“Christians awake, salute the happy morn,
Whereon the Saviour of mankind was born.”
At this time of the year the world goes mad on a spending spree of prodigious proportions, and shop-keepers do all they can to encourage it; after all, it lines their pockets! The amazing thing is that the celebration is (supposed to be) based upon a Child born in a manger in Bethlehem. But for the majority it is celebrated more in keeping with the age-old Saturnalia festivities of ancient Rome. “Eat, drink, and be merry” they say, and everyone seems in festive mood.
Those who celebrate Christmas as true believers will indulge in festivities, but in addition will remember Jesus’ birth in their homes and their churches. To all such, my wife and I would like to extend our greetings, and pray that your celebrations will not only bring you joy, but will also bring joy to the Lord Himself. It was indeed an event of momentous importance when He “left His throne and His kingly crown to come to the earth for me.” None of us will ever be able to fathom the depth of that “happening”, and what it meant in the courts of heaven.
I quoted the carol’s words, “The Saviour of Mankind” at the head of this paper. The reason is clear. Jesus IS the Saviour of mankind, even though the majority of Christians vigorously deny it. I would like to pose a simple but very serious question this Christmastide, in the hope that those who read these words may ponder its answer whilst worshipping the One who came as the Babe to Bethlehem. In the New Testament there are numerous verses that teach, quite categorically, that ALL mankind will ultimately be saved. But in the same document one also finds numerous verses that seem to depict a fiery everlasting hell for rebellious and unrepentant sinners. Let me quote one of each.
“At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10-11
“The Lord Jesus . . . shall be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9
These are, on the surface, irreconcilable statements. So here is my question. Why is it that quite the majority of Christians PREFER to believe only the verses like that in Thessalonians above, rather than both of the verses? I have frequently noticed this tendency, and it is very widespread. People are irresistibly drawn to DESTRUCTION rather than SALVATION. What is it that causes them to lean so heavily on the negative things instead of judging them in the light of the positive?
I should like to share two fragments of family testimony at this point. First of all, our daughter Ruth, when at High School some years ago, was one afternoon in the art lesson, where it was quite common for pupils and teacher to engage in conversation and discussion whilst painting. The topic of Christianity came up, and Ruth joined in as a believer. The subject was tossed around this way and that until Ruth said; “It is my firm belief that one day ALL of you will believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.” This produced a profound silence, and nothing more was said on the subject. It certainly got them thinking, and we often wonder, even now, when those seeds will finally germinate.
The second concerns myself. Ever since 1967, when Rosalind and I received the baptism of the spirit, we have been able to discern the Lord’s whisper, and hear blessed words of direction in our lives. But as many others will no doubt concur, the ability also allows dark forces to whisper their serpentine words as well. On this particular occasion, some years ago, I distinctly heard Satan himself speaking to me, trying to destroy the confidence I had in the Lord Jesus. I rebuked him in Jesus’ name, but he would not go away. Eventually, (and I thank God for putting this into my mind,) I said to him, “Satan, I believe that one day even YOU, will of your own volition, bow your knee to Jesus and confess that He is your Lord.” That did it. He was gone like a shot out of a pistol.
My answer to my own question is based on Scripture, but also backed up by experience. I believe that Satan is so angry at the thought of his ever repenting and believing in Jesus, that he infests the minds of Christians all the time, causing them to think in terms of everlasting hell-fire, which, if you think about it logically, based on the erroneous translation of certain words, is accepting that Satan will win the battle over the souls of 90% of mankind, and leave God with a mere tithe of humanity. I suggest it is this serpentine whisper that is the real cause for such a strong emphasis being placed on destruction rather than salvation. May I ask which is it in your case?
Centre of the ages, the Lord talks to a girl,
And by the words He speaks He gives a Saviour to the world;
The time grows to its fullness, and Mary’s Son is born,
The promise’s fulfilment lies asleep now in her arms.
He didn’t come to terrify, to judge, or condescend,
To call us as His servants, but to lift us as His friends,
To save us all from Satan’s power, to reign at His right hand,
In the little town of Bethlehem, when God became a man.
The day the God of Majesty was given to the earth,
A gift of such magnificence, we can never plumb its worth,
And the rudeness of the setting just ignites the Jewel’s fire,
A Pearl beyond the greatest price, the joy of man’s desire.
Words by Don Francisco, in his song “When God became a man.”