America was breaking loose from something then. Was it traditional morality or just the church? Or both? Was it God and country — “Hell, no, we won’t go”? Or was it the materialistic American dream? It’s not so clear to me now what it was all about. Maybe it is to you. It seemed to be “all of the above” then, and quite a bit more.
Even the Establishment played a part: outlawing prayer in school and banning the Bible from classrooms was certainly revolutionary. Golly, God was repudiated right here in the USA in AD nineteen hundred sixty-three.1 We got the message.
Like many, it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, but that I wouldn’t. I would not believe in the God to whom anything I did didn’t matter, only what I believed. If church on Sunday defined my worth to Him, something was wrong with Him, not me. I would not believe in the God who threw good people into hell for the crime of never having heard of Him. I didn’t need, want, or read the Bible anymore. I had a new map of my own for my life.
The slogans of the Sixties became my signposts. They were the words we lived by, rather than the daily devotionals of our parents. We rejected anything old, as if age somehow made things less true. And our slogans have yet to die:
And you couldn’t legislate morality; because it felt so good, we were going to do it. What law could stand in the way of feeling good? Didn’t they prove that one with Prohibition? And that was just over alcohol. There were no more absolutes, so we could do our own thing. Objective truth? You mean a truth outside the boundaries of our own experiences and feelings? A truth that might limit us? Come on, truth is relative. What’s true for you might not be true for me. It was our freedom that was absolute.
We didn’t want anyone preaching to us about sin, telling us how to run our lives. And all these things gave us good reason for even denying God’s existence. The Ten Commandments had too many don’ts, and we rejected those don’ts as soon as all the spankings stopped. (Thank you Dr. Spock!) After all, we knew more about life than our moms and pops did. They were so uptight, while we exulted in our freedom. And in our newfound freedom we saw it as our prerogative and sacred duty to “Question Authority.”
So now, forty years later, what do we say about what we said then? Did our slogans have the power to change the world like we thought? Let’s look them over:
There are no absolutes. Was that not an absolute statement itself? And if there are no rights and wrongs, can we be sure about that?
There is no objective truth. Sounds like a judgment based on some larger view of reality, a truth independent of one’s subjective views. You know, an objective truth.
Truth is relative. Or is that only relatively true? How can we be sure?
Question authority. Why?
And one slogan died just a few years later: “Don’t trust anybody over thirty…” Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe those who came after us didn’t trust us, either. After all, what goes around comes around, or as the old saying goes, “As we sow, so we reap.”
We have learned in the last forty years that only fools would say in their hearts, “There is no God,”2 meaning we lived as if there were no God, no accountability for our actions.
We were so foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us.3 Is it just religious dogma4 to say that there is a God who made all this? But is it merely the dogma of another religion to exclude God from the big picture?5
Who can prove there is a God? But who can prove there is no God? Which side would you want to err on — the one who says there is a God or the one who says there is no God? I guess if we said the latter, we would be more accountable, or would we? Will anyone be able to defend himself for his suppression of the knowledge of right and wrong? Suppression is the conscious and voluntary forgetting of your Creator, and the conscious putting away of the restraints that knowing places on you. For many, their conscious choice goes beyond suppression of what they know is right to repression. If we continue to suppress our conscience, we go through regression to a state of repression, which means that it becomes unconscious and involuntary. (see box for definitions) It overwrites what’s there, which then can never be recovered. Suppression eventually leads to repression. It is like going over the waterfall, in your heart.
God is good, we had always heard, but when you see what those who claim to know God have done and still do, it’s hard to believe in their God. As Nietzsche said, “I’d believe in your Redeemer, if you looked more redeemed.”
We used to be atheists, and we hated a God who didn’t exist. We thought God was the God of the Crusades and the Inquisitions. We thought He was the God of Martin Luther who had 100,000 peasants slaughtered and called for violence against everyone who didn’t believe in him. We thought He was the divided God of all the denominational debates: the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican denominations, ad nauseam. He must be some kind of denominational God with a host of denominational Christs — one for each denomination. So who was it who said, “Can Christ be divided?”
Must have been some no account who didn’t know how important warring groups of believers in Christ were.6 Each one of these denominations have their own particular slant on the Bible. And who in the future, as in the past, will once again kill heretics? In the past, it was always those with the “right doctrine” that killed those with the “wrong doctrine.” It’s never been the other way around. They say history repeats itself if we don’t learn anything from it.
In the first century, the Jews were killing the Christians for worshipping the heretic they’d put to death and saying He was alive. They just couldn’t understand it. From the fourth century on, the Christians have killed the Jews for not worshipping Him. They couldn’t understand the Jews, either. Nobody seemed to learn that persecution was wrong, but just kept spitefully doing to others what had been done to them. No wonder we turned to eastern religion!
God could hardly blame us for hating Him, could He? Just as it says about people who claimed to be His holy people, His chosen ones, “Because of you, My name is blasphemed among the nations.”7
In light of their history, would not the apostle Paul say the same thing about Christianity, were he writing today? Perhaps what was written long ago by Isaiah the prophet might also apply: “All day long I have stretched out my hand to a disobedient and contrary people.”8
If there was a God, we would hope that He really was not the God of the bloody and horrible history of religious wars and persecutions. And that all the wealth and power gathered by those professing belief in Him did not really represent Him at all. He said, “I was found by those who did not seek Me, and I was made manifest [known] to those who did not ask for Me.”9
There had to be a way back to the Garden. All we knew was the path it wasn’t on.
Though we denied the existence of right and wrong, and good and evil, we wondered why we still got mad at the people who broke their promises to us. What was that burning inside of us? Somehow we instinctively knew what was good and what was bad, and we were the judge to decide which one we would obey. And when we were at the receiving end of someone’s evil choice, it affected us. It hurt. We lost something. Actually, it was taken from us — stolen.
And we said, “If He is such a loving God, why is there so much evil in the world?”
The mother tells her son to clean up his room. He decides later not to clean it. Soon it is a disgusting mess. Was the mother wrong to tell her son to clean it? You judge whose fault the mess is. Or was she wrong to bring him into the world, knowing that one day the room would be a mess? Was it love or hate that caused her to conceive her children? Would it have been better that she aborted him? How about you and me, would it have been better?
Men and women have the freedom to choose what is right and what is wrong, and they do every day. Some choose good, and some evil. And many somehow can’t see what is wrong with them, how the evil they did hurt others very badly… but somehow they can see very vividly what is wrong with everyone else, especially how the selfish actions others do hurts them.
Maybe we ought to acknowledge that God created us with a free will, not as robots or zombies. But why did He do such a thing? Maybe He created free will to test all men. Would it have been better that I had been created a zombie? All we have ever heard of the afterlife is heaven and hell. We couldn’t really understand this. We are coming to see that man can pass the test. We have learned that God gave man a conscience in order that he would do what it says is right and avoid doing what it says is wrong, and have learned that this has great, eternal consequences. And that true freedom can only be maintained by the free choice of the right and not the wrong. For choosing the wrong sweeps a man further down the river of no return. Choosing the right preserves that thing deep within every man and woman that is like God.
Nevertheless, all mankind must still die once. That was decided in the Garden as the way for men and women, if they could, to pay the price for the wrongs they had done others. But it is not already decided that men must die twice.
The trouble, and the way everyone has to deal with it, began long ago. So, did you know that it is appointed for a man to suffer death once, but not twice? But there is a second death, which is eternal, and between the two deaths is a judgment.10 From it some will go on to a second, unending life, and others to a second, unending death.11 It all depends on the choices each person makes. The judgment will be entirely fair and impartial. A person would only die twice if his conscience went into repression, after suppressing the truth continually in his life.
Mankind got into this state — of having to make the right choices — by not listening. He was meant to eat of the tree of life first. In the Garden of Eden, a severe warning was given before the fall:
And the Sovereign God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)12
How many times did Eve go to that tree and ponder that warning? We don’t know, but we know her desire grew and grew. What was this thing called death? Why shouldn’t she gain that knowledge? She didn’t tell her husband, not until the churning within her had given birth to action. For the evil one appeared to her, immediately sensing the same thing in her that was full blown in him. He knew how to fan that desire into flame. It’s burning still.
That’s where sin comes from — it starts with a desire. It’s not sin to have a desire, and many desires are good, but once an evil desire is conceived — and the thought is welcomed, considered, and allowed by our choice to reach the emotions — it brings forth sin, and sin brings forth death.13 Death entered the world when they ate the forbidden fruit.
They had chosen disobedience. In response, God did set in effect a great plan of redemption. You’ve heard of the broad outlines of it most of your life, though, like Nietzsche, you haven’t seen enough redemption to convince you of its existence. At the same time, God set in motion another way, for the great mass of humanity that would never hear of Messiah, to avoid the second death. If they stayed on this path, they would remain worthy of the second life.
This path is the natural law, the law of conscience by which the motivation of man’s choices will be judged. For men and women were no longer innocent, but now had the full knowledge of good and evil. This natural law is tied up with the most general, fundamental law in all science, the one encompassing all of creation and all of life. It is also the law presiding over death.
After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God put into effect a law of conscience (the knowledge of good and evil) as the terms of the second covenant14 He made with man. Eve had, in a sense, attained the knowledge she desired,15 but it came at a great cost. This law of conscience can be compared with the second law of thermodynamics, which states that whenever energy is expended, it always tends to flow from a more concentrated to a less concentrated place.
Turn the heat off the hot frying pan. Its heat flows into the cooler air around it. With the cooling of the pan, an increase in entropy is taking place, which means the amount of energy to do something useful, like frying an egg, is decreasing.16 The reverse never happens — the air never surrenders what heat it does have to make the hot frying pan hotter.
Nor will the children’s room ever spontaneously become clean. Johnnie will have to clean it, expending effort to do so. If he doesn’t, his life in the room will soon make it a pig-pen. In fact, he will not ever be able to stop cleaning it, as long as he is using it, unless he is content to live in a mess. Shall we lock the door and let no one in? It would soon become dusty, musty, and moldy. Decay is in the air. Decay is everywhere, and must be resisted by everyone in every way. And in the end, decay wins: we die.
So, is life futile, without point? No! The struggle against (or acceptance of) that decay determines our eternal destiny! That’s what it’s all about — this thing called life. Of course, it is not about our rooms, it’s about our consciences. How hard it is to maintain a good conscience in the face of the many temptations of life! It’s comparable to the struggle necessary to have a healthy life. It takes exercise, drinking water, and eating good food in the face of all the temptations to do the opposite. This first life will end, no matter how well we live it. The second life (or second death) will never end, according to the condition, not of our bodies at the end of our life, but of our consciences.
Just do nothing to maintain your car, home, or room, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, and wears out. And that is how the second law of thermodynamics applies to every realm of life — physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We have to maintain what is good in the face of temptation, suffering, decay, even the death of our loved ones. We have to never let go of the truth we instinctively know, even when everyone else around us does.
This struggle was given mankind by God in hope that through it men and women would retain the worth they were made with. Apart from the effort that struggle requires, the moral nature of men and women decays. It is as inevitable as the decay of their bodies. Human beings can’t keep suppressing their conscience — if they do, the energy of their life dissipates, and so does their worth. As the entropy of their life increases, the amount of energy to do what is right and turn away from wrong decreases. Eventually, nothing of value is left. Repression has taken place. And the lake of fire is where all that is the worthless will be burned, those of no account to their Creator.17 The reason for this judgment was that they made themselves of “no account.” They were not born that way.
Instead, when you do wrong, you have to admit it, “I was wrong, I don’t want to do it again.” This admission does not release you for paying for your sin in the first death, but it is the only way to maintain the integrity of your conscience after you have not listened to it. Otherwise decay rules your soul and not just your body. It is the undisputed master of your body. In the Fall, the second law of thermodynamics rules all. But it is our choices that determine whether it takes our souls along with it. The wages of sin is still death. The first death awaits even those who struggle to maintain their conscience. There is no way else for them to deal with their sins other than to pay for them in death. Those who have made themselves worthless will not be able to pay.
Men must live by this second law to maintain their conscience. No one can lead a perfect life, but still they can maintain their conscience and do good. Not all men are as evil as they can be, but some are. They are evil as they can be. For example, Alexander the Great was probably as evil as he could be, controlled by his desires. Other people in history and on Earth today have almost reached their full potential of evil, but no one has reached their full potential of doing good in the world. No natural man ever has. No one is as good as they could be. They have fallen short.
Every man has fallen short of the glory of God. So, not all men are as evil as they could be, and no one is as good as he could be. But all have sinned to one degree or another. We see that all men have sinned and the wages of sin is death.18 All men have sinned and have fallen short — but some have fallen shorter than others. It is just according to how God judges what short means, and long, in the judgment of man. It all gets down to the motive, either good or bad, which is eventually revealed in our deeds:
God “will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness -- indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”19
So, where is the road home, back to the garden? How do we get there from here? There is a way back to Eden. God has made it, but it is not through the Christian crusades and their inquisitions, not through the lifeless churches with their dead doctrines and decrees. The Holy Spirit was certainly not passed on through Martin Luther in Germany, the great slaughterer of the peasants. The way back is through the restoration of His true Body — the Community as it was in the beginning. That is happening right now. Once again, all those who believe are together and share all things in common.20 The first ones, the early church, maintained this life for a while. The purity of the Body that was on the Earth 2,000 years ago was so great that it was said, “it turned the world upside down.”21
Then decay overtook them, too, and the proof of it is Christian history. They did not maintain the practice of the truth.22 They stopped expending the effort to live their holy, set-apart life by His grace.23 Their relationship with God ended, and soon after, their life of love and care ended also.24 The aftermath was what we know of Christian history — the horrible fruit of rebellious children never cleaning their room again.25 It was not God’s fault.
Now, all who can hear His voice can return to the Garden. If you have never encountered anyone from one of the communities of those who are being restored, then only the witness of creation can tell you of the Creator. But what are you reading now, at this moment? You no longer have to believe in God only through creation, but now you can believe through the voice of the Creator — through the Word of our Master Yahshua who speaks into your heart through His people. That is, you can hear if you are of the truth and are willing to do His will. These are two things you must judge about yourself.26
Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Yahshua answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37)
Thermo means heat. Dynamics means energy and motion. Thermodynamics means the study of energy in motion. The first law of thermodynamics deals with the conservation of energy, as it changes from one form of energy into another. Before the Fall, energy maintained itself — it didn’t continually dissipate. Can we even imagine such a world; one without decay or death?
When man is cold because of the Fall, the second law of thermodynamics says what he must do to be warm: Get in motion. Gather some fuel. Light a fire. Likewise, the second covenant, the law of conscience, says what man must do to counteract the dissipation of human warmth and love. That is, he must stir himself up to do the good that he knows to do and not do the evil that he knows not to do.27 The second covenant deals with the motion, the action — the expenditure of energy necessary to preserve man from the second death — as he obeys his conscience now. For men and women who have never heard the good news, such action is truly now or never!
But the good news is something you have never heard from the kind of true sent ones Messiah spoke of — men and women not seeking their own recognition or reward, but only His. You’re in the same place we were before we met people living the life — you’ve only met the compromised gospel, which is the great effort to rack up one more convert to the list and one more attendee to the service.
The good news is for all who will face the reality of their wrong choices and desire to find forgiveness for their guilt. This has the same cost it did when the Messiah walked the earth and called those who followed Him to forsake all, including all of their possessions, in order to be His disciples.28 We are those whose “rooms” were cleaned up by Messiah. Now, we want to keep them clean!29
This can only be done by those persuaded by the good news they hear, and who are willing to obey the Savior, not merely believe in Him and recite a prayer.30 Such “belief” has never produced the vibrant life of togetherness and sharing all that the first true believers enjoyed in the Community in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.31
That life is on the earth again! In our communities, life is about more than the struggle to survive. It is about loving with the same love that caused Messiah to forsake all for us, even dying for our sakes, so that now, in this life, we could have new life! Come and see.