Early this morning Margit called me outside to see the Sun’s brilliant rays bursting through the clouds as it rose over the Sacramento mountains near us here in Alamogordo (Sacramento is Spanish for Sacrament, Sacred, Consecrated). While night gave way to the day, the rays were as spires of life declaring their victory over death. Upon taking in this early morning majesty, I said, “Good morning Sunshine.” From that common rising of the sun, and my brief greeting, I knew it was time for the night to pass in our lives as well. It was time to rise and live again regardless of the stabbing waves of pain still resident in our hearts.
Of course, we could elect to stay in the sorrowful bed of heartache and never venture onward; but such is not an option. That is not who we are, and with the resolve of our Lord’s grace we echo the words of David after his son had died so long ago: “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God would be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:22-23.
Come rain or shine, we are upon a fixed course and will not turn nor take flight, and to borrow in thought from William Wadsworth:
Though his radiance was once so bright
We know that poems like this, and statements contrary to defeat work well on paper. They sound good in theory and can be presented as good doctrine; but in practicality...well...that’s another story, and so it goes for the remainder of this writing. Every word herein is good for doctrine, good for reprove, good for encouragement and good for exhortation; but when reality comes home — it is hell.
If you recall that in the conclusion of our previous article, I said that I was in a place I had never been. It was a stalemate, an impasse, and I didn’t feel to write or publish anything for awhile. I also said that we do not want to send something out simply because another month has rolled around, and because it is the expected thing to do. Moreover, we still do not want this to ever be the reason for writing. We don’t want to write or talk just to hear our heads rattle.
I cannot say that I have had a rush of new revelation flooding from the heavens; but hopefully we have been on the mountain of myrrh and the hills of frankincense long enough. I truly pray that the day is breaking with the shadows fleeing away, in the same way I saw over our mountains in the natural this morning, also as it is written in The Song of Solomon 4:6. But I must say, if the day is breaking, there seems to be no sweet smelling fragrance of resurrection arising from this death, as the mountain of myrrh and hills of frankincense speak. Even so, I am sure it would be unusual for those upon this mountain of crushing to sense that fragrance. If it were possible it could cause their heads to swell, and we don’t need that.
Whether we see any good coming from our sorrow or not, we cannot forget what we have been called to do, and neither will we shirk that honor by withdrawing into self-pity. Every family has had, or will have, their own tragedies, and they continue living in spite of them, and so shall we. Not only do we know it is time to be about our Father and the body of Christ; but quite a number of you have called and written to confirm to us that it is once again time to take the pen in hand. We do this with hopes of touching your hearts in some small way.
Not only do we understand from what we have read in Ecclesiastes; but we have known by experience that the good times work together with the bad. It is the interplay of good and evil. No one cares much for the evil; but everyone loves the good, and if given the choice, each of us would live only in the times of good. We would bask forever in the wonderful sunshine of life. We would never leave the garden of paradise. But most of us are practical enough to know that is not the way it is. Although we attempt to walk in the field of dreams, and sometimes we do, we very often find ourselves in the valley of fires. It is as an hungry man who dreams he is eating a delicious meal; but when he awakens his stomach is still empty, or as when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking a glass of cool water; but when he awakens his tongue remains parched. Isaiah 29:8. That is the experience many have had who reached for the stars. They dreamed the dream and lifted their souls upon high; but when they awoke their hands were full of sand. In this we have seen two results. Some fell into despair, while the others were made stronger by the fire. The deciding factor lays on where their hearts and trust were founded, such as, whether around themselves, their church or home fellowships, their theological beliefs, or Christ Jesus. If our love and foundation is not in Him, when the fires of sorrow come we might curse Him in anger, rather than praying as He did: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” John 12:27
Contrary to what we generally do, as sons of God, we should not pray for the fires of hardships and impossible difficulties to be removed; but to ask God to preserve us so we can fulfill that which He called us to do. If our foundation is in Jesus, the grief will not destroy us. It will, instead, aid in making us who we are to be. It is essential for us to accept hardships as being from His hand, realizing He has a divine plan and purpose for each of us. As it was with Jesus, we are coming to grips with the fact that we are not saved from the fiery hour; but we are kept in His hand through the hour.
While in the midst of the dark valley, it is easy to feel that there is no need for the fires, and we can fail to see anything good in having to suffer so greatly. But there is a great weight of good to be had whether we understand it or not. Moreover, not only will the burning valley remain until its destined course is finished; but we have to embrace the pain and accept it as working for good. If we try to skirt around the valley, or fight against it, we are unschooled, unlearned, immature, and ignorant of God’s handiwork in our lives. We should not be so foolish as to think we come to maturity on feather beds of goose down comforters.
I have shed more tears of heart-rending grief in the past four months than in the entire sixty-three years prior to March 19, 2005. This has been the most sorrowful time of my life, and also for Margit, Michelle, and the others of our family. However, we cannot escape it, and although it is beyond our comprehension, I know it is working in us a far more weight of glory than the loss we are suffering. Truly, death and the sorrow that follows is among the greatest mysteries of life, and it is here to stay until the finished work is perfected.
Therefore, let us not say that there should be no sorrows in our lives; for they are necessary and they are real. They are as real as hitting your thumb with a hammer. You may disagree, and that is all right. Who can always agree on every point? Margit and I don’t agree on everything; but we don’t get a divorce over it. Nevertheless, the fires of suffering are realities as sure as the cool breezes of joy are real. If one is real, then so is the other, and they are both working a very real, eternal purpose in us all. With this fragment of understanding, we should be able to refrain from being so shallow as to being angry at God, or accusing Him of having made a mistake in allowing or bringing tribulation upon us when He could have prevented it. I suppose I am little shallow myself; for I had a brief moment of anger when the pain of losing Christopher was so intense; but the anger passed when I saw myself whining as a child who had to stay in and study for final exams while my friends were outside playing games. I had to repent and get back to the studies at hand.
Those who want to be deep should face up to life’s trials; for they are the very instruments to remove superficial shallowness. However, this is no guarantee that the person is made better as a result of having walked through, or been dragged through, the valley of fires. For some people become bitter from suffering the pains of fire, and have gone to the grave with that life-destroying bitterness.
In the midst of sorrow, let us never give ourselves to anger, self-pity, and eventual defeat; but rather, let us give ourselves to God and His victorious purpose and live thereby. It is the natural desire of the human creature to yearn to always be successful; but the fact is, it is difficult to find this refined life through success. For without adversity, it is not uncommon for pride to take root. Without daily challenges, a person can find himself in deep ruts of daydreaming, leading to boredom, which can often bring him to complaining and finding fault with others. The bottom line is that the life of great value is not harvested from the field of dreams but from the valley of fires.
David knew of this mysterious, secret place of God. He not only wrote of the sorrow he was acquainted with, but also of the victory that was found in the midst of it:
“The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me (or came upon me, Amplified). In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” Psalm 18:4-6.
The Lord heard David’s voice which came from the distressed place of his temple. I do not understand it; but there is a certain holiness about suffering. How can it be explained? Although I can sense it, I don’t know if it can be explained. I can’t explain it. Yet, I know that in the midst of this intense sorrow, there has been a knowing, a vague union, if you please, with the Spirit of weeping of our Lord. He has been partaker of the cup we have been drinking and the bread we have been eating. We have not been alone, and the pain is just as intense and just as real to Him as it has been to us, and that communion has been holy. And it was in this place where David found Him. That horrid place of sorrows was the Lord’s habitation. “He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.” Psalm 18:11. The sorrows of death and hell that came upon him is where the Lord was found. And in due season, that is where He will be found in us, in that dark habitation of sorrow. How I long for that day, not to vaguely sense Him, and not the day we have known in part, but that day of knowing Him as we are known of Him.
We still may question why it must be this way. Why the deep valley of sorrows? I am sure if there was a better way, it would be so; but what kind of answer is that? Not a good one, I can assure you. Nevertheless, it is the best I have at the moment. The fact is, the process continues and is immaterial, even though the scriptures bear this out, as well as our own experiences over the years. I am sure you have been able to tell who has walked through the fires of sorrow. There is something about those who have been refined by the fires of death and hell. They are patient, kind, understanding, loving, and their values of life are genuine gems. They are not as shallow rhinestones. They are not artifacts of old church dogma. They are not filled with non-substantial issues and debates of who is right and who is wrong. They who have suffered the sorrows of death and hell are rare gemstones of God’s Kingdom that were found deep within the fiery bowels of their earth. They are those you know you can go to in the time of your own sorrow and find solace. With those tried by the fires of that vast valley, they are not aggravated by you, as if you have intruded upon their hallowed time and space. They love you as they love the Lord; for they see Him as much in you as they do anywhere or in anyone at anytime. Those tried and proven by the fires of suffering respect you as they do the Lord. They have time for you, and if you do not shun the fires in your own life, whether it is sickness, the loss of a child, grandchild, business, home, or friends — God will make you the same. You will be bread and drink for the vanquished of the world. You will walk together with those who are made, not after the law of a carnal commandments of what we may believe, but after the power of the endless life into Whom we believe. Hebrews 7:16.
In the meantime, although we will not run from the fire, we will continue in the war against the one who has the power of death:
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" Hebrews 2:14.
A new day may be dawning, and we may be breathing a breath of fresh air; but I cannot say that the power of an endless life is already a manifested reality our lives. Neither can I say that the one who has the power of death is totally destroyed once and for all. If these two things were so, I could then say that all the old things have passed away, and all things have become new. If I made such a positive confession, I would be lying. It would neither be a positive statement nor would it be a confession; for both words speak of realities rather than suppositions. I could quote the right scriptures concerning such wonderful things; but neither would that make it so, regardless of how much I persuaded myself otherwise. The words would serve for nothing more than adding to the already heaping mounds religious rhetoric, illusions, and lifeless doctrine. Such words have no use or power in the world of reality, and they die like desert mirages in a cloudburst. They cannot remain in the real world.
I overheard a minister praying recently as I walked past the information desk in the main lobby of the hospital here in Alamogordo (my dad was there due to knee injuries received in the Alzheimer’s unit of the nursing home, my mother was there as well, until she was transported 70 miles away to the hospital in Las Cruces as the result of a fractured vertebrae). As the man held hands in the circle of three others, I heard him quoting scriptures to God. You know, reminding Him of what He had said, as if He had possibly forgotten. In essence the man was using the letter of the word as a tool, and he was holding God responsible for what He had written.
No doubt, my frustration had reached its peak after all the prayers on behalf of my parents have failed, not to mention the failure of the thousands that were said on behalf of our grandson when he lay in a coma and died March 19, 2005. Whatever the reason, upon hearing the man’s memorized scriptures, it sounded like a clanging cymbal and it angered me. Without a forethought, as I passed by I said, “It ain’t gonna to work!” For a moment I was hoping he didn’t hear me, but then I hoped he did. It’s good to be challenged at times so the refuge of lying mirages can be swept away. I truly hope the person being prayed for was healed and raised up; for I despise pain and death and every vestige of it; but I still believe the man’s religious prayer didn’t work.
Such prayers, religious practices, dead doctrines, and sundry illusions may have served a purpose for a season. They pacified us, if nothing else; but pacifiers have no substance and in the valley of the shadow of death they will fail. Sigmund Freud, a man of little or no spiritually, knew something about this. He said that "Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces." Don’t you think it is time to stand up to plate of reality, even if that reality is the horrid face of death? Isn’t it time to discard the illusions of religious fantasies?
If you had read our two latest articles, which could have been our last two articles, you know of the stark reality, not an illusion, but reality, that we have faced since March 19, 2005. That was when our Christopher died. It has been the most earth shaking tragedy that has hit our family. We have lost grandparents, parents (on Margit’s side), uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, and sisters; but not one of those precious losses have touched our lives as this one has, and as much as I hate it, I know it had to be this way. How else could God’s wonderful, immutable purpose become realities in each of us.
I know we will be made free from the power of death; but it will never be by our lying mouths laying claim to it, nor will it be brought to pass by the might of our carnal hands. Therefore, I will continue in that to which I have been called. I will write, hoping it will bring forth a little portion of that richness for which we have all longed. One thing for sure, I know I cannot remain in the unhallowed holds of death.
At the beginning of the year, as every year in the past, I prayed that this one would be the year of release, the year of peace, of happiness, the year of health and joy throughout the Body of Christ. I prayed that 2005 would be the beginning of the end of all dark and painful things; but we have never seen such a contrary year as this. Not only in our family, but it has been the same with our friends and with so many around the world. It is truly a time for the trying of the faith of those who walk in reality.
Some have said that all these painful things are not real, that they are only illusions, or adamic dreams, and we should simply wake up and live. How I wish it was so easily done. Moreover, if the sorrows of hell and death are not real to them, they will only last until the illusions collide with reality. They will not be able to wake up from the nightmare. Only after the fire has burned its course will they be freed and raised alive from the flames.
We know the scriptures, and we know that they speak of all things being for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Therefore, we can easily fall into the old practice of religiously praising God for the storms. But let us be realistic; unless our praising is not coming from the Spirit, it is nothing more than a religious practice which carries more of the power of death than the power of life. Frankly, our old ways of doing things are coming to an end, and I praise God for that!
When we come to the crossroads of hell and death, all the shambles of what is not of Christ will become worthless in our eyes and will be easily laid down. I believe this is happening throughout the Body today. Let me share a letter from a dear one who knows what I am saying:
“After reading the last pages of your latest Pathfinder (The Value Of A Life), I found myself relating so much to where you are. To be honest, I hadn't even read it until Mother called me to ask if I had, and she gave me a summation of what you had said, so I went and read it for myself.
“I haven't been reading anything lately. I haven't opened one of Bro. Eby's papers in several months, my Pathfinders are lying around unopened; I cleared my night stand of all the Britton, Hawtin and Warnock booklets and writings. I put my Bibles in the bookcase. I haven't attempted to pray in months.....I don't believe God hears or answers my prayers, so it's really just a waste of time, especially since I've got no ‘faith’ anymore when I pray - whatever ‘faith’ is. I know it's not just ‘psyching yourself out’ to conjure up some feeling that's going to cause your prayer to ‘work.’ I'm being very open and honest with you; because I feel I know the kind of person you are, and you will be understanding, not judgmental or condemning, especially with all you're going through.
“My dam broke in December - my dam of hope, I guess. I got a ‘feeling’ of something bad impending, and I specifically prayed for God to put a hedge around this particular thing and to keep us from harm. A few weeks later, the very thing happened - worse than I had thought, plus I was hospitalized with a kidney stone the very day. I grieved for months - I cried myself to sleep for weeks. I asked God to show me He loved me - because I didn't believe He did, and if that was a weakness, fault or flaw on my part, so be it; but I was in a place where I NEEDED to hear from Him - and KNOW it was Him, beyond a shadow of a doubt. I fell on my knees, I wept, I begged, and then I told Him I wasn't going to talk to Him again until I heard from Him - that I was tired of the one way thing - always me talking, never hearing from Him or even knowing if He heard or cared - or even if He IS.
“I don't believe in prayer anymore - I don't believe the scriptures -‘The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’ - that's not true, Elwin, unless I don't understand ‘fervent’ or ‘righteous’ or ‘much’ - but if it's a puzzle that's that hard to figure out, then that's beyond me, anyway. ‘God is our present help in time of trouble’ - in what way? What does that mean - because I have felt very much alone and abandoned in my time of trouble. I can't imagine how you and Margit have felt lately.
“My church friends are always saying ‘Keep so-and-so in your prayers’ and I want to say’ I don't pray for people.’ What's the point? How many people who were sick, dying, going through divorce, going broke financially, losing a child - have I prayed for, where the prayer did any good whatsoever? I can't think of one. I have a child of my own with health problems that we've wept and prayed for years - he's on $400 worth of medicine a month.
“People say ‘It's all a result of the fall, and of man's sin’. Well, okay - who SUBJECTED man to that fall, NOT WILLINGLY? So, if we were subjected to this curse, unwillingly, by a God who KNEW the result from the beginning - how is this our fault? The way I see it, the responsibility for it all is not ours, but His. And we say ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse.’ How? Dearest Elwin, how many people do you know, on this planet, who are free from the curse? How many aren't subject to sickness, sweat and toil, fleshly temptation, pain, and ultimately, death? So, in all practicality, who is free from the curse?
“I was telling a dear friend about Christopher the other night, and I began to weep as I told her - I felt your loss and your pain so deeply - I looked up, and she had tears in her eyes, too. There is no doubt in my mind that many, many prayers were said for that precious boy. Was it all in vain? Either I don't understand a thing, or it isn't as we've been taught to believe.
“I admire you so for your statement about not writing just to be writing. I know I can say this without offending you, because you know I love you - but I've made that statement myself before: I wonder if these ministers would just put their pens down and not write if they didn't clearly hear something; or if they just ‘churn out’ a paper every month, regardless? How many would be willing to silence their pens? I appreciate your integrity.
“I am at a crossroads, Elwin. I'm in a place I NEVER thought I would be - and I can't pretend, and I can't play games, and I can't be ‘religious.’ God is not who I thought He was, prayer is not what I understood it to be, and I don't know that I can trust the scriptures - when applied to my life, they seem to fail me.
“Please forgive the length of this letter - it would be impossible to express all of this in a more compact way. And know that my love and my sorrow for you and Margit, and all of your family, is very real. Much love, Lisa Herron.”
How would you respond to this dear one whose heart has been crushed? Perhaps you would say: “Now, now, Sister, it is not as bad as it seems. Tomorrow will be a brighter day. The sun will shine and drive back all the dark clouds. Just keep praying and believing.” Or maybe this: “Remember, God will never put anything on you that you can’t bear. He is always with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He took your stripes on the cross, so just have faith and believe. It will work out.” Such impotent words, to say the least, if they are not carried by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the reality of hell hits, and everything that’s been held sacred and good, that which is presumed to be sound doctrine will fail if the power of the endless life is lacking. Quoting scriptures or expounding on what we believe will fall flat when they are void of life. Our words bear no weight in the face of the power of death. Only when the risen Jesus Christ embodies the words will the liberty of life be seen. I cannot say that I held in my hand that power of the endless life when the letter came, and since I found myself in the same dark valley. Truthfully, I had no answers at that time for this crushed soul. However, I know this, such is not the end of the matter. Neither this dear sister nor Margit and myself are called to be overcome and destroyed by the power of death. We are called to overcome it, and we will! Darkness cannot abide when the light shines, and it will shine, even if we do not see at the moment nor understand what God is doing.
I know some of you would like to see me write on something more joyful, more delightful, more about us being or becoming the manifested sons of God, or something to that effect. Perhaps when I can write on something other than what is tearing at my heart, I will do so. That is to be seen. Until then, we will embrace and seek to understand what is going on, and what is going on is clearly one of the finer mysteries that God is presently working in us. I don’t particularly enjoy it, and I will share with you my true feelings; but I won’t be whining about it. I want this to be a perfect work and certainly do not want to come out half-baked.
Let me quote from or dear friend and sojourner in Christ. His study could not have come at a better time for us. I know it was for everyone who receives Kingdom Bible Studies; but I believe From The Candlestick To The Throne, Part 40, was written especially for me. It came about a week after Christopher had died. (I still want to scream when those words are written or said, and I still do at times.) Nevertheless, the entire article was excellent; but I will share only a portion:
“We would like to know what God is doing! We would like to pull aside the veil and see the end from the beginning! We would like to know the way that He is taking us, but if we did, and if we could see, we would not need faith to believe and accept GOD’S WAY. So Job, in the midst of all his deep afflictions, found comfort, not in the fact that he knew the reason and the answer for all of God’s dealings with him, but he took encouragement in the truth that GOD KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING! ‘He knoweth the way that I take,’ he said confidently, and then his faith leaped over every barrier, and as he looked into the distant future, he cried, ‘When He hath tried — tested and proved — me, I shall come forth as gold!’ What a testimony, and truly it is ours too!
“Let me share with you a favorite story of mine. It clearly illustrates the sentiment of Job when he said, ‘He knoweth the way that I take.’ The story is centered around a Chinese man. This man had everything going for him. He had all the material things he needed. He had a beloved son, and prized horse. But one day his horse broke out of the corral and ran to the mountains. Since all his assets were tied up in this valuable horse, he lost in one brief, fleeting moment, all of his life’s savings. All his neighbors, hearing that his horse was gone to the hills forever, came to offer their sympathy. They all said to him, ‘Your horse is gone. Oh, what bad luck.’ Then they cried and they tried to console and comfort him. But he said, ‘How do you know it’s bad luck?’
“Sure enough, a few days later, the horse, being well-domesticated, came back to where he could be sure there would be water and food. In the process he brought back twelve wild stallions with him. They were all quickly captured and ushered into the corral. Now when all the town heard the news, they came and they applauded and said, ‘Oh, thirteen horses, what good luck!’ And the wise, old Chinese man said, ‘How do you know it’s good luck?’ The townspeople remembered his words the next day when his son, his only child, tried to break one of the wild stallions. In the process, he was thrown off, he broke his leg and was left with a limp forever. When the neighbors heard about that, they came to him again and said, ‘Your son, forever a cripple. What bad luck.’ But the wise, old man said, ‘How do you know that’s bad luck?’
“Sure enough, about a year later, a Chinese warlord came through town, conscripted every able-bodied young man, and took them off to battle. They lost the battle. In fact, every young warrior was killed. The only young man left in the village was the maimed son of the wise Chinese man, for he had never been conscripted, thanks to his limp. The moral of this story is that we do not know the way that God is taking us, or the ‘why’ of the happenings in our lives, seemingly good or bad, but OUR FATHER KNOWS THE WAY THAT WE TAKE AND THERE IS DIVINE PURPOSE IN ALL THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL IN OUR LIVES!
“‘The devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days’ (Rev. 2:10).
“Those ‘ten days!’ Let me explain to you what those ten days mean. Ten is the number in scripture that refers to personal testing....And therefore, in our text it denotes the fullness of tribulation! It does not indicate that the time will be either long or short, but it indicates that a certain definite period is allotted to the devil to test and try and prove the called and chosen elect of God! This period is not determined by the devil, for the devil possesses no power of himself, but by the will and counsel of the Lord. The time is both limited and meted out to him by God. We see a beautiful picture of this in the life of Job!
“It is the Lord saying to each of His sons, ‘You are not in a position to know how long your trials will last, but I know, and I can assure you that they will not last a day longer than is necessary for you. If the very hairs of your head are all numbered, and I take note of every sparrow that falls to the ground, you may rest assured that the minutest details of those trials and testings are being carefully weighed in my loving and omnipotent hands, and you will not be tempted above that you are able to bear. And even if the length of your tribulation and trouble were to cover the whole of your lifetime, that will be but ten short days in the unfolding of my magnificent plan for you in the age and the ages to come!’...
“...God is constructing a temple, made of living stones, through which to manifest Himself throughout the ages to come, and Satan was created as a chisel and hammer to be used in the construction of this building. The living stones that are even now being placed in this temple have been chosen, says the Lord, in the furnace of affliction (Isa. 48:10). God, however, is mercy; God is love; God is compassion. He is a healer, not a destroyer. It was, nonetheless, necessary that an oven be heated in which to purify the gold — a furnace in which the wood, hay, and stubble were to be burned. But God, in His nature of love, could not perform the necessary affliction! It was for this reason that He created an instrument that was capable of performing this essential action in the lives of men, for in Satan God literally created a chastening rod. If we can realize that behind the acts of Satan is the mighty hand of God working to bring forth gold from these earthen vessels, we can rejoice, as David, in our afflictions and trials and exclaim with him, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes’ (Ps. 119:7). Praise God! When we begin to see the good that comes from the assaults of Satan on our lives, we are able to appreciate all the more the greatness of our God and the depth of the wisdom of His great mind. He is truly a God of might and power, and all things are in His hand — even this adversary whom we call Satan!
“Now since such glories are in store for the sons of God, can any man longer question why our all-wise heavenly Father should take such pains to bring His sons to perfection? None knows better than He exactly what is needed to transform His sons from corrupt and carnal creatures of the dust to beings of divine understanding and heavenly glory. I have often said that I have strong confidence in the ability of my heavenly Father to bring me to perfection and maturity as a son of God. My Father is a great son-raiser! What a colossal success He was with His firstborn! Anyone who can raise a son like Jesus knows exactly what He is doing and can surely handle you and me, my precious brother and sister.
“There is a vast variety of events in our everyday lives uniquely designed to test every area the Lord would put His hand on. Each of us has had a unique set of tests and trials to go through to build the character of Christ in our life. Your trials have not been harder than mine, just different. We are distinct members of the Christ body, and the Lord’s processings for each one varies according to His purpose in us and the place we shall fill.
“Though we shall all ultimately be joined in union with Christ as one complete corporate man, each of us will be a unique expression of the fullness of Himself, in a way that only we can express Him. The Lord has a sovereign purpose to fulfill in each of our tests and trials, and He watches over it. To know that the Father has a sovereign purpose in all that we experience and endure may not make the trials any easier to go through. But it gives us understanding, purpose, and hope of the glory that shall be revealed in us when it is finished!” — J. Preston Eby
When we were first called to this walk of faith, we did know what we were in for, and had we known we may have balked a little, and now that the heated reality is being driven home, we may want to balk a lot; but it won’t do us any good if we have truly caught the vision of our calling. We are here for the long haul, and we will see the end together with and in our Lord.
While these processings forge on in our lives, we will be faced more and more with the one who has the power of death. We would love to see the accuser retreating for at least a short season; but let us not count it right now; for it is not in his nature nor his calling to do so. He will continue blowing upon the coals until we are finished, and then we will destroy him.
There was a time in the past, and in my wishful thinking, I had entertained the thought that the devil had already been destroyed; but the entertainment ended when reality presented its horrid face. It also helped when the scripture being used for that defense was seen for what it was actually saying. I saw that Hebrews 2:14 did not say the devil has been destroyed: “That He through death might destroy him that had the power of death.”
First, the word might is not in the past tense. According to the Analytical Greek New Testament, might destroy (katargese) is an aorist active verb in the subjunctive mood. In simple terms, The aorist subjunctive does not refer to the past. It speaks of the future. The aorist subjunctive is an action without any reference to progress or completion. (rf. Beginner's Grammar of the Greek New Testament, Harper & Row Publishers). Simply put, the subjunctive aorist of might destroy is not a statement which declares a completed act. It speaks of an ongoing desire with no definite end in sight. Therefore, Hebrews 2:14 is not declaring that Jesus destroyed the devil in every person; but it is His goal, and that will be reached.
Second, the English word had is in the past tense, while the Greek ekonta, from which it was translated, is in the present active. Therefore, the verse does not say “That He through death destroyed him that had the power of death,” but rather, “That He through death is in the process of destroying and will be destroying him that presently has the power of death.” Until that arch enemy is destroyed once and for all time, that bad luck good luck thing will be a very real part of our lives.
This dreadful giant called death will plow on throughout the earth. Until Jesus, there has not been one person who the devil has not defeated. From the very beginning, every soul has fallen before him, regardless of their power in the earth. They were all fading vapors of smoke while this murderer had his way. The inscription on his dark banner has been DEATH. He is cold and merciless. To no avail, hundreds of thousands of millions have begged for mercy; but there was none from him. If the Grand Canyon was the mass grave of humanity, its banks would be running over with the carcasses of the slain. No family or generation has been exempt from this destroyer.
Death has had legions of confidants. Proceeding before him are the hordes of all the weaknesses, sorrows, suffering, fears, sins, sickness, anguish, pains, heartaches, maladies, and infirmities of all kinds. They have all plagued humanity:
“It was, indeed, an awesome force to behold! There were legions of cancer and columns of heart disease; squadrons of viruses and battalions of infection. There were cohorts of malnutrition and armies of accidents. There were horsemen of fear and platoons of sin. There were squadrons of war and regiments of pestilence and plague. It was, indeed, the most fearful, the most formidable army which had ever been arrayed!
“He drilled them in the snows of the north and in the jungles of the south. He pitched the tents of the morgue, and threw up the embankments of the cemetery. Most he slew with a single blow of the sword; others were taken by long sieges of evil habits. He knocked with his bony hands at the doors of hospital rooms, and at the doors of bedrooms. Presidents and prime ministers, kings and sultans, czars and dictators fell alike beneath the wheels of his war chariot. He was the victor in all battles!
“None could stay his hand or stop his advance, until……until that day when there appeared in Jerusalem one whose countenance was like the morning, one who strode forward unafraid and entered into the very camp of this giant himself. Death confidently reaches out its bony hands and takes this Jesus of Nazareth and lifts Him up from the earth and impales Him upon a cross. He then takes the mortal spear and plunges it into His heart. Jesus, with a loud cry, gives up the ghost and dies. Blackness and death cover the land and hope dies! There is none who can stay our foe, or so it seemed that dark day when the very earth trembled and shook under the power of death!
“Then — at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, when there was but the slightest shimmering of dawn on the horizon, a token of that which was to come, suddenly out of the blackness of the tomb emerged a figure clothed in white. Out of the tomb He came, His garments glistering with light. In the midst of that darkness the Prince of Life and the King of Death had been locked in mortal combat, the like of which the world had never seen. Christ came out, not to the roar of hundreds of thousands, but He came out alone, having conquered death within Himself. Like Sampson in Gaza, He tore up the gates of death and carried away the bars of the grave. Coming forth from that dark battle in the grave, He held in His left hand the broken seal of the sepulcher, and in His right hand the key to all the cemeteries of the world! And now the whole world is standing on tiptoe, waiting with bated breath, to behold the glorious sight of the FIRSTFRUITS OF HIS REDEMPTION coming forth — the many brethren of our Lord, who are destined by God’s plan and purpose to be the next company to fully partake of HIS VICTORY!
“‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own rank and order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His parousia. Then cometh the end (of the making alive), when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father……for He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death’ (1 Cor. 15:22-26). Because of Christ’s victory death shall be abolished for and in all men! Yet there is an order, a progressive unfolding of this wonderful work of God. The scripture quoted above clearly reveals that precise order. Jesus Himself was the first to fully and completely conquer death so that He lives, spirit, soul, and body, never to die anymore! Then by His parousia, which is His presence, His life shall so be raised up in a firstfruits company that these, His many brethren, the manifest sons of God, shall experience the full power of His resurrection and be so changed until their mortal and physical bodies are transformed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. Then, progressively, through God’s great plan of the ages, this glorious salvation shall be ministered to all men everywhere by resurrection, restoration, and salvation. What a salvation! What a God! What a plan!” (J. Preston Eby, From The Candlestick To The Throne, Part 37)
It is a plan for which we yearn to be real in our own lives; but I know it will not come while nursing or picking at our wounds, or thinking no one has suffered as we have suffered. We all have our valleys of fires to cross. Each one is designed especially for each of us, and we could not be made complete without our own personal valley. Although skin worms may devour our bodies, in our flesh we shall see God Job 19:26. He will not be estranged from us, and we will say, I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Job 42:5.
Death has truly cut a deep trench into our lives, and with sorrow being a constant companion; nevertheless, I can now say — Good morning Sonshine! His light shines unto a perfect day; for He is rising over His Sacred Mountains. His life is overcoming the night. The shadows are fleeing away. Let us, therefore, rejoice and be blessed today and always in the joy of life!
Elwin R. Roach
Elwin & Margit Roach
PO Box 4004
Alamogordo, NM 88311-4004
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