Random Blog Clay Feet: December 25, 2008
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Purpose of Probation

What would be the problem caused by Jesus coming back before every person had made a final decision about which side they were on?

Discussions on this topic almost always focus on questions about the real meaning, timing and circumstances surrounding the “close of probation”. But what is the significance of this “close of probation” from God's perspective?

"Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." (Revelation 22:11)

There is a lot of discussion and argument that revolves around how to get ready for this event. Most of the theories about preparing for Jesus' Second Coming and the “close of probation” generally center on perfecting “righteousness” in one's life which is generally assumed to mean eliminating all bad behavior. There are so many misconceptions about nearly all of the words and concepts in this debate that I don't want to get involved in that right here. What I want to focus on is an understanding that I have been coming to perceive, that the real issue here is the curing of both evil and righteousness. The completion of this curing process is extremely necessary to produce the iron-clad insurance that will prevent evil from ever rising again. And in my thinking, this is probably the core reason why it is so important for Jesus to tarry until every decision is fully cured, every character fully developed.

By curing, I am talking about the concept of maturing, developing, settling, like curing pickles in saltwater, not so much the idea of healing although that is an important part of what happens for those who are saved. This curing is more along the line of marinating something in a broth or juice so that the thing being marinated fully takes on the flavor of the liquid around it.

But the curing process is not just for the sake of the individual who is finally cured. It is part of a collective curing process whereby the whole universe becomes completely settled in its awareness of the inevitable results of following any other way but complete harmony with God's ways, the unbreakable principles of reality. This not only seals the hearts and minds of God's people on earth but seals all the intelligences of heaven. It also seals the hearts and minds of those who have chosen rebellion instead of repentance.

However, this sealing is not an arbitrary seal imposed by God on anyone but is a natural process of maturation from the choices of that individual. This sealing is represented as being carried out by the angels of God, but as with many other things like punishment and plagues, God and company accept responsibility for the natural progression that is built into the very principles of reality that He has set up in the first place. To not accept that responsibility would be to allow someone else to lay claim to it and to abandon responsibility, and God never sidesteps responsibilities. He will rather take the blame for anything even when misplaced, untrue or unfair than to give occasion for the enemy to have a potential foothold for any of his deceptions and lies about God.

If Jesus were to return before the final sealing was accomplished through the maturing of the choices of each person, there would then be some if not many who had not finished the sorting through of their options internally and had not yet made their own final choice as to which side they would choose for eternity. I cannot even imagine the enormous complications involved if God were to become impatient with waiting and rush prematurely to bring His children home. But a huge problem would be exposed when the confusion became obvious about which ones should be taken to heaven or should be left on earth.

This is where the issue of judgment comes in. Judgment is not about God determining the fate of everyone else but the maturing and exposing of their character to the point that there is no desire for them to ever want to change sides. The righteous will have become so settled in their mind and heart that they want to be like the loving God that they have come to know, and the lost will be so settled in their lies about God that neither side will ever be willing to change their minds again. The lost may appear to want to be saved when they see the riches of the New Jerusalem, but it is not because their hearts are melted by the love of God but from fear of the consequences of their rejection of His love.

Those consequences are likewise not something imposed from the outside onto them unnaturally. The punishments of God on the lost are not something forced upon them against their will but are the natural results of their resistant will when it is exposed to the presence of perfect love.

So again, hypothetically thinking, is it even possible to imagine what might happen if Jesus were to return sooner than it was safe to do so, before every person had settled in their mind their responses to the convictions of the Spirit of God about the offer of salvation? One thing that seems to be true is that God would be seen as very unfair in exposing them to His lethal presence before they had finished deciding whether to accept His offer of preparation for that encounter or not. And because God is never unfair in the slightest, that makes this scenario completely impossible.

It is our own very twisted ideas of salvation, the Second Coming and the rules of the great war between good and evil that give rise to our speculations and confusion about the timing of the coming of Jesus. There is enormous confusion about the elements that must be in place before this phase of the controversy can be initiated. Nearly all of our religious notions about the coming of Jesus are rooted in selfish reasons. We are more interested in getting ourselves away from people we don't like and circumstances that make us uncomfortable than we are in revealing the real truth about God's perfect character, His faithfulness and His everlasting lovingkindness. And as long as our desires for heaven are rooted mainly in selfishness instead of a desire to reveal God's true glory, we ourselves are not ready or safe to be saved and encounter His presence up close.

So it is not only the maturing of evil that must be allowed to be completed but it is the maturing and perfection of our own motives that must take place before it will be safe for us to be exposed to the real glory of God in Jesus that will be seen more clearly at His Second Coming. Many Christians today glibly believe that they are ready right now for Jesus to come and take them away from this earth. Most Christians have mistaken ideas about what it means to prepare for that great event. But it is God's mercy and grace that prevents Him from allowing Jesus to return while we remain in mortal danger of being exposed by the revealing light of His glory. It is not until we have our minds and hearts radically transformed by believing the real truth about God – totally different things about God's nature and character than what is commonly assumed now – that we will be safe to encounter the intensity of love that would destroy us in shame otherwise.

Shame is part of the essence of the fire that burns from the inside out whenever God's presence is encountered at close range by someone who has not fully embraced the truth about His character. That consuming fire is not something imposed by God onto them from the outside as a punishment. That fire is a natural consequence of lies buried in the heart being exposed to and yet resisting, truth that is unavoidable in the light of His glory. And the feelings aroused in that encounter will be shame, fear, terror, even hatred and all the other negative feelings that we are capable of experiencing. It is the overwhelming intensity of those emotions that will ignite the fire that consumes the life of all who resist the real truth about God's love, mercy and perfection.

Since Jesus refuses to allow anyone to be short-changed by not having enough time to finish their choices, He is going to allow events in the end times to coalesce together to compel everyone at some point in history to come to a final maturation of their characters at the same time. We cannot figure out now fully how that is going to take place, but we do have clues from the Bible. But it will happen whether we can understand it or not. Instead of trying to figure out how it is all going to happen, we need to spend our time and energy focusing instead on discovering the real nature and truth about His glory, His character, His beauty, His righteousness. The closer we get to perceiving the real truth about His loveliness and His consistent mercy and forgiveness and kindness, the more matured His character will be reflected in our own life.