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Sanctuary Nation

President Abraham Lincoln began his Gettysburg address with reference to an historically unique event. He reminded his hearers that it was merely one long lifetime past that a NEW NATION was brought forth in this old world. He said that this new nation was conceived in liberty. He referred to one of the propositions to which the newborn U.S.A. was dedicated: that all men are created equal.

Granted, the outworking of that proposition had led to a more recent, bloody unpleasantness and to the existence of the cemetery which Lincoln was dedicating on that November Thursday, four score and seven years into the young nation’s life. The struggle to bring liberty and justice for all out of abstraction and tangibly into all American lives goes on. The national effort to honor the proposition that all human beings are created equal continues.

Despite that struggle and despite the grievous corruption which infects whatsoever comes to pass in the course of human events, this unique and exceptional republic still stands…yes, the star spangled banner still waves.

The newness of the American nation consisted in much more than its youth as nations go. From its founding onward, America was never the name of a people who share kinship, as the term “nation” ever had denoted. Before that Declaration of Independence which is the bedrock of the U.S. Constitution, the world had seen empires rise and fall. Strategic alliances had surely existed before the 1776th year of grace. Political borders such as the Korean peninsula’s DMZ have been drawn and erased since ancient times.

Our 16th president was affirming that our nation is radically innovative to the core: we are a people united by ideas, not bloodlines. E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) is our motto. America was established as a nation over which neither Britain’s King George III nor any other mere mortal would be sovereign. It was to be a nation in which the caprice of Rex Lex (the king is the law) would be displaced by Lex Rex (the law is king). The rule of law is to be sacred from sea to shining sea, and in that beautiful pearl in the midst of our westerly ocean.

These founding ideas in turn have an historical basis. And that brings us to the issue at hand, sanctuary.

America was not founded as a theocracy. And despite the efforts of those who would edit history and engineer society, neither was it founded as a theophobic, secular entity. It is beyond controversy that the matrix of national conception to which Mr. Lincoln alluded was that of Biblical a.k.a. Judeo-Christan ethics. It cannot be denied that the proposition all men are created equal (not evolved from primordial slime) comes directly from the Bible and its teaching that every man and woman shares in the glorious, equalizing dignity of bearing the Imago Dei, the image of God.

For the sake of us who live over twelve score years after the founding of the U.S.A., here is an effort to bring back stabilizing, salutary Biblical ethics and anthropology which some would reject as anachronistic or worse. Here is a challenge to those who imagine themselves as neo-revolutionaries but who can only offer invertebrate moral relativism as a foundation for the society of which they dream; a society with all the longevity of a sand castle built below the high tide mark. Hear the word of God:

“There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.” (Numbers 15:16)

“…you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there…these six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.” (Numbers 35:11, 15)

“If, however, a man acts presumptuously toward his neighbor, so as to kill him craftily, you are to take him even from My altar, that he may die.” (Exodus 21:14)

“…the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances.” (Numbers 35:24)

Let’s compare this sublime wisdom about cities of refuge with the San Francisco treat which apparently has displaced Rice-a-Roni, namely the folly of being a so-called sanctuary city. First we note that according to both Scripture and ‘Frisco, special havens should exist. They are a good thing for the public welfare.

The agreement ends there. The alien or sojourner in view in Mosaic Law was someone who had entered the theocratic society peacefully and lawfully. The city that left its own heart who-knows-where embraces criminals as well as law abiding visa holders and those who aspire to citizenship. The Biblical city of refuge was a temporary haven. California’s city by the bay knows no such time limitation.

The Bible indeed insists on one law for citizen and sojourner. The town where little cable cars climb gives preferential treatment to aliens and cares little to nothing for the rights of American citizens. The golden Scriptural standard requires careful examination of each case. The city of the Golden Gate bridge wants to make sure that the outcome of litigation accords with identity politics. Mercy pervades God’s Law; the incisive distinction between manslaughter and murder itself originates there. But unlike the laxity which characterizes the sanctuary city mentality, God’s law also demands swift and rigorous punishment of the guilty.

So a BIG question remains for those who want to reject the world view, ethics, and jurisprudence of the Bible. Since the laws of our unique, exceptional nation find their origin and wisdom there, BY WHAT ALTERNATE STANDARD shall the nation legislate, judge, live and endure for the next twelve score years or more?

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Meditation on Galatians 2:20

The Galatians had heard and believed the gospel of God’s free gift of righteousness by faith, but false teaching had bewitched them. Having begun in the Spirit of the Christ Who justifies by grace through faith in Himself, they were deceived into believing they should continue to grow in holiness by their unprofitable, fleshly selves. And so the apostle taught them thus:

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
And the life which I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God,
Who loved me and gave Himself for me.

We might expound on that verse this way:

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer self will that rules, but God’s good and perfect will.
And the things which I now determine to do in the flesh
I purpose according to faith in Him Whose food was to obey His Father,
Who loved me and set His face toward the cross for me.

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer according to the fleshly mind of enmity against God,
but according to the mind of Christ that I think.
This transformation by the mind’s renewal is by faith in the Word Incarnate,
Who loved me and thought it a small thing to humble Himself for me.

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer fleshly lusts and affections that motivate, but Godly ones
And the desires and feelings I now have in the flesh,
Flow from the new heart promised under the New Covenant, enacted
In His blood Who loved me and became a Man of Sorrows for me.

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer with the stuff of this world that I provide myself,
But God supplies all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
And all this provision is by faith in Him Who had nowhere to lay His head,
Who loved me and both hungered and made Himself poor for me.

I have been crucified with Christ.
My schedule no longer prevails, but His Who came in time’s fulness
And I redeem the remaining hours in the flesh
Through faith in the One Whose goings forth are from everlasting,
Who loved me and spent His earthly days for me.

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer in the flesh that I glory, but in Jesus the Lord of glory
And the approval, recognition, and honor which I now seek in the flesh
Is that which comes from God, and is sought by faith in the Scorned One,
Who loved me and made Himself of no reputation for me.

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer in the arm of flesh that I confide,
But in the One Who said “believe in God, believe also in Me”.
And the assurance I now know in the flesh
Is in accordance with the promise to believers in the Son of God,
Who loved me and entrusted His soul to His Father for me.

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer on anything in the flesh that I set my hope
But on partaking in that glorious mystery, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
And this blessed hope in which I now rejoice with a joy unspeakable,
Is according to faith in the coming Son of Man,
Who loved me and will on that day conform me perfectly to Him.

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer the sounding brass or tinkling cymbal of self
But the love of God shed abroad in this poor heart of flesh,
And the treasure now carried in this earthen vessel
IS the very life of the One Whose name is sacrificial Love.

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Those Inward Nooks and Crannies

How often do we Christians miss out regarding communion with God…how many are those little ways in which even His children, caving to the sinful nature, try to hide from Him like Adam and Eve in Eden?

“Pray without ceasing,” wrote the inspired apostle to the Thessalonians. Do I take every possible occasion to express an holy aspiration, or make intercession for someone in need, or praise the holy One directly? Or do I merely talk about God here and there when I have a spare moment?

Do I perpetually speak to my heavenly Father through the mediation of Jesus His only begotten Son as one who is a spiritually regenerate partaker of the blessed Holy Spirit? Are my “God pronouns” mostly third person ones (He, Him, His) or second person ones (You, Your)?

In yet other words when gazing at an overwhelmingly gorgeous sky (day or night, clear or cloudy) do I say inwardly, “Yes, it’s true, the heavens declare the glory of God,” as if the great Artist my Redeemer were not right there? Or, as recognizing the faithful, upholding presence of Him Who is in need of nothing yet Who graciously seeks insignificant me do I say to Him, “Yes my precious Lord, the heavens indeed declare Your glory!”

Mere semantics? Perhaps. But…”O Lord, we know that You have said, ‘give me your heart.’ Wonderfully, it is both for Your glory and for our own highest delight that You have commanded us to love You with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.”

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Loaded for Bear or Barely Loaded?

Firearms themselves are only the externals of the “gun control” debate once again raging in America. Most often talking at another without listening to one another, the two entrenched sides are actually debating about human nature and how those who share in that nature (all of us) can live in a civilized state.

Since most who read my posts are aware of where I stand, achieving what I intend below will be difficult. Nevertheless, here is an attempt to summarize objectively the two positions as they relate to those two concepts. (Human nature and civilized life).

SIDE A: Mass shooters, bombers, vehicular homicide terrorists, etc. are exceptions to the rule. They are aberrant monsters or victims of the worst kind of mental or emotional illness. The vast majority of people will not behave like them because human nature is basically good. How can multi-cultural America, a tolerant country inclusive of widely divergent ideologies, endure peaceably?

Protected by well armed professional law enforcement agencies, enlightened from earliest childhood by secular education, and helped by federal, state, and local governments against poverty and other human ills, it will! Strictly controlling the sale of firearms and building sturdy stanchions or other tangible defenses around soft targets are just good sense measures. Law abiding citizens being a bit inconvenienced by red tape or giving up a little of their liberty is a tiny price to pay for a greater degree of safety and security for all.

SIDE B: Human nature is basically rotten. As recent events show, anyone can be “radicalized” or turn into a bad actor inexplicably and easily. We can cannot remain naturally civilized because we are naturally bad! To be civilized is to be self restrained. People who understood that gave us a government with three branches, able to restrain any one branch from attaining the absolute corruption which springs from absolute power.

Only when the people are restrained from the heart by the transcendent ethical and ideological standard upon which our government and laws were founded can peace endure. In other words, with religious based morality under girding our society, armed citizens can peacefully coexist and defend themselves and their neighbors. They can do so far more effectively than impotent laws and physical structures which clever criminals will always be able to circumvent.

So there you have it. Your friendly neighborhood blogger looks forward to responses here or on Facebook where this is linked.

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The Heart of the Matter

When it comes to the holy Bible, old and new testaments, sound knowledge of what it teaches is a matter of “seeing Christ under every rock.”

In other words we accurately apprehend origins, the nature of the cosmos, the trajectory of history, and the consummation of all things only when see Him at the center of all things. We exposit the wisdom of any passage, we rightly grasp divine promises, and we maintain doctrine rightly divided from the whole counsel of God only if the Light of the world has illumined to us His Father’s Book by the blessed Holy Spirit Whom He sent to testify and teach of Him (John 15:26).

This is what Jesus the great Teacher, the real Christ of the Bible, Himself taught:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself… And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:25-27, 32, 44-47)

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39)

His apostles likewise taught:

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:7)

“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” (2 Peter 1:19)

“…for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (from Revelation 19:10)

The saying “under every rock” does not do Christ justice. He is the Maker of every rock and of all that is under each rock, literally and metaphorically. In Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17). He is the spiritual Rock which followed the wandering people of God (1 Corinthians 10:4). Because He is the Truth every word of inspired Scripture is rock solid truth, displaying Him to those with eyes to see.

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Signs, Miracles, and Wonders

In his excellent and helpful book Concise Theology, J.I. Packer writes:

“Belief in the miraculous is integral to Christianity. Theologians who discard all miracles, thus obliging themselves to deny Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, the supreme miracles of Scripture, should not claim to be Christians: the claim is not valid. The rejection of miracles by yesterday’s scientists sprang not from science but from the dogma of a universe of absolute uniformity that scientists brought to their scientific work. There is nothing irrational about believing that God Who made the world can still intrude creatively into it.”

But that’s not the whole story on miracles. To say that God CAN do something is not to say that God WILL do something. God COULD cause a pound of solid gold to materialize out of thin air onto your kitchen table. But God has given us no reason to suppose that He WILL do that.

And that drives us back to His written word, from which the child of God learns what God has done and will do according to His eternal purpose. Through His apostle, the Holy Spirit expresses it this way:

“…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him.” (Ephesians 1:9,10)

The earthly work of Christ, His once for all sacrifice of Himself through His bloody death followed by His earthly burial and glorious resurrection, is finished. And it is the only grounds of His ongoing work from Heaven at the Father’s right hand, that “gathering together in one,” already begun through the power of the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven.

And that brings us back to miracles. Throughout both testaments, God did miraculous works as signs authenticating (proving, testifying to) the messages He gave through His prophets and apostles. The Bible is the infallible record of those messages and attending signs.

In other words, the Biblical miracles had a very specific purpose. The old covenant scriptures foreshadowed and pointed ahead to Christ’s work. The new covenant scriptures tell of its historical accomplishment and fully expound its salvific meaning. Signs were done by God’s spokesmen of both testaments, including the Lord Jesus (cf. John 10:38), as proof that they were indeed speaking for God. The writer to the Hebrews put it this way:

“…how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:3,4)

In our zeal to defend the inerrant infallibility of the inspired, holy scriptures using 2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” let us not overlook what the very next verse says: “…that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Nothing can be added to Christ’s once for all sacrifice. Likewise, God will not add any more inspired words about that once for all sacrifice; all we need to know is in the Bible already. Hence there is no further need for authenticating signs such as those worked by Moses, Elijah, Jesus, or His apostles. Having the holy Bible, the Church of Jesus is complete with all we need for life and godliness and every good work until He returns. There are no private sequels to the Bible.

At the coming day of Christ’s appearing, God’s self-revelation will indeed resume and continue eternally! There will be an everlasting, adoring feast of new discoveries about His incomprehensibly glorious being, the infinite wisdom of His eternal purpose, and the unfathomable depths of His redeeming love. A child must master his A-B-C’s before he moves on to the great classics of literature. Even so, we now have God’s written word; there will be no new divine literature, so to speak, until He comes Who said this:

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book…” (Revelation 22:18)

So is that the whole story on miracles? Do any miracles happen today? If we mean signs authenticating alleged special (verbal) divine revelation equal to what we have in the sixty-six books of the Bible, NO. If we mean extraordinary works of God’s providence (commonly called divine intervention), healings in answer to prayer for which medical science can give no account, and other such wonders absolutely YES!

Let’s be concise in our theology indeed. In God’s intimate, loving care for His people, He will do miraculous wonders that surprise and amaze and generate profuse thankfulness. But since Jesus proclaimed “It is finished,” since the revelation of the plan of salvation is complete, there is no more need for the miraculous signs which authenticated its revelation. Our call is to faithfully proclaim what already has been revealed once for all.

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Heaven and Hell, Are They Real? (Part Two)

We began part one with the observation that we human beings can’t escape knowing that death lies somewhere ahead for each of us. But we try to remain upbeat, and not think about the time that “our number comes up”. But we also discussed the truth claims of the Bible, that it is possible not only to know about what comes after death in general, but to be prepared personally for facing departure from this earthly realm.

Those who are unprepared can only expect eternal torment, darkness, and shame: Hell. Knowing how to be prepared for death and instead enjoy eternal joy, light, and glory in Heaven begins with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Son of God Who came not as a moralist, not as a martyr, but as a substitutionary sacrifice. Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”. And He said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The Son of Man gave His body and blood, His life, to pay the penalty of sin for those who could never pay that penalty themselves. When He rose from the dead, it demonstrated that full satisfaction to Divine justice had been made. A glorious transaction, conceived in the infinitely loving heart of God and by the infinite wisdom of God, could now take place in the lives of the hopelessly doomed. God’s FREE GIFT of salvation works this way:

When a sinner, aware of his guilt, corruption, and lost condition, calls out from his heart for mercy in the name of Jesus the Savior, the full penalty owed by that sinner to Divine justice is payed by Jesus. At the same time, that sinner becomes clothed with the perfect righteousness of Jesus, and indeed CAN stand before a thrice holy, sin avenging God! This glorious reality of the Gospel is called JUSTIFICATION. A justified sinner’s sin WAS avenged upon the Substitute, when He gave His life once for all. And the Substitute’s record of perfect righteousness gets reckoned to the account of the redeemed one. Could a more wonderful, glorious, precious announcement be made to hopeless wretches like this writer, and others who are burdened with a sense of their guilt and shame?

Again, Jesus said, “”Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

The sinner who embraces this Gospel enters the narrow gate (the Divine person and saving work of Jesus Himself). By vital faith united to Jesus and empowered by Jesus (Who Himself is also the Way), that one begins the disciple’s life, which Jesus defined briefly thus: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”

Having entered that narrow but glorious gate, and being found in that difficult but royal way, the former rebel against God and alien to God’s kingdom is on His way to the reward, namely being with Jesus (Who Himself is the destination) forever in HEAVEN.

Are you a sinner redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, clothed with His perfect righteousness, living faithfully in Him? The following Biblical contemplations on HEAVEN offer at best a dim foreshadowing of what is in store for you. The bright reality is beyond anything you could possibly ask or even think…

In Heaven’s bliss, you will spend eternity loving God Triune in return for His incomprehensible, electing, wonderful love for you. Nothing will ever corrupt your love to Him, since your entire resurrected and glorified being then will have been made perfect by His almighty power. As the endless billions of eons roll on, God will continue to love you immeasurably more than your heart will be able to love Him, even though your heart’s capacity to love will be magnificently greater than it is now!

This “wheel of love” will turn ceaselessly. It will perpetually reel and spin with delirious, musical joy – yet according to Infinite Wisdom’s precise orchestration. You will be utterly perfect – yet you will always grow (unhindered and without limit) in knowledge of the immeasurable, unsearchable God. The “new heavens and earth” will be filled with inconceivable peace – yet they will be vibrant with industry: the high and sacred business of worshiping and glorifying the Uncreated One forever.

This will all take place in the fellowship and society of the redeemed of all ages, in a real place the beauty and absolute splendor of which is past the ability of any writer to describe. There you will be able to ask Enoch about the antediluvian (pre-Flood) world, and how it was to be taken up from earth, having never known physical death.

With Noah you will sip a Divine wine finer even than the miraculous vintage of Cana in Galilee, as you contemplate the profound depths of God’s judgments in complete sobriety.

Speaking the one, pure language of Heaven, Babel’s dividing curse forever banished, Abraham and you will rejoice that faith has become lustrous, dazzling sight.

You will laugh uproariously with Isaac, dining on dishes far more sumptuous than any savory stew such as that patriarch loved on earth.

With Jacob you will scale that ladder which soars to the loftiest altitudes of God. The Summit will never be conquered, yet all will tirelessly climb toward it in raptured delight, with no possibility of slipping or falling, ever ascending to more and more rarefied, exhilarating heights.

There you will converse with that noble man who was so cruelly treated by his brethren, in order that those brethren might be well treated by Providence. You will ever dwell in the same household of God with him who was once Pharaoh’s prime minister – Joseph your brother – who is a type of the Great Elder Brother of the redeemed.

Moses, the deliverer from an earthly bondage who prefigured Christ’s redemption of His people from sin, death, and hell even more acutely, will be your fellow servant – where the pure, holy Law of love and liberty is obeyed by all with sheer delight, and never a threat need be uttered.

With Joshua, you will divide everlasting spoils and hold irrevocable title to the true Canaan, for God’s people are more than conquerors through Him Who loves us.

With Samuel, you will be a judge: for do you not know that we shall judge angels?

With Elijah and all the prophets you will proclaim the Divine excellencies without ceasing, to ears that can’t get enough of the pure and fervent truth all will speak.

Like Melchizedek and Aaron you will ever dispense untold blessings to the Father’s great family – that kindred in which all are priests, each mediating God’s countless blessings to the innumerable all, and diversely to each other!

You will be crowned a king forever with David, and you will sit on a throne with David’s Greater Son, Ruler of the universe, and you will enter into the loftiest and most sublime realms of contemplation: studying the eternal word and eternally enduring creation of Him Whose wisdom is greater than Solomon’s.

At Daniel’s side you will worship the Lion of the tribe of Judah, not three times per day toward old, earthly Jerusalem, but at all hours, on a day which has no nightfall.

You will do this in the New Jerusalem, with Ezra and Nehemiah – you will do it in that unshakeable Celestial City, which has no need of temple, sun, or lamp.

You will rejoice with John the friend of the Bridegroom, and be a member of Christ’s Body, His Bride, with the apostles and all the believers who first heard the Gospel. With all these, you will be around the throne with the twenty four elders, all the holy angelic beings, and the glorious martyrs of our dear Lord Jesus.

You will take your place with the majestic saints of God of all ages of the Church, the greatest of whom are perhaps recognized at present only by their heavenly Father – until that Great Day discloses their holy lives, labors, and mighty triumphs. They and you will be eternal monuments of grace and glory, though now uncelebrated by a sleepy, crafty, and antagonistic world.

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

Press on toward such a glorious HEAVEN, fellow Christian! Others, repent and believe, lest you taste of that second death, which likewise has no end!

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