MORE on BEN LADEN’S WHEREABOUTS
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
MAY 15, 2011
“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Lk. 15:7)
I had not planned another writing on this topic, but a reader sent some comments that sparked me. Lord willing, we’ll go a little deeper into the unconditional, limitless love and grace of God as seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Now, to our friend’s observations: “I have one question, and that relates to Gal 6:7: “God is not mocked, whatsoever a man sows that shall he reap…” For God is just, merciful, love and full of grace, but the Rich Man in paradise, purgatory, hell, or where ever, found he was reaping that which he had sown. I have said that the Rich Man was the first evangelist to be saved in hell. There has to be a transformation by the power of Christ, and the transformation is the result of fires, or you might say, God’s healing or purifying hand. To give the impression that there is no reaping for the sins sown, might be “mocking God.” And like you, I also don’t know where Osama bin Laden is, because of the great gulf that is between us and those who have gone on. Lastly, to be instantly changed into wholeness sounds good, but sounds like the Rapture. Where did I go wrong? I honestly enjoyed your message. Keep up the excellent work. Prayers and love to you lovely Saints!” End Quote.
No one appointed me Pope, Pastor, or Priest, and since I’m a woman, that’s not likely to happen in most churches anyway, but in spite of those odds, the Lord has called me to speak the Good News of the Kingdom which is here now, and to write of His matchless love which goes upon the mountain dark and brings every lost sheep back home. This was a favorite theme of Jesus, which He preached with unapologetic fervor to the masses, to the poor, to the publicans and sinners as well as to the priests, scribes and Pharisees. He used metaphors and symbols often to make His meaning clear to His listeners. As a reminder, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. For instance, “I’m not a happy camper,” means there is a “burr under my saddle, a bee in my bonnet,” or a “cramp in my style” causing me to be as “mad as an old wet hen.” We all know these expressions, but we’re not as familiar with metaphors used in the Bible because of time and distance both geographically and culturally speaking.
Older Christians cling to the King James Version of the Bible, without realizing that it was written in 1611, at the order of King James, thus the name. The British Monarch ordered the translators to be as accurate as possible without “rocking the boat.” That’s another metaphor we use today, but the punishment for doing so hardly “holds a candle,” still another metaphor, to the punishment meted out in King Jimmy’s day. They cheerfully burned heretics at the stake then, and methinks that couldn’t have been far from the translators minds as they slaved over the task they had been commissioned to do. Scholarship has shown they made many mistakes which have led many to false conclusions.
Seeking the lost was often the point of Jesus’ many parables, including the parable of “the lost sheep” (Lk. 15:1-7), “the lost coin” (Lk. 15:8-10), and the “prodigal” son (Lk. 15:11-31). Interestingly, we Christians view bin Laden as a “lost sheep,” but his followers think of him as a prophet and spiritual leader. He was reared in a Muslim family, and somewhere along the way, he became attracted to the fanatic fringe of Islam. He passionately believed he was doing the will of Allah, and concluded that he was experiencing hardships and character assassinations because of his devotion to the cause. In that respect, he is a bit like Saul of Tarsus, who pursued Christians and killed or jailed them until Jesus knocked him off his horse, blinding him with the “Light.”
Bin Laden was “knocked off his horse” by the Navy Seals. I imagine that when he passed into the Light, he heard a similar message as Paul did: “Osama, why are you kicking against the pricks? Why do you persecute me? I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (See Acts 9:4-6) Only a personal visitation like this would reach him and death is no barrier to God’s love. Remember Peter’s account of Christ preaching to those who had died in the flood? Christ was “put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” (I Pet. 3:18-20)
Here, Christ preached to sinners who had been dead for centuries, imprisoned until the day when He would overcome death. “For Christ died for sins once for ALL, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (I Pet. 3:18) Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous, but to save the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He raised up Paul to take the same message to the Gentiles. God loves sinners, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17) Mostly, our Father has used men and women to bring the Good News, but here and there, various sources have reported that Muslims have had a personal visitation from Christ on “this side of Jordan” (another metaphor), and as a result, have been changed in an instant from Christian haters to Christ followers. Hallelujah!
Our friend mentioned reaping and sowing found in Gal. 6:7. I believe the passage is speaking of reaping and sowing in this life, not our eternal destination. Thus, if you are saved, filled with the Spirit, and trying to live a good life, but in a moment of madness, you leap off the balcony of a high rise apartment, you will certainly “crash and burn” when you hit the pavement below (or even the flower bed, for that matter). There is no contradiction here; the reaping and sowing has to be for this life, because Paul declared that “God consigned ALL men to disobedience, that He may have mercy upon ALL.” That verse tells me that God bears ultimate responsibility for all men’s actions in this life, good and bad. He gets all the glory because He takes all the blame, ultimately. Paul spoke plainly about this glorious truth: “as in Adam ALL died, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:22) The person who leaps off the balcony will die, reaping what he sowed in this life; in eternity, he will reap what God sowed in Christ!
Regarding the instant change, Paul was not talking about rapture, but about the same principal John wrote about: “When we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him.” Looking at what Paul wrote in I Thess. 4:17, I can see how the carnal mind came up with the rapture theory. But Paul wasn’t talking about that in I Cor. 15:51, when he wrote, “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” On earth, in time, change may take a long time, but in eternity, it happens in a flash.
John expressed it this way: “Dear friends, now that we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (I John 3:2-3)
So far as the rich man and Lazarus are concerned, that was a parable of Jesus in which He was lambasting the Jewish priesthood, who lived extravagantly, hypocritically, and cared nothing for the poor. Think about it. The only “sin” the rich man committed was being rich, and the only virtue the beggar had was being desperately poor. Surely, that is not God’s standard of morality which sends us to heaven or hell. For more about this, read J. Preston Eby’s excellent article entitled, “Abraham’s Bosom”
Jesus spoke to people living BEFORE the cross. Lazarus being comforted by Abraham identifies the time frame in the story, as before the cross. Today, we don’t long to be comforted by Abraham, but rather, by God Himself. It is not Abraham who will wipe away all tears, but God, our Father (Rev. 21:4).
One last thought about bin Laden’s whereabouts. Many would only be satisfied only if they could see him writhing in the flames. Methinks they are about a quart low on compassion and self realization of how close they are to the flames, IF our behavior is what gets us to glory. The Psalmist wrote “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” (Ps. 138:8) Wherever he is, GOD is there with him, and that should comfort all of us, no matter how righteous or sinful we imagine we are.
Father, our lives are hidden in You and we rest in Your perfect love, compassion and mercy. We are so thankful that your mercy triumphs over justice and your love is the most powerful force in the Universe. “The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head; they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isa. 51:11) And all the lost sheep say, “Amen!”