Heaven on Earth?
The ultimate destination; the most hoped-for, longed-for abode is heaven. Hundreds of millions confidently believe they will go to heaven when they die. They believe their loved ones who have passed away are there even now. And what a beautiful, wonderful, happy place it must be. Place? Well, yes. Heaven is spoken of as the place of God's throne. It is where God dwells. It is the place from which Christ came to this earth; the place to which He returned when He was received by His Father after His resurrection. Will we go to heaven when we die? Certainly, there is no more commonly-accepted belief among millions. How STRANGE it is that Christ said "NO MAN HATH ASCENDED UP TO HEAVEN!" Why would He say such a thing? Did He mean such great men as Noah, Job, Abraham, Jacob, and Elijah were NOT IN HEAVEN? You will be ASTONISHED and JOYOUS to learn the TRUTH about where "heaven" is, and where you will be when you are ultimately "in heaven!"
by Garner Ted Armstrong
Perhaps it is because we cannot believe "this is all there is to life" when we enter the evening of our lives. Perhaps it is a kind of intuition that we human beings must have some purpose; some destiny apart from the horrors of death and the grave.
As the old humorous sign proclaimed in German-accented English, "Ve is too soon oldt, undt too late schmart!" When we pass middle age, we wonder, "whatever happened to our youth? Where did it go? How could my life have passed me by so quickly?" We cling to life. We treasure life, so long as there is quality to it; so long as we are not ridden with pain and suffering.
Much of music and literature celebrates life. "Oh what a beautiful morning!" says one song. "It was a very good year" is a nostalgic song about how quickly life passes. Poems, novels, biographies, motion pictures; family epics—so many different art forms and so much of literature appeals to the zest, exuberance, enthusiasm and happiness of this physical life.
Because life is so GOOD when we are healthy and happy (a state which is all too rare in millions of cases), we want it to go on. We never want to stop living, so long as we have a feeling of well being! It is the same in all societies. From the Amerindians to the aborigines of Australia; from the Chinese to the Hindus in India, all have theories and religions based upon a desire for an afterlife; a state of being far happier, far longer, far more rewarding than the unwanted aches and pains, frustrations and failures, diseases and injuries that intrude into this physical span.
All of mankind, in all his races, colors, creeds, religions and political concepts, dreams of a better life after this one. And why not? It is a part of our nature to want to live on and on; to reach out for love, fulfillment, contentment, success, happiness and joy. It is because of this innate desire that, when we grow older, we develop a yearning to return to our youth; to be perennially young.
To those seventy and above, this life is indeed a short one. "Here today and gone tomorrow" is more than a familiar old phrase. God's word speaks of man as a quickly passing phenomenon; like smoke wafting in a breeze; like the flowering grasses of the field. As David said, "As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
"For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
"But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
"To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
"The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all" (Psalms 103:15-19). How quickly pass the seasons! How soon is the leaf turned brown, and blown away as winter comes. And how quickly pass the years of our lives; like the little spring flowers, which bloomed and then died. James, the brother of Jesus, said, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
"But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
"For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways" (James 1:10, 11). James was inspired to chide those of us who forget how fragile and temporary we really are; those who boast of what they will do in the future: "Go to now [`Come on, now!'], ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
"For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:13-15).
Peter also spoke of how fragile, how brief is our sojourn here on earth: "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
"But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:24, 25).
It is because our lives are so short; because they are filled with so many frustrations, so much pain and suffering, so much heartache and disappointment, that we yearn for something better. No wonder the promise of Jesus Christ reverberates so powerfully through the human mind; conjures up visions of eternal youth, strength and health! Christ said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
"I am that bread of life.
"Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
"This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:47-51). His enigmatic statement, in which He likened the unleavened bread to His flesh, and the wine of the Lord's Supper to His shed blood, was so astonishing that many of His own disciples left Him. They didn't understand He was pointing to the bread and wine as symbolic.
Yet, His promise was that if we allow Jesus Christ to live His perfect life within us through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may live for ALL ETERNITY!
The only question is WHERE? In what state? How? How do we qualify for such a fabulous promise? What will we be doing? And, WHY, if we are promised to "go to heaven" when we die, did Jesus Christ say "NO MAN HATH ASCENDED UP TO HEAVEN"?
Heaven Taken For Granted
Every day, in thousands of funeral services all over the western Christ-professing world, ministers attempt to soothe the heartbroken, bereaved families of those who have died. They say the loved-one is "even now in the arms of the Lord," and has gone to heaven.
Somehow, no matter the oft-repeated clichés and promises, the wails and sobs of those who have lost family members are clearly in evidence. Is it because death is such a hated enemy? Is it because, no matter the assurances about "going to heaven" when we die, many people cannot bring themselves to rejoice when a loved one dies?
There can be no more important questions than WHY we were born; WHY we are on this earth in this human life; WHAT HAPPENS when we die; WHERE we are going!
God's word asks the age-old question, "…What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Hebrew 2:6). Yes, what IS man? The great mainstream churches answer, "Why, man is a temporary body, in which is a `soul,' which goes either to heaven or to hell when the man dies!" For centuries, people have been taught they have a soul; a living, feeling, knowing, hearing, intelligent life—a kind of spirit life—which departs the body when the body dies!
Is this true? You have never seen your soul. You cannot take it out and look at it; you cannot talk to it, or smell it, or hear it. You cannot photograph it. So how do you know you "have a soul"? Because you have been taught so since childhood! Shockingly, the words, "immortal soul" are nowhere in the Bible! The phrase "immortality of the soul" is nowhere in the scriptures! Instead, the Bible speaks of the human "spirit"!
There are some puzzling problems with the concept of each human being, regardless of race, having an "immortal soul" which is either destined to "go to heaven," or "go to hell." What if many of them never so much as heard about Christ, and heaven?
Recently, a famous television evangelist was asked directly about people in such countries as China, or countries in Africa who die, never having heard the name of Jesus Christ; whether such people are going to "burn in hell forever and ever." The famous evangelist was plainly flabbergasted. He hemmed and hawed, stammered all around the issue and then could only say that no human being can be "saved" except through the name of Christ. In other words, he meant to say those who die in non-Christian lands; the millions upon millions of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesians, Arabs, Africans, Indians and many others are all screaming in hell fire as you read these words! Why? Simply because, according to this evangelist and hundreds like him, all these people had never "received Jesus."
Clearly, this famous evangelist (you would instantly recognize his name), like thousands of his colleagues, do not know how to answer such a question. Since "God is LOVE," and "His mercy endureth forever," how could a loving God consign little two-year old Chinese babies, or babies of any nation, any race, to burn in an ever-burning hell fire forever, and ever, and ever, merely because a missionary had a flat tire?
If a Protestant missionary was attempting to reach a remote Chinese village, and had a flat along the way, and while he sweated over the jack and patching materials a little sick Chinese girl died, never having so much as heard the name "Jesus Christ" in her brief lifetime, does her "soul" go instantly to an "ever-burning HELL FIRE"?
Is such a scenario LOGICAL? Does it sound like something a loving God would do to a precious little child? Yet, the "evangelist" and his ilk have no answers. Make no mistake! He was entirely correct when he said salvation is ONLY through the name of Jesus Christ! Is there some other answer for the little Chinese girl? Will she ever have an opportunity to learn about Christ and His sacrifice?
When Peter was challenged at the "Beautiful gate" as a result of healing a crippled man, he said, "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
"This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12).
Even the little Chinese girl must be saved in and through the name of Jesus Christ. But first, she must be given an opportunity to learn about Christ; to learn how He died for the sins of all mankind; to learn what sin IS; to learn about repentance, baptism, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. She must have a CHANCE for salvation! Was her only chance wiped out because of the missionary's flat tire?
The false doctrine of the "immortality of the soul," coupled with the false idea that every human being, regardless of race or nationality is having a chance for salvation NOW, and only now, caused the famous evangelist to stammer all around the question about the little Chinese baby girl. Had he known what you will learn in this booklet, he would have been prepared to give a straightforward, clear answer. God has decreed that ALL will have an opportunity for salvation, and that it is only when REJECTING the truth of God when it is brought to you that you are lost!
Plainly, God's word says the vast majority of all mankind WILL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY to be saved. He says, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
No "Second Chance,"—But Every Human Will Have A FIRST Chance!
There is coming a SECOND RESURRECTION! Christ Himself plainly said so! "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). The FIRST resurrection is the resurrection of the "dead in Christ"; those who have repented, been baptized, and received God's Holy Spirit, and who have become "new creatures in Christ." Paul spoke of this FIRST resurrection in his famous "resurrection chapter," 1 Corinthians 15. He said, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1 Corinthians 15:22, 23).
The converted Christians who have died are to rise FIRST, in the FIRST resurrection. Notice another proof: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
But the REST of the dead; those who have never heard, or had an opportunity for salvation during their physical lifetimes, will not be resurrected until AFTER the one thousand year reign of Christ, at the time called the "Great White Throne Judgment Day," as pictured by the last annual holy day of God each year.
Notice the proof: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years [this pictures the "dead in Christ" who were in the FIRST resurrection, as well as the living who were instantaneously changed at Christ's coming (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-52)] .
"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:4, 5).
Who are "the rest of the dead"? Obviously, all the dead who were NOT in the first resurrection; who were not CONVERTED; who had never heard the name of Christ! The "rest of the dead" includes our little Chinese girl, and the countless millions like her in nations all over the world, from the time before the flood up until the time of the second coming of Christ!
The "rest of the dead" includes all those who have never consciously REJECTED salvation! Think of it! How many gallons of tears have been shed by worried loved ones whose beloved children or other family members died "unsaved"? To discover the real TRUTH about the state of the unsaved dead; to learn that deceased loved ones are profoundly ASLEEP IN THEIR GRAVES; that they will come up in a great resurrection; that they will HAVE A CHANCE FOR SALVATION should be met with great JOY by anyone! What a vast relief it is to learn that it is only those who deliberately, consciously REJECTED God and His laws who will burn in Gehenna fire; that others, who were not called in this life, will have a wonderful opportunity for salvation!
Did not Christ say there are those who God IS NOT CALLING, and who have not been given an opportunity in this lifetime? He certainly did! He deliberately concealed the meaning of much of His teaching to those who were not being called at that time! Notice it, "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
"He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
"Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
"And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
"For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (Matthew 13:10-15). Read that again! Can you believe it? Jesus Christ said this in His own words! Plainly, He said "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44) and explained that not all are called to repentance and salvation at the same time.
You may have deceased loved ones who simply were NOT CALLED of God during their physical lives. If God did not CALL them, is it their fault? Is it logical that God would punish such people for all eternity in screaming agony when He decided it was not time to call them?
What about those to whom Jesus spoke in parables, saying "LEST at any time they should see with their eyes"? Believe it or not, Christ did NOT come to "save the world" THEN, during His sojourn on this earth in the flesh!
Notice the description of the great second resurrection: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Greek: hades, meaning "the grave"] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works" (Revelation 20:12, 13). The Greek word for "books" is Biblos, from which we derive the English word "Bible." God is consistent. God does not change. He does not judge one part of mankind according to one standard, and another part according to a different standard.
You and I are being judged, DAILY, by the word of God. The "Holy Biblos," or holy BOOKS of the Bible are used as God's standard for judgment! In the "Great White Throne Judgment," or the second resurrection, the SAME God uses the SAME books to judge in the SAME WAY! Notice the dead are judged by and according to their WORKS, the very thing many preach against! Judgment is not SENTENCING! It is, instead, a "trial" period, this time a period of one hundred years; a much longer than average human life span, during which all those who did not REJECT God and His truth will have a glorious opportunity for everlasting life!
They are to be judged during a physical lifetime of perhaps one hundred years BY THE BIBLE; by the "books" of holy writ, in the same manner as God is judging His church every day. Peter said, "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
The little Chinese girl, and countless millions like her from nations all over this world; millions who have died of malnutrition, starvation, disease and warfare, will come up in the great general resurrection AFTER THE THOUSAND YEARS ARE FINISHED! So says your Bible!
They are to be given a CHANCE for salvation! In many ways, when you stop to think about it, the opportunity to live on this earth after it has become fabulously beautiful, with perfect weather patterns; no sickness or disease, no wars, no famines, no violent storms, no crime—after one thousand years of the rule of Christ and all of His saints; the opportunity to SEE members of the family of God IN PERSON, is certainly a wonderful opportunity for salvation! For example, you and I cannot SEE God. We cannot talk to Him face to face. We are not living in a world of God's making. We are not living in a world governed by God Himself. But those who come up in the Great White Throne Judgment period will enjoy all these wondrous benefits!
Notice the description of this one hundred-year period of time: "And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
"There shall be no more thence an infant of days [no more human reproduction will occur during the Great White Throne judgment period; no babies born], nor an old man that hath not filled his days [no one will die from any cause prematurely]: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
"And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them [they are HUMAN, living on this earth in homes, with their own gardens and orchards],
"They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
"They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.
"And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
"The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD" (Isaiah 65:19-25).
Notice carefully the time setting! Obviously, the conditions which prevail are the same as described in the beautiful 11th chapter of Isaiah; the conditions which will prevail after the nations have beaten their "swords into plowshares," in other words, turned tanks into tractors, and guns into hoes and rakes—conditions which will obtain as a result of Christ's millennial reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Once each individual reaches the end of that 100-year span, whether he or she was resurrected as a little baby, and is now 100, or whether resurrected as a 90-year-old, and is now 190, he or she will either be inducted into the kingdom of God, or be cast into a lake of fire if they are sinful and rebellious against God.
The plain truth is there are THREE resurrections depicted in the Bible:
(1) The Resurrection of the "dead in Christ" which occurs at the moment of Christ's return.
(2) The "Great White Throne Judgment" period; the SECOND resurrection, at the end of the millennial reign of Christ ("The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" Revelation 20:5).
(3) The final resurrection of the wicked; those incorrigible sinners who WILLED not to repent, to be cast into the lake of fire.
Do not be puzzled by the fact there are three resurrections, and not only two. Think it through, and remember the scriptures that help us understand. There are THREE CATEGORIES of human beings on earth. The first: Those who have had A CHANCE for salvation, and who have accepted it; Second: Those who have never had a CHANCE, such as our little Chinese girl; Third: Those who have had a CHANCE for salvation, and have rejected it!
The Wages Of Sin Is Death _ In Gehenna Fire!
Remember, the wages of sin is DEATH, not eternal life in some other place or some other state of being (Romans 6:23). God's word says, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Human physical death is NATURAL, and it is inevitable. It does not matter the method of death, for the FIRST death is NOT THE WAGES OF SIN! It can result from sin, such as in a murder, or sinfully ingesting harmful substances, such as dying from lung cancer from many years of smoking, but the first death, no matter how it occurs; whether in a fire, or by drowning, or peacefully, in old age, is NOT THE WAGES OF SIN!
The final wages of sin is DEATH BY GEHENNA FIRE! The fiery death of the wicked is a much hotter fire than that depicted by the imagination of the "fire and brimstone" preachers who falsely preach the pagan doctrine of eternal punishING, instead of eternal punishMENT! There IS A DIFFERENCE!
Notice what God's word says of those who will suffer death by fire as a result of sin, "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
"But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
"And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 4:1-3).
Many years ago, one of the "mainstream" fundamentalist preachers, upon hearing me preach the truth about the fact that sinners do not burn forever and ever; that there is no "ever-burning hell," scornfully said I was "robbing the pulpit of its power!" Many ministers seem to need FEAR as a weapon against their people. If they can terrify them with visions of blistering, singeing, burning, burning, burning, but never quite dying, nor ceasing to exist, they can exercise authority over them. My wife, as a little girl, was certainly terrified by some of the graphic descriptions of "hell fire" she heard in church.
Being BURNT TO DEATH; being DESTROYED by Gehenna fire is terrifying enough, without concocting the satanic and completely FALSE doctrine of burning forever and ever.
Notwithstanding the many scriptures to the contrary, many believe in an "ever-burning hell fire" because of a couple of enigmatic scriptures concerning Satan, and the Beast and false prophet. Remember! One scripture does not contradict another! You cannot do away with many plain, obvious scriptures by misinterpreting a vague, ambiguous scripture! Now, let's look at examples of scriptures being misunderstood, or misinterpreted.
The "Smoke Of Their Torment"
Speaking of the great false church, depicted as the great whore (Revelation 17:3-6), who is called "Babylon the Great," the Bible says, "…And her smoke rose up for ever and ever" (Revelation 19:2). Study carefully the entire 17th and 18th chapters of Revelation. Chapter 17 depicts the evil alliance between the Beast power, a coalition of ten nations, and the great false church. The Beast and the false prophet are the two evil mass murderers who will be arrested by Christ immediately after His coming.
Christ will personally throw them into a "lake of fire burning with brimstone," as we shall see. In describing how the Beast will "hate the whore and make her desolate," God says, "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
"And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning" (Revelation 18:8, 9).
This great city, described in chapter 17 as a city of "seven mountains," upon which a symbolic woman sits, is to be destroyed by fire! What happens when cities are destroyed by fire? They are burnt up! The great firestorm kindled in Tokyo during World War II by Curtis LeMay's B-29 superfortresses caused more deaths than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima!
The huge fires were the result of thousands of incendiary bombs being dropped on Tokyo, which hit millions of fragile, wooden dwellings. The firestorm was so gargantuan it developed hurricane force winds as flames leapt hundreds of feet into the air. People, animals, automobiles were whipped off the ground to be sucked into the maelstrom as winds upward of two hundred miles per hour fed the huge pyre. The clouds of flame and smoke rose up and up until the heat condensed in the upper atmosphere, and a lightning storm ensued! Over one hundred thousand helpless people died!
Hamburg suffered a similar fate, as did parts of London, and cities like Koblenz, Wuppertal, Mainz, Frankfurt, Essen, Koln, and Berlin.
In Revelation 18, the Bible describes a similar fiery destruction for the great city called, metaphorically, "Bablylon the Great," just prior to the second coming of Christ. Remember, ancient Babylon had been destroyed in 538 B.C., over 600 years before Christ gave the apostle John this prophecy of a yet future destruction of a great city called, spiritually, "Babylon." This is why the angel said, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen," repeating the statement twice, indicating that the original destruction of Babylon in the plain of Shinar was a type of the end time destruction of the great city over which the Beast and false prophet rule.
Fire is what will destroy the city! God said, "And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore [the great false church], and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
"For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
"And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 17:16-18).
When the smoke from Tokyo and Berlin rose up into the air, it mingled with the atmosphere. Particulate matter and microscopic vapor spread for hundreds of miles. Since smoke dissipates into the atmosphere until, greatly diluted and dispersed, it can literally be carried around the earth, the Bible uses the term "for ever" to describe how smoke is absorbed into the air. Smoke marks the place of fire. While the old saw, "Where there's smoke, there's fire" is not true (many coal mines and peat bogs produce smoke for decades and never burst into flame), it is a generally safe assumption.
When God's angelic hosts rejoice over the destruction of the great false church called "Babylon the great," they say, "For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
"And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever" (Revelation 19:2, 3). Notice it does not say she burns forever and ever, nor does it say any humans or "souls" are in agony forever and ever! Instead, it says the SMOKE produced by the vast fires go up and up, to be dispersed. Fire is PHYSICAL. It is the combustion of burnable materials which produces heat, light, gas, and ash.
Notice what God says of the destruction wrought upon Sodom and Gomorra: "Even as Sodom and Gomorra, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7). But they are NOT STILL BURNING!
It is believed that Sodom and Gomorra were located in a salt plain which was gradually overflowed by the waters of the Dead Sea as the Jordan River flowed into it. Archaeologists have noted what appears to be ancient foundations of man-made structures in its shallow southern end. On the road from the Dead Sea to Eilat, on the Gulf of Akaba, one passes by the town of "Sedim," where there is a mineral and chemical plant, "mining" the waters of the Dead Sea.
Is Sodom still burning? Of course not! Because it was God who judged them; because the source of the fire God sent in His wrath was from heaven, Jude wrote that these evil cities, given over wholly to homosexuality, suffered the vengeance of ETERNAL FIRE! Once the fires had burned up the cities, they went out, having nothing further upon which to feed. Sodom and Gomorra are intended to be a warning about Gehenna fire!
Now, notice what Christ will do when He comes back to earth: "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 19:19, 20).
What happens to these two vicious, evil, mass murderers when Christ personally throws them into Gehenna fire near Jerusalem? They DIE! They are burnt to death! They are cremated!
Christ will PERSONALLY carry out the penalty for sin upon these two incredibly evil men! They are not tortured forever and ever. They do not burn and burn, but never quite die, or burn up! Remember what you read! "…ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet…" (Malachi 4:3).
Satan, The Father Of Lies, Will Suffer The Fate Of Eternal Punishing
Now, keeping all these scriptural truths in mind, notice what God says about Satan's fate: "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
"And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are [notice the italics. It should read "were cast"], and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:7-10). Notice that these hordes will be DEVOURED by divine fire, just as were Sodom and Gomorra; just as were the Beast and the false prophet.
The translators ADDED the italicized word "are" when the sense of the verse, as plainly proved by all the other scriptures on the same subject, is the "lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet WERE CAST…" over one thousand years earlier! Like Sodom and Gomorra, which are not still burning, the Beast and the false prophet will be DESTROYED by Gehenna fire at the time of the Second Coming of Christ! They are burnt to ASHES—cremated! Not until one thousand years later is Satan hurled into the same Gehenna fire—the fire into which the Beast and false prophet were cast, and burnt up, so many years previously.
Satan is a SPIRIT, not flesh! Physical fire has no effect on him! Notice the scripture says "AND shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever," referring to SATAN, and NOT to the humans who have already been DEVOURED by fire!
Part of the verse identifies WHICH fire it is into which the devil will be cast, and part of the verse tells us that he will be tormented day and night forever and ever. The verse DOES NOT say that the Beast and the false prophet are tormented forever and ever.
Guess who it is who ultimately will "go to hell" for ALL ETERNITY? Satan himself!
Think of it! Satan deceived our first parents, planting the germ of the idea that they would be "like God is," and that, even if they sinned, they would "not surely die!" Satan is a spirit being. He has deceived all nations (Revelation 12:9) into believing that man has an "immortal soul"; that man will live forever and ever in a conscious state. He has deceived man into believing that the FATE OF SINNING MAN IS THE FATE OF SATAN HIMSELF—that of ETERNAL PUNISHING, not eternal punishMENT!
You receive an important clue to Satan's fate through Jude's prophecy concerning Satan and his wicked demons: "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
"Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 12, 13). The Bible uses stars as symbols of angels (Revelation 1:16, 20).
Satan and his evil demons will be cast into the final Gehenna fire, which will be kindled in Jerusalem by Christ Himself at the beginning of the millennium. The Beast and the false prophet are the FIRST to be thrown into Gehenna! All during the millennium, as people reach the end of their physical lives, they will either be CHANGED, instantaneously, into the spirit Family of God (1 Corinthians 15:50-52) if they have repented, and been baptized, or, if they have been rebellious against God, and refused to repent, they will be DESTROYED in Gehenna fire!
At the END of the 100-year period granted to the dead who have never had an opportunity for salvation, the prophecy of the "new heavens and the new earth" will finally come to pass.
Peter wrote extensively of this great time: "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
"And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
"For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water [they are "willingly ignorant" of the Flood of Noah]:
"Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
"Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:3-13).
Again, this final great destruction of the earth, which will be accomplished by the Eternal Creator AFTER the millennial reign of Christ, completely DISSOLVES all physical material; BURNS UP the last remnant of sinning, rebellious mankind, and completely changes the surface of the earth!
Very probably, as God on a number of occasions caused the tectonic plates of the earth to be compressed so that the oceans overflowed the continents, so He may compress the land masses to allow the gigantic sea of "magma," the molten rock which forms most of the interior of the earth, to flow over the continents, melting the very "elements of the earth" with "fervent heat."
Thus, Satan and his demons will be in this fiery destruction, yet not themselves destroyed, but cast into a black outer darkness, like "wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." Satan's fate may be that he is to be hurled into a remote part of the universe, so distant that not even the tiniest pinprick of light can be seen; to suffer the torments of his own perverted, angry, raging mind for all eternity!
Human beings are NOT going to be burning, singeing, blistering, burning, burning, burning forever and ever and ever because they have never even heard the name of Christ! Nor are they to suffer such a fate, even if they are incorrigible, and defy God until they must be destroyed!
Sinners will ultimately be BURNED UP in Gehenna fire! They will become ASHES under the feet of the righteous! They will not burn forever.
Why No Segregated Graveyards?
Now, THINK about the utter illogicality of the false doctrine of the "ever-burning hell fire" you have heard about all your life.
Have you ever heard anyone "preached into hell" at a funeral? Usually not. No matter how the recently departed lived his or her life, most are "preached into heaven" by the ministers presiding at their funerals.
Why is it there are no segregated cemeteries where one section features tombstones with "thumbs up" monuments, while others have a "thumbs down"? Have you ever seen a tombstone where there is a tiny flue attached to the monument, with smoke wafting up? Have you ever listened at such a tombstone, to see if you could hear the faint shrieks and screams of those who are allegedly dancing around on brimstone?
No matter how sinfully the recently departed might have lived, many a pastor seems able to comfort distraught loved ones with the thought that, at the very last moment, cantankerous and crusty old Uncle John somehow barely made it through the pearly gates at the last seconds of his life!
For more than forty years, I have offered a certified cashier's check for $10,000 to anyone who can find the following phrases in the King James Bible: "My immortal soul," "The immortality of the soul," "When we get to heaven," "I will see you in heaven," or "We will go to heaven when we die." Never, in all those more than forty years, with millions hearing my words, has a single person been able to claim the certified cashier's check for $10,000!
Simply because such words are not in the Bible!
Remember, there is only one source for the real truth about what happens at death.
The Bible is God's handbook to man—the revelation of knowledge man could not otherwise discover for himself. The Bible is revealed knowledge!
Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God [meaning, God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).
The divinely-revealed Word of God is the ultimate source to which we must go to discover the real truth about the reward of the saved, about what happens at death; about the promise of "heaven," or the threat of an ever-burning "hell." You have never spoken to someone who has come back from either of those places; never have you received a letter or a telephone call from one who has gone to either place!
Millions of churchgoers have sat in church hearing graphic descriptions of heaven. They have heard tear-jerking stories of the death of saintly elderly persons; visions of heaven, last-moment death-bed repentance's, and stories of people who have gazed upward as they died and said they saw Jesus coming!
But for all these fanciful stories, these same church-going people have never in their lives sat down at a lengthy Bible study or church service where they heard a minister wade through dozens of scriptures in the Bible promising heaven as the reward of the saved!
Why haven't they?
Simply because the traditional doctrines about the "immortal soul," "going to heaven or hell when we die" and the "rapture" cannot be proved from the Bible!
Some Logical Questions About the "Soul"
When we file sadly by an open coffin at a funeral, we see a beloved family member; a relative; a friend, lying there as if asleep. Always, they are wearing a favorite suit, or dress. Usually, these are not the clothes they were wearing when they died. As one person quipped about a famous woman atheist at her funeral, "There she was—all dressed up, and nowhere to go!" As the George Jones Country song goes about a friend lying in a coffin, who had died in heartbreak and sadness, "First time I'd seen him smile in years!" This because the morticians had fashioned his face into a frozen smile.
IF we possess an "immortal soul," then it is logical and natural to be curious about what that soul looks like; about the properties and nature of the "soul."
Do souls wear clothes? Are they dressed? If so, in what? Does the bereaved loved one discover a choice outfit missing from the closet, and think, "Oh, that must be the clothing he or she decided to wear into heaven"? One would think, if the decision were that the loved one had to go to "the other place," an asbestos fire fighter's suit would be in order!
Are souls naked? Or are they clothed? Are the clothes casual, or business attire, or formal? Or are they all dressed in flowing robes, like the pictures of "saints" in illustrated Bibles? And if so, are the "clothes" made of synthetics, linen, cotton, or wool?
A puzzle, isn't it?
Do souls have body hair? Does it grow? The reason for this question is related to the Dante's Inferno concept of hell fire. The first thing to burn would be the hair and eyebrows. Does it burn off, then come back, and then burn off again and again?
Do souls have nerve endings? Do they have a nervous system? Our nervous system provides us with warning signals when we encounter sharp objects, extreme heat or extreme cold. That way, we quickly snatch our hand away from something which would injure it. Otherwise, the injury would be much worse. But the nervous system is PHYSICAL, and is supported by the oxygen carried to all parts of our body by our circulatory system. Then do souls have hearts, and lungs, and livers? Do they have kidneys? Perish the thought!
Have you ever heard a sermon DESCRIBING, in detail, the "soul"? For, IF the Bible teaches the "immortality of the soul" (which it does not, for such a phrase is NOT IN the Bible), then all these questions are quite valid, and should be answered.
As I mentioned earlier, when my wife was a little girl, she was frightened out of her wits by the most horrifying graphic portrayals of "hell fire." Always, however, the ministers made hell fire seem as if it was burning HUMAN flesh and hair! They made it seem as if the same human body we live in was the body which would be thrown into hell. As a little girl, she had nightmares about the fearsome descriptions of "hell."
Since the idea seems to be that "souls" are intelligent, do they have brains? Do they have eyes, ears, and noses? Can they see, hear, and think? Can they talk? Why can't a soul, if it is SPIRIT, manifest itself exactly as Jesus did when He walked through a solid stone wall and appeared before the disciples? Why can't a soul sit on the front row at the funeral of the body it used to live in, and sign the guest register, and meet all the people who came to wish it bon voyage to heaven or tell them "same to you, buddy!" if they think the soul went to hell?
Our English word "soul" comes from the Hebrew word nephesh, and the Greek word psuche. Remember, the Bible was not written in English, but in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, which was the Hebrew dialect spoken following the Babylonian captivity.
The word nephesh is used several times in the first chapter of Genesis, translated "creature," and the like, before it is used of man. God said, "…Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…" (Genesis 1:26). Recapitulating the creation of man, God said, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Hebrew: nephesh).
God did not say Adam HAD a soul! He said Adam WAS a "soul." The word merely meant a living "creature," and had nothing to do with anything immortal.
The very same word is translated "creature" many times throughout the Old Testament, and in Genesis. "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature [nephesh] after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so."
Look up the word in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. It is number 5315, and is rendered: "Nephesh; a breathing creature, i.e., animal or (abstr.) vitality: used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental); appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, dead, desire, contented, fish, ghost, greedy, he, heart, (jeopardy of life; in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortally, one, own, person, pleasure, (her, him, my, thy) self, them (your) selves, slay, soul, tablet, they, thing, will, would have it."
Notice the many references to life, and the life principle in all living creatures. The true understanding of nephesh can only be gained by looking at all its many usages in connection with animals and man. Notice an outstanding example: "He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days" (Numbers 19:11). The word "body" is from the Hebrew nephesh! Notice also these many identical examples: Numbers 6:6; 9:6, 7, 10; 19:11, 13, 16, and Haggai 2:13, which says, "Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body [Hebrew: nephesh] touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean."
Obviously, the translators would never deign to render these, and dozens of other examples throughout the Bible, as "soul!" Otherwise, they would be rendering it, "unclean by a dead soul," and this would demolish their cherished, false, and completely pagan doctrine of the "immortality of the soul."
But there IS an example; actually, two of them, where it is obvious the word "soul" merely means the physical life of man which can be laid down, lost, destroyed; which can perish, or die! Notice them both: "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). Also, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezekiel 18:20). The doctrine of the "immortality of the soul" is a PAGAN doctrine, stemming from ancient mythology and ignorant superstition. It is not taught in the Bible!
There is a SPIRIT in man, but it is NOT an "immortal soul" which has consciousness apart from the body.
The Human Spirit
When God created a physical prototype of His own body, He also gifted the first man with a SPIRIT! That spirit is why man is superior to all animal life; why man has a MIND, instead of mere animal instinct.
All philosophy is based upon an attempt to discover what man truly is; what life is; why it is; what happens when we die, and where we are going. God's word shows that man was gifted with a MIND, which is superior to any other intelligence he can discover with the five senses. No animal brain is superior to the mind of man.
God has given to mankind a small measure of God's knowledge, so that man can invent; he can reason, think, plan, and then carry out his plan. He can postulate, suppose, dream, reason, and then experiment to find whether his postulates are true.
Man has a conscience; he has an innermost psyche, which can wonder about such things as origins, life, death, and destiny. Animals have no such reasoning powers.
God says, "…there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). Paul wrote, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption [Greek: "sonship," connoting more than legal adoption, but actual sonship!], whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"(Romans 8:14-16). Read that again, carefully, and BELIEVE it!
Paul said that the Holy Spirit of God, when having begotten a "new creature in Christ" within us (2 Corinthians 5:17), "witnesses with OUR SPIRIT that we are the children of God!"
As we have already seen, the state of the dead is called in God's word "sleep." The dead are UNCONSCIOUS—completely unknowing, inanimate, unaware of the passage of time, unthinking, unfeeling, inert! Yet, the instant they are resurrected, it will be as though they have never been dead! There will be no awareness of the passage of time; no thoughts other than those which they had in their minds just before "falling asleep" in death!
The human spirit has no consciousness APART from the brain! It is not a separate, thinking, reasoning, feeling "soul," but a SPIRIT, which becomes profoundly asleep when the fleshly brain quits functioning. Paul showed how the begettal with God's Holy Spirit forms a NEW SPIRITUAL CREATURE within us; how we then literally become a "new creature [creation!] in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
He wrote, "…but he that is joined unto the Lord is ONE SPIRIT," and went on to say, "…know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
"For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
Like a priceless treasure kept in a clay pot, so is the "new creature in Christ"; the newly created SPIRIT BEING within the mind and heart of each converted Christian! Paul wrote, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). He showed how our temporal bodies, as they grow older and decay, are like hosts for the new life—the spirit life—which has been begotten within us: "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
One of the rich meanings of the annual Feast of Tabernacles depicts our TEMPORARY SOJOURN here, in a "booth," or a "tabernacle." Our human physical bodies are likened to a temporary dwelling place for the new creature in Christ; a physical structure which will ultimately be discarded; CHANGED into a new spirit body!
Paul said, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
"For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
"If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
"For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life" (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). There is much rich, meaningful information to be gleaned from these verses. You and I live in a body. But we do not dwell, consciously, in our hands, or our feet, or our elbows, or our kneecaps. We dwell in the frontal lobes of our brains; in our MINDS. Tragically, some lose portions of their bodies.
Many an armless, legless paraplegic, or quadriplegic, lies in a VA hospital, having been horribly maimed in war.
One might say, "I lost my arm in the war." But the PERSON is intact! The individual, with his or her innermost psyche, with the conscience, the memory, the character, the personality, is INTACT!
You and I live IN A BODY, but our life is more than the body. Humans may lose all four limbs, their eyes, and even some of their vital organs, or portions of them, and still survive! I once saw the heart-rending film of a helpless human, who, having lost both arms, produced beautiful paintings by holding the paintbrush in his teeth!
Notice carefully how Paul phrased this wondrous truth. He said that we "groan" in these temporary bodies, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with a SPIRITUAL BODY!
"There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
"There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
"It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
"It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:40-44).
Peter also wrote of how we live in a temporary abode—our physical bodies. He understood the rich meaning of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, or "booths," which pictures our temporary sojourn in these human bodies, and looks forward to the moment in time when we shall be CHANGED from flesh to spirit. He said, "Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
"Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle [referring to his body as a temporary dwelling place for the "new creature in Christ;" the spirit], to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
"Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.
"Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease [he was speaking of his physical death] to have these things always in remembrance" (2 Peter 1:12-15). Peter knew that the death of the physical body is like putting off a garment; like a transition from physical to spiritual. Paul wrote, "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
"Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:50-52). Can anything be plainer? At the resurrection, the SPIRIT of each person is awakened! We will soon read several examples of how the word of God speaks of death as a profound SLEEP from which the dead are awakened at the resurrection.
Those who are among the living when Christ returns are to be CHANGED, instantly, "in the twinkling of an eye," from flesh to spirit! No wonder Jesus Christ said to Nicodemus that when one is born of God one becomes like the wind, which, while we can hear it, and see its power in a storm, we cannot see!
Christ said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:7, 8).
Your physical life was the result of your human father begetting, after his own image, and after his own kind, a new life _ you! How? By impregnating the fertile egg in the womb of your mother! It took LIFE plus LIFE; your father's physical life together with your mother's physical life to produce a NEW LIFE!
In like fashion, the Spirit of the Father begets a NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST when it comes into and joins with the HUMAN SPIRIT in your mind!
Remember, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).
"HEAVEN" — Where Is it?
The English word "heaven" looks very much like the word "heave." That is because its origin comes from the word "heave." The word appears in many, many different forms, i.e., Danish: haeve; German: heben; Swedish: hefva; and is connected to the word "lift," or "height." One of the forms of offering to God under the Levitical priesthood was the well-known "heave offering," in which meal, or a sheaf of grain was "heaved" into the air as far as possible.
Thus, this association of the air; of "lifting up," or "heaving" upward attached itself to the abode of God.
The Bible speaks of THREE "heavens." The first is the sky, or the mantle of air which cloaks the earth; the atmosphere. This is the "heaven" in which clouds are formed, and birds and aircraft fly. There are many examples of the usage of the word "heaven" in connection with the air, or the atmosphere.
During the creation week, God divided the water-bearing clouds from the waters on the earth, and spoke of the atmosphere as the "firmament" (meaning, "an expanse"). Notice, "And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
"And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day" (Genesis 1:7, 8).
When David exulted, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Psalms 19:1), he was speaking of the sun, moon, and stars; of our solar system and the universe. The "second" heaven revealed in the Bible is that of SPACE; of the entire creation outside of the earth's atmosphere.
The THIRD heaven is the place of God's throne! The Apostle Paul was inspired to write specifically of this heaven. He said, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
"And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
"How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). There are no other alternatives than those given by Paul. He was either transported to the third heaven BODILY, or the "new creature in Christ," the SPIRITUAL recreation then forming within him, was taken to the third heaven, called "paradise," which is obviously the place of God's throne.
Jesus Christ continually spoke of, and to, His "Father in HEAVEN." He was speaking of God the Father who dwells in the "third heaven." Now, notice how the Bible distinguishes between these three references to "heaven." When Christ had appeared to His disciples for the last time, following more than a month of many, many visits by Christ to His disciples, notice what happened: "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
"And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven [obviously, toward the cloud which had not obscured Him from their vision] as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
"Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11). Obviously, the first reference is to the "first heaven," or the atmosphere of this earth in which the clouds form. But the final reference must mean "the third heaven," for this was Christ's destination. Peter, preaching of the miracle of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, called upon the astonished Jews to REPENT of their horrible sins, and spoke of how Christ had been received into heaven: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
"And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
"Whom the heaven must receive [obviously, the "third" heaven] until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21).
Enoch And Elijah Were Not In Heaven
When Christ said "…no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13), it is obvious He was referring to the "third heaven" from which He had come. Elijah was "taken up" into the "heaven" of this earth's atmosphere, to a safe place, where he lived out his remaining years. Elijah WAS NOT IN HEAVEN, so said your Savior! The letter Elijah sent to Elisha YEARS after he disappeared (2 Chronicles 21:12) proves it!
For centuries, it has been assumed both Enoch and Elijah were "in heaven." Because no distinction was made between the THREE different "heavens" revealed in the Bible, it was supposed these righteous men were caught up to the heaven of God; the "third heaven." Not so. They were transported IN THE AIR from great danger to a place of protection! Notice the truth about Enoch: "And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
"And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
"And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:22-24). The word "was" is italicized, indicating it was ADDED by the translators. What happened to Enoch? We know he was NOT IN HEAVEN! Christ said so! Christ had just come from there, and neither Enoch nor Elijah were anywhere around! The answer is the same as in the case of Elijah. God decided to SPARE ENOCH'S LIFE, because people were LOOKING FOR him to kill him!
Paul, writing of Enoch, said, "By faith Enoch was translated [transported] that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5). He was "not found," because people were trying to find him!
Now, notice further proof from your own Bible. Hebrews the eleventh chapter contains a list of God's greatest men and women; martyrs for their faith. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and many others such as Deborah are mentioned. Twice, we are told of these righteous men and women DIED. God said, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).
Notice they DID NOT RECEIVE THE PROMISES of eternal life! They are NOT in heaven! Jesus Christ said so in no uncertain terms! God will bring them up to life at the same time as the apostles; the same time of the Second Coming of Christ! Notice the proof: "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
"(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
"God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:37-40). They all DIED. Not a one of them received the promise! Why? Because God decreed that the FIRSTfruits of the Lamb shall all be resurrected at the same time!
No, all fantasies, false doctrines and vain hopes aside, NO MAN HATH ASCENDED UP TO HEAVEN, no matter how much people want to believe in the myths and fables perpetuated by their parents and grandparents, and preached in the pulpits of the mainstream churches!
What Is The True State Of The Dead?
When a person dies, that person ceases to think, feel, see, hear, smell, or have any awareness whatsoever. The person becomes completely inanimate; having no consciousness whatsoever! Continually, the Bible speaks of the condition of the dead as being in a deep, profound, unconscious SLEEP!
Notice a couple of outstanding examples: "For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
"And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
"Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:16-20).
Some scoff and sneer, and speak of the state of the dead as "soul sleeping!" This, to them, is a scornful statement! They wish to cling to their false doctrine of the "immortality of the soul," and their false doctrine of going to heaven, or an ever-burning "hell fire." But scorners shall be judged in the judgment, and any who sneer at the inspired word of God will have their reward in Gehenna. These sacred words of God, in your own Bible, are not to be sneered at. We are commanded to TREMBLE before the word of God, and to fear to try to alter it (Isaiah 66:1, 2).
Notice what God inspired Luke to write about the martyrdom of Stephen: "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:60). Another example is what Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica about the resurrection of the dead. He wrote, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them those which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [preceed] them which are asleep."
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
"Then [and not a moment BEFORE then!] we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air [in the "first" heaven; in this earth's atmosphere, where clouds form!]: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
And where will the Lord BE? Why, ON THIS EARTH! He is coming again; coming back to this earth to stand in that day on the Mount of Olives! Read it in your own Bible! "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south" (Zechariah 14:4). Christ told His disciples He would RETURN to this earth—He NEVER told them they would be "raptured up to heaven!"
Jesus continually spoke of a resurrection of the dead. He said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).
He described those who were in their graves, dead, knowing nothing, at the time of the Second Coming of Christ. "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the grave shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" ["judgment," margin] (John 5:28-29). Here, Christ spoke of both the FIRST resurrection; the resurrection of the "dead in Christ," as well as the SECOND resurrection to "judgment." Remember, "...the REST OF THE DEAD [those not included in the first resurrection] lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:5).
These scriptures plainly refer to a future event. Jesus spoke of a general resurrection from the dead, which He called a resurrection "of life." He clearly spoke of the opposite of death. He spoke of life.
God's word says "The dead know not anything." Solomon wrote, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them ["their memory," not that we forget the dead, but that their conscious minds and memory ceases] is forgotten.
"Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished [they are not alive, aware, thinking —but in the deepest most profound sleep; unconscious]; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6). He also wrote, "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
"All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20).
God's Word reveals that human beings live a physical, chemical existence. We are mortal, temporary, transitory creatures; sustained by the material elements of this physical creation. We are water-drinking, air-breathing, food-ingesting creatures whose life is dependent solely upon our bloodstream and the foods (as fuel) we take into our systems.
When we die, a total cessation of this physical, chemical existence occurs. Death is the absence of life. The Bible describes those who go down into their graves as being just as dead as any animal is dead! Yet, while the body is dead, and will decay, and turn to "dust" again, the SPIRIT IS PROFOUNDLY ASLEEP!
Paul, anticipating questions about how God can raise up someone who has been devoured by a shark, or cremated, said, "But some man will say, how are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed His own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption: it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness: it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:35-44).
This revealing chapter plainly shows that, at death, your physical, temporal bodies, sustained in a chemical existence by the natural elements of this earth; food, water, and air, completely cease to function, and that total unconsciousness and oblivion results!
Not only is there a complete cessation of life—there is total loss of consciousness!
Then, within moments after death, the physical body begins to decay.
This beautiful fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians explains that no matter how rapidly that decaying process (whether being blown to bits in an atomic explosion or slowly decaying in a normal grave) God is capable of completely re-creating a new spirit life, giving the individual a brand-new spirit body!
Christ Will Reign ON THIS EARTH!
There are far too many scriptures picturing Christ's 1,000-year reign on this earth to reprint them all here
However, here are a few examples: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
"And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
"And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:2-5). Read an almost exact parallel in Micah's fourth chapter .
The resurrected saints exult that God "…hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10). Christ promised RULERSHIP over physical cities, states, nations—over this earth! Notice! "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father" (Revelation 2:26, 27).
Those who have surrendered their wills to God; who have repented of sin, and who are striving, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live a life of overcoming, will be given complete power and authority over cities, counties, states, and whole nations! Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples just prior to His crucifixion? "...Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel!" (Matthew 19:28).
Jesus Christ says that even those who live in this day can have an opportunity for co-rulership in His new government, which is to be set up on this earth after His Second Coming!
Jesus Christ is coming to inherit a literal throne! That throne is on this earth.
When Mary was told of the great miracle which would occur; that she had been chosen to become the mother of Jesus Christ, "…the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end!" (Luke 1:30-33).
God made a binding covenant with David, telling him because David remained faithful to God's laws and precepts that there would never fail seed from David's own family to sit upon His physical throne! Believe it or not, that throne still exists on this earth! (If you have not yet read my book Europe and America in Prophecy, which details where David's throne remains today, and shows you where the United States is identified in Bible prophecy, please write or call for your free copy immediately).
Read the prophecy of Daniel's second chapter, where you see, after the description of the four great successive world-ruling Gentile kingdoms, a "stone cut out without hands" which smites the image on its feet [the ten toes representing the ten kings of Revelation 17] and which then "becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth."
Clearly, in this prophecy, the figurative stone represents the returning, conquering Christ! The great image represents the successive stages of the Gentile world-ruling kingdoms, culminating in the BEAST depicted in Daniel 7, and Revelation 13 and 17.
The ten kings who fight Christ at His coming (Revelation 17) are represented by the ten toes of the great image, mixed with iron and miry clay.
The "great mountain" is symbolic of the Kingdom of God, which will rule over the entirety of the earth!
Now, notice a portion of the inspiring chapter of Isaiah 11. Please read it all, slowly and carefully, in your own Bible: "But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
"And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
"And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
"And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:4-9). There are no poisonous snakes; no lions or oxen up in heaven! This is describing conditions which will prevail ON THIS EARTH during the millennial reign of Christ.
John wrote of His vision of the earthly kingdom of Christ: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls [Greek: psuche, the same as the Hebrew nephesh meaning physical life. Notice they were "beheaded"; martyred!] of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).
God is calling a cadre of individuals as the advance emissaries of His soon-coming Kingdom! Notice how Christ said the Kingdom of God was "like leaven" in one sense: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened" (Matthew 13:33). Leavening is an AGENT. As the yeast spores divide, and bud, an explosive growth of "leavening" occurs in the lump of dough.
Each converted Christian is an AGENT. He or she is to become an active part of the WORK of God, announcing the wondrous, exciting, inspiring GOOD NEWS that we can be BORN OF GOD; that we can LIVE FOREVER; that we can join Christ in His millennial reign!
Now, finally, WHERE?
REMEMBER, "heaven" is capable of three different meanings. But the "third heaven" is the heaven of God's throne!
For 1,000 years, Christ will occupy DAVID'S throne, here on this earth! Then, for a period of 100 years, Satan will be allowed to influence mankind again. At the end of that period, those who follow Satan, and the incorrigible dead, as pictured by the rich man in the parable of Lazarus (Luke 16), will come up in the THIRD resurrection—the resurrection to DEATH BY GEHENNA FIRE!
Notice, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:13-15). The word "hell" comes from the Greek word Hades, which has nothing to do with fire. It means, simply, "the grave." Had not the translators been influenced by a false concept of an ever-burning hell fire, they would have rendered the word correctly; "the grave."
When is a grave not a grave? It is only a grave when it contains a body. The word "hell" comes from an old Nordic word, Behelian, and Hel, which was a pagan notion of a god of the underworld. As recently as the 1930's farmers in America spoke of placing their potatoes in "hell" for the winter. My own uncle did so. He had a "potato cave" on his property, which he termed "hell."
When are "death and the grave," meaning the incorrigible wicked cast into the lake of fire? Not until at the end of a period of more than 1,100 years! This is the SAME event described by Peter in his second letter (2 Peter 3:10).
Notice that this destruction by Gehenna fire is called "the SECOND death!" As already explained, the wages of sin is death _ not the first death which comes to all humans, but the SECOND death IN GEHENNA FIRE!
Now, quickly review what you have learned. First, you do not have an "immortal soul" at all, but a HUMAN SPIRIT, which has no consciousness apart from your mind. Second, we do not go immediately either to heaven or an ever-burning hell when we die, but to the GRAVE, where we are completely unconscious, in oblivion, unaware of the passage of time, until the resurrection. Third, your loved ones who have died are NOT in heaven or "hell" now. Fourth, the "hell fire" of the Bible is much hotter than the "hell fire" described by "fire and brimstone" preachers, for it burns up the wicked, who shall be "ashes under the feet of the righteous." Fifth, there is coming a great, second resurrection of all those who have ever lived and died without a chance for salvation, including our little Chinese girl. Sixth, there is coming a THIRD resurrection when all those who have committed the unpardonable sin; those who WILLED not to repent; those who were incorrigible, will be burned in Gehenna fire! Seventh, you and I have the glorious opportunity to join Jesus Christ in His world-ruling kingdom, and—are you ready for this?—EVENTUALLY BE IN HEAVEN!
HEAVEN ON EARTH
Notice the picture of the "new heavens and new earth" to be formed following the great, final resurrection; "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven [this earth's atmosphere] and the first earth [the lithosphere and bathysphere] were passed away; and there was no more sea.
"And 1 John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Revelation 21:1-3).
Can your mind grasp it? Heaven is where God is! It is the place of His throne! Your Bible plainly says that GOD THE FATHER will bring HIS THRONE; His heavenly city "the New Jerusalem" down to this earth after Christ has completed His work of salvation!
God is SO PERFECT; so omniscient; so holy; so righteous, that He will not tolerate being in the presence of sin! So long as ONE SINGLE SINNER is still on earth, God the Father will not come here! But when the final chapter of the plan of God has been written; when the last rebellious, sneering, scoffing, cursing, God-defying sinner has been destroyed; when Satan has been hurled to the blackest, distant, "outer darkness," God the Father will join Christ and His saints HERE, on this earth!
With Him will be the twenty-four elders; the cherubim and the seraphim! With Him will be MILLIONS of powerful angels! The earth will have no longer any need of weather, of soil, of water; of the elements necessary to sustain animal and human life.
It will become the HEADQUARTERS OF ALMIGHTY GOD from which He will launch His NEXT project!
Notice it, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
"And he that sat upon the throne [God the Father!] said, Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:4, 5).
The real truth is that we, IF we qualify for His glorious kingdom, will then BE IN HEAVEN—for heaven will be ON THIS EARTH!
John wrote, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:1, 2).
Finally, God says we will be able to SEE GOD! Paul wrote, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:13). God knows us thoroughly! He knows the thoughts of our heart. He knows, and understands, our innermost motives. How INSPIRING it is to know we will finally KNOW GOD; know how He thinks; know His mind; His awesome power; His creative ability; His great compassion; His mercy; His love!
The real truth about what Job spoke is obscured slightly by the translators, although made plain in the margin. Here is the true sense of what Job said, "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
"And though worms destroy this body, after I awake, though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh shall I see God!
"Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold. My reins within me are consumed with earnest desire for that day!" (Job 19:25-27).
At the conclusion of the Bible; as God closes His narrative He has given to us, He caused John to see a vision of this earth as it shall be during and after the millennial reign of Christ. "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
"In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
"And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
"And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads" (Revelation 22:1-4).
Yes, those who receive Christ as personal Savior; those who repent, and are baptized, and receive God's Holy Spirit, will eventually BE IN HEAVEN with God the Father and Christ Himself!
That is because HEAVEN WILL BE ON EARTH! And then, when our heavenly Father makes His thunderous pronouncement, "BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW," we will know we are at… the beginning.
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