Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Judgment Seat of Christ

There are people who teach that Christians will undergo a different kind of judgment than non-believers.  This has led to misconceptions and confusion about eternal judgment, which is one of the elementary truths of the faith that we should all understand clearly.

“Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.” (Heb 6:1-2)

So we need to examine the Scriptures and see what is meant by eternal judgment. 

Its Eternal Consequences
First of all, based on the passage above, it is eternal in nature in that the decision rendered by God at that point is irreversible and final.  As Jesus taught, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Mt 25:46).  It determines the eternal destination of the person being judged, so it is permanent.  And in light of the tremendous glories of heaven, as well as the enormous horrors of hell, the consequences of this judgment are of the utmost seriousness.

One Judgment for All Mankind
Jesus taught one judgment seat for all mankind.  "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.” (Mat 25:31-33)

At the judgment, all the nations will be gathered before Him.  The Father has entrusted all judgment to Him (Jn 5:22).  Therefore, He will separate the people from one another, putting the righteous sheep on His right and the wicked goats on His left.  Both the righteous and the wicked will stand before the same judgment seat.

Standard of Judgment
The same standard of judgment will be used for both the righteous and the wicked. It will be based on what they did and didn’t do.

Note the standard for the righteous:
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'” (Mat 25:34-40)

Note the same standard He will use for the wicked:
"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mat 25:41-46)

We know that we are saved by grace through faith, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).  And it is only by the blood of Jesus that we can be washed of our sin. “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1Jn 1:7) But according to Jesus, the standard that He will use will be the same one for both the righteous and the wicked. To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of His, even the least of them, you did it to Him, and to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Him.

We know we must confess Jesus as Lord to be saved, and “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)  But being a believer is not the same as being righteous.  Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (Mat 7:21-23)

He will have to tell some of those who call Him Lord to depart from Him, because although they confessed His name, they practiced lawlessness.  They prophesy and perform miracles, but they do not do the will of the Father.  This is why it is so critical to be a doer and not only a hearer of the Word of God, because Jesus said that those who hear His words and act on them will be able to withstand the judgment like the house built on the solid rock. However, those who hear His words and do not act on them are foolish, because they will be destroyed like the house built on sand.

Our actions include the words we speak, which are part of the same standard the Lord will use in the judgment.  Jesus also said, "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Mat 12:36-37).  By this He meant that both His disciples and everyone else would give an accounting on judgment day for every careless word they have spoken. Since our words may either justify or condemn us, we must be very careful not to open our mouths easily.  And if we do speak a careless word, we should repent and ask forgiveness.

Timing of the Judgment
Jesus taught that the eternal judgment would occur when He returns in His glory and all the holy angels with Him (Mt 25:31).  Beyond that I prefer not to get into exact details about the timing of the judgment, since it is a future event and it’s not necessary for us to know the exact sequences of such things.  Any issues relative to timing would not affect the fact that there will be a Day of Judgment.

The apostle Paul said the judgment will happen "On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." (Rom 2:16)

The Judgment Seat
At that time, the Lord Jesus will sit on His glorious throne (Mt 25:31).  This is the judgment seat of Christ.

John saw this throne and said, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (Rev 20:11).  He is so terrifying on His judgment seat as to cause earth and heaven to flee from Him.

The apostle Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” (2Co 5:10-11).

In his epistle to the Romans, he called it the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, when he wrote: "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.  (Rom 2:5-11).

God does not show favoritism.  So whether you are a Jew or a a Gentile believer in Christ, God will render to each person according to his own deeds.  That is why it is so important to do good, so that you may receive glory and honor and peace, rather than the tribulation and distress of those who do evil.

The Purpose of the Judgment
Some people try to twist Paul’s words to make them say something different than what Christ taught, but we must understand all the teachings of the apostles through the Words of Jesus. They cannot be interpreted in such as way that contradicts Jesus.  Yet some cite the fact that the word translated “judgment seat” here is the Greek word “bema,” meaning “a step, that is, foot breath; by implication a rostrum, that is, tribunal: - judgment-seat, set [foot] on, throne.” (Strongs).  They admit that this word connotes the kind of raised platform where a Roman magistrate or ruler sat to make decisions and pass sentence, which is correct.  However, even though they admit the word refers to the place of judgment occupied by rulers and magistrates to make decisions and pass sentence, they prefer to emphasize the analogy of the athletic games. They say that Paul used this Greek word in light of his frequent reference to athletic games, since such a raised platform was used in the Olympic games, at which the judge rewarded those who had won.  They force every aspect of the Olympic awards ceremony to fit, as if God must conform to man’s rules.  They say that no punishment is meted out to the losers at such a judgment, only rewards for the winners or loss of rewards for others.

In fact, Lewis Sperry Chafer states: “It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the judgment is unrelated to the problem of sin, that it is more for the bestowing of rewards than the rejection of failure.” (Systematic Theology, Vol. IV: Ecclesiology-Eschatology, Dallas Seminary Press, Dallas, TX, 1948, p. 406).  They teach that the bema judgment is not to judge believers for sin of any kind, confessed or unconfessed; however, this does not agree with the context of the passage written by the apostle Paul.

First, Paul stated, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” which agrees with what I have already stated, and which Jesus taught, that it is one judgment for all nations.  Elsewhere Paul had said, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:10-12).  In this context, Paul was warning believers not to judge their brothers, since we will all stand before the judgment seat of God, and each one will give an account of himself to God.

Secondly, Paul stated the purpose of the bema judgment is “so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  The Greek word for “recompensed” is “komizo,” meaning, “properly to provide for, that is, (by implication) to carry off (as if from harm; generally obtain): - bring, receive.” (Strongs).  Each one may receive or be provided with what is due to him or her for the deeds in the body, meaning those committed while living on earth. This recompense is for both good and bad.  It relates to what each person has done. The word for “done” is the Greek word “prasso,” meaning “to practice, that is, perform repeatedly or habitually; commit, deeds, do, exact, keep, require, use arts” (Strongs).  This agrees completely with the teaching of Jesus that He will judge each one based on what they did and didn’t do, whether they did good and bad.

Therefore, the only sins that are not dealt with are the ones that have been forgiven by God and washed away in the blood of Jesus.  The Lord will never bring up any sins that He has forgiven, because when He forgives, he remembers them no more.  As the Scripture says: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Heb 8:12).  Yet the only way to receive forgiveness for sin is to repent of it before God, confess it, and ask forgiveness.  That is why the apostle John placed the conditional word “if” on the phrase, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jn 1:9). To say we are already forgiven for unconfessed sin is incorrect and unbiblical. 

In the epistle to the Hebrews, Paul wrote, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." (Heb 10:26-27)

That is why we do fear the Lord when we think about the eternal judgment, which is why Paul went on to say, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” (2Co 5:11).  Paul spoke in the context of the bema judgment about the terror of the Lord.  He said, including himself, “we,” when he said, “knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”  However, the proponents of the “rewards-only” bema seat judgment for Christians don’t quote the verse in its proper context.  They leave the part out where Paul said in the context of the bema seat judgment, “We know what it is to fear the Lord…” Paul knew what it was to fear the Lord, and this was one of the main reasons why he tried to persuade men to live for Christ.

Confidence in the Day of Judgment
The Scripture tells us that we may have confidence on the Day of Judgment and how that is possible.  The apostle John said:

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” (1Jn 4:15-17)

This is a key passage to know and live by, if you want to have confidence on the Day of Judgment.  This is the only way you can be free from the fear of punishment on that day.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.” (1Jn 4:18-19)

But if you desire to have confidence at the judgment, which John spoke of, rather than fear, it’s not enough to simply say “I confesses that Jesus is the Son of God.” Of course, you must believe in the Son of God in order to have eternal life (1 Jn 5:10,13).  But you must also act on the words in the rest of John’s epistle.  He said many hard things about the narrow path we must walk to reach heaven.  If you hate your brother and say you know God, you’re a liar.  Nobody who hates his brother truly loves God (1 Jn 2:9; 4:20). If you don’t love, then you don’t know God (1 Jn 4:8). You’ve got to love your brother in deed and truth (1 Jn 3:7,19). You can’t have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness (1 Jn 1:6). You must walk in the Light as Jesus is in the Light (1 Jn 1:7). If you say you have no sin, the Truth is not in you (1 Jn 1:8). If you say you’ve come to know Him and you don’t keep His commandments, you’re a liar (1 Jn 2:4). You’ve got to love God and keep His commandments (1 Jn 3:22-24; 5:2-3). If you love the world or the things of this world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 Jn 2:15). You’ve got to abide in Christ if you want to have confidence and not shrink away at His coming when He appears (1Jn 2:28). You must purify yourself just as He is pure, which is as pure as the River of the Water of Life itself (1 Jn 3:3). No one who abides in Him sins or practices sin (1 Jn 3:6,9). You may not sin (1 Jn 2:1).  In fact, no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him (1 Jn 3:6). If you practice sin, you’re of the devil. You must practice righteousness (1 Jn 3:7,19). Therefore, if you do sin, you must repent and confess your sin in order to be forgiven (1 Jn 1:9).  If we do, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Great White Throne Judgment
As I’ve already pointed out, some teach that there will be two judgments, one for the believers and another for the non-believers.  They say the bema judgment is for believers and the “Great White Throne Judgment” is for non-believers.  However, I hope that I have made it clear there is one judgment. If you are still not clear about this, then I kindly refer you back to my previous section in this article, called One Judgment for All Mankind.  Here is what John saw:

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:11-15).

Let’s look at each part of this passage and compare it with the previous ones I’ve already mentioned:

First, he saw “a great white throne and Him who sat upon it.”  Why should this be different from the throne of judgment about which both Jesus and Paul both spoke? While this is the first time the color of the throne is mentioned in Scripture, it does not mean it is a different throne or a different judgment than what is spoken of elsewhere.

Secondly, John said, “…I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne…” Certainly one could make a case that John saw “the dead” before the throne, and not the living, which would imply that this is not referring to the saints, since we are alive in Christ.  However, if we view this in light of the previous passages in which Jesus and Paul spoke of the judgment, then it could also mean that every person who ever lived will one day stand before the throne for judgment. This would agree with the passages where Jesus and Paul spoke of the eternal judgment.  They both referred to it as the resurrection from the dead.

Thirdly, John said, “…and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (20:12).  This agrees completely with what both Jesus and Paul taught about the judgment, whereby we are all judged according to our deeds, which are written in the books.  This is repeated again in verse thirteen, where John wrote, “and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds” (20:13). 

Notice John said, “and another book was opened, which is the book of life;” Jesus spoke of this book when He told His disciples, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luk 10:20).  When you repent of your sins, and put your faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior, your name is written in the book of life.  This is a very important, because “…if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (20:15).  The fact that John said, “If” seems to indicate that among all of those standing before the throne, there are some whose names are in fact written in the book of life.  The implication is that these souls will NOT be thrown into the lake of fire.  However, the mistake that people make is thinking that once their name is written in the book of life, it can never be erased.  That is incorrect.  After giving your life to Jesus, if you go back into the world and into a life of sin, your name is erased.  For more on this see The Book of Life.

Fourthly, John said, “…and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.”  This means that after people are already in hell, they will be brought out of hell to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Hell will literally give up the dead so they can receive their judgment from the Lord Jesus Christ, who sits upon the throne.  This is what some call the second resurrection, because it is the resurrection of the wicked dead, who awake to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan 12:2). However, while that is true, the Scripture simply calls it the second death.

This begs the question why they were in hell if they had not yet received judgment.  The reason is that when a person dies, God knows at the time they die what the final judgment will be on judgment day. How does He know this?  God knows everything before it happens.  He knows the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end.  There is nothing He does not know. 

In order to explain this more clearly, let me use the devil and his fallen angels as an example.  We know the eternal fire is prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:41).  It was not created for humans, but for the devil and his angels.  However, Jesus taught that all the wicked go to that same place (Mt 25:41). 

And Peter drew some parallels between the fallen angels and the wicked in the second chapter of his second epistle.  In that passage he said, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;” (2Pe 2:4).  Peter taught that God sent the fallen angels down to hell to be reserved unto judgment.  That means He knew already what their final outcome would be, but He cast them into hell to await the judgment.  They were cast into hell before the judgment, but immediately following the judgment they will be thrown into the lake of fire.

In that same passage, Peter spoke in the same way of the unrighteous people saying, “Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the Day of Judgment.” (2Pe 2:9).  This means that when unrighteous people die, God keeps them under punishment for the Day of Judgment.

Likewise, Paul said, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Heb 9:27).  We know that means exactly what it says, that each person has an appointment with death and we are not going to miss it.  Once we die, then comes the judgment.  It agrees with the fact that the judgment seat of Christ will happen one day at the very end for all mankind.  However, it can also be understood to mean that immediately following death, men must face a judgment that determines whether they will be allowed into heaven or sent to hell to be reserved unto judgment.  In other words, God handles it the same way he handled the fallen angels. 

This is in agreement with what many people have testified, who have received divine revelations from the Lord.  For example, Ezekiel Moses testified that he died, stood before the judgment as a believer, and was sent to hell.  When he stood there for judgment, the angels had the book of life and other books, in which all of his deeds had been recorded. (For more, see Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell). Likewise, Samuel Oghenetega testified that the Lord showed him the day Archbishop Benson Idahosa died and stood before the angels for judgment.  The angels opened the book of life and other books were opened.  His name was not found in the book of life.  Off in the distance he saw the throne of the Lord God Almighty.  It was radiating with such bright, white light, that He could not see God inside the light.  But he saw the hand of God extend outside the glory and raising only His index finger; He waved it back and forth to indicate that Idahosa would not be allowed into heaven.  He was sent to hell.  (For more, see The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness).

I believe that one day, all these people who have been sent to hell will be brought before the judgment throne of Christ to give an account for every deed done while in the body, whether good or bad.  Likewise, all those whose names are written in the book of life, because they followed Jesus, will be in heaven.  And because they are the righteous who have already taken part in the first resurrection, they will not be harmed at all by the second death, which is the lake of fire.  John wrote:

“Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:4-6)

First, John said “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” 

Secondly, he defines this event when these souls come to life by saying, “This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” That can be understood to mean that the first resurrection occurs a thousand years before the Great White Throne Judgment, at which the wicked will be sentenced to the second death in the eternal fire. But even if you don't think so, you must agree that the "first" resurrection occurs first, as the term implies, which places it before the second resurrection.

Since the second death has no power over those who take part in the first resurrection, then when they stand in the judgment, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.  In other words, they will not be thrown into the lake of fire, because their names are written in the book of life. They will have confidence on the Day of Judgment.

Thirdly, in John's description of those who take part in the first resurrection, he said, "I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them." This reference to the righteous sitting on thrones and judgment being given to them agrees with the words of the apostle Paul, who said the Lord's people will judge the world (1 Cor 6:2). These are the righteous who endure to the end; they will take part in the first resurrection and will awake to everlasting life to reign with Christ (Dan 12:2; 2 Tim 2:12).  This also agrees with the words of our Lord, who spoke of the King's servants one day being given charge of cities (Lk 19:11-19).  These are the ones who are victorious and do His will to the end, to whom He will give authority over the nations just as He has received authority from the Father (Rev 2:26-27).

Striving to Attain to the Resurrection from the Dead
I'd like to say one last word about participating in the first resurrection and avoiding the second one with its second death -- the lake of fire. There is only one road that anyone can take, if they wish to reach heaven, which is through Jesus Christ -- the Way (Jn 14:6), and it is a narrow road (Mt 7:14).  That road is very difficult and full of hardships (Ac 14:22).  Many have started out on it and then given up.

Therefore Paul said, "I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil 3:10).  Paul did not even claim to have already obtained all this, but he pressed on to take hold of it one day (Phil 3:11). The standard to do so, according to Paul, was participating in Christ's sufferings, being made like Him in His death.  And that's still the standard today, which includes considering all things loss for the sake of Christ, and losing all things (Phil 3:8). In this way Paul hoped to somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead, which is the first resurrection, the one in which the righteous shall participate.

Likewise, our Lord also called it the resurrection from the dead, saying, "but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;" (Luk 20:35).  From this we learn that you must be "considered worthy to attain" to the resurrection from the dead, in order to participate in it.

Jesus also spoke of this first resurrection as the resurrection of the righteous.  He said, "You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Lk 14:14b). So we know that this is when the righteous will be rewarded. I hope it is your desire, as it is mine also, to attain to the first resurrection from the dead, as Paul said.

The Manner and Timing of the Resurrection from the Dead
Our Lord Jesus taught us the manner and the timing of the resurrection from the dead.  He said:

"Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." (Joh 5:28-29)

Jesus taught that there will be a resurrection of life and a resurrection of judgment.  The first resurrection he spoke of was the resurrection of life, and that is only for those who did good deedsThe resurrection of judgment is for those who committed evil deeds. He said that it would be His voice that all who are in the tombs would hear at a certain coming hour, which would cause them to come forth to one resurrection or the other.

The apostle Paul also taught about the timing and manner of the resurrection from the dead.  He wrote: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘death is swallowed up in victory.’”  (1Co 15:51-54).

The resurrection from the dead will happen suddenly, in a moment, very quickly, at the time when the last trumpet is sounded.  At that time, the dead will be raised imperishable.

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1Th 4:15-17)

The resurrection from the dead will happen at the coming of the Lord, when He descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with God's last trumpet.  First the dead in Christ will rise, and then we (righteous) who are alive and remain on earth will be snatched up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

The Resurrection and the Life
If it is your desire to attain to the resurrection from the dead on the last day, then you need to follow Jesus, live for Him, and trust Him to keep you. 

Jesus said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (Joh 6:38-40)

If you truly believe in Him, you must keep His Word, obeying His commands. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death." (Joh 8:51) 

“Jesus said to Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’" (Joh 11:25-26)

Putting it All Together
So to recap what we have learned from the Scriptures, the eternal judgment has eternal consequences, which are final and irreversible.  There is one judgment for all mankind, one judgment seat, which is the glorious throne of Christ, and one standard of judgment, based on what each person did and didn’t do during his or her life on earth.  Each one of us must appear before the judgment seat, and there are no exceptions.  It’s appointed to each man once to die and then comes the judgment. Each one will be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

The righteous will be rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous, which is the first resurrection.  That is the resurrection of the dead that we must all seek to attain to. It will happen at the coming of the Lord, when He descends from heaven with a shout, at the last trumpet.

Some people who teach about the judgment get caught up in the details of timing, sequence, and whether there will be two judgments, rather than one. But to me those are nonessential matters of "arrangement." Getting caught up in those aspects of how it will all unfold, and failing to warn people about the fact that we must all face judgment is a grave mistake that can give many people false confidence that results in their eternal destruction.  However, even if I am mistaken about some aspects of the "arrangement" in this article, I have hopefully communicated the fact that there is a judgment we must all undergo, and that we need to be ready for it.

Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Resurrection and the Life, it is possible to have confidence on the Day of Judgment.  You must repent of your sin and believe in the Son of God in order to have eternal life, and then your name will be written in the Book of Life. But don’t stop at simply believing or saying you believe.  Act upon the Words of Jesus, proving your repentance by your deeds (Ac 26:20). Maintaining a white robe is connected with your righteous deeds.  Don’t be a mere hearer of His words, but one who keeps His Word and puts it into practice.  Live a righteous life by doing what is right, so that you may be considered worthy to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

If you died today, do you know where you would go?  Just because you think you are saved and going to heaven does not mean you are going there.  Plenty of people say, “I confess Jesus is the Son of God,” yet they don’t live like the apostle John taught in His epistle.  They don’t do what Jesus commanded, and they are like the foolish man who built on sand.  When they die, they are sent to hell with the wicked to await the judgment, while their punishment continues.  On the other hand, plenty of people are trusting in their own good works to save them, and they are wrong also.  We are saved by grace through faith. It is the gift of God; not as a result of works.  You cannot be saved without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  He loves you with an everlasting love, and died on the cross for you. But He won't lower the standard of heaven for anybody.  Please repent and turn to Him, cry out to God for mercy, and trust Jesus to save you today.  Truth, Righteousness and Holiness in Him are the only way that can bring man to heaven.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. The "All Hail King Jesus" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Book of Life, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Three Divine Revelations, and the other posts on the home page. I also recommend watching the video by Leonard Ravenhill, The Judgment Seat of Christ (video). You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Michael Shigaba's Encounter with Jesus

A Christian brother I know in Nigeria, named Dr. Theophilus Ayodele, recently sent me a video testimony of a brother, named brother Michael Shigaba.  Dr. Ayodele is a civilian medical doctor serving in the military hospital in Jos, Nigeria. Brother Michael Shigaba is a member of the Apostolic Faith Church in Gwagwalada Abuja FCT, Nigeria.  The story below is a transcript of his experience when the Lord Jesus Christ and an angel appeared to him and took him to heaven in the year 2010.  It is based on the video of his testimony as recorded in The Apostolic Faith Church Anthony Village in Lagos State Nigeria.

Brother Michael Shigaba
Brother Michael was raised in a pagan family. By the mercy of God, he was drawn out of that in 1995, and began to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.  But on March 7, 2010, he became sick after an evening worship service. Before he reached home it became worse. His wife had traveled abroad, so he remained at home alone. He cried out to the Lord to heal him, but he became worse.

Around noon the next day, which was Monday, a brother came and prayed for him and said he would be healed.  However, he became even worse.

On the next day, Tuesday, he went to work and when his workers saw him, they immediately saw that he was sick.  They wanted him to go to the hospital, but he refused to do so.  He simply returned home and just rested.

On Wednesday March 10, 2010, he entered his house and asked God to heal him. At one point, he came out to the kitchen for water. As he was going back to the sitting room, he tripped and fell, hitting his head. He opened his eyes and he found himself in another village on top of his mother’s grave, who had just passed away the previous month. She had not been a Christian.  It was very dark there, but suddenly it became very bright. It was so bright he had to cover his face with his hand. Here is brother Michael's testimony in his own words, regarding the amazing encounter that happened next.

Michael Shigaba's Testimony
After a few minutes, I saw a man with white garments, very tall, holding a sword in his right hand. He was coming toward me. He used his sword and pointed at me saying, “Take that Word of God.” And behold, it was a Bible – a very big Bible. He said I should open the Bible and read Proverbs 5:21, which I read. He asked me, “Have you read?” Yes. “Ok. We are going back to your house now.” Immediately [when] He said it I found myself with that angel, that white man, in my bedroom in Gwagadalada Abuja. And now there was a second man there with me and the angel. The room was full of bright light (more than at village). The man was sitting beside my bed, on a chair, although there was no chair in my bedroom. His garments were a brighter white than the other one. And His face was so bright, I could not look at it. He now asked the angel, “Are you back?” The angel bowed before Him and said, “Yes, I’m back, Master.” He said, “Ok.” He called my name. He said, “Mike.” I said, “Sir.” He said, “Do you know Who is talking to you?” I said, “No, Sir.” He said, “Mike, you don’t know me? But you have my picture in your house. But you don’t know Me. I am the Master. I am Jesus.” As soon as He said “I am the Master. I am Jesus,” I became weak. Then I was not able to look at him directly. He had to use His right hand as if He cleaned His face. Then I was able to look at Him. It was wonderful. He said, “Do you know why you found yourself on top of your Mommy’s grave?” I said, “No, Sir.” He said, “Good. It’s because you love that dead woman more than Myself.” (His mother was not a Christian).

I said, “But, Sir…”

He said, “No” in a gentle voice. In fact, I cannot describe how that gentle voice is—very gentle.

He said, “No, no, no, no. Don’t argue. Yes!” And right then, I knew that “Yes”. He said, “What you used to do for me since you came back, from your Mommy’s burial, you have stopped doing it. You used to pray for thirty minutes every day…for the work of God. Have you been doing it?” I said, “No, Sir.”

“What about the Higher Way, the tracts that you used to give people, even at home and the place of work. Have you been doing it? You have been doing it secretly. Nobody knows. But we keep the record.”
I was speechless. I was just looking at him. He said, “Mike,” with a smile. “That is why you found yourself on top of your Mommy’s grave, because you love her more than Me. Now…we are going for a long journey.”

As soon as he said that, my mind thought of money. I now opened up and said, “Sir, there is no money I have. The only money I have is 2,000 inside my Bible.”

He looked at me and He smiled. He said, “Mike, the journey we are about to go on doesn’t need any currency of the world for that journey. Just dress yourself.”

I looked at my “standing hangar” and I brought out the clothes which I had already ironed, and I dressed myself. After I had dressed myself, He looked at me and said, “Mike,” with a smile. He said, "Those clothes you are putting on will not qualify you for the journey."

Overseer: "What dress was that -- shirt and trousers?"

Michael: "Shirt and trousers and shoes."

I said, “Sir.”

He said, “No. No problem. Don’t worry. I am going to dress you well.”

Immediately when he said, “Don’t worry. I am going to dress you.” How we disappeared from that room I cannot tell. Is it through the window or through the door, or through the roof? I cannot tell. The place where I found myself with Jesus and the angel was a very big roundabout. Very big! And it was decorated with flowers, which in fact, my mouth cannot describe those type of flowers. I have never seen that type of flower in this world. Then the glass [pavement] that they use to create that roundabout…this time around I was with [wearing] white, like Jesus and the angel. So, I cannot describe how that place looked.

Then there were two roads, one by the right and one by the left. And Jesus told the angel, “Lead him to the right side.” I was following the angel. As I was following the angel, we started the journey from that roundabout. In fact, the road was so narrow—very narrow—that both sides of the road were decorated with flowers again, just like the roundabout. The flowers—oh, what beautiful flowers!—which my mouth cannot describe. The road was in the middle of those flowers. But the road was very rough. I fact, I could not trek fast on that road like the angel did.

By the right, there were white garments on top of those flowers. White garments! Some garments were old and some were new. And I saw buckets, brooms, and two small towels on top of some of the garments. Then on the left side of the road there were musical instruments. There were violins, trumpets—many! Then there were songbooks that the choir orchestra uses for the service of the Lord. There were there. I looked around. Then I asked Jesus, “Sir, what are all of those things—the garments?”

He looked at me and He said, “Oh, you are wise to ask that question. I am happy to hear that. Yes, I’m happy.” He now said, “These are the garments of salvation that were given to men and women who were born again, who pray through to salvation. The God of heaven gave them this garment of salvation. They belong to the children of God. They have dropped them on their own." That is what He said.  He said, "Those ones that you see -- brooms, buckets, towels...They belong to some ushers." And those are the brooms that we used to clean as ushers! He said, "The instruments, the songbooks, they belong to choirs. They have left! Oh, they used to praise God. They used to praise Us, to worship God, but they dropped them and they left on their own." To where? He said, "Some of them were in miracle centers," which He Himself is not there -- that is Jesus. He said Himself is not there.

There was one particularly white garment [I spotted] that was very new and fresh. I touched that garment. I said, “This one looks like the one my wife used on the day of our wedding.”

He said, “You want to know the owner?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Just wait until we cross over there. I will show you the owner of that garment.”

The road! He said, “Do you know this road?”

I said, “No, I don’t know this road.”

He said, “This is the road that leads to heaven—very narrow. Were you able to walk faster?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “This is the road that leads to heaven, and that is why some have gone off this road, dropped their garments. And they were complaining about this road. No man, no woman that wants to get to heaven will be able to without passing this road. It’s impossible! Anyone who wants to make heaven must pass through this road. But because it’s very difficult, you see them complaining and murmuring, and then they leave.”

He said He has the power to command, and he will find himself where they are going. But He wanted me to experience that road. That is why He allowed to walk on that road.

As we were going, the garments were on top of those flowers...the instruments, the song books.

There is place we reach with a river, very narrow river. It was such a beautiful river. In fact, he said that a three-year-old child could cross that river. When we got there, Jesus crossed and the angel crossed. But I tried to cross, and I could not cross. Jesus was telling me, “Just cross!” I tried. No way. I cannot cross. He looked at me. He spoke in a language I have never heard.

Immediately when He spoke, I found myself in the middle.

He said, “Do you know why you cannot cross that river?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing. That is why you cannot cross that river on your own.” And no child of God can do anything without Him.

He said, “Let’s go.”

In fact, that river I can’t describe. The stones inside that water you see there. So beautiful! Pure white stones!

He said, “Let’s go ahead.”

After we left that river, He now brought something like a mobile phone, and He gave it to the angel. He said, “Show him the record!” When I heard it, I didn’t know what He was talking about.

Immediately the angel opened it. It's just like open and close." [Michael motions as if he is opening a flip-top phone]. "Immediately he opened it, and it became a big screen. Jesus now said, “Just sit down and watch.” Immediately when He said, “Just sit down and watch,” He left. And the angel did, too.

So I was looking around for a place to sit. There was nothing to sit down on. After some minutes, Jesus came back again. And He said, “Oh, you are looking for where to sit down. Don’t worry.” He spoke again in another language that I did not understand. Immediately when He spoke, a big stone—white stone!—precious stone!—came out. He said, “Just sit down here.” That is where I sat down. And immediately, the angel came back.

He now told the angel, “Start from the head. Let the angel start from the head.” When he opened the screen, behold, it was our district headquarters, Jabi Church (In Abuja , Nigeria).

He said, “Yes, you know this place.”

I said, “Yes. This is our district headquarters.”

He said, “Ok, let the angel open the inside,” because that was the outside. Then he opened the inside. Ha! The congregation! As I was watching, I saw myself again, in that screen, following Jesus. As we just entered, the ushers—we started from the ushers—some ushers were putting masks on their faces—masks, starting from the ushers. Then the congregation, the majority of [them], were putting masks on their faces.

Then Jesus now asked, “Do you know those people who were putting on masks?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “Ah! Their salvation is fake, and they are still in My house.”

Overseer: Were you able to recognize anybody?

Michael: No, because the masks covered their faces. But those that did not put masks on their faces—oh, the light that shined on their faces was brighter! But I can still recognize some faces in the congregation. You know, I don’t worship there. [I am] not [acquainted with] much people.

Then, after the congregation, the platform. The ministers sit, just a few ministers, that were putting on that mask. I saw our overseer. "Ah!" I said, “This is our overseer.” He said, “Do you know him?”

I said, “Yes.” Oh, the face was shining! I was not able to look at his face a second time.

He said, “I have settled* his case, and I’m still praying for him.”

After that, I saw the wife, our mom. I said, “This is his wife. This is our mother.”

“I have settled* her case, and I’m still praying for her.”

Then our assistant overseer, Brother Hope, the same thing!—and other ministers followed.

He said, “I have settled* their case.” And those in the congregation, that their faces are shining, the same thing.

He said, “I have settled*..." They belong to me.

Then the majority of the choirs were putting masks on. The majority. He said, “Do you see them? They are having fake salvation, like others in the congregation.” He said, “They do not belong to Me.” But one thing Jesus said. He said, “If they can come back today, there would be their garment of salvation. And I’m going to receive them again.”

After that, He now told the angel to bring another group—two groups. The first group was women. In fact, the way the worldly women used to chew their gum—that is how their mouths were so busy—very busy! He said, “You see those people?”

I said, “Yes.”

“That is their own department in My House. That is their own work.”

I was so surprised.

Overseer: Which work?

Michael: That is gossip, backbiting. He said, “That is their own work.”
 
Then the second group—oh, the way they were dressed! These costly clothes, They dress well. All of them were holding food flasks. All of them!

As they were holding the food flasks, I saw them busy, checking other people’s food flasks.

Jesus said, “Do you see them? That is their work again—fashion of the world. They are after the things of the world. They dress like the world.” They don’t belong to Him. “And you see them? They are checking other people’s food. They want to know the kind of food so-and-so family cooks, the kind of food so-and-so individual are preparing —in My House! He said they don’t belong to Him.

He repeated the same thing, He said, “But if they repent and come back to Me, their garment is available. I’m going to give it to them again.”

After that, He now told the angel that opened the branch, the angel opened the branch. Behold, it was my branch where I was worshipping -- the Gwagdalada branch.

I said, “This is my church?”

He said, “Yes! You know this place?”

I said, “Yes, this is my church.”

He said, “Ok.” Behold! All the members, starting from the pastor, Reverend Jima, he was the first person in the queue—one single line! He said I should open to 1 Corinthians 14:40. It talks about doing things decently and in order.

He said, "Heaven is an orderly place, a decent place. But some people are doing things anyhow in the House of God." He said, “In My House.” They are doing things anyhow.

He said, “Look at that single line, starting with the pastor.” And each – both the children and the adults -- were holding golden staff. Golden staff! Each! And there was a fire, a very big fire. Before you cross that fire, you have to put your golden staff inside that fire. Jesus said, “Just watch and see.”

The first person is that pastor. When the pastor got there, he put his golden staff. Immediately the staff came out, back to his hand. And he crossed. And the next person is the assistant pastor. He put down his own staff. It came out again. And so the wife of the pastor, the same thing. And others!

He said, “You see that staff, that represents their salvation. Those that their own came out and they were able to cross, their salvation is genuine.” They belong to Him. But there are some that cannot make it. When they put their staff, it remains there, and they cannot cross. But the children’s (inaudible) is automatic. It’s automatic! And those at the age of accountability, they cannot. They didn’t cross. And what happened is that maybe a husband would cross, and the wife failed to cross. You see the husband begging.

Jesus said, “You see? There is no begging here. And there is no help here.” And He said when they were on Earth, they can beg, they can help each other. When He called that name “earth”, the world, it was then that I remembered, “Did I come from another place?”

He said, “Those people, their own salvation is fake. Their mind is not there, but they’re still in My House. So, because of a little problem, they left. For some, because their prayer is not yet answered, they cannot endure. They left."

They now brought out someone, a sister. I know this sister. I call this sister’s name.

He said, “Do you know her? That is the owner of the fresh white garment you saw on the road. You said how you want to know who the owner is. That is the owner.” And I looked at this sister, who was preparing for her wedding, and the wedding was outside the Church.

He said, “That is the owner. It was just recently that she dropped her own garment, and she’s going to the world. But if she can only turn back now, I am going to receive her back, and give her garment of salvation.

He now said I should read Proverbs 6:27-28, which I read, which is a question there.  After I read of that place, He said, “This is that place. The reason why their clothes are not yet burned is because of His mercy. The reason why they passed that hot coal and their feet did not burn is because of His mercy. But very soon—He said very, very soon—His mercy is going to cease. He’s going to close the door of His mercy. And there will be no more mercy given.

Overseer: The Bible that you read, where did you get it from?

Michael: It was from the screen, but in the village, it was Bible. I hold it like this. But in the screen, He said read it. And behold, the chapter and the verse is there.

Then the angel, after I read that place, the angel now asked Jesus. He bowed down himself and he said, “Master, what is the next for this man?”

He said, “Let him read Daniel 12:13,” which I read. [Editor's note: The verse states: "But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." (Dan 12:13)].

He said, “Take him. Let him go and rest, just like what he read in that chapter.”

Immediately when he said that, I found myself in another place this time around. The road, the road was gold. In fact, I cannot describe how that road is. With flowers again. Decorated with flowers. It is different from the other route, the first one.

When you are walking, you see yourself as you are." [Michael looks down as if he is looking at his reflection in the transparent gold pavement.] "Oh! I was afraid. The angel looked at me and said, “Are you afraid? There is no fear here! You will not fall down. You are free. Walk as I’m walking.” In fact, I can’t describe that place. My mouth cannot describe that place. That place, so beautiful. The kind of leaves, the kind of cloud, the weather. In fact, I was so happy, and immediately, I forgot about what I saw in that screen. I forgot about it! Very beautiful place! In fact, I see there was another peace, joy in me, as I was moving, following the angel. It was a beautiful place, a place that I can never forget. I can’t forget.

I travel with my director in the place of work, going to many places, but I have never seen such a place that I can compare with that place. It is a beautiful place.

As I was moving together with the angel, somebody touched my back. I looked. Behold, it was Jesus. He said, “Look at your right side.” I looked at my right side. Behold! My wife and my single brother and the baby. He said, “Do you know these faces?”

I said, “Yes! This is my wife. This is my single brother.”

He said, “What about that baby?”

I said, “My wife is still pregnant.”

He said, “That is your baby. Talk about your baby. That is your baby.”

They were wearing white garments, my brother and my wife and the little baby. They were by the roadside, smiling.

Jesus now said, “Look.” And before them on the front of the road, there was a big gate—very big gate. Oh! The place was very far, but you can be able to see yourself, like a mirror. The gate. Hallelujah songs. It was a wonderful place. I regret of coming back. It was a wonderful place!

Jesus said, “You are going back because of your wife and because of your brother. You remember he’s the only one on earth...” Anytime He said “earth”, I would now say, “So I am from another place?”

He said, “Yes, you are going back.”

I said, “No, I’m not going back.”

He said, “Listen,” with His gentle voice. “This place is obedient. There is no disobedient there.” He said “obedient”. “Whatever you hear here, just obey.”

I was not happy. I know after my God is my wife. I love my wife. But that while I saw the face of my wife, I don’t want to leave that place. I said I should come back because of my wife: no. But that place, whatever they tell you to do, you have to do it! And I turn back—with sadness. I was not happy to turn back. I had already seen the city, the pearly gate. Ahh! It’s a wonderful gate! If I cannot describe that place, how I wish everyone of us here would experience what I experienced.

He now said when we were coming back. He now said, He called me. He said, “Michael.”

I said, “Sir.”

He said, “What is your purpose in life?’

I was speechless.

He said, “Your purpose in life is Me, Jesus, in you. That! You are going back, you are not going to the world, to start pursuing the things of the world.” In fact, after He said it, He said I should read Proverbs 5:8. [Editor's note: The verse states: "Keep your way far from her And do not go near the door of her house." (Pro 5:8)]. I read that place, He now told the angel, “Take him back.” So He told them that I was going back to the world. He said, “Take him back.”

As we were coming, Jesus now called the angel again. He said, "When you’re coming back, cover him with this end time message.” That is what I heard. I don’t know what He gave the angel. Immediately the angel collected it.  How we found ourself in my bedroom, I cannot tell. Myself and the angel again, back to my bedroom. I was surprised. Do you know what happened? The angel said, “Look, look at the bed.” I looked at the bed. I saw myself again, lying down. And myself standing with the angel! He said, “That is your body. That is your house. You know, you have a house. You are free to go out and you are free to come out. You went out. Now enter.”
I was afraid. I said, “No.”

He smiled. He said, “Enter! That is your body.”

I looked at myself.

“It’s okay. You don’t know what you’re going to do. Just lie down, very close.”

I went and I laid down very close to the body, and I became one. Then I started feeling the heat, the hotness of this world of sin. Then I know that yes, it’s just like you are in the AC. And after some time you went out, feel the hotness.

That was 5:00AM, Friday, from Wednesday. The angel now asked, “Where is your CGS?”

I said, “That is the place I kept.”

He said, “Do you know this is the time you use to pray for morning prayer?” And yes, when I was alone, I used to have my morning prayer, 5:30AM. But when I married, my wife said, “No, let’s start at 5:00AM.” And that is exactly the time I came back to this world of woe.

We opened. The angel opened. He said, “Let’s sing hymn number twenty.” We sang together with the angel. He now said, “Lie down.” I laid down, and he said, “The Master said I should cover you with this end-time message. So I’m going to cover you.”

He now brought white cloth and covered me. I was covered with that white cloth. Then after that, the angel left. I don’t know how the angel disappeared from that place. I don’t know. He left.

Overseer: Before you were covered, were you inside your body?

Michael: Yes, I was already inside. I’ve already entered inside my body. Before the angel now asked me, he said, “Where is the CGS?” He left. Then, after the angel left, I saw myself covered with white cloth. I was afraid! I have to shift that cloth beside my bed. It was then that I was able to use my handset and call one of our brothers to come and pray for me. In that text, I told him that I was inside my house since Wednesday. Let him come and pray for me.

When the brother came, it was around 6:00. The brother came. He said, “Ah! Bro Mike, what is the problem?” that since Tuesday has been trying my line till Wednesday. And some time if he tried, it rang. Before they would say, it switch off. And then, when they were there, the angel and Jesus, anytime my phone rang, the angel would just off the handset. He said, “This is no time for you to receive a call,” before we left.

Overseer: Now, when you came back, you were dressed in your natural clothing? What happened to the dress you are wearing?

Michael: When I came back, in fact, the only thing is the cloth that the angel used to cover me and my knickers. The dress that I put on, for the journey, is…that brother that I called, he is the one that picked that dress from the floor with my shoes.

Overseer: …what you were wearing before.

Michael: Yes! But when I came back, I just found myself covered with the cloth and my short knickers.

Then when the brother came, he said, “Ah! What!" He has been trying…


I said, “Yes, heaven visited me…the sickness is for our own good, it’s for our help, it’s for the glory of God.”

Overseer: What happened to your knee? Do you know when you started with that? You were sick, you had a bad headache, and you knocked your head. So when you came back, no more pain like that.

Michael: Yes, no more pain. And when the angel was going, he said, “Do you know that Jesus has healed you?" before he left. But the leg is because of that while we were walking on that route, my leg became heavy, but the head, the pain disappeared. But these two legs I was not able to walk with it then. It was when the brother came and prayed over me that I was able to walk again. Then I now told the brother that I look at that cloth.

He said, “Ah! White cloth? How could?”

I said, “The angel covered—‘

He said, ‘Eh? He said a long journey; two days: a long journey.”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “This cloth that you were—“ he was able to touch the cloth. He folded it with fear! And kept it somewhere. He prayed over me and then he was preparing to go to work. So he said when he comes back from work, he will hear better. Then he has called my senior brother from the town to come down.

When the brother left, it was around 12:00PM that my brother came. When he entered, he said, “Ah! What is the problem? Hen   …since four days before this now, we have been trying your line. It was no going.” He said it was later that they told him I am sick.

I said, “Yes, but Jesus has healed me already.” My mind still went to that cloth. I now told him that, “Check that cloth.”

He said, "Which cloth?” He looked at the wardrobe. He said, “Ah!” He was afraid. He said, “This cloth is not ordinary. Where did you get it?”

I said, “Yes, I traveled with Jesus.”

For him to touch that cloth, he was afraid. I said, “Just try to open it.” It was when he opened it that I noticed there is something—there is a writing there. Even myself, I didn’t know that there is a writing there.

He said, “This is blood?’ The brother started weeping. He said, “This is blood. How?”

I said, “No. Jesus said that is the end time message. Can you read it?” He read it. He said, “’Jesus is coming soon.’” He started weeping. He started weeping.  He said, “How do you –-We can—How do you?— You can touch it?” And when we were coming back, Jesus said, “When you go back, tell the head of the church!" That is what Jesus said. "Tell the head of the church.” That is what He said before we came back with the angel.

I now folded it inside black nylon and I tie it. On Sunday, I went to the church. I met the pastor. I speak everything. He said, "Ahh!" The man was afraid. He was weeping! He said, “Ok, what is there on Monday, by the grace of God? I am going to pray for you so that the Spirit of God will remind you so that you will not forget. You will go and meet the overseer. I am not the head. Go and meet with the overseer. And I am going to try to call him that you are coming.”

On that Monday, I go the overseer’s office. He was not on site. And on Wednesday, as I was going back, the devil said, “Ah! There is no need for you to go and meet your overseer. In fact, you will not even meet him. That you have already told the pastor, ‘What is the need of you to go and tell your overseer?’” I said, “Ah! This is the voice of the devil. Is it not the pastor that said I should go and tell the overseer? I entered the vehicle. There is a place called the [inaudible around 50:49]. After we passed that place, the front tire of that vehicle busted. I said, “Whether you like it or not (the devil), I am going to deliver that message.”

Overseer: Was there any other message that you were supposed to give to the head of the church?

Michael: [Shaking his head, “No."] That was just [my testimony of the experience].

Michael: So before I went to the overseer’s place, that Sunday that I met the pastor, when I came back with that cloth, that I was going to the overseer’s next day, which is Monday, the cloth came out from that nylon. I tied the nylon, but it came out on its own. In fact, it was that time that I was afraid to handle the cloth. It was then that I went and bought a new brown envelope. I kept it.

Overseer: You put it in a black nylon before, and it came out on its own? Now you have a brown envelope where you keep it and nothing. How did you get the brown envelope?

Michael: Yes, sir… (inaudible)…I bought it.

Overseer: And you put the cloth inside the brown envelope.

Michael: Yes. And it is then that the cloth has been there.

[At this point in the video, the cloth is held up by two people who are standing behind it to display it.]  

Overseer: The name of two people you mentioned you didn’t mention their names. The first brother that you called when you came back to your senses, and then secondly your brother that came to your house.

Michael: The first brother that I mentioned is, his name is Bro DimejiYusuf.  He is the organist in our church, (Gwagdalada) church, by the grace of God. And the second brother is my senior brother, that is Bro Samson Shigaba. …On the road to heaven, yes.

Overseer: That is the same person you saw [beside the road to heaven near the pearly gate].

Michael: On that Wednesday that I finally met the overseer, as I was coming back, I started praying, telling God, committing my wife into His hand, that God should please on that date for her, on the day that she would deliver. Let her deliver safely. God said I should stop praying. I should start praising Him. And immediately I started praising Him. He now said stop. He now asked me a question. Can I remember the date of my wedding? I said, “Yes. It was on the nineteenth, Friday, September 2008.”

He said, “Okay. Watch! I’m going to surprise you on that nineteenth.” Then I don’t understand. I continued praising Him.

Then Thursday I now called my wife that there I’m coming to Zaria tomorrow, Friday, by the grace of God. She said, no, what she needs is prayer, that I should not disturb myself, that the money I have, I should be managing it. That the brethren are praying for her, and I should just be praying for her. I said, “No. no problem. God has already made a way for me. I’m coming down.”

On Friday, I got there. After I entered the vehicle, God said, “As you are going, you are to hold your baby.”

I said, “Amen.” Twice!

When I got there, oh! I looked at my wife. She said, “Yesterday that you called, which is Thursday, immediately you finished talking with me, the baby, the labor started little.” That was 2:11AM [when] I got to Zaria.

After we talked for some minute, the labor become much. She cannot talk to me again. I was inside the mother’s sitting room while she was inside the bedroom. God said, “What are you waiting for? Go on your knees.”

It was around 11 AM. I went on my knee. I said a prayer. And she was there, praying. It came a time that she cannot even pray again.

From that 11 AM till 17 minutes past 3, the baby came out.  I heard the cry of a baby. Then I have already called the pastor and some of our brethren.

When the baby came out, God said, “Look at the calendar.” It was our church calendar, (inaudible). Behold, it was the nineteenth, which is Friday again. He said, “You remember the date of your wedding?”

I said, ‘Yes.’

He said, “That is it. I surprised you. I told you that I’m going to surprise you.”

I don’t know how to describe this God. That is how the baby came out, on the same date!

Overseer: But then, Brother Mike, why are you surprised? We’ve heard before that women delivered on the date of their marriage.

Michael: You know, God said that He was going to surprise me. And that is why. It happened. Exactly what God said.

The video is prefaced by an audio introduction by the present overseer of the Apostolic Faith Church in Lagos, Reverend Adeniran. This is the head of the church whom the Lord Jesus told Michael to take the message to.  He endorses the testimony and says we should accept it along with the end time message, because "the cloth is here."

Watch Michael's Video Testimony.

The White Cloth with Its End Time Message
White cloth from heaven with end time message in blood
When the Lord sent brother Michael back to earth, he handed the angel a white cloth and told him to give Michael this end time message and cover him with it.  Since the cloth and the message written on it came from the Lord, and the message is about the Lord Himself, the message must be written in none other than His own precious blood. Dr. Ayodelle advised me that the church obtained forensic lab testing on the blood that is on the cloth and the results determined that it is not normal blood.

In brother Michael's testimony, he said that when he returned to his body and showed the cloth to people, they were afraid to touch it.  They noted that it was no ordinary cloth and wondered where he got it.  They wept when they saw it and read the writing upon it.  This was true of the two brothers who came to Michael's home, as well as his pastor. 

The white cloth with the end time message
I looked at the photo of the cloth very carefully, zooming in to the highest level of magnification in my photo software, so that I could see individual pixels.  When I did so, I made the following observations:

1. The blood turned the cloth whiter along the edge of the written letters.  It is not visible to the naked eye unless you zoom in to a high magnification level with the photo software.

2. The words were written at the bottom right corner as if they were the final words on a page. The implication is that there is nothing else left to happen before the Lord's return.

3. The letters of the very last word ("Soon") were on the very bottom edge of the cloth, even to the point of being written on the final row of thread.  Again, it emphasized the finality of the time we are in right now, the lateness of the hour, and the nearness of His return.

The word "soon" showing whitening
4. The final stroke of the letter "N" in the last word ("soon") seemed to extend off the cloth!

Seven Lessons Learned
I am personally convinced that this testimony is true, because it agrees with Scripture, there are witnesses, and we have the cloth to prove it, along with its urgent, end-time message written in human blood that is not normal.  So I would like to recap seven of the lessons we have learned from it.

First of all, Jesus is coming soon, and the church is late getting herself ready.  There is no time left to put off getting ready.  That is the most critical message from this entire testimony.

Secondly, this sickness that brother Michael had was for the glory of God, so that we might be warned and have the chance to get ready for the Lord's imminent return. Let us not be like brother Michael, who had left his first love, after his mother died, and had stopped doing the good works he did for the Lord that he did at first.  That is a very dark place to be in, as the Lord showed him when he found himself at the grave of his dead mother, who was not even a believer.  Be careful not to dwell upon dead loved ones, always remembering them and missing them in such a way that it causes you to slacken in your zeal and service for the Lord.  Keep Him first and love Him above all others, even your mother and father.

Thirdly, it is possible to be a born again Christian, who even has a picture of Jesus in your house, and yet not even recognize Jesus when you see Him in person.  Don't let that happen to you! Spend time with Him in prayer and His Word getting to know the real Jesus.  He is holy, all-powerful, majestic, more beautiful than diamonds, and his face shines brighter than the sun.  Angels bow before Him and answer to his beckon call.  He is all-knowing, and keeps the record of everything we do, whether good or bad.  Remember the Scripture the angel gave to brother Michael: "For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths." (Pro 5:21).  If you are spending time with the Lord in private prayer, or handing out gospel tracts to people, He is watching it all and keeping a record.  The same goes if you are putting anyone else or anything else before Him, or if you are not praying and doing good works for Him.

Fourthly, the clothes of this world -- no matter how beautiful -- cannot qualify you for the journey to heaven.  You need to be dressed in the white robe of righteousness that only the Lord Jesus can cloth you in. (See Righteous Deeds and White Robes).

Fifthly, the road to heaven is a very difficult and narrow road! Anyone wanting to get to heaven must take this route.  There is no other way.  Walking on that road is arduous, painstaking, slow going, and requires great effort.  yet those who journey on it have great peace and joy in their hearts.  Many who were once on the narrow road have left it, because it was too difficult, or because of some little problem, and also left their white robes behind on it. This does not mean they have left the Church, because they may in fact still be in the house of the Lord, but their mind is not there. Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mat 7:13-14).  If anyone has left the narrow road and returns to the Lord Jesus now before it's too late, their white robe is waiting for them.

Sixthly, many people in Church actually have fake salvation.  They are not putting into practice the words of Jesus and acting upon them.  Instead they are wearing the fashions of this world, concerning themselves with worldly things like food, coveting what others have, backbiting and gossiping about others.  While they may be serving in the Church in various ways, such as choir members, worship leaders, or ushers, they are wearing masks as hypocrites do, which is perhaps why the Lord does not recognize them on judgment day. Although they call Him Lord, He will say to them, I never knew you.  Jesus said, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' (Mat 7:22-23)

Seventh, heaven is a glorious and beautiful place.  All things there are done decently and in orderly fashion, just like the straight line that brother Michael saw the people lined up in at church, beginning with the pastor and his wife, who were first in line.  We cannot do things any way we like in the Lord's House.  "But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner" (1Co 14:40).  The people in heaven are dressed in white robes; the grass and flowers are beyond human description; the road is paved in pure, transparent gold; the gates of that city are pure gold. "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city." (Rev 22:14). Just to see the gates of that city, you would never want to come back to this world of woe. 

There is also another place where the fire burns up people who are not qualified for heaven, although they may be in the Church.  "Can a man take fire in his bosom And his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals And his feet not be scorched?" (Pro 6:27-28).  The only reason they are not being burned up by the fire immediately here on earth is because of the Lord's mercy.  But very soon — very, very soon — His mercy is going to cease. He’s going to close the door of His mercy. And there will be no more mercy given.  No amount of begging by them or their loved ones will change their plight.  They will be unable to pass through the fire without being hurt by it, and they will be destroyed.  While all the little children will be able to pass through the fire and enter heaven, that is not the case with the children who have reached the age of accountability or with the adults who are in church, who do not have a genuine salvation. Therefore, as you walk through this life, stay away from sin, "Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house," (Pro 5:8).

Your purpose in life is not to pursue the things of this world.  Your purpose in life is Christ in you.

Jesus is coming soon! Repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Prepare to meet your God!
--

Footnote:
*By the expression "I have settled their case," the Lord meant that the particular people are safe in the arms of Jesus, and are free from harm, since they have genuine salvation and are not hypocrites, unlike some in the congregation.  The Scriptural basis for the expression "settled their case" may be found in John's first epistle, which states: "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 Jn 2:1-2)

Credits: All the praise and glory goes to Jesus for giving brother Michael Shigaba this encounter and its message.  And I would like to thank my oldest daughter for the many days and hours she spent lovingly and painstakingly transcribing this entire testimony into writing, so that people all over the world can read it, who may not be able to understand brother Michael's English so clearly.  This written version also provides a means for others to translate it into other languages, so that the maximum number of people may be impacted by it.  I would like to thank my dear brother, Dr. Theophilus Ayodele, for informing me about this testimony and for mailing me a DVD copy of it all the way from Africa.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note:  Michael Shigaba is not personally connected with this site. Please prayerfully listen to this brother's testimony, and use the Testimony Review Process adopted by this blog, as you decide for yourself whether the Lord has spoken to him.  For issues and concerns, each person must confirm with the Lord, whether something is valid or not. For more information on our position, please see Disclaimers.

You are invited to read or listen to the many, amazing testimonies of the supernatural realm on the Home page of this blog, a few of which are listed below. I also recommend reading Rachael Mushala Testimony of Hell, Michael Thomas Sambo's Revelation of Heaven and Hell, Visitation of Jesus to Samuel Oghenetega,   The Judgment Seat of Christ, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Angelica Zambrano Hell and Heaven, Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Drifting Away, and Discerning the Things of the Spirit.You may access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Sale of Christian Music and Art -- A Robbers' Den?

Christ Cleansing the Temple
It's been accepted as common practice among Christian musicians and artists to sell their music and artwork, as we all know.  They charge a price for their music albums and for their concerts, as well as their paintings and even electronic images of their artwork.  In fact, they even require that you purchase a license just to display the lyrics to their copyrighted music during worship in Church! But is that right?  Is it right sometimes in certain circumstances, but not in others? What does the Bible say about it?

You will recall the passage of Scripture describing the time when Jesus went into the temple and drove out the merchants selling their merchandise and the money changers.  He told them that they had turned His Father's house into a den of robbers or into a place of business.

"And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, 'Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business.' His disciples remembered that it was written, 'ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.'"  (Joh 2:14-17)

Matthew's gospel states: "And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He *said to them, 'It is written, '"My house shall be called a house of prayer"; but you are making it a robbers' den.'" (Mat 21:12-13)

Selling Christian Music
What is the difference between those merchants selling animals to be used as offerings unto God and merchants selling Christian music for profit?  In many cases, it was the Lord who gave the songwriters or recording artists the songs of worship and praise.  He didn't give it to them for their own benefit to claim as their own or to sell for profit.  He gave it to them for His glory and for His kingdom and for His people to bring offerings of worship and praise unto Him.  In fact, many of the songs contain direct quotes from the Scriptures, such as the Psalms and the book of Revelation, which were originally inspired by the Holy Spirit, not by the modern songwriter.  

In many cases, these things are sold inside of Churches, but it makes no difference what the physical location is.  The Church is not just a building. Just because this is done in a public forum, like Christian bookstores and Internet shopping outlets, does not make it right.  The Church exists wherever two or three are assembled in Jesus' name.  So the passage I have just quoted is directly applicable to the sale of music and art.

I do believe as Keith Green did that when God has given us a gift and a ministry that we should not charge people, but rather accept offerings.  "In 1979, after negotiating a release from his contract with Sparrow, Green initiated a new policy of refusing to charge money for concerts or albums." -- Wikipedia.

Worship is not for sale!  Neither is Christian ministry! I am open to dialogue on this, but if you believe in selling Christian music, then please cite the Scriptures that you believe allow that practice.

Selling Christian Art
And the same goes for sacred Christian art, paintings or drawings of our Lord Jesus or scenes from the Bible. In some cases, this is simply putting the Bible into pictorial format, and selling it for profit. What's the difference between that and selling the Word of God or selling the Bible?  Even if there are indeed certain instances where it is appropriate to sell Christian art, it is wrong to prevent other brethren in Christ from even using an electronic image of that art for non-profit purposes, unless they pay a fee, even when proper credit is given to the artist and copyright is cited.  One godly, Christian artist friend of mine DOES allow the use of electronic images of his art with permission, as long as he is credited as the artist, copyright is cited, and a link back to his website is given.  I truly appreciate this brother’s gracious attitude, which is very generous, and I would be open to comments from my readers on this topic.

Should Christian artists charge only for their production and shipping costs, and accept only love offerings for their work as Keith Greene used to do with his music?  When would it be appropriate to charge a set price, and in what circumstances would it not be, according to God's Word?

Selling God's Word
Now that brings up another issue, which is the sale of Bibles.  I personally have no problem with publishers charging enough for Bibles to cover their costs in producing them, in terms of the printing and distribution.  But these days Bibles are exorbitantly expensive, when they should be relatively inexpensive or free.  In the front of my Bible -- and yours, too -- it says that it is copyrighted and that it may not be reproduced in any form without permission.  The Word of God is not for sale! According to the Word of God, nobody has the right to do so or to prohibit people from copying and distributing it.

Do you think it is ever appropriate for publishers to prohibit people from copying or distributing the Scriptures?  Do you think it is appropriate for them to make a profit from God's Word?  If so, based on what Scriptures?

Selling Prophecies, Sermons, Teachings, and Oil
What is the difference between selling Christian music, art, and Bibles, and selling sermons?  If the Lord gave you the sermon, you have no right to sell it for profit.  It is no different from selling your Bible teachings from the Lord. Yet how many are out there hocking their teaching sets on CD or DVD, or in books!  And what is the difference between that and selling bottles of anointing oil for a price?  How about selling pews or seats in church, as some churches once practiced?  Is it right to sell prophecies?  Absolutely not!  That's how false prophets operate, giving prophecies for a price, which is not too much different than paying a fortune teller.  So why have we accepted the worldly practice of selling God's gifts and talents like music, art, preaching and teaching?

Using Gifts and Talents to Generate Wealth
It is wrong to use the gifts and talents the Lord gave you to generate wealth for the purpose of fulfilling your heart’s desires or for your own plans and designs. It should be done in the name of Jesus, for the Lord, and for the glory of God alone. As we use our gifts and talents, we must avoid covetousness, which is “a strong desire after the possession of worldly things” (Easton's Bible Dictionary). It is “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good; excessive desire for riches or money; -- in a bad sense” (Webster’s). This sin is condemned in Scripture and listed among those that would exclude one from heaven (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10; Matthew 6:20).

And you should not turn the house of God into a business or rob others, especially the poor, or take advantage of them. In fact, you need to consider that the poor may not be able to afford these things, but may benefit greatly from them. The kingdom purposes of God must be first, not greed, covetousness, or selfishness.  The Lord defines greed as having more than you need.  The Lord defines selfishness as keeping everything for yourself while others don’t have.

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Mat 6:24)

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1Ti 6:10)

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Heb 13:5)

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21, NIV)

If one is truly only charging enough to cover costs and provide a modest income for his family, that is between him and God. The Lord knows each heart, and each one will give an account to God for his own actions.

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:12)

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mat 6:33)

"Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'” (Lk 12:15; also see Mt 23:25)

It is wrong to charge churches and other non-profit Christian ministries for the mere use of electronic images or for the use of lyrics, or for the use of songs for non-profit ministry purposes, as long as proper credit is given and they are used for the glory of God, in Jesus name and not for generating wealth, producing new products for sale, or fulfilling one’s selfish desires.

We must be righteous and blameless in our conduct, and operate with integrity, not as the world does.  The Church is not a business!

Offering Teachings, Poems, Art, and Songs for Free
I do not charge anything for any of my blogs, and neither have I monetized my blogs (you will notice that there are no banner ads or popup ads on my websites), although we certainly would gladly accept an offering if someone chose to do so. Rather than publish them as books and sell them, I have made my writings available to the public free of charge, and you can find them all at Writing for the Master. The same goes for the songs we have written, which are available free of charge to the public at Jesus Reigns. Our children's poetry is also available free of charge to the public at Verses to the King, just as their artwork is at A Brush with Life.  Rather than seeing these as an opportunity to make money, we see them as a gift from God meant to bless people.  There are many others who share our perspective, such as The Gideons International, who give out free Bibles, as well as Rick Meyers, who freely gives away the electronic Bible known as e-sword.  

In turn the Bible teaches that the one who is taught the Word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. (Gal 6:6).  That means that people should give to support ministries that are blessing them spiritually.  I think it would be entirely appropriate and would please the Lord if those who read my articles gave an offering, even if it was a small one, so that our needs could be met and we could continue with our ministry. But there is no such thing as a mandatory love offering in order to receive Christian ministry.

Peddling the Word of God
I realize that the worker is worthy of his keep (Mt 10:10) and if a man preaches the gospel, he has a right to make a living from the gospel (1 Cor 9:14).  We may accept offerings and live by faith, trusting God to provide for us, as we share with others the gifts and talents He has blessed us with.  But that does not mean we have the right to charge people a set price for our music, artwork, prophecies, preaching, or teaching, unless it is simply to cover the production and shipping costs.  Charging a set price (over and above production and shipping costs) is just as ridiculous as requiring a mandatory love offering. Those who do so have made money their idol, and the practice of charging for these things is basically peddling the Word of God.  Paul said, "For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God." (2Co 2:17)

Buying the Gift of God with Money
Let's not forget what the apostle Peter said to Simon the sorcerer.  "Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.'” (Ac 8:20-23).

There is a parallel between the sin of Simon the sorcerer and what some people do today to sell their talents for money.

Confirmation from South Africa
After I wrote this article, I sent it to a sister I know in South Africa, named Susan W.  She is a former Muslim, who is following Jesus as her Lord and Savior.  I did not even know anything about the talent the Lord has given her with singing, but she has a beautiful voice, and many people have remarked to her about it.  Some have advised her to record her music on albums, and write her own songs, and sell them, but she has refused to do so. After she read this article, she wrote back to me the following letter:

"Dear brother Len,

"This article is very thought provoking."

"In my early years, I was singing in church and people loved my singing in praise and worship.  Many of the Pastors of the church that I attended, would never start preaching without asking me to present a worship song.  I sang only, after coming from the prayer closet. Many people asked me to record the songs and write my own and sell.  I resented that and I said that I could never use what the Lord has given me to make money with.  I remember a certain gospel musician from the country of my ancestors, the land of Kenya, approached me and she asked me to go ahead and record.  I resented.  I was even invited to go and sign in India but could not go because I did not have any financial means to.  I have never recorded and I do not sing anymore, but I sing unto the Lord on my own...I am His workmanship and I live to bring Him Glory and Honor."

"People are singing (the so called artists) and selling their music to have material gain.  Many years ago, I listened to a radio interview of a very famous established gospel (praise and worship) musician.  She said in the interview, that nowadays people are peddling their songs.  She said that she and her group would fast and pray before they could even produce a song and record it.  Seeking the Lord’s will and what message He wanted them to pass on.  Their music cassettes were affordable."

"If you listen to prophet Dr. David Owuor during his trip to Cameroon earlier this year, you will hear clearly that he is against peddling and he says if God has sent you somewhere to take a message, you do not need any money.  The one who has called you, will provide for you, because it is His work and not you sending yourself.  However, you can ask for donations, if anybody is willing to financially support.  Look for instance at Maurice Sklar.  He operates from this principle, too, if I am not mistaken.  Have you seen the late sister Choo Thomas and how she operated?  I got in touch with her in 2008 and was in contact with her all this while until she passed on.  She sent me her DVDs for free.  She was charging for her book Heaven Is So Real but to get the money for production only."

"There is no difference in what is being done by the so-called Christian Gospel singers (artists) than doing any other business.  They are not singing or preaching with compassion for the lost, but to make money for themselves and drive big cars, own huge houses.  Brother Len, people will burn in hell!"

Warning to Those Using Talents to Make Money
I hope that this has served as a wake up call to the Church about this worldly practice. There is a difference between accepting offerings as a workman worthy of his keep versus selling things to make money.  The Lord is against greed, covetousness, selfishness, merchandising in the Church, selling the gift of God for money, and peddling the Word of God.

I would like to close with a warning given to Samuel Oghenetega by the Lord Jesus Christ.  This warning is to those using talents to make money.  The Lord said, "Tell those using the talents I gave them to make money and their hearts' desires to stop or else I will take it from them and give it to another. I will cast them into the lake of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mt 25:14-30."  I did not say that.  The Lord did.  Stop fulfilling your own plans and designs. Invest your talents in His service.  Give your talents to God. If you have been practicing this sin of peddling the Word of God, selling your Christian merchandise in the Church or to the Church for profit, then I repeat to you the words of our Lord: Take these things away; stop making the Father's house a place of business!

To those who thought you could sell the gift of God for money, you need to know the Bible calls it wickedness. Your hearts are not right with God. As Peter said, you had better repent of this wickedness before Jesus comes, and cry out to God for mercy, in the hope that He may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For you are captive to sin. You may also need to make restitution to the poor people you have robbed. He still loves you, but He will not lower His standard of heaven for anyone.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.  Christ Cleansing the Temple, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1875

Author's Note: If you disagree with this article, please pray about it and leave thoughtful, referenced comments that would be conducive to healthy dialogue. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like A Trip to Hell, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Visitation of Jesus to Samuel Oghenetega, What's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?, Australian Pastor Raised from the Dead, Holy Living in a Perverted World, and the other posts on the home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.