It struck me that, in all this debate, the grace of God must play a significant role. Divine grace is defined as ‘Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin.': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_grace. So it would seem that the grace of God should be acting in the behalf of those meriting it in God’s eyes. Let us look at what the scriptures tell us on this subject. The very first mention of grace in the bible is directed at Noah and Noah alone of all mankind alive at that time:
7 And Jehovah said, I will wipe off man whom I have created from the face of the earth, from man to beast, to the creeping thing and to the birds of the heavens; for I repent that I made them.
8 And Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah.
9 These [are] the generations of Noah. Noah, a righteous man, had been perfected among his family. Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6)
Here is a perfect example, to be found early on in the Old Testament, of God seriously favouring life’s outcome on His one chosen servant, Noah. For my own sense of well-being, it is noteworthy that Noah’s whole family (‘You and all your house’) benefitted from his treatment by our God Jehovah:
1 And Jehovah said to Noah, You and all your house come into the ark, for I have seen you righteous before Me in this generation. (Genesis 7)
This leads me to consider that today’s Noahs, the Second New Covenant Kings and Lords together with their families’ will be protected from the worst that mankind and the demons have to throw at us. This protection will last throughout our time serving God’s purposes right through to the point where we embark onto the greater arks to escape the second destruction of our planetary home. The Old Testament is full of similar verses where the biblical heroes, the patriarchs, are stated to have found favour in the eyes of our God so let us now look at how the New Testament describes the allocation of God’s grace:
31 And they having prayed, the place in which they were gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with [the] Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness.
32 And of the multitude of those who believed, the heart and the soul were one. And no one said any of the possessions to be his own, but all things were common to them.
33 And with great power the apostles gave testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4)
Now all those present at these events were clearly all First New Covenant blessed so this bodes well for Second New Covenanted souls at this time and in this current system of things. God’s grace will undoubtedly protect all those doing His bidding and, if Noah is an example, then their families also. To further emphasise this point, Paul’s epistle to the Roman Christian congregation makes it clear that they have all been given God’s grace, i.e. those taken out of all the nations from whom His grace is therefore presumably not generally available:
5 by whom we received grace and apostleship to obedience of faith among all the nations, for His name's sake,
6 among whom are you also, called-out [ones] of Jesus Christ; (Romans 1)
This is further emphasised in his letter to the Philippians where he expressly states that the grace of God is given to those who carry out His work:
6 being persuaded of this very thing, that the [One] having begun a good work in you will finish [it] until [the] day of Jesus Christ;
7 as it is righteous for me to think this of you all because you have me in [your] heart, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all sharers of the grace with me. (Philippians 1)
To be clear on what we mean by ‘works’, Paul’s second letter to Timothy spells it out. It is solely down to God’s purposes for us that His grace is given:
9 the [One] having saved us and having called [us] with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to [His] own purpose and grace given to us in Christ Jesus before eternal times, (2 Timothy 1)
Paul’s letter to James confirms the Old Testament scripture that God’s grace is only given to the humble ones and goes further to state that the devil will flee from those ones serving God thereby, presumably, alleviating them from the pure vagaries of time and circumstance:
6 But He gives greater grace. Because of this it says, "God sets [Himself] against proud [ones], but He gives grace to humble [ones]." [Prov. 3:34]
7 Then be subject to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4)
What more can we ask of the scriptures? They have lead us painstakingly through as complete an understanding as we could wish for on the subject of time and circumstance. It seems clear as a result that we servants of God are removed, together with our families, from the vagaries of time and circumstance which is the curse upon the rest of mankind at this time and in this system. I should add though that as far as our families are concerned, whilst they may be protected in this system from time and circumstance, they will be on their own when it comes to avoiding the second death (check out my earlier paper on this web-site : Household of a God-Fearing Man).
The Good Versus The Bad
Let us consider the following verses though:
1 And some were present at the same time reporting to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices.
2 And answering, Jesus said to them, Do you think that these Galileans were sinners beyond all the Galileans, because they suffered such things?
3 No, I say to you, But if you do not repent, you will all perish likewise.
4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, do you think that these were sinners beyond all men who lived in Jerusalem?
5 No, I say to you, But if you do not repent, you will all perish likewise. (Luke 13)
Now most, if not all, bible commentators on this subject appear to read into the above verses solely the point that all men are treated equally under heaven. However, a careful reading of these verses from Luke’s gospel reveals a rather more targetted and subtle meaning I believe. Certainly verses 2 and 4 taken on their own might convey that generally accepted meaning. However, arguably, verses 3 and 5 seem to be in complete disagreement with verses 2 and 4 respectively. The even numbered verses are equalising the good with the bad but the odd numbered verses are separating out Christ’s audience as being destroyed only if they do not repent. No such strictures appear to be applied to the Galileans or those killed in Siloam. How can this be? The answer lies in that Luke is recording Jesus’ words to His close followers. Those ones were highly likely to become First New Covenant Saints, blessed as Jesus’ spiritual wife.
My personal interest in all this is that I believe that I have led a blessed existence for all my physical life on earth. That blessed existence has largely kept me out of harm’s way and thereby enabled me to concentrate on progressing my spiritual development and my studies into God’s Word. The path I have trodden over the years seems to have been kept safe for my journey. Perhaps God knows just how weak and susceptible a spirit I am and has therefore felt it necessary to provide me with a high degree of physical protection. No matter, to be blessed by God is a privileged position to find oneself in, one for which I am fully grateful. I think it is also fair to say that whilst others of my brothers in the Lords’ Witnesses have not all benefitted from my generally good state of health or overall well-being, none have been prevented from pursuing their research into God’s Holy Word by any external cause as far as I am aware. It would also seem that most of God’s biblical heroes were similarly blessed with the good things this life has to offer over and above a good state of health, Abram being a very good example:
2 And Abram [was] very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. (Genesis 13)
Not all seemed to suffer with the weakness of spirit to which I perceive I am likely suspect. Some of God’s heroes were tested well beyond anything that I would ever expect to be capable of withstanding. Examples of this include the trials of Job, Samson having his eyes burnt out and bringing the house down on his own life and, ultimately, Jesus’ excrutiatingly painful and sacrificial death might not seem to be blessings in this life although they will certainly lead to far greater blessings in the next. So what does this really mean in the context of the above verses? Are there exceptions to the good and bad being treated equally through time and circumstance? Does God provide any assistance to those fighting in His corner in this life or does He truly allow time and circumstance to fall equally upon all and then judge the outcome in each soul’s response to its environment impartially? Perhaps James has the answer:
13 Come, now, you who say: Today or tomorrow we will journey to this city and will spend a year there, and we will engage in business and make profits,
14 whereas you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.
15 Instead, you ought to say: If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that. (James 4)
Here James is saying that, whilst we can plan our lives going forward as we choose, we truly do not know what actually lies ahead for us. We do not know if we will even live to see tomorrow. All in life is a risk for us mere mortals. However it seems that God will, nonetheless, allow us to continue living this life presumably if we are truly in concert with and assisting His grand plan. Again the implication seems to be that pure time and circumstance will be over-ridden by God if He so choses. Paul had a similar message for the Roman congregation:
28 Now we know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose; (Romans 8)
This adds further credence to the notion that God will bless the lives of those that serve Him and give them adequate protection from the vagaries of this otherwise uncertain existence to enable their continued service as He sees fit. Time and circumstance will therefore not necessarily be a purely random feature of the blessed ones’ lives. Under God’s grand plan, however, it ultimately makes no difference as to how, when, where and why any of us leave this life since we will all be called to the resurrection in the next system. All those of good heart as well as those of a bad-hearted disposition; we will all live to witness God’s judgement:
28 Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice
29 and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5)
The Good or The Bad
I suppose that the best known scripture on the subject is to be found in the wisdom of Solomon’s writings:
11 I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.
12 For man also does not know his time. Just like fishes that are being taken in an evil net, and like birds that are being taken in a trap, so the sons of men themselves are being ensnared at a calamitous time, when it falls upon them suddenly. (Ecclesiastes 9)
Verse 11 above seems to be making the point forcibly that our personal strengths and attributes make no impact on our success in life. He seems to be clearly supporting my notion that very little is under our control in this life. It would seem that we should not expect any true justice in this life which is, no doubt, most people’s experience. In verse 12 he then goes on to confirm that none of us has any influence over or foreknowledge of the time of our leaving this life. God makes no apparent differentiation between good or bad people in general when it comes to their enjoyment or suffering in this life at the behest of acts of good and bad luck or circumstance:
45 that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. (Matthew 5)
Or does He?
A couple of days prior to my deciding to write this paper I found myself watching the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on television. Despite my almost venerable age, I was far too young to have had the dubious pleasure of being one of those young men landed on Omaha, or one of the other illustriously named beaches, with the express intent of ridding Europe from that most satanic regime of Nazism. What did those brave and, probably, very frightened young souls do to deserve to be put into such dire straits at such a tender age? By comparison, I was born into the safe and cossetted post-war environment in dear old Blighty. This environment, in which I have lived all my life, has kept me safe and able to perform my bible research unfettered as God has allowed. The famous phrase, attributed to John Bradford, of ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ rings very true in my mind: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bradford.
This set me to thinking about all the aspects of each of our lives over which we have no control whatsoever. Those aspects are all associated with the circumstances of our birth. We have no control over which generation we are born into; which nation state and country or town district that we find ourselves in upon our arrival (destination unknown!); who our parents and siblings are and therefore which ethnic origin adopts us; the quality of our genes thereby imbuing any congenital conditions with which we may have been born, not to mention the beautiful or unattractive nature of our individual looks; birth into a poor or rich or God-fearing family which can seriously impact the way we think of and act upon our condition in life. We also have no say in exactly who our children are (I have more to say on that matter later!). On top of that we have the uncontrollable matters of everyday life. Included in this list we can include sudden and/or extreme climatic conditions such as a lightning strike, flood, hurricane or drought; widespread human ills and pestilences such as virulent diseases, locusts, famine, war, financial meltdown……the list goes on. Many of these are from natural causes but equally some are man-made disasters against which our species generally seems to be incapable or unwilling to take avoiding action.
It would therefore seem to me that the only matters to which we can implant our own personalities are those associated with the decisions that we are able to make as to how we live our lives and who we choose to marry. We have absolutely no say whatsoever as to who any of our relatives are except for our spouse! Even the latter can be impacted in societies where marriages are traditionally of the ‘arranged’ variety. Actually, now that I think of it, one could argue that even who we marry is significantly open to time and circumstance since who we chose is heavily dependent on who we meet in life and when and whether they respond to our advances! And, as stated above, we have absolutely no say as to the nature of the bodies into which our individual spirits are implanted. It is actually little wonder that the human race is so screwed up with all of the major circumstances into which we begin our lives not being chosen by us.
The above observations, although very scary when thought about, are not particularly new or revolutionary. They are called 'accidents of birth' a typical definition of which can be found at: http://www.definitions.net/definition/accident%20of%20birth. However I thought it would nonetheless be a useful exercise for my benefit, if for nobody else's, to examine what the good book has to say about all of this. And I both hope and expect that will be plenty!
Time & Circumstance
Jewish Lords' Witness
So what have we learned in the writing of this paper? Actually the real question for me is what have I learned from my writing of this paper? I think probably only one new item but one that had been troubling me for some time now, so I am grateful to our two Lords for inspiring me via the Holy Spirit into writing this paper. The first paper, I might add, for several seemingly long months. It would seem that all mankind is treated equally in this life and must receive the good things and/or the bad as and when they are presented to us by the world. The only exception to this appears to be those blessed by the Holy Spirit to carry out God’s work in the world. Those ones will not have perfect lives but they will be bountiful enough to allow God’s work to proceed through them. Whether this is restricted only to New Covenant Saints, Kings and Lords is not entirely clear to me but I expect that is likely the case. Amen
I mentioned earlier that I would have more to say on the fact that one cannot chose one’s children as, indeed, our own parents had no say in who we would be. All human souls have a free-willed spirit whose character no-one, especially God, can or will alter. All that can be changed is that spirit’s behaviour towards its fellow soul-mates. In considering this what better example can we have but that of Lucifer himself, Jehovah’s first-born angelic son? The comparison of chalk with cheese comes to mind! If God can directly produce the most evil of sons, what hope is there for us mere human parents? Ezekiel waxes lyrical against that most infamous of fallen angels:
12 Son of man, lift up a lament over the king of Tyre, and say to him, So says the Lord Jehovah: You seal the measure, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You have been in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone [was] your covering; the ruby, the topaz, and the jasper, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the turquoise, and the carbuncle, and gold; the workmanship of your tambourines and of your flutes in you. In the day you were created, they were prepared.
14 You [were] the anointed cherub that covers, and I had put you in the holy heights of God, [where] you were. You walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 You [were] perfect in your ways from the day you were created, until iniquity was found in you
16 By the multitude of your trade, they filled your midst [with] violence, and you sinned. So I cast you defiled from the height of God, and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from among the stones of fire.
17 Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. I have cast you to the ground. I will put you before kings, that they may see you.
18 By the host of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trade, you have defiled your holy places. So I brought a fire from your midst [and] it shall devour you, and I will give you for ashes on the earth in the sight of all who see you.
19 All who know you among the peoples shall be appalled at you. You shall be terrors, and you [will] not [be] forever. (Ezekiel 28)
The key verse in all this is Ezekiel 28:15. Here God is saying that His own directly created son, Lucifer, was created perfect until evil was found in him through his actions at perverting the course of human history from its outset. So even the perfect creation of a new born soul cannot guarantee the perfection of that one’s behaviour which is solely under the control of that spirit be it good or evil. This is another confirmation that the only thing truly under our own control is our own actions and not very much else. Even God was not able or, more likely, not willing to control the natural tendencies of His first-born son. This was to be God’s key lesson to us all, humans and angels alike. We are all free spirits under God’s regime, so it would not have been appropriate for Jehovah to have controlled the nature of each child to match its parents’ personalities, including His own. I must say though, that in my own experience, the richness of the emotions between child and parent knows no bounds. Good parents give their love unconditionally to their children regardless of the latter’s predilections. That is God’s way but, ultimately, all his children will be expected to mature into fully righteous beings supporting the common good. I suspect that gentle cajoling may only go so far with some demonic spirits before rather more draconian measures are deemed necessary!