Even If You Don’t: Holding On To Hope In Dark Times

We know God can do anything. So how do you react when He doesn’t do something that you beg him to? When your loved one isn’t healed? When your heartbreak feels unbearable and then something else piles on top of that? When you just don’t know how to go on, yet you have to anyway?

I’ve been going through a rough patch emotionally, especially over the past few weeks but really for a few months now. And I feel like God has thrown me some songs as “lifelines” in this time. First it was “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe and more recently it was “Even If” by MercyMe.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I didn’t much want to sing this when it popped into my head. Actually, I couldn’t at first since all I remembered was the “But even if you don’t” line. But I looked the song up, grasping for some hope to anchor my soul, and after playing through it a few times I could breath and pray again. I’ll admit, though, that there was still a part of me crying out, “Why?” when I thought about Him choosing not to take away the sorrow and hurt. And it’s okay to do that. As my counselor said, God is big enough to handle it when His kids are frustrated with Him.

Hope is one of the key things that gets us through the times when we’re frustrated with God and don’t understand what He’s doing. And it’s something I don’t think we talk about enough. Paul tells us “faith, hope and love remain”  (1 Cor. 13:13, WEB). They’re all three virtues that aren’t going away, but we talk about faith and love a whole lot more than hope. Which is a shame, because hope is something that’s very much needed in this world. Read more

The Foundation: Eternal Judgement

We’re wrapping up our series on the foundational principles of Hebrews 6 today. “Eternal judgement” is the final point the writer of Hebrews lists as a “principle of the doctrine of Christ.”

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Heb. 6:1-3)

The Foundation: Eternal Judgement| marissabaker.wordpress.com

There’s a good reason why Christians have to live lives of obedience and service to God. We will give account of ourselves at the end, and receive a judgement whether we were good or evil.

Read more

The Foundation: Resurrection of the Dead

In the past weeks, we’ve studied four of the six foundational doctrines listed in the opening verses of Hebrews 6.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Heb. 6:1-3)

The Foundation: Resurrection of the Dead| marissabaker.wordpress.com

The resurrection of the dead is an event still in the future for everyone but Jesus, but it’s essential to our present hope. Believing that God raised Jesus from the dead is a core doctrine of Christianity, and it leads into the core doctrine that believers will also rise from the dead. Read more

Gift of Mortality

We tend to approach death with a kind of horror, even though we know that it is not permanent (1 Thes. 4:13-18). It is natural to value life, to not want to die and to not want to lose the people we love. I think much of our longing to live forever comes from a desire God has given us to become part of his family. But sometimes I hear people say they want to live forever, and they mean an indefinite extension of our human lives here on the earth.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to live with myself the way I am now for that long.

Elves leaving Middle Earth, from The Lord of The Rings

When I think about the idea of immortality or living a really long time as a human, it makes me think of Tolkein’s elves in Middle Earth. Unless something interferes (they can be killed and they can fade away with grief) they’ll live forever. One of the things I find most interesting is that in The Silmarillion, the immortality of the elves is described as a sorrow and death is presented as a gift given to men.

the children of Men dwell only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it, and depart soon whither the Elves know not. Whereas the Elves remain until the end of days, and their love of the Earth and all the world is more single and more poignant therefore, and as the years lengthen ever more sorrowful. For the Elves die not till tile world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return. But the sons of Men die indeed, and leave the world; wherefore they are called the Guests, or the Strangers. Death is their fate, the gift of Iluvatar, which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy.

Sown in Weakness

Death became something that every human being must face as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin. I wonder, however, if after the fall mortality might have been as much a gift as a curse. Yes, death is a penalty associated with disobedience to God and it is an enemy that will be conquered in the future. But the absence of death in our fallen state would not have been a kindness.

Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. (1 Cor. 15:36-37)"Gift of Mortality" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.com

We are “bare grain,” as the KJV says, which after it dies to this existence will spring up into the far more glorious body that God gives us. Thank God that immortality is not give not us as we are now — corrupted, dishonored, weak, and natural. Living like this forever would not be a gift. We cannot have eternal life as we are now, nor would we want to. We need to be changed first.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:53-54).

Those Who Never Knew

Since I was very young, I’ve been taught what happens after death. At a basic level, I understood what our faith teaches and believed it — those who die in faith will be resurrected when Christ returns and live and reign with Him for 1000 years, then those who did not believe during their lifetime will be resurrected and given a chance to learn before the final judgement. I could not, however, give anyone who asked about my beliefs a more thorough explanation than the brief outline I just gave here.

Recently, I’ve been spending most of my study time in Romans as I work on a paper about Old and New Covenants — the differences and similarities, what was changed/updated by Christ’s sacrifice, what stayed the same, things like that. I think my prayers for guidance in studying this topic are being answered, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn more about other aspects of my faith as well. I’m sure my understanding is still shallow, but I feel like I can finally start writing about both the covenants (the subject of future blog posts, I’m sure) as well as today’s subject, which is an aspect of the question, What happens after death?

Going to hell?

God our Savior ... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time   1 Timothy 2:3-6One thing I’ve always wondered about groups I would call “mainstream Christianity” is how they are comfortable believing that God would condemn people to hell simply for never having heard the truth. I know some wonderful people who do believe this, but it puzzles me. Think how many people that includes throughout history. There were people in the years before Christ who never even heard of the God of Israel, much less understood Him. There were people beyond the reach of the early Christian church who never heard the gospel preached. There were people whose first encounter with “Christianity” was a forced baptism before they were enslaved to mine gold or work plantations. There are children who were aborted or killed as infants who never had a chance to live at all or learn anything.

Why would a God who loved the world so much “that He gave His only begotten Son” and Who “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”  condemn people who have never understood His truth? (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).

Those who “perish without law”

Ever since creation, all human beings have sinned (Rom. 3:9). No one is inherently righteous, not matter how closely they adhere to the letter of the law —  “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). In other words, the law given in the Old Testament lets us know we are sinning, but until Jesus Christ’s sacrifice there was no way for us to be cleansed of sin.

So, what about people who never understood or heard the law which gives “knowledge of sin”? In Romans 5:13, it states that “until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” This hearkens back to a statement made in Romans 2:12: “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.”

These verses give us key insight regarding how God will judge the world. He is not unrighteous or cold-hearted, and does not delight in seeing people perish because of ignorance. For many, this means He will be patient beyond their deaths and give them a chance to know Him in the resurrection.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books (Rev. 20:11-12)

Reason for hope

The incredible grace that God and Jesus offer includes not condemning people who don’t have a clue what they are doing. While Their righteousness does demand a penalty for sin, They are also defined by love (1 John 4:8, 16) and allow for repentance once people acknowledge the truth and turn from their sin (2 Tim. 2:25). For some, that is happening now or will happen in their physical lifetimes. For others, this will not be until the resurrection.