HEBREWS 12 CONTINUES WITH AN EXPLANATION OF DIVINE DISCIPLINE IN TERMS OF PARENTS AND CHILDREN.
And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children (Unbelievers) and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. (2Pe 1:4) All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Spiritual Maturity) Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, (Rebound) and make straight paths for your feet, (Stay in Fellowship) so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, (Sin unto death) but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification (Spiritual Maturity) without which no one will see the Lord. (Isa 54:12-13; Matt 5:8; (1Jn 3:3) (Heb 12:5-14)
CATEGORIES OF DIVINE DISCIPLINE
God is never arbitrary in administering discipline: His punishment is always appropriate to the individual in question. From His perfect Divine justice, all discipline not only fits the violation but also matches the believer’s receptivity. Hence, there are three categories of Divine discipline:
1. WARNING DISCIPLINE,
2. INTENSIVE DISCIPLINE,
3. DYING DISCIPLINE.
When the believer does not use rebound, these three categories of discipline are progressive. Mild discipline gives way to more and more severe discipline if the believer fails to respond. The believer who refuses to live in fellowship receives warning discipline, added to the misery he has already created for himself under the law of volitional responsibility. He has isolated himself from fellowship with God; he has shut Christ out of his thoughts.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev 3:20)
That knock at the door is warning discipline. As a general rule, warning discipline is in itself less severe than the believer’s self-induced misery. However, the combination of warning discipline and self-induced misery adds up to a significant shock. Because he has not yet declined into the later stages of negative volition, this believer is still sensitive to the Truth. He can still profit from this degree of discipline so that God does not have to proceed to the next stage of punitive suffering. He can still hear the knocking on the door. God can catch his attention with relatively mild suffering. If the believer ignores or rejects Divine warnings, he eventually requires intensive discipline. By habitual abstinence he has dulled his sensitivity to Truth; warning discipline is no longer sufficient. God still has a marvelous plan for blessing this cosmic believer, but God’s plan can be executed only in the power of the Spiritual life. God continues to support him with logistical grace, keeping him alive so that he might return to his palace. Where there is life there is hope, and God fans the feeble flame of hope by continuing to discipline the believer (Isa 42:3) even after he has insulted and blasphemed God by choosing to remain in Satan’s cosmic system. Stiffer Divine discipline is required to jolt the habitually rebellious believer into objectivity. Intensive discipline alone is worse than self-induced misery: When these two categories of suffering are combined, the total pain from God and from self is extremely severe. This adds up to unbearable suffering for the believer who persists in the cosmic system. God is exceedingly patient with His children. He extends to the believer every possible opportunity to fulfill His protocol plan. But with each rejection of God’s gracious appeal to return, the Christian renders himself less capable of making a positive decision. “Hardness of heart,” or scar tissue of the soul eventually locks his volition in negative. (Heb 4:7; Heb 6:6) Unless he rebounds, he will arrive at the third and final stage of Divine discipline, the sin unto death. (1Jn 5:16) Dying discipline, or the sin unto death, is a horrible departure from time into eternity. The Christian involved has no inner resources for meeting death. In ignorance of Truth, death becomes a terrifying plunge into the unknown. (Jer 17:13) God’s work of Salvation can never be canceled; even the most hardened, self-righteous Christian is immediately “absent from the body and. . . At home face to face with the Lord” when removed from life on earth, (2Co 5:8) until the judgment seat. (2Co 5:10)
And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? (1Pe 5:2-4) Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. (Rev 3:21) But if that slave says in his heart, My master will be a long time in coming, and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; (Php 3:18-19) the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Matt 8:10-12; Luk 13:28-30; Luk 14:16-27 ; (2Pe 2:13-22; Jud 1:11-13) And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. (1Co 3:11-15; Mark 9:49-50) From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Php 3:10) (Luk 12:42-48)
Such recalcitrant believers who enter heaven, and not outer darkness will enjoy complete happiness in heaven, (Rev 21:4) but they receive no eternal rewards with which to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ forever. (1Co 3:15) These cosmic believers are losers in life; their tailor-made blessings for time and eternity are never delivered to them, but remain permanently on deposit in heaven as a memorial to lost opportunity and to God’s magnificent, irrevocable grace. (Eph 1:3; 1Pe 1:4) Believers who complete their Spiritual life (Matt 25:23) will have entrance into the New Jerusalem (Isa 54:12-13; Rev 3:12; Rev 22:14)
BELIEVERS WHO SERVE SATAN
Not every Christian who fails to rebound and continues in locked-in negative volition is removed immediately from this life. God may keep a believer alive for a long time in the intensive stage of Divine discipline. With great finesse God may employ these eternally saved “enemies of the Cross” (Php 3:18) as agents of momentum testing in the lives of growing believers. Specifically, Christians suffering intensive Divine discipline may administer the people test, the thought test, the system test, or the disaster test to Spiritually adult believers. (Lam 3:53) Representing many different personalities, attitudes, and styles of living and taking many different human approaches to life, cosmic Christians who periodically receive intensive discipline serve Satan as cosmic evangelists. (Job 2:9; (1Co 3:3) Satan uses these negative believers to distract positive believers from the protocol plan of God. Cosmic Christians draw other believers into the pseudo-strength and superficial attractions of the cosmic system. (Gal 5:7-10; Rev 2:2) Besides “enemies of the Cross of Christ” (Php 3:18) other Biblical terms for cosmic believers include “anti-Christs” (1Jn 2:18-19; (2Jn 1:7-9)“agents of the devil” (1Jn 3:8) “children of the devil” (1Jn 3:10) “haters of God” (1Jn 4:20) “hostile toward God” (Rom 8:7) “men of the flesh” (1Co 3:1-3)“enemies of God” (Jas 4:4) “double-minded.” (Jas 4:8) All these phrases refer to believers, not to unbelievers! Cosmic believers are like aggressors in army field exercises. Often troops who have only a few weeks remaining in the service will be issued weapons and blank ammunition in order to play the role of the enemy against soldiers who are being trained. The aggressors and the men in training are members of the same army, but the only troops benefiting from the simulated combat are those being tested, not the aggressors. Likewise, the only reason God sustains the lives of some negative believers is to use them to train others. These “enemies of God” (Jas 4:4) are still members of the royal family. But the only role they can play in the glorification of Christ is to be a test for positive believers. Because of their own failures to execute the protocol plan of God, they become merely a means of building strength in someone else. Obviously, this is not a Christian’s highest calling. These cosmic Christians on the verge of maximum discipline may be sincere, sweet, and highly legalistic individuals who have distorted Christianity into a religion of old sin nature good works. They may be moral degenerates (Col 2:20-23) rather than immoral degenerates. (Rom 1:29-32) The growing believer who can see through their facade, (Matt 23:28) discerning the evil of self-righteousness, yet avoiding condemning them himself, (Luk 6:37) accelerates his growth in the Spiritual life! God’s genius is wonderfully displayed as He permits a negative Christian in Satan’s system to ambush a positive Christian. God uses Satan and the believer who is going in the wrong direction as a stimulus to contribute to the Spiritual maturity of the believer advancing in the right direction. (Psa 76:10; (2Co 12:7)
LEARNING THE HARD WAY
Divine discipline may help others besides the one being punished, but primarily discipline is a teacher, a private tutor of the one in pain. Through suffering, God confronts the believer with his ignorance of Truth. Believers who fail to learn Truth will suffer all their lives until they are removed by the sin unto death. (1Jn 5:16) They may be negative at different points in the learning process, which involves rebound, reception, retention, recall of Truth, the resisting of sin and our own will. (Jas 1:13-15) Those who refuse to listen to Bible teaching (No reception) will live out their days in ignorance and arrogance, self-induced misery and Divine discipline. They will be unhappy and will never understand why.
Other believers who do listen to Truth, even those who listen consistently, may reject true information they do not like to hear. (Reception, but not believing and Thinking with Truth) The points of Doctrine they resist must be learned another way, the hard way, through Divine discipline. Divine discipline is suffering, but not for its own sake; Divine discipline is teaching. Where the believer has reception and retention but no recall of Truth for application, Divine discipline solves the problem by forcing the believer to concentrate on Truth in a humanly hopeless situation. God must teach — and all of us must learn — a certain number of lessons through suffering. We have a choice: Learn the easy way through Bible Teaching, or learn the hard way through suffering. These are the two systems of learning in the Church Age. Instruction from one’s pastor is God’s unlimited means of Communication. (Hos 8:12) In contrast, discipline from God is a limited means of Communication. The pastor who teaches the Word of God in fellowship, line by line, verse by verse can cover the whole realm of Divine Truth, resulting in Spiritual momentum and maturity in his listeners. Discipline, however, can only motivate the believer to return to the plan of God and resume learning Truth under his pastor. Divine discipline has a limited objective, to alert the believer that he is out of bounds and to motivate his recovery through rebound. Concentrating in Bible class may be difficult from time to time, but it is not nearly as painful nor as limited as receiving discipline directly from God. Discipline reminds us that we never get away with anything. (2Sa 12:7-14 ) God never overlooks any member of His royal family. No believer is ever ignored by the grace of God. Sooner or later God will provide sufficient punishment to remind the believer of what is really important in life. (At God's perfect timing)
FURTHER BIBLICAL DOCUMENTATION OF DIVINE DISCIPLINE
God takes punitive action in order to teach and train us. Divine discipline motivates us to learn, so that the renewing of our minds with Truth becomes a way of life. (Rom 12:2) We may learn the hard way from time to time, but we learn nonetheless!
Those whom I love, [Believers] I reprove [I tell them: They are wrong] and discipline; therefore be zealous [Positive] and repent. [Rebound] Behold, I stand at the door and knock; [Intensive discipline] if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, [Rebounds] I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (1Jn 1:3) He who overcomes, (1Jn 2:16) I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame (Luk 4:3-13) and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Rev 3:19-21)
The Church Age believer always belongs to Christ’s royal priesthood, even when he lives in the cosmic system. He always has the right to approach the throne of grace with rebound and be restored to his palace. (Heb 4:16) Discipline alerts the cosmic believer to the fact that something is wrong with his life. The Lord graciously keeps knocking, giving the believer continuing opportunities to rebound. Failure to respond after hearing God’s warnings results in more discipline until death. (Rom 2:8-9)
Arrogance in any of its myriad (Innumerable) forms is a “life of deceit.” The arrogant believer denies the results of his own bad decisions and ignores the warning discipline that God adds to his self-induced misery. If he is a moral degenerate, he practices sin and evil behind a facade of respectability; (2Ti 3:5) preoccupied with his own righteousness and zealous to convert others to his brand of sin nature “good” he refuses to believe that he causes most of his own trouble or that God is trying to get his attention through suffering. If he is an immoral degenerate, his sins will be more blatant. He may blame circumstances or environment for his behavior. He may claim to be no worse than others by deceitfully comparing his few, strengths against their weaknesses. He may look upon his sins as isolated exceptions rather than as the consistent trend of his life. Both moral and immoral degeneracy attempt to justify self, but both are equally abhorrent to God. The only way God can break through the “life of deceit” is with pain that strikes the degenerate believer in his particular area of sensitivity. God “makes war against the arrogant.” (Prov 3:34; Jas 4:6; (1Pe 5:5) Attacking arrogance where the discipline will hurt most and be most effective. The believer who remains adamant in his arrogance loses all sensitivity to God’s appeals and eventually incurs maximum discipline which removes him from this life.
Addressed to the local church in Laodicea, (Rev 3:16) uses the notorious Laodicean water supply to illustrate the sickness of cosmic involvement. While neighboring Hierapolis was renowned for its hot springs and nearby Colossae enjoyed cold springs, Laodicea had neither. Its piped water was lukewarm by the time it arrived and had an offensive mineral smell. The Laodicean believers perfectly understood the startling, anthropomorphic (Showing God as having human abilities) an image of God vomiting. Lukewarm water illustrates the cosmic believer’s lack of the maximum intake of Truth. As a result of the law of volitional responsibility, life begins to turn sour, growing noxious under progressive stages of Divine discipline. If bad decisions are not remedied by good decisions — to rebound and execute the protocol plan of God — the believer will sink into the cosmic system until God unceremoniously expels him from this life.
He [A negative believer] dug a grave [Bad decisions resulting in cosmic involvement] and explored it, [Perpetuating his misery] therefore he has fallen into a ditch which he himself has constructed. [Self-induced misery] His frustration shall return on his own head; his violent oppression of others shall descend on the crown of his head. (Psa 7:15-16)
All three stages of Divine discipline are illustrated in Paul’s description of certain Corinthian believers who came to the communion service drunk.
For this reason [Believers partaking of the Eucharist while out of fellowship] many are weak [Warning discipline] and sick [Intensive discipline] and a number of believers sleep, [Dying discipline] but if we would judge ourselves [Rebound] we should not be judged. (1Co 11:30-31)
When the believer rebounds, his discipline may cease, diminish, or continue at the same intensity. Whatever suffering remains after rebound is designed for blessing rather than for cursing. Restored to his palace, the believer is now in a position to apply the Divine Thoughts he has attained and to benefit from using God’s resources under pressure!
Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves. [Tells you: You’re wrong] Therefore, do not despise the discipline of El-Shaddai, [The “many-breasted God,” a Divine title emphasizing God’s logistical grace] for He inflicts pain [Warning discipline] and He bandages the wound. He wounds [Intensive discipline] and His hands heal. (Job 5:17-18)
In contrast with most Christian suffering, which is self-inflicted, the purpose of discipline is healing. God is like a physician who must cause pain to set a fracture or to perform life-saving surgery. We hurt ourselves when we ignore the Law of volitional responsibility and continue to live in the dungeon of the cosmic system; God must hurt us more to bring us back to health and strength. He gives only what contributes most to our blessing and happiness: In discipline God gives us exactly what our cosmic status requires.
DISCIPLINE AND ETERNAL SECURITY
The God of logistical grace disciplines His children, but never does He abandon us. Even in the pressure of intensive discipline, the “many-breasted God” faithfully supplies all the logistical grace we need to sustain our lives; discipline never implies that God forsakes us. (Heb 13:5) Divine discipline never means loss of Salvation. (John 3:18) Salvation cannot be canceled by anything he thinks, says, or does. Salvation is the irreversible work of God. But there is inequality in eternity for believers. (Matt 22:13; Mark 4:20; Luk 12:46-48)
It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, (John 12:24-25) we will also live with Him; (Rom 8:11-14) If we endure,(Gal 6:7-9) we will also reign with Him; (Rev 3:21) If we deny Him, (Mark 8:38) He also will deny us; (Psa 73:27; Jer 17:13) If we are faithless, He remains faithful, (Rom 3:3-4) for He cannot deny Himself. (2Ti 2:11-13)
When God provided Salvation, He knew in His omniscience that believers would be easily distracted. He is not shocked when a Christian ignores his own royal birthright. We may be appalled by the unfaithfulness of members of the royal family, but the sins that shock us have already been judged on the Cross. God is not forced to change His plan because man periodically demonstrates the foolishness which God always knew he would exhibit. God’s plan is greater than human sin and failure. His grace is immutable. He is not thrown off balance by every shadow of turning in a believer’s life. (Jas 1:17)
THE PROTECTIVE ROLE OF DISCIPLINE
Triple Compound Divine Discipline
Two specific categories of Divine discipline will serve to illustrate how God administers punishment. First, His treatment of individuals is demonstrated in triple compound Divine discipline; second, His punishment of families, groups, and nations is illustrated by the fourth-generation curse. These two examples will show how Divine discipline not only punishes the guilty but also protects mankind from self-destruction. If negative volition were unrestrained, the human race could not survive. The freedom which the believer exercises under the law of volitional responsibility is guarded by the authority of Divine preventive discipline. Verbal sins such as gossip, judging, and maligning warrant harsh Divine discipline because they destroy the privacy of their victims. Privacy is an essential component of freedom. Living his own life before the Lord would become difficult for a believer if he were vilified and his personal business were constantly criticized. Sins of the tongue violate the sanctity of human freedom; if a believer actually were living in the cosmic system, maligning him would only interfere with his recovery.(Rom 14:10-14) God has protected individual privacy through the laws of Divine establishment and has doubled the guarantee to each Church Age believer by adding the privacy of the priesthood. At Salvation, God appoints each Christian to the royal priesthood of Christ. (Heb 5:6; (1Pe 2:5; (1Pe 2:9; Rev 1:6) Every member of the royal family is his own priest, representing himself before God; each royal priest is answerable to God alone for his Spiritual life. Because God has so thoroughly guarded the believer’s privacy, He obviously will not permit the unrestrained practice of sins that directly attack privacy. In fact, He administers triple compound Divine discipline to believers habitually guilty of sins of the tongue. Triple compound Divine discipline deals first with the believer’s decision to commit mental attitude sins. Second there is always a motive behind verbal sins, and that motivation may be arrogance, jealousy, bitterness, hatred, vindictiveness, implacability, self-pity and or a guilt complex, any of which is liable for Divine discipline. Mental attitude sins motivate the believer to exalt self and put down someone else. In other words, after deciding to indulge in mental attitude sins, the believer makes the additional bad decision to convert his mental sins into verbal sins, which incur a second liability to Divine discipline. One of the most foolish actions a believer can take is to become involved in verbal sinning.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. [Divine discipline] (Matt 7:1)
Judging is a general term for verbal sins directed against another person. In judging, someone states or implies something derogatory about someone else. Whether or not the accusation is true is of no consequence. Even if the information was accurate, and accuracy is difficult to establish, there is no excuse for repeating gossip. And or to merely hint at someone’s sins. Judging violates the Principle of grace. God has granted each believer-priest the right to conduct his own life before the Lord. In particular, all believers, in every stage of Spiritual growth, have an equal right to hear and read the teaching of Truth. Therefore, according to the Principle of grace, and in light of God’s desire for each believer’s Spiritual advance, gossip incurs a triple liability, which we will classify as triple compound Divine discipline. The slanderer is liable for:
1. MENTAL ATTITUDE SINS that motivate him,
2. VERBAL SIN itself, and
3. SINS HE MENTIONS in the slander.
Different Christians will enjoy different activities and will represent a wide variety of tastes in dress and behavior. Each believer-priest’s responsibility is to grow in ONE MIND and live his own life as unto the Lord. (1Co 1:10)
...For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (Spiritual Thinking) (1Sa 16:7)
Obviously exceptions to the Principle of privacy exist. Parents have the right and responsibility to regulate the lives of their minor children who live at home. Because a pastor is responsible to protect members of his congregation from invasions of privacy, he must be alert to discourage gossip, etc. and tell the Truth to them, in all subjects, not his opinion, but what the Word Commands. (Jer 23:22; Gal 4:16) Likewise, a supervisor who evaluates his subordinates is not committing a sin when, as part of his professional responsibilities, he truthfully reports an employee’s weaknesses and failings. If that supervisor, however, spreads his reports to people who have no professional need to know, he too is guilty of judging.
Anyone who engages in judging is actually guilty of two sins: the verbal sin itself and the mental sin that motivated him to gossip or malign his victim. Each of these sins calls for Divine discipline; suffering is already compounded. But that is not the end of discipline for sins of the tongue. Yet another administration of punishment is added, based on the sins that are mentioned in gossip.
For in the way you judge, you will be judged, and by what measure you measure to others, it will be measured back to you. (Matt 7:2)
The maligner is liable for the discipline that would have gone to the one he maligns. If the victim is actually guilty of sins, God has already been dealing with him, either through the law of volitional responsibility or through Divine discipline. But as soon as his sins are made a subject of gossip, all the discipline is transferred over to the one who has maligned him. If the victim of gossip is not guilty of sin, he is blessed while his antagonist receives discipline appropriate to the sins he mentioned in gossip. This adds up to triple liability and triple compound discipline. The maligner is punished for mental attitude sins, for verbal sins, and for the sins he mentions in judging his victim. Triple compound Divine discipline is extremely harsh. It is a kind of poetic justice that gives believers a marvelous incentive to avoid the sin of gossip. The ability to control one’s tongue always accompanies Spiritual growth.
If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect [Spiritually Mature] man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (Jas 3:2)
Discipline in Historical Perspective
GOD, SATAN AND MAN
Up to this point we have concentrated on suffering caused by individual believers. A staggering amount of human misery, however, seems to originate beyond any believer’s personal responsibility, afflicting thousands of people throughout wide geographical areas. How do mass historical disasters such as wars, famines, epidemics, and economic depressions fit into the Doctrine of suffering? The answer to this critical question will provide the frame of reference for understanding the fourth-generation curse, which will be our second example of how God administers discipline. Widespread historical suffering always involves three sources: God, Satan and man. Satan rules the world. (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; Rev 12:9) Even in his fallen state, Satan is still the most powerful creature (Apart from the resurrected humanity of Christ) ever to come from the hand of God. The devil is an extraordinary genius of unparalleled executive ability. The cosmic system is his strategy and policy for ruling his kingdom. Satan’s ambition is to prove himself equal with God, (Isa 14:14) but no creature stands independent of the Creator! Satan will never be God’s equal in any sense of the term. Arrogance always causes a person to overestimate his abilities —indeed, Satan’s lust for success and power has produced only misery. Much of the world’s suffering is caused by the devil’s “inability to execute all that he has designed.” Satan’s arrogance, his cosmic system, his frustration, violence and ultimate incompetence create an environment of misery on earth. Suffering is a fact of life in the devil’s world, and man makes himself the willing victim of Satan through freewill decisions that place him in the cosmic system. If Satan cannot succeed independently of God, obviously man cannot! In fact, when man lives outside the plan of God, he is far from independent; instead, he becomes a slave in the devil’s self-destructive cosmic system. Angelic and human rejection of God’s plan causes only self-induced misery and would destroy the human race if Jesus Christ did not retain control over human history. But Jesus Christ does control human history despite Satan’s reign over the world. (Psa 2:1-12; John 5:22; Rev 1:5, Rev 1:18) Our Lord exercises control through direct and indirect action. He directly intervenes by providentially controlling the variables of history that lie beyond the scope of human volition, variables like climate, weather, and natural disasters. He indirectly controls world affairs through the agency of human volition, when man freely complies with Truth and utilizes available Divine omnipotence. With perfect justice Jesus Christ administers either blessing or cursing. He blesses believers and unbelievers who adhere to the laws of Divine establishment. He delivers far greater blessings to believers who execute the protocol plan of God and achieve Spiritual maturity! Blessings to the mature believer overflow to the friends, relatives and associates who live and work in his periphery. These people are blessed either directly by God or indirectly through the Spiritually mature believer. The mature believer, therefore, has tremendous invisible impact because individuals and organizations receive blessing by their association with him. God is glorified by blessing mature believers. (John 15:8; John 17:4) Consistent with God’s eternal purpose, Jesus Christ lovingly watches over mature believers, (Psa 1:6; Psa 33:18-22; Psa 34:15-19; Psa 66:7) directing the course of history for their advantage. (Rom 8:28) They may not know one another, but God knows each of them. They are the hub, the pivot on which turns the prosperity of the organizations to which they belong — families, social and service groups, professional associations, corporations, churches, geographical areas, towns, cities and nations. Our Lord blesses the human race through the royal family, specifically through Spiritually mature members of the royal family. On the other hand, Jesus Christ disciplines believers and judges unbelievers who reject Truth and violate His plan. (1Sa 16:14; (1Ti 1:20) Just as there is a Principle of blessing by association, there is also cursing by association. Self-induced misery by itself makes the cosmic Christian a pariah, obnoxious to everyone he meets. Added to the law of volitional responsibility, Divine discipline to this cosmic believer also affects people in his periphery and organizations to which he belongs. (Jon 1:4-16) Cursing by association expands to become collective Divine discipline against the cosmic believer’s nation. In addition to satanic rebellion and human disobedience, therefore, the third source of suffering on a historical scale is Divine retribution.
COLLECTIVE DISCIPLINE AND THE CLIENT NATION TO GOD
Although church and state must always remain separate, all categories of Truth —establishment, the Gospel, and Bible Doctrine — are consistent with one another as well as coherent within themselves. Through the laws of Divine establishment, God has divided mankind into nations, (Gen 11:9; Acts 17:26) and along these national lines flow certain Spiritual blessings. (Gen 22:18) Among the nations of the earth, client nations are used by Jesus Christ as a conduit of blessing to mankind. A client nation is one whose government protects the freedom, privacy, and property of its citizens and, while maintaining the separation of church and state, does not hinder the presentation of the Gospel and Truth within its borders. From within the client nation, nongovernmental organizations such as churches or mission boards initiate and support Biblically orthodox missionary work in foreign countries. Evangelism, Bible teaching, and foreign missions indicate the Spiritual vigor of the client nation. Adherence to the laws of Divine establishment also makes the client nation a haven for Jews, a refuge from anti-Semitic persecution in other parts of the world. (Gen 12:3)
The Jews suffer horribly as a prime satanic target in the angelic conflict because God created them as His special instrument for blessing mankind (Gen 12:1-3) and because His unconditional Covenants to Israel hinge on the historical survival of the Jews. (Psa 89:28-37) Israel was God’s original and unique client nation; the Jews are His eternal chosen people. (2Sa 7:10-16) If all Jews could be destroyed, reasons Satan, then God could not keep His Word to them. Divine integrity would thus be compromised, and Satan would win his case in the angelic conflict. However, Christ the Messiah will fulfill all unconditional Covenants to the Jews when He restores Israel to client nation status at His second advent and rules forever as King of the Jews. (Isa 11:11-13; Zec 10:6-12)
Because Israel is under Divine discipline during the Church Age, (Isa 28:11-13; (1Co 14:21) God currently blesses mankind through a succession of gentile client nations during “the times of the Gentiles.” (Luk 21:24) The Roman Empire under the Antonine Caesars (AD. 96—192) was the first gentile client nation. Since that time, many other client nations have risen and fallen, including the Frankish kingdom of Charlemagne in the eighth century and Great Britain of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The United States of America is a client nation today. (A.D. 2010) In the client nations of the Church Age, blessing by association within the believer’s personal periphery expands to become the royal family’s invisible historical impact. Never before the Church Age, has God granted to each individual believer the privilege of utilizing Divine omnipotence in the completed Spiritual life, and of having a powerful, invisible impact on history! In Israel a few mature believers used only a fraction of the Divine assets we possess and had a significant influence on national and world history. Certain Principles of historical impact did exist in the Age of Israel. Even in Israel the believers were the “salt of the earth,” the preservative and seasoning of the land, (Matt 5:13) also called the remnant according to the election of grace. (Rom 9:27; Rom 11:5) That Principle still applies: As go the believer, so goes the client nation. (Psa 33:10-22) But now, each member of the royal family is also a “new Spiritual species” (2Co 5:17) with a new system of protocol and power that gives him far greater potential for making an impact on history than had any believer of the Jewish Age. The mature Church Age believer has invisible influence in at least four realms:
1. BLESSING BY ASSOCIATION in his personal periphery,
2. HISTORICAL IMPACT in his nation, and
3. INTERNATIONAL IMPACT as he supports missionary activity to non-client nations.
4. ANGELIC IMPACT
Unheralded in the annals of human history, Christians in relatively small numbers anonymously determine the uptrends and downtrends of civilization. Jesus Christ prospers His client nation when its believers advance in the Spiritual life; He disciplines the nation when believers live habitually in the cosmic system. Usually a nation will begin to decline under the weight of its own degeneracy. If enough believers ignore the increasingly severe stages of individual discipline and remain in the cosmic system, the nation’s Spiritual pivot shrinks and the nation itself must receive collective Divine discipline. As an application of this Doctrine, your primary duty to your country is to advance to Spiritual maturity! Divine retribution against the client nation intensifies through five cycles of discipline, which include social disintegration, economic collapse and political chaos. (Lev 26:14-22) The fifth cycle destroys the nation’s sovereignty through the horrors of military conquest, reducing the vanquished populace to poverty, barbarism and slavery. (Deut 28:49-67)
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. [Of Spiritual Thinking] Because you [Believers] have rejected knowledge, I [God] also will reject you from being My priest. [Individual and client nation impact] Since you have forgotten the law of your God, [God's Thoughts; Truth] I also will forget your children [Loss of client nation privileges and blessings] (Hos 4:6)
COLLECTIVE DISCIPLINE AND INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS
How do the five cycles of national discipline, which devastate wide areas and whole populations, affect individual Christians? Blessing and cursing by association differ in one key respect. Blessing by association frequently benefits people who personally reject Christ and the protocol plan of God. This often explains why “the wicked prosper” (Jer 12:1-2) they receive blessing by association despite their own indifference to God as the source of their prosperity. Cursing by association, however, does not destroy the Spiritual advance of maturing believers who may live or work in the periphery of cosmic believers. The law of culpability states that no one suffers Divine discipline apart from his own negative volition. The positive impact of growing believers offsets the negative influence of cosmic believers. When the pivot is too small to balance the spin-off of negative Christians, however, God must administer Divine discipline. In a magnificent display of perfect timing and omnipotence in the control of history, the disasters that God sends upon cosmic believers are coterminous (At the same time) with suffering for blessing for growing believers. The sweep of collective suffering across the face of contemporary history administers to some believers the various categories of suffering for blessing and to other Christians all three categories of Divine discipline. The same historical event may bring blessing on one hand but warning discipline, intensive discipline, or dying discipline on the other hand. No one is ever lost in the shuffle; God never forsakes any believer. (Psa 139:1-18) God always has you personally in mind. The mature or growing believer is never deprived of blessings by downtrends in history. (Psa 23:4-5; Jer 39:10-18) Since Jesus Christ controls history in this Church Age, all the negative forces of international economics and politics cannot obstruct the timely delivery of blessings to even one mature Christian. (Rom 8:38-39) War, economic depression, and religious persecution never hinder Divine omnipotence. (Job 5:19-27) While the world seems to be collapsing around the protocol believer, he enjoys a stimulating life of blessing and total confidence in God. Just as God built a wall of fire around Jerusalem when she stood vulnerable in the midst of her enemies, (Zec 2:5) the Spiritual life protects the growing believer from the destructiveness of mass suffering. The cosmic believer is caught up in the same historical disasters that besiege the advancing believer. This negative believer, however, is a cause of collective Divine discipline and lacks the inner resources of Truth needed to meet the crisis. He has no inner dynamics because he has failed to utilize God’s power system. Instead of suffering for blessing, his pain is Divine discipline, whether warning or intensive. Some believers, shocked into objectivity by historical trauma, recover from the cosmic system. Others persist in their personal degeneration. For them the collective suffering of the nation serves as the instrument of the sin unto death. Christians will be among the victims of nearly any historical catastrophe. Suffering in itself does not conclusively indicate whether God is blessing a believer, or disciplining him, or permitting him to create self-induced misery. Therefore, each Christian must apply Truth for himself and determine his own status before the Lord.
THE FOURTH-GENERATION CURSE AS COLLECTIVE DISCIPLINE
In contrast to triple compound discipline for gossip, which deals with individuals, the fourth-generation curse is an illustration of Divine discipline related to historical trends. We usually think of collective discipline as punitive action in a particular geographical area, but the fourth-generation curse deals with a group of people defined not only as they extend over a geographical area but also as they extend over a period of time. God is never arbitrary. In the administration of perfect Divine justice, God considers every facet of every situation, including the factor of time and the manner in which one person is influenced by others. God first declared the fourth-generation curse in the Ten Commandments.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me. (Exo 20:4-5)
How can a God of grace, justice and love, visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Him?” (Deut 5:9; Num 14:18) God is never unfair to anyone. A villainous ancestry does not prejudice God against any individual. Instead, as we shall see, the Divine policy of a fourth-generation curse punishes the guilty while protecting the innocent and guaranteeing the freedom of each individual to express his positive or negative volition. God treats every individual as a person, yet He does not fail to deal with destructive collective trends that intensify from one generation to the next. As an essential part of giving mankind free will, God allows human volition enough free rein to be genuinely free. Patterns of sin which are habitually repeated become ingrained characteristics of a family, group, or nation. Children learn sins and evils from their parents and perpetuate family trends. Rather than instantly disciplining man, God permits negative volition to run its course. Many possible categories and combinations of wickedness, rebellion and sin are allowed to form and harden for three or four generations as expressions of human freedom. (Exo 34:6) But when negative volition runs so rampant as to threaten His plan, God “does not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Exo 34:7) After a period of grace before judgment, extending over these three or four generations, He administers collective discipline to the family, group or nation. To protect the human race from self-destruction, God administers collective discipline that grows progressively severe from one generation to the next. In the third or fourth generation, He sends a catastrophe to dissipate or eliminate the trend. This form of discipline allows evil patterns to develop in the course of human history but destroys them before they can jeopardize the plan of God. God permits no trend of present history to hinder the positive volition of subsequent generations. Under this system of collective discipline, each generation is disciplined for the same sins because those sins are committed by each generation. The sons commit the sins of the father. “Those who hate God” (Exo 20:5; Deut 5:9) are disciplined because they themselves reside perpetually in the cosmic system and establish patterns of evil in their lives. But no one suffers under the fourth-generation curse except by his own volition. At any point the curse may be broken by believers who execute the protocol plan of God, refusing to follow the evil pattern of their progenitors. (Parents)
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children be put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin. (Deut 24:16)
The sins of the father have to be repeated in the next generation for culpability to be established and for punitive action to be administered from God. Otherwise, a different law applies: the law of grace.
Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, keeping His Covenant of grace to a thousandth generation of those who love Him [Stay in Fellowship] and keep [Think with] His Commandments. [THOUGHTS] (Deut 7:9)
After first announcing the fourth-generation curse, God immediately Promised that obedience to His plan will always break the curse.
But showing lovingkindness to thousands to those who love Me [Stay in Fellowship] and keep [Think with] My Commandments. [THOUGHTS] (Exo 20:6)
No one suffers under the fourth-generation curse apart from his own culpability. (Blame) Despite historical trends, God’s grace is always operative on the earth. Indeed, the curse upon a family or nation can be broken in any generation when individuals believe in Christ and form a pivot of mature believers by fulfilling the plan of God.
The LORD is good [Divine essence is perfect] and His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psa 100:5)
God’s motivation in delaying historical discipline is illustrated by His patience toward mankind prior to the Last Judgment at the end of human history.
The Lord is not slow about His Promise, [To judge mankind] as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, [Believer] not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to a change of mind. [Staying in fellowship and Thinking with His Thoughts] (2Pe 3:9)
The fourth-generation curse furnishes a Principle that helps us interpret human history from the Divine Viewpoint. Historical disasters are often Divine discipline sent to break up destructive trends and to give the next generation an opportunity to fulfill the plan of God.
(Prov 30:11-14) documents four generations of increasing degeneracy, beginning with disrespect for parental authority and culminating in “a generation whose teeth are like swords to devour the afflicted.” God protects the human race from the self-destructiveness of such rampant arrogance. The Principle of the fourth-generation curse, which the Bible presents in the context of the ancient world, sheds light on upheavals in modern history. The French Revolution, for example, was a conflagration of evil trends that had crystallized in the long reign of Louis XIV. The Sun King, as he was called, destroyed the pivot of mature believers in France by revoking the Edict of Nantes and, furthermore, reduced the French aristocracy to sycophantic courtiers. (One who seeks favor, especially by insincere flattery) The disappearance of a Spiritual pivot and the absence of a vigorous aristocracy destabilized every level of society. As a result, unrestrained middle-class jealousy incited lower-class violence. Ultimately, French society was destroyed in the Reign of Terror, and a new order was established under Napoleon. The Russian Revolution also vented evils that had built up for many years before overt violence broke out. What does the fourth-generation curse teach us? First, it warns us that rejection of God’s plan can become the accepted, ingrained tradition of a family and nation. A little neglect, a little compromise, a little arrogance soon becomes a way of life. Second, this system of Divine discipline advises us that opposition to God leads to terrible suffering personally and to disaster for the nation. Third, the fourth-generation curse reveals God’s marvelous grace. He patiently applies discipline to each rebellious generation but will never permit evil trends to destroy the options of future generations. Because of God’s grace, exhibited in collective Divine discipline, the human race cannot destroy itself. The Doctrine of the fourth-generation curse encourages the believer to utilize Divine assets in his own life because this category of discipline emphasizes his invisible impact on history. Believers can either perpetuate the fourth-generation curse or break the pattern of discipline. The privileges and opportunities of the royal family imply tremendous responsibility. If a Christian fails to live and grow in his palace, he contributes to Divine discipline against his entire nation!
THE SOLUTION TO THE FOURTH-GENERATION CURSE
The fourth-generation curse never implies that guilt passes from parents to children but that parents who oppose God’s plan will influence their children to follow the same pattern of opposition. Children are influenced by their parents and tend to repeat their parents’ sins. The fuse on historical disaster burns for three or four generations as children perpetuate the sins of their parents. Toward the end of this period, God initiates the cycles of discipline against the nation to warn believers to return to the protocol plan of God and break the curse.
At any time, a generation can respond with positive volition to the Gospel and Truth, heading off national catastrophe! A Biblical example of an eleventh hour recovery is the Assyrian Empire’s response to Jonah’s message. (Jon 3:10) Another example is the Spiritual recovery of the second generation of Jews in the Exodus. Had they continued in the rebellion of the first generation, collective Divine discipline would have intensified. In Reality, their positive volition broke the curse that already had prevented their fathers from entering the Promised Land. In modern history the United States is rapidly approaching historical disaster —economically, militarily, socially and Spiritually. The one factor that stands between our nation and maximum Divine discipline is the positive volition of believers! Only Divine grace can avert the horrible suffering of the fourth-generation curse, but God will bless this nation only if there is a strong pivot of mature believers to be the recipients of His grace benefits. The solution to the fourth-generation curse requires instructing children in the laws of establishment and Truth. (Deut 6:5-7)
You will inculcate these Words of Mine [My Thoughts] in your hearts and minds, [And Think with them] tie them as notes on your hands, and as training aids tie them around your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit down at home, when you travel, before you go to bed, and when you wake up. Write these on the door frames of your houses and on your gates so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord has promised to give to your ancestors [Promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.] (Deut 11:18-21)
The perpetuation of the client nation to God always involves training the next generation. Rather than be a negative influence, parents must be a positive influence by teaching Divine establishment, the Gospel and Truth to their children. Parents should bring blessing by association to their children rather than lead them to disaster under the fourth-generation curse. We are to teach them, (Deut 21:18-21) and not to eat them. (Deut 28:53-58) The Jews did, (2Ki 6:28-30) because of disobedience. (Hos 4:6; Rom 11:22)
SUMMARY OF PUNITIVE SUFFERING AND PREVIEW OF SUFFERING FOR BLESSING
In concluding our study of punitive suffering and in approaching the subject of suffering for blessing, we can draw a series of contrasts.
In disciplinary suffering, which is deserved, the issue is sin and wrong decisions from a position of weakness. In the adult believer’s undeserved suffering, the issue is blessing and momentum because of right decisions from a position of strength. Spiritual momentum from metabolized Spiritual Thoughts results in still greater blessing.
The believer’s status under Divine discipline is cosmic involvement, which is described by a variety of terms: worldliness, carnality, apostasy and or reversionism. Under suffering for blessing, the believer’s status is always residence in the palace of the Spiritual life. There is a tremendous difference between living in a palace, and wasting away in a dungeon. Under discipline the suffering is unbearable. The Promise that “no temptation has overtaken you. . . beyond what you are able to bear” (1Co 10:13) describes testing, not Divine discipline. Testing is designed to exercise and strengthen the believer’s Spiritual muscles, but discipline must be severe enough to shock the believer, to get his attention. He must learn from the suffering that human resources are inadequate; he must hurt unbearably so that he is forced to consider the Divine solution. (Rebound; 1Jn 1:9; and maximum intake and use of Divine Thoughts) Under testing, suffering for blessing is always bearable. The believer under testing is using the assets of the Spiritual life which constitute “the way of escape . . . that [He] may be able to endure it.” (1Co 10:13)
The believer’s viewpoint when he incurs Divine discipline is arrogance and subjectivity. In suffering for blessing, his Viewpoint is humility and objectivity. The solution to Divine discipline is the rebound technique, which is the Christian’s most basic problem-solving device. (1Jn 1:9) The solution to suffering for blessing involves more advanced systems of problem solving.
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The result of Divine discipline, when the believer uses rebound, is that cursing is turned to blessing. The suffering ends, is diminished or continues at the same intensity, but in any case the purpose now is blessing instead of punishment. God’s solutions are always designed for blessing. The result of suffering for blessing is that the Christian gains multiple benefits from the acceleration of Spiritual growth: enlarged capacities and the greater blessings of Spiritual maturity. There are five categories of Christian suffering, but all five categories are designed for the believer’s personal benefit. We have just covered the first two; the last three are the subject of the remainder of this book.
1. Self-Induced Misery
2. Divine Discipline
3. Providential Preventive Suffering
4. Momentum Testing
5. Evidence Testing
When the believer remains outside the Spiritual life, which is tantamount to being out of fellowship with God, he reaps punitive suffering (Divine discipline) from his own bad decisions. This suffering is still beneficial to him because it can make him face the Reality of his dependence on God’s grace, bringing him to the point of rebound and recovery. Punitive suffering can show him that his scale of values is wrong and that he must correct his priorities. But when the believer resides in fellowship, and suffers through no fault of his own, the benefit is even greater! The purpose now is not to take a negative believer and motivate recovery but to take a growing believer and accelerate his growth. In contrast to punitive suffering, which is beneficial on a limited scale, suffering for blessing is designed by God to accelerate the believer’s growth through the stages of Spiritual adulthood that lead to Spiritual maturity.
SUFFERING FOR BLESSING
SUFFERING AND GROWTH IN
THE PROTOCOL PLAN OF GOD includes two systems of Spiritual growth Gradual growth comes through the perception, metabolism, and application of Truth. God Commands every believer to operate consistently under this system throughout his life on earth. (Matt 4:4; Eph 4:11-13; (2Jn 1:2-4) The second system, accelerated growth, occurs when metabolized Doctrine is tested under pressure. (2Co 12:9-10) After attaining Spiritual adulthood, further growth requires periodic suffering. This suffering for the purpose of blessing draws upon the believer’s reservoir of Truth, exercising and increasing his inner strength. Truth is Spiritual nourishment; suffering for blessing is Spiritual exercise! In Spiritual childhood, most suffering is self-induced misery or Divine discipline. The only pain that can be construed as suffering for blessing in the life of the Spiritual child is the suffering that continues after rebound. In Spiritual childhood suffering for blessing is like a teacher, but in Spiritual adulthood suffering for blessing is more like a demanding college professor.
By definition, suffering for blessing is the undeserved pain, hardship, difficulty that God periodically sends into the life of the Spiritually adult believer for the purpose of accelerating Spiritual growth and demonstrating the total sufficiency of His grace. Suffering for blessing by its very connotation is not intended to hurt the believer or to make him miserable but to advance him. For the adult believer undeserved suffering is strictly a matter of blessing. Indeed, only God can bless with suffering; suffering caused by self is harmful. (Col 2:23) God does not administer suffering for blessing until the believer is qualified to handle it. That is why suffering for blessing is reserved for Spiritual adulthood. Nor does God send suffering for blessing until the believer has capacity to appreciate God as its source and to be grateful for the problem-solving devices that He has provided in the palace. Again, this explains why God can periodically give suffering for blessing only to Spiritually adult believers. But God never gives the believer more suffering than he can bear.
No testing has overtaken you but such as is common to mankind; but God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear, but with the testing will also provide a solution, [A way out] that you may be able to endure it. (1Co 10:13)
In God’s protocol plan, strength, (Spiritual Growth) precedes suffering for blessing. God provides the means of dealing with a situation before He applies the pressure so that suffering for blessing never overloads any believer. Only by his own bad decisions can the believer create more suffering for himself than he can bear. Only the believer himself can decide to live outside his palace. Only he can refuse to learn Truth so that he has no Spiritual resources to draw upon. When pressure crushes a believer, the cause of defeat is always his own volition, never the sovereignty of God! Suffering for blessing is always bearable. Unbearable suffering under the law of volitional responsibility, with Divine discipline added on, is designed to awaken the believer to his dependence on God’s protocol system. (Rev 3:3) Obedience to Divine protocol prepares believers for suffering. All problems of suffering are resolved in the mechanics of the protocol plan of God, and all solutions stem from Truth. Consistent residence and function in fellowship, arm the believer for the pressures of life. (1Pe 4:1)
THE PATTERN OF MOMENTUM IN SPIRITUAL ADULTHOOD
The final three categories of suffering in the Christian way of life are reserved for Spiritual adults. We will devote an entire chapter to each category.
1. PROVIDENTIAL PREVENTIVE SUFFERING keeps the believer from distorting his newfound Spiritual self-esteem into arrogance. At the same time providential preventive suffering converts Spiritual self-esteem, into Spiritual autonomy.
2. MOMENTUM TESTING accelerates the believer’s Spiritual advance, carrying him from Spiritual autonomy into Spiritual maturity.
3. EVIDENCE TESTING demonstrates the efficacy of God’s grace in the life of the Spiritually mature believer and culminates in maximum glorification of God.
These three categories of undeserved suffering are specialized provisions of God’s grace. Their purpose is the continued Spiritual growth of a believer who has faithfully adhered to Divine protocol. Sadly, in any generation relatively few Christians obey Divine mandates and utilize His marvelous grace assets. Few ever reach Spiritual adulthood. Easily distracted from their true destiny as members of the royal family of God, most believers lack the positive volition, the humility and the consistency to stick with the protocol plan. Not many believers will ever face suffering for blessing. Hardly any will enjoy the benefits of experiencing God’s grace in action under extreme duress. Personal and historical disasters rarely find believers prepared to enjoy God’s provisions. Instead, self-induced misery and Divine discipline are by far the most common forms of Christian suffering. If you have not learned a great deal of Truth; you have no right to assume that the pressures in your life are suffering for blessing. If, however, you have inculcated your soul with God’s Thinking, you can anticipate a challenging, stimulating life of special grace from God — in adversity and in prosperity! (Php 3:10)
Go to # 3.