaughter the prophets of Baal after his victory but took things literally into his own hands by doing so. But in this act of violence he misrepresented God's character on Mt. Carmel and seriously damaged God's reputation, greatly complicating things ever since. This is why God found it necessary to clarify what is the true Elijah message that was contaminated by Elijah's indulgence in violence in that first showdown.

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)

My question is this: What must be in place for God to effectively eliminate not only sin but every taint and shadow of doubt concerning His heart motives, His character and His trustworthiness in the minds of every created being throughout the entire universe?

I return again to a passage I have already quoted several times, for I believe we find in it the necessary elements God needs for all to effectively transition into an entirely new creation.

And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. (Zechariah 12:10-14)

This is the template which I sense will be used by every created being everywhere whether saved or lost, loyal or disloyal anywhere in the universe. And while not every being may experience physical death as part of this experience, everyone will in some way pass through this transition that will be just as dramatic as death in some sense. And I believe this transition will involve handing back to God full responsibility for their existence in a way they have never been able to do before.

I will try to explain this more fully, but first I believe that Jesus demonstrated this transition as the first one to ever do so when in effect He turned in all of His created equipment, identity and even His very breath back to God on the cross. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.'" Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:46 NKJV)

I know this may sound strange or confusing at this point, but follow my line of reasoning through the details so that the end will make more sense.

When Jesus made this unconditional commitment of everything He had and was back to His Father, I don't believe He did so in the sense of making a contract or bargain where He was counting on God to give Him a new body in an upcoming resurrection as we might assume. Rather I believe this was an unequivocal, unconditional surrendering of Himself and all that He had been given back into the hands of His Father. But in His case He did so with a trust in the goodness and fairness of God despite all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that He had just experienced. Although he was abused, he never tried to get even. And when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he had faith in God, who judges fairly. (1 Peter 2:23 CEV)

It is this very attitude, this matured faith expressed through an unconditional surrender to His Father that describes the mind that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). And I believe that what Jesus exemplified on the cross is the ultimate template that must become the full-time disposition of not only all redeemed sinners but even the unfallen beings throughout the universe in order that all creation will be able to move into the security and perfect safety of a new creation that God intends to introduce.

I see also in these passages a description of a something analogous to a complete de-creation of sorts, a disassembling to some degree of communal emotional bonds that cause beings to hold beliefs or make decisions based on collective emotional impetus. Collective emotional impetus was the method Satan utilized – mob psychology – when manipulating the crowds to deliver Jesus to be crucified. Many were swept into pushing for the execution of Jesus when they would have recoiled at doing so individually.

Maybe to thoroughly purge every mind of any communal lingering sympathy for any trace of doubt about God's ways of governance and His heart of pure love, it will be necessary for each intelligent being to go to the extreme place of total individual accountability before God personally in order to completely undo every residual effect that Satan's insinuations have caused subconsciously in their minds. Every being needs to come to where they individually choose, free of any coercion or collective reasoning whatsoever, to submit and surrender themselves and everything God has given them unequivocally back into the hands of their Creator, freely acknowledging not only His authority over them but at the same time expressing complete trust in His perfect goodness and trustworthiness. Again, I sense that this will require an individual, private decision on the part of each being. Only in this way can be ensured the eternal safety for all that doubt and rebellion will never again awaken.

God cannot rely on fear as a secure basis for ensuring that sin will never be repeated. Fear never has and never will work as insurance against repeating evil. The only cure that can eliminate all trace of the accusations that have aroused doubts about God's trustworthiness is the atmosphere of complete freedom and agape love. Only this has the ability to win every heart and dismantle every argument that has set itself up against a true knowledge of God. Yes, there will come a time when every knee will bow voluntarily, and without the slightest coercion as all will acknowledge that God is not only fair but He is good. But for those who want to move forward into the perfect harmony of a new society completely free of all fear or doubts, I believe that each being will need to pass through the doorway of an experience where full confession will be made directly to God of anything that being has ever felt inside that is out of harmony with what will then be clearly seen from God's heart.

I want to go back to a clue from the story of Cain. Cain was the first one reported to ever build a city. Note that cities are symbolic of collective emotional bonding (which is one reason why cities are often referred to in Scripture in negative ways). There are also references to cities of God that represent God's collective emotional bonding as well. So what is the ingredient that is relied on to bond people together into compact areas where they have to live in close quarters with each other?

God's original bonding elements for His people has always been the 'glue' of joy and love. But in the cities of this world the components for the counterfeit glue in Satan's kingdom is fear and selfishness. If you look back at the condition of Cain when he first went out from the presence of God to build a city, he was full of fear from becoming the first murderer. A city is usually thought of as a defensive place with walls to protect those inside from those on the outside. This whole concept began out of the spirit of fear, the sure result and symptom from sin.

Some might point to the example of the New Jerusalem and argue that God's city has walls too, so why should it be so defensive. I pondered this myself for a long time. Why does the ultimate city of God have such disproportionately huge walls? But one day I was stunned to come across a little prophesy no one had ever pointed out to me before which made me go back a rethink everything I had assumed about the New Jerusalem.

Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him, and said to him, "Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it. For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the LORD, and I will be the glory within it." (Zechariah 2:3-5)

Suddenly the lights came on and I realized that nearly everything in the book of Revelation must be viewed as symbolic. The walls of the New Jerusalem are not literal defensive walls as the angel pointed out to Zechariah; rather they represent the protection that comes from God's presence. This makes sense the longer I consider that the only way for everyone to be truly free, happy and safe in the pure society we call heaven is for there to also be complete vulnerability. Only as there is complete transparency, openness, honesty and full vulnerability can there also be complete trust, full joy and perfect love shared freely by all. This is the sort of new creation which God has in mind after the experiment with sin will finally be fully finished.

Since a reset apparently will be needed after the full experiment with sin is at last exposed as a tragedy and has been allowed to destroy itself completely, I sense that what will be needed for this reset to happen is for every being to freely choose to bring back everything they have been given by God to turn it all back in to Him to do whatever He chooses with no expectation of any exchange involved. Doing this each being enters into an unreserved relationship of full submission to their Creator individually, a complete surrender of the free will of every being throughout the entire universe thus ensuring that there will never again be any chance for doubt about His heart to ever infect them again.

Is this akin to universalism? Some might claim so, but it differs significantly in at least one important aspect. While I believe that every being, saved or lost, will sooner or later freely choose to turn back everything they have and are to their Creator, those who have destroyed their own capacity to live in His love will have no emotional equipment left intact to be able to enjoy living around the rest of those who dwell joyfully in God's presence of pure love. God truly is a consuming fire, but that metaphor describes the intensity of His passionate love, not anger or violence. When one is out of harmony with that kind of love the reaction they experience in such intensity is the very opposite of love – it feels to them like pure torture and pain even though God only wishes the very opposite for them.

Hear, you who are far away, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can live with the devouring fire? Who among us can live with everlasting flames?" Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly, who despise the gain of oppression, who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it, who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed and shut their eyes from looking on evil, they will live on the heights; their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks; their food will be supplied, their water assured. Your eyes will see the king in his beauty; they will behold a land that stretches far away. (Isaiah 33:13-17)

Given this untenable situation and the fact that the wicked will have so matured their evil characters that they cannot even get along with each by that point, I believe each of them will sooner or later see no other option but to choose to come to God as their Creator and, as in the example of Jesus, will check in all their equipment, their identity and their very existence that He originally gave to them. Only in their case they will request that God not give them a new body or a resurrection, for their character has been made so unfit to enjoy the pure atmosphere and society of heaven, and it is impossible to develop a different character at this point, that all they want to do is simply die forever.

I see this purification process as necessary for the entire universe, both saved and lost. Possibly this is the only way in which every trace of residual doubt still lingering in the back of any mind can be fully purged and a new creation of both heaven and earth can at last be fully introduced and embraced. Yet what more effective way could there be to eliminate every last doubt about God's insistence for every being's freedom than to witness this method in which sin is finally resolved. Nothing could make it any clearer or more public that God never lifted a finger to inflict harm or suffering or death on any of those who embraced the path of sin. When even Satan himself at lasts gives in to the obvious and comes to God himself to be the last one to check in his created life, imagine everyone watching as we all witness the Father full of sadness with tears streaming down His loving face, accepting this beloved son's life back knowing he will never exist again. I can think of no more vivid picture more compelling than this, a picture with the power to seal the heart of every being with a love and devotion for this God who has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that love is indeed stronger than any other force in the universe.

I sense that this 'return to manufacturer' process needs to start even now by anyone longing to enter into that new creation. And while its full effect can only be realized and finalized after every creature does this, after all the evidence of truth about God's character has finally been fully exposed on that day of judgment and revelation, we can begin to enter it today. Then we can prepare for the future day when the evidence in favor of God has been manifest so compellingly that there will be no room left for any question about His trustworthiness. Let us now allow it to begin to transform our lives even today.

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain. (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22)

First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!" They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Peter 3:3-16)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:1, 5)


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