Jesus warned that end-time events would not only threaten lives but also believers' faith. Everyone will struggle with knowing that God himself sent Wormwood, purging billions of lives including your left behind loved ones. Maintaining trust in God's goodness when he looks uncaring or evil is an everyday challenge, but your life could depend on it when the end arrives. Strengthen your faith now by understanding that the “Good News” is only half of the story about God. Learn the rest of the story, the "bad news" about God that the Bible repeatedly shares but we all filter out, setting ourselves up for disillusionment. Strangely, the plot from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" shows how bad things fit into the purpose of life God has left hidden...
“How Do I Make Sure I Escape the End Times?”
Although I have answered over 50,000 questions since first publishing my Bible research online in 1999, there is one very wise question that is not among the top ten questions I am asked. Frankly, I cannot remember anyone asking a question like this so far. That question would be:
“Tim, what do you recommend for someone who wants to make sure they escape the end times?”
Given escaping for sure is the outcome we all desire, this is the best question to ask a Bible prophecy author and expert. Why do so many send me mostly less practical, trivia-like questions instead?
The problem is that most already have certain assumptions about what is important to know or do about the end times. They may also make new assumptions from reading a few of my articles on individual topics (like Wormwood or Elijah) before approaching me for help. This leads to the popular questions I receive such as:
- “When will the end times start/how do I know when it is near?”
- “How do I recognize the mark of the beast?”
- “Who is the Antichrist?”
- “How do I know who Elijah is?”
- “When should I flee America?”
- “How do I make my family listen to me on The Rapture/Leaving America/Elijah/Judea/etc.?”
As you might suspect, having the right answers to even all of these questions will not insure someone's survival in the end times. It's almost as if the assumption behind such questions at the moment they are made is that if they can only get the correct answer, the rest will take care of itself.
But as I'll show you, that's not at all the case.
My Old Answers... (2004-2016)
If you had asked me that model question above even a couple of years ago, in all honesty, I would not have been able to give you the right answer. 🙁
Let me share a few of my past incomplete answers in case some of them match your own current understanding.
Even after writing the first edition of my book Know the Future in 2004, I still had a lot to learn. I would have answered the question by saying it was important to study Bible prophecy yourself to understand its “instructions.” (Ha! Incomplete ones...) That way you would know for yourself that Wormwood is coming and to watch for Elijah to come to lead us to safety from Wormwood in Judea.
Later... I realized that no one needs to be a Bible prophecy expert or even have any knowledge on the subject. Why not? First, Elijah will (and must) be impossible to miss as he would be the one delivering the Good News of the Kingdom “worldwide in all nations” with his warning (Rev 14:6-7=Mt 24:14=Joel 2:32=Mal 4:5-6). Second, his teaching will no doubt require all of us to throw out much of what little end-time understanding we currently have, not just the pretrib-rapturists (who do not know yet that the Bible says we escape the Tribulation on earth, not Heaven). Thus, I then saw the real obstacle to be accepting Elijah as sent by God instead of perceiving him as a dangerous heretic sent by the Devil (as sadly nearly all Christians will).
Later... I came to understand more clearly that belief in Elijah's message is not enough to get the job done because what he will describe as the escape plan (going to Judea) will sound not just Scripturally unfounded, but ludicrous—not anything a sane person would want to do or should need to do—even devout believers. I saw that what was important was to start preparing mentally now (exactly as Jesus had said) by daily staying awake (i.e., righteousness, not backsliding) and “praying for the strength to escape all these things” (Lk 21:36). Just as Lot's wife believed the warning about Sodom and fled but was unable to comply fully with it and turned to salt, so will it be that way with Elijah's instructions even for those who believe him; a very hard ask that results most likely in death (Lk 17:32).
Later... (most recently) I comprehended that while praying for personal strength was important, if we do not also have God's helping hand of divine inspiration and/or even supernatural help to not waver in our strength or resolve, then we may not make it despite our best intentions and preparations. (E.g., think of the saints stuck in prison or the physically, constitutionally impaired or those with strong family ties.) It could be as simple as God using some person to come and declare (with authority) “we have to leave now!” so that it suddenly jolts you out your wavering and procrastinating (Gen 19:14) to finally act on Elijah's radical instructions, thereby saving your life. I mention this because of a powerful testimony that I heard from a supporter about how his devout Catholic parents escaped Saigon on the last chopper out thanks to such a clarion call at just the right time, through someone no doubt sent by God.
My Current Answer
To sum up, escaping the end times is not mainly about what I used to think or what you may currently think: Bible study, end time knowledge, being good at recognizing or believing Elijah, being righteous or even having the strength to obey God's radical commands. The inconvenient truth is that many righteous and strong saints will die because their faith in God fails and they lose God's favor and assistance for what's coming—despite agreeing with Elijah and wanting to follow him.
Why? How can I be so sure?
Because Jesus told us already this would happen and gave us a clue as to why:
Matthew 24:7-13 (HCSB) — 7 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom [WW3/America gone]. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places [Wormwood]. 8 All these events are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
In this passage, Jesus describes what people do in the aftermath of the "sorrows" (WW3 and Wormwood). Among the minority who survive, he says people will be "offended" and act in hateful, loveless, and betraying manners. It is important to recognize that these people include believers like us. Jesus addresses believers using “you” three times with bad news leading up to verse 13 where he offers some hope for them, “but...the one who endures will be delivered.” Despite all the negative reactions that most people will choose, those (believers) who endure until the end will be delivered.
But “many” (which I contend is best understood as “most”) will become offended and lose their faith.
The End In 2026? It's Now Possible
Since learning in 2001 that Yeshua must return in a Sabbath year, I've had to rule out three Sabbath year cycle windows for the final 7 years (2003-2009, 2010-2016, 2017-2023). With the next window (2024-2030) less than 7 years away, I'm ready to share why I believe, based on the real end time sign of Mt 24:14, that this can be the one. If it is, the "birth pains" (WW3 + Wormwood, Lk 21:10-11) would hit near its middle in 2026 with Yeshua returning in 2030. Find out what's changed to convince me about 2026 and what you can do about it...
This is suggested in the context because of the actions this leads to: hatred, betrayal, and lovelessness. Moreover, many modern versions directly translate the Greek word there for “offended” (skandalizo) as “depart from the faith” or “fall away.”
Matthew 24:10 (NIV2011) — At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other...
Matthew 24:10 (ESV) — And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.
If you're like me you've read this verse countless times and never once did you seriously see yourself in it! You may have thought it spoke of only the world, not believers. Maybe you denied that you would ever fall from the faith like that. I used to feel the same way, but I no longer do because I recently found a great warning in this verse applicable to us before the end. Therefore, let me address these two misconceptions next because this verse is too full of meaning to disregard for any reason.
Why Are We “Hated of All Nations?” (Not What You Think)
To begin to understand how vulnerable we really all are to losing our faith (which could stop us from getting to Judea when the time comes), let's be sure that Jesus was including believers in the prophecy above. To help accomplish that, I have a new insight to share that should interest and help you. It relates to how Jesus said believers would be “hated of all nations because of my name” (Mt 24:9).
I have never been completely happy with the traditional explanation that the saints are hated universally because of the Great Tribulation (when the Antichrist controls the whole world and persecutes the saints). First, verse 9 comes after the “sorrows” and before the Great Tribulation's start is first mentioned in verse 15. Second, after Wormwood hits, every gang, rebel, and leader who gain authority or power in the nine months before the Antichrist shows up will be the Antichrist's enemy, not only believers. Many would refuse to take the mark or submit to Antichrist, not just saints. So why would believers be hated by the entire world in that scenario, including the other “villains” who are doing the same thing, resisting the Antichrist? I didn't understand or have a better answer—until now.
My new understanding of that verse was made possible by the recent insight into how Wormwood will cause the end of atheism. In a previous article I explained how it could be that all people on earth cry for protection from the “wrath of the one on the throne [God] and the Lamb [Lord Jesus]” (Rev 6:16) when they see Wormwood as the earth starts quaking violently (Rev 6:12) and meteors begin to fill the sky (Rev 6:13). It's as if they somehow know without any doubt that God and/or Jesus are real (unlike the skepticism of today) and are responsible for what's happening: all of them, including atheists. The explanation for this mysterious global expression of belief in God is:
- They just saw a threatening planet materialize in the sky out of nowhere which...
- Elijah the prophet had been predicting would happen for at least two years by this point (Jer 51:46=Mt 24:14).
- Therefore, when Wormwood hits, everyone will know God is real and that he sent Wormwood to bring our entire civilization down. God will look like the villain that Richard Dawkins expressed God to be, “the most unpleasant character in all of fiction” (The God Delusion, 2006).
That leads to the reason why we “will be hated of all nations because of my name” (Mt 24:9). Everyone will be suddenly thrust into post-civilization chaos dominated by lawless gangs. Survivors will lack food (Rev 8:7), clean water (Rev 8:11), sunlight and warmth (Rev 8:12). Only the strong will survive, often by taking away from the preppers what they saved for themselves. People will be displeased that the world that they know and prefer is gone—including most or all of their loved ones. Knowing full well he did this, people will hate God along with his servants, the saints. Anyone who still comes in Jesus' name/serving God at that time will be persecuted. How could we possibly defend what God did or continue serving such a “mass-murderer?” We will be scapegoats even in a new world of general anarchy. With that much persecution, it's easy to foresee that many believers will renounce God in order to save their lives if they have not renounced God already in disillusionment.
How This Applies To You, Today
We saw that Jesus' prophecy indicates that many believers will lose their faith after Wormwood. (Nevertheless, we know not 100% will since there will still be some to fulfill the prophecy of the coming martyrs (Rev 6:11=Rev 20:4).)
That's sad but probably does not concern us as we expect or at least plan to be safe from Wormwood in Judea, outside the focus of Jesus' prophecy. For example, there will be nothing to "betray" each other for in Judea, anyway. Security, food, and water will be available to all without such violence. People will be taught and practicing how to become more loving, more like Jesus, not decreasing in love.
That being the case, what is the warning in Jesus' prophecy that makes me bring it to your attention in this article? The answer to that lies in the second misconception about this passage that I mentioned above. We normally do not think we would ever at any time lose our faith as the world will because of Wormwood. We certainly do not expect it in a relatively easy time as we enjoy now. Therefore, we completely miss any connection in that passage to us today. This is so typical of the many admonitions found in Jesus' prophecies. We tend to think they are for someone else because we won't let ourselves be "deceived" (Mt 24:4-5), "backslide" (Lk 12:45-46) or even become "lukewarm" (Rev 3:16-17). We know we want to please God and we cannot imagine anything changing that.
However, realistically, we must admit that our resolve to serve God can waver under the right conditions that we are thrust into. We have all known or heard of Christians who have walked away from God because of tragedy in their lives. This can be triggered by setbacks such as unemployment, sickness or the death of a loved one, especially when accompanied by much prayer and supplication that goes ignored. Christians feel abandoned by God or angry at him or feel down on themselves for somehow "not being good enough" for God's help. We desperately need to believe that our faith won't shipwreck like that or that it only happens to the “other guy.” This is what we tell ourselves when the reality is too scary to face. Paul expressed this unpleasant reality when he said, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
I used to think that Paul was being melodramatic there. How could someone so great and proven through persecution and tested by God lose his faith? As his letters record, he had seen others fall away. No doubt many of them were solid and their apostasy surprised him. I imagine that this humbled him to realize it can happen to anyone. We do not know if we have such a weakness lurking that could change our mind on serving God being worth the trouble.
A similar transformation of perspective happened to me recently. I had watched several brethren get discouraged in their walk with God during the course of a couple of years of fellowship with them. Mind you, these were not nominal Sunday-church Christians. They were serious Bereans who knew their Bible and were putting in the uncomfortable self-examination and repentance needed to walk God's way of love, the narrow path. They made breakthroughs in repentance and shared inspiring testimonies. Then, one by one, they ended fellowship and went away quietly. When I reached out to them for an explanation, they admitted that they struggled with negative feelings like shame, guilt, unworthiness and even disappointment with God. Just like the fallen Christians we have all seen.
How could this be with all the wisdom they learned and the progress they had made? I began to pray and ask for insight. With a couple of months, I got my answer which I will share below.
Losing Your Faith Today is Potentially Lethal
If you can now imagine, as Paul did, that something can indeed come along and offend you out of the faith or out of serving God anymore, then perhaps you can begin to see the warning for us that I see in the passage above. Just as people will be offended at God because of future global distress, we also can become offended at God because of present, local, personal distress. When it's not the end time yet, this only costs you your salvation. You go on living fine and hopefully, with a long enough life to learn and gain needed perspective, you ultimately reconcile the offense in your mind and come back to God. Unfortunately, when it is the end time (which I think most of my readers are convinced it is), the end can come upon you while you're still in apostasy figuring things out. In that case, being out of the faith becomes potentially lethal. Jesus warned about this that he could come when we're not ready if we allow ourselves to backslide:
Luke 12:45-46 (HCSB) — 45 But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ [or insert other reasons to backslide here] and starts to beat the male and female slaves [a departure from God's law of love], and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 that slave’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
Do you understand now why I say that your end-time survival depends upon developing strong, unshakable faith? Because if you lose your faith and the end comes before you recover, you won't receive the divine help we'll most likely need to take part in God's escape plan. It's going to be that hard.
Given all this, what is my answer now for how to make sure you escape the end times? On top of everything else, if you do not have such strong faith that you cannot lose it from an offense caused by seeing what God is doing or allowing to happen in the end time, then you may not make it (Lk 18:8=Mt 24:13)!
How To Not Lose Your Faith: My Two Keys
The natural next question then is, how do we make sure our faith is “bazooka-proof” like that? (If you still do not find it plausible that you would ever walk away from God, the material below can help with that at the same time.)
Put another way, how do you keep yourself from being offended when you see God permit or cause horrible or even “evil” events in your life or the lives of others you love? Have you ever asked yourself how it was that Abraham kept from being offended when God absurdly commanded him to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac, or how Job did not get offended when God stripped him of his children, possessions, and health despite his exemplary righteousness (Eze 14:14,20)? These are relevant and helpful questions for our discussion.
My suggested solution is twofold. First, there is the obvious problem of having incorrect expectations of God. They say that happiness is when reality exceeds your expectations. Conversely, when wrong or too high expectations meet reality, the result is disappointment and unhappiness. Christians, in general, fit the latter description. They are taught mainly about the "good news” and comparatively little time is spent on the bad news. This refers to the numerous “evil,” “horrible” and hard-to-defend things that God allows to happen, even upon the righteous. This is the “bad news of the kingdom” that goes hand and hand with the good news of the kingdom to create the full picture of God and what to expect from him, even if you are righteous...or especially if you are (Heb 12:6=Pr 3:12). By having a full picture of how God works with us you are less likely to be set up for disappointment or disillusionment that can shipwreck your faith.
The second problem is that, even if you know from reading your Bible or by watching Christians that God allows and even causes evil-looking things (such as what he "allowed" with Job), if you cannot imagine how that event can be ultimately good (Rom 8:28) and for a good purpose or fit with the plan of a loving God for us in this life, it is likely to put a great strain on your faith. Through my decades of study of the Bible including end-time prophecy, I have gained helpful insight into the “evil” we see God do in the Bible (including Wormwood) and how to see the purpose, meaning and ultimate good to it all. I want to pass that on to you to help you also maintain your faith in a benevolent God when you see him do "evil" things. A key part of seeing the good in the evil that happens is understanding the purpose of this life.
Job Said God Sends "Evil"
By the way, if you're cringing every time you see me refer to God doing "evil," it may help to refer again to the story of Job.
We can illustrate my two fundamentals for strong faith in two characters quoted in the Book of Job, Job and his wife. When Job's wife saw the string of disasters come upon her family, she knew God was involved (whether he merely allowed it or did it himself). As a result, she was offended and lost her will to serve God anymore as her advice to Job indicated: “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job's response to her, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” shows that he knew something about God that maybe few Christians (including myself, until recently) know well. God indeed sends both good and “evil” to us for our good. If we want to serve him and make it into the kingdom we must accept both. It certainly helps with the acceptance if you already know to expect it!
Like I said above, this applies more to our current walk than we care to believe. I've recently seen firsthand several diminish in faith because of incorrect expectations of God in how he treats the righteous on the narrow path. This directly led me to see the need to teach readers the "bad news” and correct their expectations of God.
The surprising truth I now see myself is that Job's story is not some isolated case never to be repeated (as I thought before), but bears a strong resemblance to the lives of all the saints headed to the kingdom. This is the "bad news" you won't hear in a church because it would scare most away. We prefer to imagine a God who welcomes our service and righteousness with blessings including making our life overall easier, not harder. Yet that's not what the Bible shows us (and there is a good reason for this).
The silver lining to learning about this bad news today is that we have something Job did not have, despite his great righteousness and strong faith. We can read in our Bibles why God allowed Satan to do what he did to Job, or what he did to Adam and Eve or what he will do to people after the Millennium when he is released for a short time (Rev 20:7-10). It's much easier to accept the evil or hard trial of the moment when we can see the purpose behind it and the good that it will bring later.
Part 2: Explaining “The Bad News” of the Kingdom: My Failed Approach
I am continuing this article after a couple of weeks off of listening to feedback from readers on the part above. The feedback was very instructive for how to approach the topic more effectively than I had originally planned.
What was my original plan? I planned to first share all the Biblical passages I know which show God's servants have trouble that he either sends them into or sends upon them along with the Biblical passages that promise we will have trouble while serving God.
However, when I tried that approach in fellowship with supporters who had read this article already, I was met with confusion and questions. Here are some examples of the responses I received:
- “Job saying 'God sends evil' is only his opinion, not the Word of God. Maybe he was wrong?”
- “When Wormwood arrives, how do we know for sure that God has sent it? It never says that explicitly...”
- “If it's true God that does create and send Wormwood, then that means God is taking our lives away. To give us life and take it away makes no sense!”
After attempting to answer enough questions like these, it became clear that it was impossible to get people to see or accept God as doing evil-looking things in Scripture without an important paradigm shift. Just as the disciples' wrong expectation that the Messiah would throw off Roman rule made it impossible for them to hear or understand Jesus' warning that he must be betrayed, suffer and die (despite him saying it multiple times), so also none of us can “bear to hear” the negative things God will do that do not fit our expectations while in God's service.
John 16:12-13 — 12 I still have much to tell you, but you cannot yet bear to hear it. 13 However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.
The Holy Spirit did come and guide the disciples. They finally comprehended and accepted that Jesus had to die (among other things) that they never could hear before. The same approach is needed here, we need to receive some new truth to correct our existing paradigm.
Explaining “The Bad News:” Retracing My Path
What, then, are the prerequisite truths for comprehending the bad news of the “evil” that God sends upon humans, even the righteous (as I contend is the case)? In reflecting on the topic, I realized that my path to making the breakthrough past what “I want to tell you, but you cannot bear to hear” did not start with passages on God's “horrific acts.” I knew of them but I still did not fully accept them until the paradigm shift came. It went as follows:
- Understanding the purpose of life. (This first life, that is.) This came to me only recently. (It is not just to lead us to the conclusion that we need a savior or God in our lives and that once we do that, God blesses us in an endless string of positive reinforcement.)
- Teaching supporters the Good News of the Kingdom yet watching several fail and end fellowship. I was surprised by this and felt responsible as if I had failed them by not teaching them something critical along with the Good News.
- Asking people who left our fellowship to share what was going on for them and praying to understand what the pattern was among them. Gradually I got the sense that all were being triggered to feel bad about themselves as if let down by God or for letting God or others down. They all had wrong expectations, such as God helping them more to make the “narrow path” easier rather than being dragged back down into fighting old emotional wounds and traumas seemingly alone.
- Finally one morning in bed, I received one of my (divine, I believe) inspirations. For no reason, I thought about the story of Adam and Eve. I don't know why, but I saw it in a brand new, shocking light. It answered for me a question I had since I read the whole Bible in my teens: why did Adam and Eve, after walking with God for years and making one mistake, never seek God again or repent? (Unlike their son Abel, and very few others named as righteous in the Genesis chronologies such as Noah and Enoch.)
- After that insight, I got a little depressed for a short time because I finally fully saw the “bad news” of the Kingdom. All the verses I planned to share with you about the “evil exploits” of God came together with clarity. It was there all along and I partly denied that God was doing these things to the righteous, much like the responses above denying that Job was right when he said God sends evil.
I then realized that Job's words about God “sending evil” were more literal and right than I ever accepted before. Further, I recognized that his life was not some isolated, special case once-and-for-all for all history as I previously saw it as. No, the Book of Job sets the expectations for all believers. When we had rosier expectations, we were set up to fail like my fellowship members.
Right after this, I coined the term "Bad News of the Kingdom,” for obvious reasons. I had been teaching the Good News of the Kingdom with only partial, incomplete warnings about what to expect after repenting, “obeying the Good News” (2Th 1:8) and walking the narrow path. Now I knew I had to be able to explain the Bad News just as well as the Good News.
Next time I read the Bible, I saw this twofold teaching of the good-plus-bad-news borne out in a favorite passage of mine, Acts 14:22. This is one of the passages I wanted to start out teaching you that we are promised trouble:
Acts 14:21-22 (NIV) — 21 They preached the gospel [good news] in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith [good news is encouraging]. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said [the Bad News that is nearly impossible to fully believe and embrace, including for me!]
God Sends These Hardships, On Purpose
Not only did verse 21 now stand out for me significantly, but also verse 22's “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom” changed in meaning. Before my breakthrough, I would have explained that these hardships “just happen because of our lack of wisdom, our mistakes, the sins of others, time and chance, etc.” I used to teach, “God does not need to send us curses or trouble because we get ourselves into it all by ourselves.” What about Abraham's test with Isaac, David's undeserved troubles with King Saul, the persecution and martyrdom of the apostles, etc.? My stock answer was that because they all were being called to high offices or roles in God's plan, they were getting “special treatment” of orchestrated tests to humble and test them. That way when they were honored and rewarded later, they would not have their hidden flaws exposed—like what happened with King Saul or Solomon who did not get the same humbling that King David got.
Yet if you think it through, the promise of Acts 14:22 about our path to the kingdom requires that God be active in ensuring the hardships described happen to us. Some saints, such as rich ones, would escape "many hardships" if God did not orchestrate these events in their lives.
You may not at all like the sound of this line of thinking, but how can God do less when those who make it in this first 6000 years are headed to be honored as kings (Rev 20:4-6) reigning with Christ just like King David will? If Jesus had hardship (Heb 5:7-9) and King David who will rule Israel under him (Eze 37:24) and all the apostles who will rule the twelve tribes under him (Mt 19:28), then how can we not expect the same hardships before our rulership is granted? It's so obvious now that it almost seems silly that I could have missed the pattern for so long. (It would be silly if I did not understand how cognitive dissonance leads us to use whatever ways we can find, even wrong ones, to resolve discomfort like confusion from new evidence against our current understanding.)
There are many hardships God has sent, used or “allowed” in history. Later, I will share a list based on the Bible that may be shocking, depending on how biblically literate you are. For now, I will describe the main hardship for us all in our daily lives: the challenge of offense. Yes, one of the main hardships God uses is to offend us on purpose, either through an event or more often through something someone says. (If you doubt that, just ask an atheist what they think of God asking Abraham to kill his son for him, the son he gave him. That story offends them along with hundreds of stories in the Bible.)
What Is the Purpose of (This) Life?
As long as we have the wrong concept of what life is about, our mind will continue to deny that God ever sends “evil” or offends us on purpose. I know that I need to help with that paradigm shift now by sharing the purpose of life. It may sound arrogant to suggest I know the answer to one of the big questions or mysteries of the universe. Yet you already have your own definition of the purpose of life that you are operating under; you just do not think about it or ever have a reason to express it unless someone asks. Even then, you may not tap into your real operating belief without deeper thought.
Let me help. Above I quoted a supporter asking “why would God give us life and then kill us? It makes no sense.” This belies an expectation that life is an end in itself, thereby making it feel like a tragedy to have it taken from you. If you take it away, then that's the end, it's final and there is no hope. But that's not true as death, like life, is also temporary. That's because of the multiple resurrections that God has planned for us. Knowing that secret from Bible prophecy is a key step to discovering the real purpose of life and shedding the wrong concept.
Another misconception most Christians have is that God is trying to get us all to obey him and get saved now. Therefore, one purpose of this life is to employ blessings and curses as positive and negative reinforcement so that ultimately people realize disobedience and sin do not work out and that obeying God and doing good works does, thereby setting us up to receive salvation.
If this were the case, then God would have his hands tied in a way that he could not have sent trouble on Job's life as he did. Remember that Job was very righteous, so righteous that God bragged about him to Satan." Righteousness deserves only blessings. Curses are for the wicked. End of story." Thus, when Satan wanted God to remove his protection from Job so that he could try to prove his point about Job's being a suck-up to God only because of blessings, God should have answered, “I don't have to prove anything to you and besides, Job is very righteous so it would be wrong and evil of me to put disaster on him like you want to do.”
What if the purpose of this life is not to get the righteous blessed now and ultimately to salvation for the next life? What if those principles are true, but subordinate to a much higher main purpose: education for the real, next life in eternity? Then the story of Job begins to make sense. Although Job was extremely righteous, this did not stay God's hand from sending trouble on him. Why not? As God's discourse in the last chapters of his book argued, Job had a lot to learn. He lacked wisdom about God and, in fact, this same purpose of life. That's why he could see no reason for his trials. He defended himself against his three friends' wrongful accusations that surely he must have done something wrong for God to send trouble on him. They all missed that God was not just concerned about promoting righteousness!
See, Job was great at obeying God's laws. But when put in a new situation that he did not understand while egged on incessantly by speculating friends, he imagined and suggested out loud that God was somehow at fault (Job 40:2, 7-8)! Those thoughts meant that God was not really good, 100%, all the time, which is the basis of our faith (Heb 11:6) and crucial to harmony in eternal life with God (along with loving others in obedience to him that follows knowing he is 100% good and worthy of serving). Through the help of Satan, God was able to reveal a gap in Job's understanding that was lurking there ready to shake his faith in God's goodness. Job was humbled from the experience and realized that he had more to learn which was why God sent the trouble on him (among other reasons such as having the incident then available for the rest of us to learn from). Without trouble and only good times and blessings, Job would not have gotten offended at God enough to dare to accuse him of impropriety.
I used to think the highest aim of this life was to condition us towards righteousness and obeying God (unto salvation). Now I see that wisdom or education is above righteousness in the hierarchy of the purposes of this first life under Satan. Meaning God will not let your righteousness and related blessings due get in the way of teaching you what you need to change or know to be accepted into a successful eternal life. God does not want slaves or even servants at all costs. He wants to create sons that he can give eternal life to without cursing them in the process. But he knows better than to give it when we're not ready or it will only corrupt the harmony of his kingdom. You, also, do not want to receive eternal life before you're ready or it will only inevitably make you miserable and violent or suicidal. You must be trained for happiness there. If you had not noticed, most people do not know how to be happy or in peace all the time. Teaching us that is the purpose of this physical life, through its procession of up to three resurrections, if needed.
Life is Like the Plot to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?
Under the paradigm of that purpose to life, suddenly everything God is doing, causing, allowing or sending on humans is defensible and fair game, including homicide and other offensive, evil-looking things that turn most away from God and into atheists. Death by God is temporary and reversed in one of the resurrections by God. Offense away from salvation by God will be resolved in the next resurrection when Satan's rule and deception are replaced by God's rule and word, resulting in a utopia where practically everyone will know God and be saved (Jer 31:34). (The reason for taking this meandering path and not starting with utopia is covered in my article on Satan in Prophecy.)
I think the plot to the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) is a wonderful metaphor for illustrating all of this and more. If you have not seen this film yet, it would not only be a pleasure but also very helpful for your understanding. (With an older movie like this, you can probably watch now for free from a quick google search. I'll wait =)
Special Plot Summary
Even if you saw the movie already, allow me to refresh your memory with my plot summary tailored for my purposes:
Willy Wonka has a chocolate factory where he mysteriously produces his famous candies without any workers. “No one goes in and no one goes out” it is said, supposedly as a countermeasure against the industrial-espionage of Wonka's rival, Arthur Slugworth. In an apparent promotional move (“He's going to sell a million bars!”), Wonka announces that he has included golden tickets in five of the chocolate bars on shelves. The five lucky children finding them will win a "life-time supply of chocolate" which they receive at the end of a special tour of his “top-secret” factory. As soon as each child finds a golden ticket, Slugworth always appears and whispers in their ear his offer to make them rich in exchange for them delivering to him a sample of Wonka's latest fantastic creation, the “Everlasting Gobstopper.”
On the day of the tour, the five children accompanied by their chaperones including Charlie and his Grandpa Joe witness the reclusive Wonka amble out of the factory with a cane and a limp looking frail. He suddenly falls forward into a somersault, stands straight up sans cane, smiles and warmly welcomes the contest winners. This sets the theme from the outset that things are not going to be as they seem with Wonka...
Before being allowed to enter the factory proper, the children are compelled to sign an obscure liability waiver—including essential conditions of the contest tour—written with microscopic fine print that rendered it impossible to read. When asked what it says, Wonka gives vague, often poetic answers insisting that the tour is not dangerous. This is his manner throughout the tour for most questions. The children insist on signing despite this so they can enter, against the advice of some of the chaperones.
Inside, it is more like a playground designed to delight children with tastes and sights, than a factory. There are incredible temptations at every turn that are also quite dangerous and lacking in proper safety measures to prevent risk-taking (and rule-breaking). For example, a river of chocolate entices the gluttonous Augustus Gloop from Germany to kneel down, drink from it (against the rules, contaminating it), stumble in, nearly drowning until he is sucked up a pipe where he gets stuck before shooting up on his way to who-knows-where. With each such incident, Wonka protests at the violation but does not intervene and merely watches as they get harmed or removed in some way. Wonka appears unconcerned in each case that something terrible has befallen a child in his factory. He does not apologize or reassure the respective child's chaperone that the child will survive but suggests he thinks they'll be OK. His apparent apathy about these incidents and the justifiably angry responses of the chaperones is just as off-putting as his non-answers to his guests' questions. He is the most bizarre, uncaring and hard-to-understand host ever.
Before moving on to tour the inner sanctum of the “Inventing Room” (R&D lab), Wonka had warned the children of the rule “no touching, no tasting, no telling” that he put in place because of his rival Slugworth. The surviving four children are given one of the coveted Everlasting Gobstoppers that Slugworth requested—only if they solemnly swear to keep it to themselves. By the end of the tour, each remaining child is tempted to sample one of Wonka's off-limits, dangerous and still-under-development inventions thereby ending the tour for them (except for Charlie). Charlie, too, was tempted along with Grandpa Joe to break the rules. They linger behind the tour group to sample the “Fizzy Lifting Drinks.” This causes them to fly up along the high-ceiling room where a ventilation fan is spinning, nearly chopping them. Nevertheless, they manage to figure out a way to counteract the lifting effect, avoid harm, and catch up to the tour group—supposedly without their violation or absence being noticed by Wonka.
After the fourth child breaks the rules and is injured off the tour, the tour abruptly ends. Wonka explains to Charlie and Grampa Joe, “I'm terribly busy whole day wasted” and asks them to show themselves out. Charlie wonders if they “did something wrong.” Perplexed as to why they did not receive the expected prize of chocolate, Grandpa Joe barges into Wonka's office to demand an explanation. Wonka tells him there is no prize because they both broke the rules, rules Grandpa Joe denies they ever saw. Wonka points out that in the contract that Charlie signed it says the prize is void for rule-breaking which applies to them because “You stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks! You Lose!” Grandpa Joe is indignant and calls Wonka a “crook, cheat, swindler, an inhuman monster who builds up hopes of little boys and then smash dreams to pieces.” Wonka is only angrier from this and shouts “I said, good day!” As they head to the door, Grandpa Joe tells Charlie he will get even with Wonka over this perceived injustice by selling Slugworth the Everlasting Gobstopper, the item that Charlie promised upon receipt to keep to himself.
Charlie, with a look of remorse all over his face, ignores his grandpa's vengeful announcement, walks back to Wonka (who seems to have already forgotten them) and places the gobstopper on the desk where Wonka is busy writing. Wonka quotes Shakespeare that “So shines a good deed in a weary world” and his whole disposition changes to joy as he turns to Charlie and says, “Charlie...my boy...You won! You did it! I knew you would; Oh, Charlie, forgive me for putting you through this. Come in, Mr. Wilkinson. Charlie, meet Mr. Wilkinson.” And it's Slugworth, who is revealed to be in reality Wonka's employee used as a moral test of character. “I had to test you, Charlie. And you passed the test. You won! The jackpot.”
As with Slugworth, the jackpot is also revealed to be different than advertised. It's not only a lifetime supply of chocolate but also inheriting the whole chocolate factory from the retiring Wonka. Wonka also reminds him that by getting everything he wanted, he would live “happily ever after.”
The Factory “Tour” is Like This Life
This movie is a literal gift from God for teaching the reality and purposes of this life. There are so many parallels to seeking the kingdom that I cannot talk about them all. For example, Slugworth is achieving Wonka's purposes, just as Satan (unwittingly) does the same for God in testing and tempting us. The non-human Oompa Loompas serving Wonka are a type of the angels God created to serve him. Wonka's explanation for why he choose children for the “successor try-out” tour was because “who can I trust to run the factory and take care of the Oompa Loompas for me? Not a grownup. A grownup would want to do everything his own way, not mine. That's why I decided a long time ago I had to find a child. A very honest, loving child.” Jesus similarly said that unless we become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom (Mt 18:3).
I will focus on a few central themes in the movie to help us to understand our life:
1 - Life is not about what you think – The factory visitors thought the tour was part of the prize to be enjoyed along with a chocolate supply prize to be received at the end. Little did they know that the tour was partly enjoyment and partly test or temptation that would cause them to lose the prizes they felt entitled to. The tour was designed to weed out every one of selfish, dishonest or unloving character.
Similarly, our first, physical life is not chiefly about the life (tour) itself or receiving blessings (like the chocolate). It's about testing and teaching us and (if we fail to learn this time) weeding us out from the actual grand prize of inheriting the kingdom and ruling with Christ (like Charlie would “rule” with Wonka at first until he retired).
2 - The grand prize is greater and also more demanding than thought: In the movie, the lifetime supply of chocolate seemed to be the chief prize and to be entitled to the person. In reality, that prize could be lost (which all technically did) and the grand prize was much greater than that. Yet, unlike just receiving chocolate to eat, the grand prize of “inheriting the kingdom” of Wonka required a responsible person with a loving and honest character who would keep harmony in the kingdom, taking care of things properly in the same way Wonka would.
Similarly, the grand prize of this life is not here received in it like the chocolate, but in the next life “after the tour.” Christians do not give much careful consideration to their common conception of the afterlife as being in Heaven floating around playing harps and doing who-knows-what. That will get boring once the initial discovery, exploring and family reunions are done. Living “happily forever after” in eternal life requires much more planning and preparation than just supposedly qualifying by admitting the "need for a personal savior." Eternal life will not work for you or others around you unless you have proven to do things God's “honest and loving” way. If you're still a selfish, rule-breaking, dishonest brat like the four disqualified children, you'll be insufferable. Just imagine how miserable Heaven would be if everyone was there from your local church the way they are now with the egos, pride, gossiping, judgment, self-righteousness, false-humility and other Pharisaical qualities seen in most churches. (Just talk to the pastor who hears all the complaints people make about each other if you doubt your church is like this!). This is not said to judge or put-down Christians or churches; after all, they can only be as good as their teachers, and Jesus is not their teacher, unfortunately. The point is, eternity is a long time and receiving life there in the kingdom comes with a responsibility to not ruin it for everyone else by being one of “bad eggs” that spoils things. Remember, God, Jesus and his angels are in perfect love, joy, and harmony right now in the kingdom. God cannot admit people who would spoil that because they are simply not ready to graduate from flight simulations to piloting a real airplane.
3 - For this to work, God, like Wonka plays things coy, mysterious and offensive: I was just a toddler when the movie came out but I figure I saw it in one of its many replays on broadcast television a few years later when I was old enough to understand. I have distinct memories of feeling confused and offended at how Wonka treated his visitors. He did not seem to care for the safety of the children with proper safeguards (if OSHA existed in Wonka's imaginary country, they would have shut that factory down immediately!). He did not stop the children from breaking the rules or keep them safe when they did. When a child was gravely injured, he neither seemed apologetic nor appropriately concerned. He did not give straight answers to questions and in several manners like this was simply offensive. But as he explained in the end, he had to do it this way. He had to keep his real purpose hidden so that people would behave like their normal selves and not modify their behavior temporarily just to get the prize.
Similarly, in our life, God allows and even causes offensive things. It's evident throughout the entire Bible if you read it objectively. God does not give us clear answers when we think he should. He does not keep us safe from premature death, injury or disease. If we are honest, he seems often not to care. Frankly, we think he should act differently and help us more than he does. After all, we're his “guests” or servants trying to obey him. Why doesn't he treat us better and reward us as we expect with the “chocolate?” Answer: if he did that our character would not be tested and revealed for its shortcomings so that we may see them and perhaps improve on them as Charlie did. Charlie also was tempted on the tour to break the rules, as “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23), but felt convicted to make up for it by returning the gobstopper that he knew he did not deserve (nor could he profit from if he kept it to himself according to the rules he agreed to). That was repentance in a spirit of humility rather than pride and entitlement. It's what God is looking for so he can work with us in this life to train us for inheriting the kingdom successfully.
A New Paradigm For Life With God
Hopefully, you can already see that if you adopt the new paradigm for our physical life described above, it can help you stop spending your time denying the “bad news of the kingdom” and see it in a new and positive light. Like Wonka, by tripping us up, testing and even harming us to the point of looking like a villain himself, God is achieving a greater, hidden goal of being able to prepare us so he can give us “everything” and "live happily ever after"—literally.
Just like at the end how Wonka assured Charlie that all the injured would be fine, so too, all who do not receive salvation in this life will be restored in the resurrection. At that time the prize of inheriting everything will still be available and so much easier to achieve with God employing a different strategy at that time for preparing people, based on a one thousand year life-span.
If you understand all this, imagine what it can do for your walk with God when you're in the middle of a test? What if Charlie and the other children knew what the tour was really about? They would not have let Wonka's eccentric, offensive behavior bother them and would have been on their best behavior to pass each test thrown at them. The same can be true for us now. Next time you're in a trial, consider that it's no accident but all just a test to see if you are ready for eternal life, and if not, to help make you better just as the Book of James talks about (James 1:2-8).
While I believe receiving the insight above and shifting your paradigm on the purpose of life can be extremely helpful, I know from experience it is only a start. The next step is to use it to change your ingrained thinking formed under the old paradigm of life, thinking which is probably not very loving or peaceful given the false paradigm it was based on. Another challenge is to learn to catch yourself when you react badly to a “bad news” situation. There are strategies to help with that. Not to mention learning the list of all the things from the Bible I mentioned earlier that God has done and could do in your life to teach you. It's one thing to be aware that God sends evil for your good, and it's another to know specific ways God does this based on past precedents in the Bible. All this is planned for my next part including my insight on why Adam and Eve, by all accounts, never repented.
In the meantime, you can meditate on and pray about the paradigm above to help you keep your faith by staying out (or getting out) of offense with God for what he allows or causes to happen for your good. When the end comes, your chances of escaping will be the highest with God still in your corner.
Part 3: Why God is Offensive, On Purpose
Reconsidering Adam and Eve
One of the mysteries I pondered on and off for decades once I read through the Bible as a teen centers on the fate of Adam and Eve. It went through a few phases:
- “Did Adam & Eve ever repent?” — It seems like Adam and Eve had it easy since they found themselves in the enviable position of knowing God from “birth,” being educated by God, conversing with God, and even hearing him in their presence (Gen 3:8). Despite being deceived by the Devil into disobeying God, I could not understand why Adam and Eve would not eventually return to God, given their predominately positive experiences with him. So did they repent or not?
- “Why didn't Adam & Eve ever repent?” — Years later after I progressed from merely reading the Bible to studying it daily, it became clear to me by what it says and what it does not say, that the answer is “No”—Adam and Eve never "walked with God" after that. I am sure of this because they are not listed as righteous in Genesis like Enoch (Gen 5:22) and Noah are (Gen 6:9). Likewise, in the Hebrews 11 "Heroes of Faith" chapter, their son Abel is named as faithful, but again not Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve as the first humans are more notable than their son and would surely be included in such lists if they had achieved that. Finally, Jesus said that "few" are saved (Mt 7:13-14), meaning the odds were against Adam and Eve from the start to have that gift of faith for sustained righteousness.
- Default Answer: "Few Are Saved" — After a while, I honestly forgot about Adam and Eve's fate and moved on to end-time prophecy and then, most recently, the Good News of the Kingdom. By both I came to realize how "few" are saved (beyond what I ever imagined) so that the fate of Adam and Eve was settled in my mind: they never became righteous like 99+% of humanity and would appear in the second resurrection (along with Solomon who also never repented). I did not have specifics beyond that, but the question seemed settled in mind.
Lately, I had begun comment to others that Adam and Eve may have been "offended at how God let a Devil in the garden!” This observation was an important step forward towards comprehending God's "education strategy" with humanity. Nevertheless, I saw the story of Satan's presence and major impact in Eden as fitting in with the general pattern of God's use of the Devil throughout history and prophecy:
- Past: God let Satan interfere in Job's life, taking all of his possessions, his children and health. Very similar to how Satan interfered with Adam and Eve, also resulting in catastrophe.
- Present: Various New Testament books let us know that Satan is the "God of this world" (2Co 4:4), "deceiving the whole world" (Rev 12:9), and "seeking to devour us all" (1Pt 5:8). He's a busy beaver.
- Future: Revelation says that God will ultimately imprison Satan only to release him again (!) on the world 1000 years later to more horrific, murderous results (Rev 20:1-3, 7-10). I explained why he does that years ago in a previous article.
To see anything else new beyond this pattern required some help which God provided.
Revelation: Why Adam and Eve Forever Avoided God
While I lay in bed one morning in Winter 2019, my thoughts returned to this forgotten mystery. No sooner did I question why this topic had reoccurred (since I had forgotten it) when another thought followed right behind it: a new answer to the question. To my surprise, it seemed to resolve this long lost matter. I just knew it was another inspiration that God provides from time to time—not something I had come up with on my own. Here's what I saw at that moment for the first time:
- Their ejection from a utopian paradise into a harsh world of suffering and entropy was highly traumatic for Adam and Eve. Duh, right? (in hindsight). I think it would not be wrong to compare it to how a baby at birth is thrust from an ideal, comforting, warm environment connected to mom into the cold, disconnected air of the world. Is there any doubt Adam and Eve experienced something akin to PTSD after losing the ideal life they spent (I think) 30 years getting accustomed to? I never considered this before that morning.
- While they certainly realized that Satan had intentionally deceived them and was partially culpable, I saw that the main blame would be centered on God. God had allowed a superior and morally corrupt being into their home or at least their neighborhood. Making matters worse, God did not fully and clearly explain the penalty for eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil like Satan did (the day they ate it they did die spiritually or became mortal, but not physically die). God appeared criminally negligent on both counts.
- Adam and Eve would naturally go on to resent God for “setting them up to fail.” Even if and when the offense subsided later, they would still have “mixed feelings” about God, including, crucially, his goodness. On the one hand, he gave them life and was good to them for perhaps 30 years. On the other hand, they lost paradise directly because of God's "lying and mismanagement" of the situation.
- Therefore, I realized that Adam and Eve did not repent/return to God because of a loss of trust in Yehovah. Regardless of not a shred of doubt about God's existence, they still had doubts about his goodness and may have even feared him (just like even most Christians today). They probably felt disillusioned with God after their last negative and traumatic interaction with God. Who would not want to keep their distance from someone they felt betrayed by, to avoid further betrayal? It would seem safer to just rely on themselves.
In effect, the enviable advantages that Adam and Eve had at the start of their lives with God were erased and neutralized by what followed God letting Satan into the garden to deceive them. Despite meeting God, they were no better off than any of us who struggle in trusting a God we have never met!
All of this came in a flash. It was so obvious in hindsight, yet still thrilling because it resolved this question so well for me.
However, the next thought did not thrill me at all: even in the case of the very first humans who you would think God wanted to start off with the “best foot forward” for humanity and a shining example of his "great parenting," God did not care that the challenge he put them in was likely to leave them alienated from him. The next thought was even more chilling: he intentionally did all this to test them and disqualify them from the garden if they did not have true faith to keep it, even though they had done nothing wrong to "deserve" such scrutiny.
Evidence of God's Setup to Failure
When I say God set up innocent Adam and Eve to fail or to disqualify them if they lacked faith, it doesn't sound like what a good, loving Father would do. I will explain, but remember, this was all for their good and furthering the goal of educating the human race.
1 - God let a Devil in the garden
This is the primary evidence. Anyone can see how Satan instigated Adam and Eve's fall and can wonder how things might have gone differently if he was never there. So, why on earth did God let a Devil in the garden? Answer: because God wanted Adam and Eve to "graduate" from the garden and move forward into further learning for them and all humanity. There was only so much they could learn in such an easy and well-ordered utopia.
Consider, they had no children, no society, no strangers, nothing or no reason to steal from each other, no one to commit adultery with, no one to lie to about the other. They were unlikely to murder each other because they were made for each other and probably physically attracted and deeply connected since Eve came out of Adam (Gen 2:23). If God had not let the Devil in, it might have taken hundreds or thousands of years for Adam and Eve to finally sin, if ever. That's fine, but nothing is learned if you do and think the same thing for eons without provocation to think new thoughts like Satan provided. God's education plan for humanity allowed for a more compact and elegant timeline. He preferred to force a choice, compress time and produce what was inevitable anyway once the right conditions arose.
2 - God did not warn them about Satan
There is no recorded warning about Satan before he appears as the serpent conversing with Eve. This may sound at first like a weak "argument from silence" but when we gain Bible literacy, this silence gains significance. Just as I noted above how Adam and Eve are not mentioned along with their son Abel or other righteous people from Genesis who are named in the chronologies or NT books as righteous, so, too, is the lack of any recorded warning about the serpent significant. (Point 3 below helps bear this out.)
Just imagine if God had warned them about Satan and how he's not honest like God, not to be trusted and would tell them something called a “lie,” etc.? How differently things might have turned out when Satan tried to deceive them. Eve might have told Satan to buzz off as she did not trust his words.
3 - God's warning about the tree was intentionally ambiguous
When God did warn Adam and Eve about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that “in the day you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17), the wording was far from clear enough. The Devil only had to work from the most obvious plain meaning of the word death that was not intended (physical death, not spiritual death) and point out its falsehood so that God would appear to be a liar and possibly not have their best interests at heart.
I used to think, “How unfortunate that Adam and Eve did not understand correctly that eating the forbidden fruit would cause them to die spiritually or lose their immortality and start the wages-of-sin-is-death clock ticking at that moment, not instantly drop dead!” Unfortunate, indeed.
I say now that God worded this critical warning ambiguously on purpose. For the purpose of opening room for misunderstanding, doubt and ultimately offense at God. Jesus did the same thing when he told his disciples, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Don't you think that Jesus could have worded that more precisely if he had wanted to, avoiding all the offense it created which resulted in losing many of his disciples (John 6:66)? Sure, he could have, but he wanted to offend them as is clear by how he doubled down and said another offensive thing when he heard them grumbling about the first thing (John 6:61). He wanted to weed out those who could not trust and continue serving a Lord who sometimes said bewildering or unpleasant things.
God did the very same thing with Adam and Eve (and with all of us as we will understand). He, too, could have clearly and fully explained to Adam and Eve, “Listen, if you disobey me and eat that fruit, that very day you will become mortal, live out a limited life span and ultimately die years later. If you don't disobey, you will never die. That's why it's so important, my children, that you listen to me on this one.” Yet, he didn't. Just as the Word of God in the Bible is often ambiguous, bewildering and offensive to readers, so, too, the spoken words of God to Adam and Eve were at times. This is done to test us and bring to light the hidden disagreements we have with God and his way of doing things that would ultimately bring us in conflict with God in eternity if they are not worked out now.
Feel Like Defending God As Not Unfair?
Hearing this line of reasoning may make it sound like I'm saying God is unfair and your mind may automatically rush to his defense with objections.
One common objection along these lines is, “Well, Adam and Eve still had a choice not to sin, so it's on them, not God. God did nothing unfair or evil.” Yes, they did have a choice and, yes, God was fair. I'm saying that that choice to not listen to what an evil genius says while ambushing you is as much of a choice as deciding in a contest to not let go of something heavy before your competitor does when you're a weakling and he's a powerlifter =). Eventually, inevitably, you will let go and your lack of strength will be revealed. Similarly, the corrupt but superior mind against Adam and Eve was too much for them, much like a naive, young person encountering a con-artist on the street for the first time. They had so much more to learn before they could possibly win a battle of wits with the Devil (like Christ later did). Their fall set the stage for them to then go someplace new and learn it!
Thus I am not saying God is unfair in any of this. I'm saying God loved Adam and Eve and wanted to give them the best environment for their "further education." That required he set up conditions to strip the ideal paradise away and put them in a world of suffering and challenges. The test with the Devil indeed was a choice but by not being able to make the right choice, it showed the necessity of moving forward to a new learning environment. This is just like how Job was limited in his learning about life and God as long as he was playing the righteousness and blessing game so well. He heard of God but did not really know him (Job 42:5).
If you can see that taking paradise away was for our good and the test with Satan and the forbidden fruit both proved and demonstrated the need for Adam and Eve to move on, then God is not evil or unfair in how he set them up with a test they could not pass yet. God was totally fair, essentially communicating:
“If you can somehow manage to resist both deception and temptation, maintain your integrity (Job 2:9) and your trust in my goodness so that you always obey me, then you can keep your garden paradise! Although I know you won't be able to, I'm going to let you see that for yourself rather than just strip it away after 30 years telling you, 'Trust me, enough of that, you know, diminishing returns and all...'”
A Painful Paradigm Shift
Why did all of this finally help me see the "bad news of the kingdom?" Because before this I saw all the hard and offensive tests like Job's, Abraham's and Christ's as the domain of the exceptionally righteous, especially for those who were called to a big or honored role in God's plan. Such heroes of the faith needed the testing and humbling to qualify for that big responsibility. This way they would not fail when they received it like King Saul or King Solomon who both lacked the humbling trials that the faithful King David received.
After that morning's revelation, this paradigm was busted because Adam and Eve did not fit the pattern. They showed no special righteousness or faithfulness nor were they called to any special job or responsibility apart from being fruitful and multiplying. Despite their lack of calling, they were severely challenged with God's apparent “lie,” God's negligence over the Devil, and finally "Paradise Lost." This meant to me that this kind of testing could happen to any of us.
It was literally, an “oh, crap...” moment, like a kick in the gut.
Thinking further, it was even worse than that. Adam and Eve were the very first humans who you would think God would want to make a model and example of right-living for us all, starting the human race off on a fine foundation of serving God right. Yet God made sure to cause doubt about their Father who they knew and trusted for years. If God did not spare the first two humans from such offensive testing...if God made sure the first humans had these tests...then what did that mean for the rest of us? Obviously, the same!
This hurt because my go-to plan as a believer was to obey and serve God diligently, reaping the blessings and avoiding the curses including the trials and hardships that the prideful, dense or stubborn had to go through. If I remained teachable then God would not have to send me tough situations as he did to Job to get his attention and humble him so he would not accuse God to justify himself (Job 40:8). Or so I thought! (I see now that that approach did not work for Job and it was never going to work for me.)
The fact is, there are many things in life you cannot learn no matter how open-minded you try to stay without a painful situation bringing these things into focus. For example, most people won't hear of it if you try to tell them that they are proud, egotistical or selfish. They see themselves as basically good and will justify their actions in any situation you may bring up as evidence of those negative traits. No one goes around thinking about how proud or selfish they are; we deny this negative thought reflexively. On the other hand, if a terrible situation happens because of one of these character flaws or puts a spotlight on them, we find it harder to argue with what reality or cause and effect is making painfully obvious and no longer deniable.
As you can imagine, this paradigm shift was not fun. It was for a short time depressing. It's not what I wanted to believe or accept. For all my life, I had been in partial denial about "what God is capable of doing to us." I thought he was all about blessing us for righteousness and only cursing us if we disobeyed since we curse ourselves enough already. Now I saw that God was capable of doing anything and everything (yes, even temporarily killing us) to teach us all wisdom through both pleasant and unpleasant lessons designed and delivered to us individually. I could finally accept what this verse literally said and see that it applied to me:
Hebrews 12:6 — For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives...
Before, I understood this promised discipline to come only when you did something bad or were rebellious. Now I understood chastisement to be possible any time you have something important to learn for your graduation to eternal life in the kingdom. Again:
Acts 14:22 — through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God [not only if you are disobedient or prideful]
Managing Disillusionment With God
If the understanding above depressed easy-going, optimistic me, it could depress anyone. It's natural to experience disillusionment when you learn that God is not as "nice" as you imagined him. This is a "ripping the band-aid off" of the popular Christian concept of God. It's a real buzz-kill. (Just ask Adam and Eve!) Given that, it would be irresponsible of me to not share some strategies for dealing with any negative feelings you encounter.
Simply put, some just cannot maintain faith in a "good God" who does these types of things because it's so different from what we think "we would do" or from how good human parents must act. God's answer to this is:
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) — 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God's coming from a heaven-level, eternity-spanning viewpoint. Our viewpoint is earth-dwelling and temporal. As Job learned from God's two discourses at the end of his book, we are both uninformed and unqualified for judging God's handling of matters. If you ever lose it and get angry with God or consider God is not just or fair, consider reading what God said to Job who thought and expressed such things (Job 38-42).
Even if you are fine or glad now, bad feelings may come later. One supporter was thrilled to finally hear the bad news explained as she had been partially aware of it for some time and wondered why no one seemed to teach on it. A little later after that initial excitement wore off, she noticed that she was left flat-footed when she tried to pray. What do you say to a God who is not about just providing your wants, needs, and supplications (blessing) but who also has another agenda of educating you in areas you may not even be aware of (which we perceive as "cursing")? Are you praying against his will with your requests? Is he going to answer when he has to teach you something? What do you pray now? My answer was that God is always transmuting our prayers for one thing to another because he knows best what to do. So do not be afraid to pray the same as before for what you think is needed. God will take care of the needs we perceive along with the educational needs we have that we are unaware of or unable to solve on our own. In light of this, I think post-bad-news I pray more than ever that God's will be done with trust that he knows best for us all, and perhaps less in specific which I'm aware I may not have correct.
How I Resolved My Depression
How did I overcome my own depression? According to people closest to me, I'm one of those lucky people with a "gift of faith" (1Co 12:9) so that little in my walk with God fazes me (or for long if it does). With the disclaimer that what helped me may not help most readers, here is the process I went through.
In this case, once the initial shock of learning that my service to God would not save me from him sending me trials and other unpleasant experiences I wanted to avoid wore off, I reflected a bit. I saw that the bad news does not make anything in my life different than it already was. I've had trials and hardships, including recently since moving to Germany. Through them all, I believed that God was "working all things together for good" (Rom 8:28). The difference is now I'm seeing God as not merely "using" troubles that we or others brought on ourselves, but as actively sending troubles to us for our development and edification. Yet, God is still merciful, wise, and good in judging the timing and severity of the hardships he sends on us. So far his tests have not killed my body or my spirit. Almost always I can look back on a trial and see something I learned from it and be glad I went through it (once it's over, that is).
My outlook now is that I'm going to have trials for my good because God loves me. I'm also going to have a reward and blessing for "suffering well" with patience and without complaining. "This, too, shall pass" is a phrase that helps me a lot while I wait it out.
The insights and suggestions above from God's Word are helpful but not able to work for all cases, especially those of deeper disillusionment. There just may not be enough words in the Bible to address or fix your faith crisis. You may almost need God himself to show up and speak with you (like he did with Job) for you to get the words you need to hear. But that would not be faith. If you have read this article and remain depressed about it even after trying the tips above, please email me about what's going on for you and I'll do my best to help. (Letting me help you will help me to expand this article and future writing on the topic to be more effective, so do not hesitate.)
"Are You Saying God Killed My ___?"
I hasten to add that I'm not saying that a specific or recent or current trial of yours is probably "God's fault." That's not at all the point or a takeaway from this.
A tricky aspect of this bad news is that we almost never know when God sent or orchestrated hardship or when it just developed by itself. The Bible does not only speak of God sending (divine) trials, but also trials happening naturally. Solomon observed that "time and chance happen to them all" (Ecc 9:11b) to bring about the outcomes we observe whether expected or unexpected, positive or negative (Ecc 9:11a). When a loved one falls sick or gets injured, it is most often not the finger of God. God may orchestrate things around this natural consequence for you to get the most spiritual and educational benefit from it as per Romans 8:28. Or he may do nothing at all. We don't know on a case by case basis any more than we know if someone else is saved or not on a case by case basis. All we know is that God has and is capable of and will send trials just as we know God works to get people saved.
Define Trials: "What Exactly Is God Capable Of?"
As planned, I am going to share specifics on the bad news of the kingdom so you know what is possible. It's one thing to be told God can send general trouble and quite another when you are shocked to find out later that he has done and would do a specific thing you never considered or even imagined before. For example, you know God kills both the wicked and the righteous (martyrs). But did you know he deceives? Even his righteous servants? Employing demons to do this? No? Then, hold on to your hat!
This list is based on the many things God has done historically as recorded in the Bible. Normally you would only ever see a list of “God's evil acts” on a skeptic's or atheistic website. It's too negative and uncomfortable for most Christians to consider and tackle head-on without triggering a nervous breakdown. (That's no exaggeration; I've known it to happen from my writing). However, with what we've already learned in this article above on God's benevolent purpose to the hard things he sends, you should now be able to handle it.
At first, I bet you're going to disagree with my assessment of several of these stories. You'll feel I'm reading it wrong when "it's not so clear God did or wanted it." That's OK; I've been contemplating most of these stories for decades before seeing them as I do today. Eventually (and quicker than it took me) you will be more capable of reading these stories at face value for what they plainly say, without constantly twisting them in your mind to minimize the culpability of God in each case (e.g. “God only allowed the evil and did not cause it/They had their choice/deserved it/were warned/etc.”).
God Sends Deception:
- We have already covered well how God “let” Satan interact with and deceive Adam and Eve leading to their fall, without prior warning. I put "let" in quotes because I think the evidence suggests God wanted this interaction to happen and set it up. You can argue God did not tell the Devil to do anything, but I would counter that he had no need to tell the Devil to do anything once he left the gate to Eden open with an evil genius on the loose!
- God also specifically sent a lying spirit to deceive King Ahab to die in battle against Ramoth Gilead (1Ki 22:19). This passage is so alarming yet unknown by most Christians that I'm going to quote the whole thing here for you to acquaint yourself with it. It's one of the top "shocked by the Bible" stories:
1Kings 22:6-23 (NIV) — 6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” 7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” 8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” “The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied.
9 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.” 10 Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. 11 Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the Lord says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’” 12 All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
13 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.” 14 But Micaiah said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”
15 When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or not?” “Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” 16 The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” 17 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’”
18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” 19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’
23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”
That God would "contract" evil, lying spirits to bring wicked people to judgment (their death) was a bit shocking to discover at first, but allowable given they were in rebellion. I felt safe as a righteous person to not get the "deceiving spirit test"...until I read this next story:
- God killed his own prophet for falling for deception in 1Kings 13! This prophet was commanded not to eat at the place he delivered a rebuke to Jeroboam until after he left and by a specified route. Yet the prophet believed an older prophet who met him and lied to him that God said he could break his commanded fast there. Rather than properly discerning and testing that third-party word by seeking confirmation of release from God himself (who directly spoke the fasting command to him), he believed the lying prophet. Even more disturbingly, a new word of Yehovah came to the lying prophet as soon as the man ate to announce that he would die by a lion for his disobedience in eating, which happened. It troubled me for a long time that God would use a liar to test another prophet and then speak through that liar! (The lesson? A direct command from God is so rare and holy that even if you are a righteous person who is deceived or otherwise distracted, you will die because of the high accountability that God's Word brings with it upon you to obey no matter what.)
God Sends Death:
- Job's children were all killed when God accepted a dare from Satan to lift his divine protection on Job and see what Job would do (Job 1:11-12, 18-19). Yes, "Satan killed the children, not God" but God knew this would happen and consented to it unlike how he did not consent to Job dying in the process (Job 1:16). He could have made the children off-limits as well. He was OK with their sacrifice to test Job.
- God killed the baby conceived by David and Bathsheba's adultery to punish David for that and for his murder of Bathsheba's husband (2Sam 12:13-15).
- Uzzah was killed by God when he touched the Ark of the Covenant that was in danger of falling off a cart (2Sam 6:1-7). (David was at fault here for not having the Levites carry the ark on poles like the Torah commanded. Just like the baby above, someone else paid for David's disobedience in a teaching moment for all.)
- God flooded and killed everyone on earth except Noah's family of eight. You know that already, but did you notice that there is no record that Noah was commanded to warn people let alone invite anyone else on the ark beside his family? Hebrews even says the ark was built for his "family" (Heb 11:7). Were there not some righteous people other than Noah who died in that flood? I think it's hard to argue no one else was righteous on planet earth except Noah. Remember, God is OK with martyrs.
- 42 youths were mauled by two bears when the prophet Elisha cursed them in God's name Yehovah for “bald-shaming” him (2Ki 2:23-24). It's uncertain whether they died from the mauling, but pretty clear that God sent the bears in accordance with his prophet's curse on them. This is consistent with the "touch not my anointed" principle (Ps 105:15) that operated with the patriarchs and prophets.
Some will dismiss all the above incidents as "Old Testament/Covenant and not how God operates today." Yet God does not change (Mal 3:6) and that's why we find these incidents continue happening in the New Testament:
- Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God for lying to the Apostle Peter, the leader of the Jerusalem church/commune (Acts 5:1-11) that they were a part of.
- King Herod was killed for not glorifying God when people said his oration was godlike (Acts 12:22-23 - “…And they began to shout, “This is the voice of a god, not a man!” Immediately, because Herod did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”)
God Sends Disease/Torment:
- Miriam was made leprous by God for wrongly accusing the prophet Moses the prophet (Num 12:10, 1-10).
- God sent an evil spirit to torment King Saul that only abated when David played the harp for him (1Sa 16:14-15, 23).
- King Uzziah was made leprous (2Ki 15:5, 2Chr 26:19-21)
- God effectively sent sickness on Job by agreeing with Satan to remove the divine protection that keeps a powerful angel like Satan from running around and making all humans sick or dead (Job 1).
Objection: The "Healing Movement" segment of Christianity dismisses these passages as “Old Testament/Covenant and not how God works today in the New Covenant.” While I cannot cite an example of God making someone in the NT sick like I can show divine NT deaths, I would argue that post-Calvary people remain the same: they still are susceptible to get sick and suffer; they still need to learn many things through suffering; they still disobey God and can be judged with a sickness from God when expedient. God's hands are not tied from sending disease along with death just because Jesus finally came and fulfilled his planned sacrifice. His slaying was already counted from the foundation of the earth (Rev 13:8).
- Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers and sold into slavery (getting their “ransom” that way), but Joseph said God had caused this to happen when he testified, "God sent me before you to preserve you as a remnant" (Gen 45:7). Joseph gave no indication of resentment with God for his kidnapping.
- The Israelites or Jews were singled out and persecuted as the story of the Exodus, Daniel, and Esther all show. When Moses was sent to free the Israelites, Pharaoh killed even more Israelites in retaliation for the request to free them. God said this would happen and did not stop it.
- The Apostles were sent directly into persecution and Jesus even warned, “I send you as sheep among wolves” (Mt 10:16) and "in this world, you will have trouble" (John 16:33)!
My Explanation For God's “Evil Acts”
Now that I've given a litany of unsavory acts of God, what is my answer for it? Atheists make such compilations to prove God is evil beyond all excuse or defense. You can understand just from my sampling above why Richard Dawkins would conclude:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” - Richard Dawkins
So why is this judgment incorrect? For the same reason that it's wrong to immediately decide it can only be bad that your son fell off his bicycle and broke his leg. That judgment may be premature. It can take a lot more time and a grander perspective to properly assess many events. How many times have we all been wrong and ashamed for judging someone before we had all the facts or enough life perspective? For example, if a military draft is announced and your son is exempt because of his incapacitation, then the "curse" of a broken leg was really a blessing of sparing potentially his life. Similarly, it's premature to judge God as evil so early, without all the information he has and is basing his decisions from, and before all the dust has settled.
Chief among the missing information is the purpose of life. Everyone, including all those who condemn God, wonders "what is the purpose of life?" They either cannot say for sure or they decide "there is no purpose because life is an accident." How can they judge God when they do not even know what this life is accomplishing in the end?
Through all my research and writing, the purpose of life has recently become plain to me. God wants to give us eternal life with him but he knows how bored, miserable, violent or rebellious we will be if we're not ready for it. We would ruin eternal life for everyone else without a lot of life lessons before we get it to qualify us for it. This physical life is designed to provide those lessons and temporarily disqualify and postpone our receipt of eternal life if we're not ready yet.
In other words, God's chief role is not what most believers understand it to be. Most see him mainly as Creator, Father, Judge, the Blesser of the righteous and Curser of the wicked. Yet more than anything else he is the supreme Educator of his children. He cannot give us the ultimate gift of life with him without "putting us through" things like Willie Wonka did to Charlie.
This overarching, incredible purpose transforms every "evil" act of God into good.
Also, Evil Is Temporary
Another key piece of information that Richard Dawkin's harsh judgment of God suffers for is how every single negative thing we observe today is temporary. Death is temporary because of the resurrection. Trauma, loss, sorrow, depression are also temporary because God says he is our healer and can heal all our diseases (Ps 103:3) (including the mental illness). This verse tells me that and has been a great source of comfort as I have met people traumatized beyond the help of existing therapies.
Revelation 21:4 — He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
For that verse to be true, new therapies must be planned for the Millennium that can help everyone recover from the trauma of this life. God must have it covered or he would not have done it this way. He certainly did so with Job who was comforted from all the "troubles God brought on him" (Job 42:11). (Can you imagine the PTSD he must have had?)
If all evil that God causes for our betterment is temporary and reversible, how can God be judged as evil? Some say, "Well, I would not do it that way! There must be a better way!" Sure, it's called robots. But if you want to have children with free will like God has who learn to choose love rather being forced to adopt that, then you need to set up a way for them to discover what you already know: only love fosters and sustains peace and harmony for eternity.
Life Is a Simulation
God has created such a system of discovery for his children. It's called (physical) life.
In recent years there has been a heightened interest in the theory that life is not real but is just a simulation created perhaps by a higher or alien intelligence. If you have seen the movie The Matrix then you already understand this concept. Real scientists like Rizwan Virk believe in this so-called “simulation hypothesis.” It's easy to understand why this concept is catching on now. Computer games are already so realistic and immersive that players report forgetting they're in a game. In accordance with Moore's Law, computational power has roughly doubled every two years since 1971. If that trend continues, nearly infinite computational power is conceivable. With that type of power, a full simulation of life seems possible. Given that possibility, how do we know we are not already in a game simulation right now?
That sounds like a fascinating theory and reasonable question at first. However, it's more akin to the question "How do we know the earth is not flat?" than it first seems.
Here's why: the theory assumes that artificial life is possible. Just as evolutionary theory posits that given enough time (“millions of years”) biological life can happen (by itself), this simulation hypothesis is based on the idea that artificial life (AI) is possible given enough transistors or computing power. However, our consciousness is not a matter of the computational power of our physical brain alone, but as the Bible reveals, “there is a spirit in man that gives intelligence” (Job 32:8) working along with the brain to make us smart, conscious and self-aware. Even the animals have spirits to make them alive and self-aware (Ecc 3:21). Without a spirit involved (even if it is demonic like the one that gives “life” to the image of the beast - Rev 13:15), conscious life is not possible. The point is this: only God can create and give life—even if it is plant-life which does not seem to have or require a spiritual component. Even Satan can only produce new life forms using the existing biological life God created first or he would not make deals with humans to create his offspring (see Genesis 6). Therefore, purely electronic AI is never going to happen. Those today who predict AI do not believe in the spirit realm nor understand that a spirit facilitates their own intellect. If AI is not possible, then we cannot all be AIs living in a simulation.
Yet at the same time, I believe it's not entirely incorrect or unhelpful to say that we are living in a simulation, something like a video game. In a typical video game, losing a life is not the end; you have multiple lives so you can respawn with a new life after some delay. Damage and loss in a game are reversible and restorable. This fits with the multiple resurrections and the healing that God has in his plan for raising up sons. As you may know, some simulations are called training simulations? They are designed to educate and teach lessons and skills. I like to think of this life as a training simulation. Nothing that happens is truly “real” or permanent yet it all seems real and permanent enough for us to learn real things from it. The simulation trains us for real-life which in this analogy is eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Don't misconstrue this concept or misunderstand what I'm saying. I'm not espousing a world view that nothing we do matters or as to encourage you to go out to murder, rape, and pillage since it's all temporary. God says every word and action will be considered in the judgment. This training simulation idea is only meant to help you see that the evil and suffering we all must endure is for our training and temporary. Try it and see if it helps.
You now have my best explanation of the bad news of the kingdom. What do I suggest you do next with this information?
Remember, at the start, I explained that I wrote this article to help you adjust your expectations about what God will do so that you do not lose your faith when you see God do evil or unsavory things. That's starting now in good times and including when he sends the civilization-wrecking-ball of Wormwood.
Knowing the bad news does you no good if you don't actively audit your beliefs, judgments, complaints and other thoughts going forward against this information on life. Were these formed when you grossly misunderstood God and life? Are they contradictory to the purpose of life or to God's goodness? Do they accuse God of evil or otherwise put you out of faith that God is competent and good? Are the thoughts still valid and what you want to hold onto with what you know now? Are you still complaining about trials and troubles knowing they are from a loving God for your good so he can give you eternal life?
When you truly get what this life is about and align your thoughts with it (however imperfectly at moments) this passage will stop sounding unrealistic or crazy and start to make logical sense:
James 1:2-4, 12 — 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
It's all right there. Joy is a reasonable response to trials when you understand that trials are what perfect and complete you for receiving the crown of eternal life.
Hmm, why was it again that some thought God was the worst? =)
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