Two Paths to Eternity – part 2

We are accosted by the devil when we begin our path to the City of God, who both offers the baubles of worldly temptations and uses the very same trick that he was so successful with in deceiving Eve – concocting ‘fake news,’ (i.e. distorting scripture), often delivered through his followers:

They [who teach twisted doctrine] are of the world and belong to it; therefore they speak from the [viewpoint of the] world [with its immoral freedom and baseless theories – demanding compliance with their opinions and ridiculing the values of the upright], and the [gullible one of the] world listens closely and pays attention to them. 1 Jn. 4:5 AMP

Their intent is to get you to give up on your righteous quest, to devalue your salvation, and then to draw you down in sin. 

Yet, we can rebuke the devil by clinging to God during trials and tribulations, as in the example of Moses:

…he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt, for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God]. Heb. 11:25, 26. AMP

After all, we have been divinely fortified to do just that: 

…you are of God and you belong to Him and have [already] overcome them [the agents of the antichrist]; because He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind]. 1 Jn. 4:4 AMP 

So again, we cling to our Father’s guarantees:

“All that My Father gives Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out [I will never, never reject anyone who follows Me].” Jn. 6:37 AMP

Along the same vein, we can continually be thankful that we are delivered in Christ, whose grace supersedes the shortcomings of our best efforts to be ‘good’: 

…we have been released from the Law and its penalty, having died [through Christ] to that by which we were held captive, so that we serve [God] in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter [of the Law]. Rm. 7:6 AMP

“My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough – always available – regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9 AMP

Our path to eternity looks great; but remember that we are also talking about two paths. What curses one to the other path, that broad highway to oblivion, is that same one’s rejection of Jesus Christ:

Anyone who disregarded the law of Moses died without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, who has regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Heb. 10:28, 29. CSB

Remember too, that should that rejection be maintained up to the time of their death, or when Jesus comes back, (whichever comes first), there is no longer a choice regarding their destiny:

“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Mt. 3:12 NASB 

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, and all the arrogant (proud, self-righteous, haughty), and every evildoer shall be stubble; and the day that is coming shall set them on fire,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” Mal. 4:1 AMP

Praise God that Christ’s final judgment is not a destiny that we (God’s children) share:

“…a time is coming when all those who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and they will come out – those who did good things [will come out] to a resurrection of [new] life, but those who did evil things [will come out] to a resurrection of judgment [that is, to be sentenced].” Jn. 5:28, 29. AMP

…but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed], in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at [the sound] of the last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [who believed in Christ] will be raised imperishable, and we will be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed]. 1 Cor. 15:51, 52. AMP

For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the [blast of the] trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain [on the earth] will simultaneously be caught up (raptured) together with them [the resurrected ones] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord! 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. AMP

Hallelujah! And why? Because we took the right path! We did our best not to harden our hearts against others, to follow God’s word, to resist temptation, not to grieve the Holy Spirit, not to be cavalier with God’s will, to believe in God rather than people, resist laziness, to turn away from the enticements from the devil, and to keep our focus forward – embracing Christ and denying self-centeredness:

“If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].” Mk. 8:34-36. AMP

Yes, we know the right direction, and we make progress along the way; but until we make our final destination, even the ‘best’ Christian is still human, and humans make mistakes:

Now if I habitually do what I do not want to do, [that means] I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good (morally excellent). So now [if that is the case, then] it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] which lives in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness – my sinful capacity]. For the willingness [to do good] is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Rm. 16 – 19. AMP

Nevertheless, our Father’s grace through HIs Son is immeasurable!

“…all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and all the abusive and blasphemous things they say; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit and His power [by attributing the miracles done by Me to Satan] never has forgiveness…” Mk. 3:28, 29. AMP

Jesus was addressing the Pharisees when they said that He was casting out demons through the power of the devil (Mt. 9:34), which is refuting the truth of the Holy Spirit, who empowered Christ. And, given that the Holy Spirit’s primary function is to reveal Christ to us, those who reject the Holy Spirit rejects Jesus. And Jesus is the only way. (Jn. 14:6)

As a child of God, our heavenly door is always open…

Goodnight and God bless. 

The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City – part 3

Last time, we ended with the saints entering the threshold of eternal bliss with their Creator, and the citizens of the earthy city entering their own new domain – the city of the devil. 

“…and they will come out – those who did good things [will come out] to a resurrection of [new] life, but those who did evil things [will come out] to a resurrection of judgment [that is, to be sentenced].” Jn. 5:29 AMP

“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Mt. 13:41 – 43. NASB

“Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life.” Mt. 25:26 AMP

So, regardless of what many people want to believe, (that there is no hell, no consequences for sin), here is the validation of the truth – right out of the mouth of our Savior.

We see that the punishment is permanent. We also know that the unbelievers / willfully rebellious will suffer everlasting retribution in their bodies, which cannot be registered unless the owner of that body is contiguous with his or her soul. Therefore, whatever the nature of their corrupted bodies, they can suffer their penal wounds and yet remain sustainable. That is truly hell.

“If your hand causes you to stumble and sin, cut it off [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]! It is better for you to enter life crippled, than to have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.] Mk. 9:43, 44. AMP

You see now, the urgency that we, as Christ’s followers, have in sounding the alarm to the unbelievers – to show them the way to salvation. 

Many unbelievers and lukewarm Christians would protest, saying that an all-loving God could not produce such a hell. Ironically, they are right, but not in the way you might suspect. Satan perverted his environment and God banished him to it, as well as those who choose to follow in his footsteps.

And the devil who had deceived them was hurled into the lake of fire and burning brimstone (sulfur), where the beast (Antichrist) and false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Rv. 20:10 AMP 

These same doubters may again profess opposition to what they think is the ‘unfairnesses’ of the eternal aspect of this punishment. There are a couple of things to consider. First, there will be no time. Thus, the length of the sentence of the punished, will not be able to be discerned. Two, and most importantly, God has warned all of humankind since the beginning of their presence on earth, of this outcome, should they steadfastly reject him. Moreover, He gave each of them a lifetime to come around.

…he who destroyed in himself a good which might have been eternal, became worthy of eternal evil…for he who at first gave entrance to sin has been punished with all his posterity who were in him as in a root, so that no one is exempt from this just and due punishment, unless delivered by mercy and undeserved grace… – St. Augustine 

Moreover, God must keep His word, in order to maintain His truth.

Whoever, therefore, desires to escape eternal punishment, let him not only be baptized, but also justified in Christ, and so let him in truth pass from the devil to Christ. – St. Augustine

Thank God that His children in the eternal city of God have a far different destiny…

That destiny begins with having God Himself in their presence. 

Your dead will live; their dead bodies will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy! For your dew is a dew of [celestial] light [heavenly, supernatural], and the earth will give birth to the spirits of the dead. Is. 26:19 AMP

“Now at that [end] time Michael, the great [angelic] prince who stands guard over the children of your people will arise…at the time your people, everyone who is found written in the Book [of Life], will be rescued. Dan. 12:1 AMP

‘…the saints (believers) of the Most High [God] will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ Dan. 7:18 AMP

How are we going to be when we enter heaven on earth?

“…not a hair of your head will be lost.” LK. 21:18 NKJV

…we all reach unity of faith and of the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Eph. 4:13 CSB

…He was conformed to us by assuming mortality, we shall be conformed to Him by immortality… St. Augustine

…equal to the angels in immortality and happiness… St. Augustine

…deformity shall perish… St. Augustine

In the city of God, we are complete, whole, happy and immortal. It doesn’t matter what happened to your earthly body: buried in the ground, cremated, eaten by a bear, etc. God gives you an immortal, incorruptible body. We were condemned on earth due to Adam’s sin, but in our eternal house, we are made ultimately clean by the blood of Jesus:

…it is sown a natural body [mortal, suited to earth], it is raised a spiritual body [immortal, suited to heaven]. As surely as there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:44 AMP

Our new body is vibrant and healthy – physically and mentally, and it is subject to the spirit, no longer given to sin. Even our free will won’t go there, thank God.

When this promise is fulfilled, what shall we be? What blessings shall we receive in that kingdom, since already we have received as the pledge of them Christ’s dying? In what condition shall the spirit of man be, when it has no longer any vice at all; when it neither yields to any, nor is in bondage to any, nor has to make war against any, but is perfected and enjoys undisturbed peace with itself? Shall it not then know all things with certainty, and without any labor or error, when unhindered and joyful it drinks the wisdom of God at the fountainhead? What shall the body be, when it is in every respect subject to the spirit, from which it shall draw a life so sufficient, as to strand in need of no the nutriment? For it shall no longer be animal, but spiritual, having indeed the substance of flesh, but without any fleshly corruption. – St. Augustine

And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. Phil. 4:7 AMP 

At total peace, filled with the knowledge and love of God:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. 1 Cor. 13:9, 10. AMP

For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 1 Cor. 13:12 AMP

And, we’ll get to meet Jesus!

Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. 1 Jn. 3:2 AMP

Doesn’t that just fill you with awesome expectation? 

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.” Mt. 5:8 AMP

Are you getting excited yet? 

And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of HIs glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people)… Eph. 1:18 AMP

How great shall be that felicity, which shall be tainted with no evil, which shall lack no good, and which shall afford leisure for the praises of God, who shall be all in all!  St. Augustine 

And, there will be gifts / honors bestowed upon everyone in accordance to their good deeds. 

There shall be the great Sabbath which has no evening…There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. Thais is what shall be in the end without end. St. Augustine

Finally, we get with the Father and the Son – forever:

…when all things are subjected to Him (Christ), then the Son Himself will also be subjected to the One (the Father) who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all [manifesting His glory without any opposition, the supreme indwelling and controlling factor of life]. 1 Cor. 15:28 AMP

Such a wonder awaits. Spread the news…

This marks the end of our 5-month journey through the City of God, written by St. Augustine of Hippo, and translated by Marcus Dods. I hope that our excursion through this deeper theology has brought you value.  

Goodnight and God bless. 

The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City

Thus, begins the wind-up for St. Augustine’s City of God, translated by Marcus Dods. St. Augustine first describes the framework in which this discussion lies:

…by the end of good, we at present mean, not that by which good is destroyed, so that it no longer exists, but that by which it is finished, so that it becomes complete; and by the end of evil we mean, not that which abolishes it, but that which completes its development. These two ends, therefore are the supreme good and the supreme evil…

From the viewpoint of the city of God, the supreme good is represented by eternal life, and the supreme evil by eternal death. To have the former and avoid the latter, we must live according to God’s ways. Yet, we often fall short, and so we turn to the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, and petition Him for forgiveness and for HIs strength that we may increase our alignment with Him:

…we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises] – 2 Cor. 5:7 AMP

Out of that strength, we build upon the virtues we acquire through godly living, so as to do our best to overcome the temptations of vice:

I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] Phil. 4:13 AMP

Still, until Christ’s return, the devil will not relent; and so, strength and discernment will be required until we make our heavenly transition, whereupon evil will not exist in the city of God. So then, we can say that our ultimate happiness will be realized in our salvation, vivified in incorruptible flesh that is not given into sin, but represents our heavenly suit, in which we live out our eternal joy and peace.

And our city is none other then the New Jerusalem, (‘Jerusalem’ can be translated as ‘vision of peace’):

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. Ha makes peace in your borders… Ps. 147:12 – 14. ESV

“…the name of the city of my God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God…” Rv. 3:12 CSB

Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. – St. Augustine

We can also take comfort in the deaths of our loved ones who took Jesus at His word, knowing that they will be waiting for us.

Whereas, those unfortunate inhabitants of the earthly city have only demonic oppression and eternal punishment in their future (as a result of their rebellious wills):

For he who laments the peace his nature has lost is stirred to do so by some relics of peace which make his nature friendly to itself. And it is very just that in the final punishment the wicked and godless should in anguish bewail the loss of the natural advantages they enjoyed, and should perceive that they were most justly taken from them by that God whose benign liberality they had despised. – St. Augustine

What do we do to stay ready for our transition? We must live by two rules:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt. 22:37 – 39. CSB

During this time, we will still be confronted by evil. Thankfully, we can call upon our Savior to fight that fight, and help us see the purpose in it:

For even when we wage a just war, our adversaries must be sinning; and every victory, even though gained by wicked men, is a result of the first judgment of God, who humbles the vanquished either for the sake of removing or of punishing their sins.

To be innocent, we must not only do harm to no man, but also restrain him from sin to punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit by his experience, or others be warned by his example. – St. Augustine

We are blessed to be citizens of the city of God, waiting for our assured eternal blessing. We keep our focus on that, so that we can better endure the trials of this broken world. Our city stands against the city of the earth, as our focus and thinking are diametrically opposed; so, we will suffer persecution for our faith.

Still, we keep calling out to all people, inviting them to our city, to join us in our pilgrimage. We are helping God fill His book of Life by ascribing to a heavenly balance:

No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God. – St. Augustine

The best we can do on this earth is to try to make our lives a ‘living prayer’ to our God, and keep our joy centered on our eternal city, wherein lies our supreme good.

Those who choose to remain in the citizenry of the city of earth will experience the ‘second death,’ where their souls are eternally separated from their Creator, their bodies subject to pain, and there shall be no end to it.

For those who love God, we have a far far better fate…

Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.