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THE NUMBERS GAME

Abraham made a deal with God that if there were 10 righteous souls in Sodom, God would not destroy it.

As it were, God did destroy Sodom, so clearly there weren’t even 10 righteous souls there.

However, I’m wondering if someone had done a show-of-hands survey just prior to the destruction to see how many people in Sodom self-identified as righteous, I’m guessing a lot more than 10 people would have raised their hands.

By the same token, of the million or so souls who were of age (20 years and up) when they left Egypt in the exodus, only 2 (Caleb and Joshua) were considered by God to be sufficiently righteous to enter the Promised Land.

And of all those alive during the days of Noah, only Noah was considered sufficiently righteous to be spared the flood.

So let’s take a look at this – so far, the actual named righteous out of millions if not billions of souls who lived during those eras are 4 in total: Lot, Caleb, Joshua and Noah. (Their families were spared as chattel.)

We could also add Abraham, of course, but that only makes 5.

What about the 2 billion Christians today? How many of them do you think would raise their hands and self-identify as righteous? There were many children of Israel during the days of Jesus’ ministry who would have self-identified as righteous, too, and some of those Jesus told to their face they didn’t have a hope in Hades of getting to Heaven, not in the spiritual state they were in.

These low numbers should be very sobering to us.

Do you consider yourself to be as righteous as Lot? How about as righteous as Noah? Or maybe as righteous as Stephen, the first martyr of the church, who prayed for and forgave those who were stoning him to death while they were stoning him to death? We know that Moses made it to Heaven, too, and Elijah, because they came to visit Jesus during the so-called transfiguration on the mount. So now, along with the other named 5 souls, we’ve got a few more, but not many.

This speaks to me of how difficult it is to make it all the way Home. At the same time, it also speaks to me of how full of crap the mainstream Christian church must be to assure their adherents that Jesus did all the heavy lifting, so all they have to do is show up every Sunday and/or give money to the church, and off to Heaven they go. Or something like that.

I frankly do not consider myself righteous. I have a long way to go before I would make such a claim, if ever. And I think the point here is precisely that: We cannot judge our own righteousness or the righteousness of others. We cannot know definitively whether we’re righteous before God. Abraham thought it was a sure thing to negotiate God down to just 10 righteous souls in Sodom, thinking there must be at least 10, but he was wrong. There was only 1.

And then there was none.

*****

We read of visions of mass destruction throughout the book of Revelation and in Ezekiel 9. Mass destruction was also recorded as historical fact in the book of Jeremiah and in Genesis and elsewhere. In the visions and actual scenes of destruction, very few are spared. Jeremiah relays how mothers cooked and ate their own children during the famine when Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians, in fulfillment of Moses’ prophecies in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

It’s a nasty world out there, filled with nasty people doing nasty things. God knows that. None of what anyone does is a surprise to him. But don’t you be nasty. Don’t you eat your own children, no matter how hungry you get. Don’t you congregate around the door of your neighbour, demanding he bring out his guests so you can rape them. Don’t you strip yourself naked and dance drunk around a golden calf made from the very gold God gave you for his temple ornaments. Don’t you sell everything you have and give only half to the poor, hiding away the other half for a rainy day.

In other words, don’t be unrighteous. Be like the people of Nineveh, who repented when they were told they needed to repent. That’s how you overcome any unrighteousness you may not even know is in you.

Jesus’ message at the start of his ministry was to repent and believe the Gospel. That message doesn’t change at any point during the rest of our time on Earth. We are all in constant need of repentance and all in constant need of the Gospel, just as we’re all in constant need of being reminded how precious and elusive the reward of Heaven actually is.

It’s a numbers game. Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen; Jesus also said that the Way Home is narrow and few find it.

We need to take these words to heart and hope that in mentioning the few, Jesus was talking about us.

EZEKIEL 9: GOD’S VENGEANCE AND THE MARK

One of the most chilling passages in all of scripture is found in the book of Ezekiel, where God shows his prophet what he has planned for those who’ve turned from him. The chapter is as close to horror as the Bible gets. Gone is the God of love and mercy, and in his place is the God of vengeance who operates coldly and mechanically, and without pity.

We know that God is perfect in everything he is and everything he does, so his vengeance must likewise be perfect. In Ezekiel 9, we see vengeance without mercy, but we also see God with no other choice, having given the condemned warning after warning, to no avail. At some point, time is up. Infinite patience doesn’t mean the patience goes on infinitely; it means the patience is infinitely comprehensive while it lasts.

Here are some lines from the chapter:

“Go… through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children….

Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain.”

What we see is God planning to do to his own people – including little children – what he usually does only to the heathen. He is treating the children of Abraham as strangers and enemies, and disposing of them as such.

God doesn’t make idle threats. He lays out very plainly what he expects of us and the rewards we will get for fulfilling those expectations. And just as plainly he lays out what he doesn’t want from us, and the rewards we will get for defying him. God is not coy when it comes to eternal damnation. The devil is coy; God is not. God states his expectations plainly and openly, ensures we’ve understood, and then steps back to let us make up our own mind about what we want to do.

In the same chapter in Ezekiel, we read about the angelic scribe who uses a writer’s inkhorn to mark the people who are safe from God’s vengeance. The mark is made on the forehead of the righteous, presumably with an ink that’s visible only to those in the spiritual realm. Ezekiel’s mark is later mimicked in the infamous “mark of the beast” in the book of Revelation. That mark – the one you cannot buy or sell without – is clearly visible both to those in the spiritual realm and to those on Earth.

There is nothing worse than being beyond God’s mercy, as were those in Ezekiel’s vision. It does not get any worse than that. As long as you exist within the realm of God’s mercy, no matter how bad things get, there is still hope. You can still cling to hope. You can close your eyes and pray and hope. But when God’s mercy ends for you, there is no more hope. That place of no hope is either hell on Earth or Hell itself. The book of Revelation describes the emptying out of Hell onto Earth. It comes after the last of God’s people have been sealed (the final mark of God). Those without that final seal will not be protected from the fallen beings that will rule over the Earth in the planet’s dying days.

The final sealing also marks the end of the Age of Mercy and the beginning of the Age of Vengeance. At that time, there will be no more conversions, only the punishment of the condemned and the final testing of those who have been sealed. It will be Ezekiel 9 come to life.

However, those who are sealed by God can still fall. Note that Jesus said this time of tribulation is so horrendous, if God hadn’t “shortened” it, every human would be wiped out. But God shortens this time for the sake of his elect, that is, for the sake of those he has sealed and marked as his own. He doesn’t whisk them away to avoid the tribulation; he keeps them safe while they’re undergoing their final tests and purification.

If you’re genuinely born-again, you bear God’s mark of protection. You are marked as God’s, just as surely as the Hebrews were marked as God’s by the blood of the lamb smeared on the door frames of their homes on the first Passover. The mark of the blood was a sign to the avenging angels to pass over that household while killing all the first-born without the mark. God’s sealing of you as a born-again believer has the same effect. But just like many of the Hebrews who had been protected by the blood of the Passover lamb were later condemned in the wilderness, so, too, will many of those who have received God’s seal later fall away. This is stated both in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation. Whoever has been sealed and bears God’s mark during the time of tribulation will still be tried (that is, tested and purified), and some will fall.

Being sealed by God and receiving his mark is the greatest of honors. It also provides the greatest of protection. Nothing on Earth surpasses it. But this honor and protection can still be lost through unrepentant sin. We live in a time of great trials and temptations. We are in a spiritual wilderness on our way to the eternal Promised Land, like the Hebrews were in an earthly wilderness on their way to the earthly Promised Land. Jesus paid the price to redeem us from our fallen state and bring us back into relationship with God, if through repentance we choose to have that relationship. But the relationship still needs to be maintained through our choosing the good (rather than choosing sin), or we will lose the relationship a second time, and there is no coming back from that.

We lost our relationship with God once, through Adam’s doing, and Jesus paid the price to reinstate us. If we lose our relationship again through our own doing, there is nothing and no-one who can redeem us at that point. We will be in the same position as the fallen angels and with the same fiery lake as our unavoidable reward. Let no-one deceive you into thinking “once saved, always saved” or “all you have to do is believe and you’re going to Heaven”. These are lies from the devil to keep you spiritually lazy and ripe for a second and irredeemable fall.

God marks his own who are loyal to him. The devil will do the same to those who are loyal to him. Everyone has a mark. You cannot avoid having one. Those who are not born-again have already chosen who they are loyal to. Even if they claim to be atheists or a member of some other belief system, they have chosen against God and for the devil. It is that simple. If you don’t bear God’s mark, you bear the devil’s.

If you think God will be lenient with those who’ve chosen against him, reread Ezekiel 9.

If you think God will allow last-minute conversions after the final sealing of his people, reread Revelation.

We are very close to the final sealing.

One might even say we have arrived.