What happens when I die? Episode 4

What does the Bible say?

Death is said to be a constant in all human societies.  It continues to have a perfect record with no signs of slowing down.  That is, until it meets the God of Israel.  In our journey so far, we have taken a brief look at some of the different ancient understandings that existed back in the ancient world.  

Feel free to check out my previous blogs that talk about some of these various perspectives.  In this week’s blog we are going to see what the Bible has to say about death and the afterlife.  

For Judaism in general and practicing Jews in particular, the Hebrew texts remain sacred and are deemed to be authoritative for everything.  For many Christian traditions the Hebrew scriptures have been compiled into what is known as the Bible.  Now the Protestant Bible is a collection of 66 ancient ‘books’ that have been put together into two testaments: the Old and the New.  The Catholic Bible has 73 books.  Regardless, both groups claim that their Bible functions as their authority for matters of doctrine and daily life.  For this blog, I will be referencing material from the Protestant Bible and the place known as Sheol.  

So what on earth is Sheol?  Simply put, Sheol is the Hebrew name for the underworld.  This place, or realm of the dead was believed to be located deep below the earth.  To go there one ‘descends’ and to escape one ‘ascends’.  As a place, it is often qualified by adjectives of depth and is cosmologically opposite to ‘heaven’.  This means that one digs downward towards Sheol, or could descend there by being swallowed by the earth.  Once there, it is believed to be a cavernous communal tomb that contains worms, maggots and dust.  It can also mean the grave.   

Oftentimes Sheol is a place associated with the ‘wicked’, but can also be affiliated with the ‘righteous’.  A dominant theme for its inhabitants is their separation from Yahweh – the God of Israel.  The rare Hebrew term for the dead, or the inhabitants of Sheol is ‘shades’ and are primarily known as the ‘shades of Sheol’.  As one writer says, the Biblical concept of the underworld seems to also keep us in the dark!    

But what does the Bible say about this place?  

We are told that in Sheol, people are unable to remember, praise or thank Yahweh.  It is referred to as the ‘land of forgetfulness’, where the inhabitants are cut off from God and forgotten.  There is virtually no description of how the dead continued to exist in the underworld, yet Sheol is known by and accessible to Yahweh.  Its realm lies open before Him and is within God’s operational power and presence.  In other words, Sheol exists within God’s omnipotent reign but its occupants do not have access to Him.  In this way, Sheol is likened to be a place of no return and viewed as a prison with gates and bars.  It is a realm of darkness, inactivity and silence. 

As a uniquely Hebrew concept, Sheol serves as the great leveller for all people.  Its most frequent use indicates that it is the fate or destiny for all human beings.  However, predominantly in the Bible, Sheol is referenced as the destiny of the ungodly and ill-fate of the wicked.  

These ‘wicked’ people are often described in general terms as ‘sinners’, the ‘foolish rich’, ‘scoffers’ and the ‘immoral’.  Even national enemies like the king of Babylon, the Egyptians and others pesky people groups are also destined to wind up there.  Interestingly, certain ‘righteous’ individuals envision descending into Sheol and speak of its extreme trial, affliction and overall feeling of despair and abandonment.  In this way, Sheol can be understood as the destiny of all people regardless of their status on earth.  Ecclesiastes instructs readers to enjoy their life of meaninglessness under the sun, since afterwards they will go to Sheol where there is no work, thought, knowledge or wisdom.      

The Bible never hints of Sheol being a deity and descriptive details of the place itself are very sparse.  There is no elaborate journey through any gates or stages of the underworld itself that appear in Mesopotamian and Egyptian thought.  All in all, it appears that the Hebrews did not have a great concern with the ongoing fate and state of the dead.  Instead, the majority of instances Sheol is used to describe human fate and destiny.  For the righteous, this was often an unwelcome fate.  

Here’s the thing: the Old Testament’s silence on the subject of the underworld is almost deafening. There really isn’t much in there apart from some references in the Psalms, Job and the occasional passage from the prophets.  In other words, while Sheol is the most common Biblical term in describing the realm of the dead, it only appears sixty-three times.  That seems fairly sparse when you think about the vast quantity of material that make up the Hebrew Old Testament.  Scholars have noted that the underworld was not a particularly important concept for the Israelite writers. All in all, you could say that Hebrew writers were more concerned about life with Yahweh and the realm of the living.  This is perhaps why the concept of a resurrected life beyond death does appear in a few passages.  

There are a few isolated passages that do affirm Yahweh’s power and ability to ‘raise the dead’.  This is not to be confused with the three instances where the newly dead return to life again via contact with prophets Elijah and Elisha.  Those people were indeed brought back to life, but those wild encounters do not speak about being brought back from or resurrected out of Sheol. This is where Israelite culture and tradition offers something unique from other Cannanite traditions of ancient Mesopotamia.  

The traditional Hebrew understanding was that the dead went to Sheol, and that the only real hope of being ‘delivered’ from there was Yahweh’s intervention.  It was believed that Yahweh could intervene and save someone from a premature death and therefore ‘snatch’ someone from the clutches of Sheol.

But what about life after death?  

The Old Testament reflects a least two distinct perspectives.  The first one primarily focuses on God’s gift of a long and blessed life in the present world.  This is often associated with the ‘righteous’.  For them, Sheol and death are something to be avoided for as long as possible.  

The second perspective is directed more towards the next world or the age to come.  The Hebrews believed that Yahweh’s initial creative power in breathing life into the first human beings would happen once again after death.  In a vision given to Ezekiel about the age to come, a valley of dry bones (dead bodies) miraculously comes back to life again under Yahweh’s divine command.  This restoration of human life and corpses was credited to Yahweh’s desire to abolish death and bring His nation back to everlasting life.  

Now, this is not some sort of a weird zombie thing or scene from the walking dead.  No.  The Israelites believed that Yahweh had power over death and was able to raise their dead to life everlasting at the end of the age.

This is where I will end for this week.  

By New Testament times, belief in a national resurrection was becoming common among the religious leaders in Israel.  The Pharisees taught that this was God’s way of restoring their people and their nation.  Often presented in a way that would benefit them as a nation, resurrection was believed to happen in the present and bring about a transformed and recreated world.  In other words, the Jews believed that God would not only bring back those that had died, but also generate transformation and renewal of the present world too.  

But what about those who did not believe in Israel’s God?  What would happen to them?  If the Old Testament is silent about such a place, then where does the notion of hell and Hades come from?  

This is where we will turn to next.  

Until then,


What happens when I die?  Episode 3 – Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames

For a large part of my growing up years, I would have said that I was a “Christian”.  This generally meant that I was one of ‘those people’ who went to church.  Looking back on my growing up years, I am not sure if I ‘went’ to church or was ‘drug’ to church.  I’d have to check in with my parents and siblings to see which mode of ‘going’ to church happened more frequently.  But the end result was always the same.  We were in church every Sunday morning! 

Now attending church and having a church family are not bad things.  Our family attended the local Pentecostal church in Pembroke, ON.  Pembroke Pentecostal Tabernacle was our church home.  Often with both sets of grand-parents, we made our way to ‘our spot’ every week in the sanctuary.  I laugh about it now, but make no mistake, church attenders are very partial to where they sit.  

Anyways, during my decades of attendance in the Pentecostal church, I was able to witness many different organizations, groups and presentations that seemingly made the circuit from church to church.  Perhaps the most vivid of all was called Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

Under the guidance of this organization, the local church would undertake the massive challenge to create an elaborate set design and embark on producing a complex drama that involved numerous actors/actresses depicting various scenarios involving death.  Yes, that’s right, this widely popular church dramatic event was all about death and the afterlife. 

If you have never witnessed the drama, you can check them out online and actually still book them today.  But the gist of the drama is this.  At death, individuals are either welcomed into ‘heaven’ or dragged into ‘hell’.  These volunteer church members are casted to act out varying types of people who succumb to some sort of death.  Once death occurs, the individuals awaken to see a massive staircase that is surrounded and guarded by angels.  In a short period of time, the flabbergasted individuals eventually realize that they need to ask whether their name is written down in the ‘book of life’.  At this point, the angel standing by ‘the book’ either raises their arm and points to a door of light (to the sound of glorious music) or to a darkened pit area (to the sound of eerie music).  

If the destination is heaven, then the angels begin to smile and usher the blessed into the eternal bliss of heaven and arms of Jesus.  If the destination is hell, then demons would leap from the pit and begin to drag those whose names are not written in the book of life towards the darkened hole that has now come alive with smoke and flashes of red light.  The understanding is that these individuals are being tossed into the fires of hell.  And yes, the drama does illustrate this point very well.  People are tossed kicking and screaming into hell while the devil ghoulishly laughs the entire time.

It was quite a scene, and it played out several times.  

Now, having said that, I am not going to get into the merits of such a drama, or whether churches should have ever booked this organization and put on such a drama for their church and community.  My point in referencing this drama is this: Where did this understanding of the afterlife come from?  In other words, did the ancient world believe in realms like ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’?  And if so, what did it look like?

As I mentioned in my previous blog, that ancient world very much believed in an afterlife.  For the ancients, the question was not ‘if’ there was an afterlife, it was ‘what are the conditions in the afterlife, and how can I improve my fate there?’  In other words, the majority of ancient humanity accepted that death was not the end, but was somewhat of a new beginning.    

Now, of all the ancient afterlife perspectives mentioned so far, none have offered anything beyond the realm of the dead or envisioned that one’s body could actually return from the underworld.  But then came a man named Zoroaster.  

The main religion of the Persian empire established by Cyrus the Great was Zoroastrianism.  Its founder Zoroaster probably lived sometime in the late second millennium BC in central Asia.  Although there is actually very little about him, his influence was strong among the pre-Islamic Iranian people of Palestine.  Among other things, Zoroaster apparently had thoughts about what took place after death. 

For Zoroastrians, on the third day after death the soul ascends to the sacred mountain, where its previous thoughts and deeds are weighed.  If good dominates, the soul is granted access to heaven via a bridge.  If however the soul is bad, it plunges into a hellish underworld where an evil deity (Angra Mainyu) presided over retributive punishment until the end of the age.  

At the end of this time period or age, Zoroaster believed that there was going to be some sort of bodily resurrection and a final last judgement by fire.  Molten metal would erupt from the mountains to form a river of fire.  Both the re-embodied souls of the dead would then pass through the flowing inferno to separate the good from the bad.  The hope was that the good would be divinely protected and proceed to eternal bliss on a restored earth, while the bad would be completely consumed and totally annihilated.  The same river of fire would then continue to flow into hell itself and completely eradicate the satanic figure, his demonic horde and all evil in general. 

On earth, the blessed would share in a meal that makes their bodies immortal so that they are able to live forever in the kingdom of their good deity (Ahura Mazda) on a perfected earth that resembled a botanical garden (paradise) in Spring time.  

In summary, Zoroaster envisioned an afterlife that was based on one’s thoughts, words and deeds.  If you were blessed, the soul would return to ones body so that some sort of earthly future awaited.  This thought is somewhat unique in our journey so far.  For example, the Egyptians, although very elaborate in their underworld theories never envisioned a bodily resurrection.  In fact, scholars tell us that the successive Mesopotamian cultures of Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians did not believe in a bodily resurrection from the dead.  For Media and Persia however, it seems apparent that there was some sort of belief that ones body would return to earth once again.  

Here is where I will end for this week.  

I am writing this blog on Easter weekend.  Easter is a very important weekend for many faith traditions that derive from ancient Israel and the Israelite tradition itself. In fact, Judaeo-Christianity and the plethora of Christian traditions in the West all stem from the same Jewish root.  

So this is where we will turn next: What does the Bible say about death, afterlife and the realm of the dead?

Until then. 


What happens when I die?: The underworld and realm of the dead

In my previous blog that introduced this series, I mentioned that according to statistics, the slim majority of modern day humanity believe in some sort of afterlife.  It appears then that the idea and belief in ones survival beyond death is not as common as it was in the ancient world.  In fact, it’s been said that for the ancients, the question was not ‘Is there life after death?’, but rather ‘What are the conditions in the afterlife, and how can one improve or achieve more desirable conditions there?’  

So how did the ancient world come to believe in such a realm like this in the first place? 

Well, it seems that much of it stemmed from their understanding of the universe around them.  

It appears that people in the ancient world generally believed in a three-tiered universe.  The ‘heavens’ were for the great gods, the earth for humans, and the underworld for the dead and deities associated with that realm.  We get a glimpse of this sort of understanding from some of the Ancient Near Eastern literature that talks about all three levels.  

So buckle up, because we are going to take a look at two ancient cultural understandings of the underworld and the realm of the dead.


One of the more famous epics from ancient Mesopotamia was the Epic of Gilgamesh.  This primordial poem follows Gilgamesh (a king), who after losing a friend in death, commits to finding a way to beat death and achieve eternal life.  Interesting enough, as soon as Gilgamesh finds this sacred underwater plant with rejuvenating properties, it is stolen from him by a snake!  Now this poetic saga spans across multiple tablets and contains many references to deities and monsters as Gilgamesh journeys into the realm of the gods (heaven), earth and even the underworld itself.  

Now in terms of the Mesopotamian underworld, this place or realm was commonly referred to as ‘the Great City’, ‘the Great Below’, or ‘the Land of no Return’.  Interesting enough, this too was a place of levels or tiers: the lowest was the court of the gods of the underworld; the middle level was the watery realm of the deity Apsu; and the upper level immediately under the earth’s surface was believed to hold the ‘spirits’ of the dead.  I know, all these levels can all start to get a little confusing.  

Anyways, according to them, the entrance to the underworld was supposedly in the west. The belief was that Shamash – a sun god – would go down at night and travel under the earth before rising again in the east the following morning.  What happens to Shamesh and his engagement in the underworld is a mystery, but at death, the dead need to cross a river in order to gain entrance into this mysterious underworld.  This was only possible via the aid of a boatman whose name was ‘Remove-hastily’!  I guess the idea was to get across as fast as possible.  

Regardless, the grim reality of this underworld is graphically depicted in the Epic of Gilgamesh and others as a gloomy, dark and treacherous place of no return.  In fact, the underworld is described as a ‘house which none leave’, a ‘road from which there is no way back’, and a place where there is ‘no light’ and all reside in darkness.  Simply put, the Mesopotamian underworld is definitely a dreary place where there seems to be no way out.

Now, contrasting ancient Mesopotamia’s epics and poems of the underworld is the elavborate Egyptian system and journey into the afterlife.  


Probably the most famous piece of Egyptian literature is the Book of the Dead.  Well, that is if you have watched the Hollywood film series The Mummy or its sequel.  If not, that’s fine.  But what is well known about Egypt is their elaborate fascination with the afterlife and even death itself.

Interestingly enough, the Egyptians are believed and credited to be the first culture and society that preserved the human body after death.  And its actually in the Bible! 

Genesis 50:2 says, ‘and Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed him.’

Here, we see Joseph (a Hebrew) desiring for the Egyptian tradition of mummification to take place for his dad.  We know that the Egyptians probably did this because they believed that part of their being or personality (called the ba) could actually travel back to its corpse after death.  So preserving the human body was important to them.  Furthermore, the Egyptians believed that this ba would not be able to survive in the afterlife without its human body remaining intact and being somewhat recognizable.  This is most likely why the Egyptians went through great lengths to keep their dead bodies preserved and safe.

But as well as halting decomposition and ensuring the recognition of one’s corpse, the Egyptians also placed various items into the tomb of their departed loved one(s) and often recited certain phrases, spells or magical prayers in order to secure a safe passage to and through the underworld.  It was believed that items (food, instruments, weapons) could be of assistance and even help the departed as they made their way towards the ‘Judgement of the Dead’.

This was the ultimate trial one faced in the Egyptian underworld.  Guided by Anubis (the jackal-headed god of the dead), travellers of the underworld would make their way to the courtroom of Osiris (the king of the subterranean realm) in order to be weighed.  But not like the modern day weight-watchers kind of weigh in.   

The believe was that once at Osiris’s courtroom, the decedents heart was placed on a scale, where it was weighed against the ‘feather of truth’.  If a person claimed to be noble and good, then the scales would remain balanced (their heart would not weigh more than the feather), and they would be deemed ‘blessed’.  If however, a person’s claim to living a good life was not truthful, then their heart would weigh more than the feather, and quite literally the scales would not tip in their favour.

For the non-blessed people, they would be condemned, drowned or cast into a place of complete darkness and stagnation – where the dead walked upside down, consumed urine and feces and were tortured by fire and snakes.  But they also could have been consumed and devoured by a ravenous hybrid creature of sort (Ammut/Amamet) whose name literally meant ‘gobbler’.  Either way, it wasn’t good.  

So, whether one was banished to an ‘outer darkness’ of the underworld or was simply annihilated, this Egyptian second death was deemed to be the worst fate imaginable.

Contrasting those fates, were the fates of the ‘blessed dead’ who were transported across a canal by a boatman to the blissful realm of Osiris and Ra, with whom they would be with forever.  Here they would live with the gods in the sky and enjoy immeasurable abundance and pleasure on their very own piece of property, field or island that would produced an inexhaustible harvest.  This was known as the ‘Field of Reeds’, ‘Field of Offerings’, ‘Isles of the Just’ or ‘Great City’.      

This was the end of the journey for the Egyptian ‘blessed’ and was the prized goal for all who entered the underworld seeking paradise.

I will stop the tour here for this week.  

As we can begin to see, the Ancient Near East (ANE) understanding of death and the afterlife was very complex, immensely creative and for the most part is somewhat mysteriously concealed.

Next week I will come back to this and present a couple more ancient perspectives from Persia and Palestine.

Until then, Maranatha! 

What happens when I die?: A blogging series about death and the afterlife

In a letter written back in 1789, Benjamin Franklin said that ‘in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’  It is true that some may be able to avoid the taxman for a while, but eventually he will catch up with you.  When it comes to the grim reaper, his average of catching up is pretty good too.  Statistically it’s been said that one out of one dies.  That’s a pretty solid ratio for death.  Globally speaking, there are over 56 million who people die annually.  That means that there are approximately 6000 deaths per hour, over 100 per minute and almost 2 every second!  I guess Benjamin Franklin was correct after all.  Death will come for us all.

As a fact of life, death is univeral and undeniable.  It does not care what your age, culture, ideology or belief system is.  It does not consider your economic status or social standing.  It has no regard for our emotions, religious views, individual personality or opinions.  The truth is that every single human being is eventually going to die.  However, for this blogging series, death itself is not so much the main subject area so much as what lies beyond it.

My recent journey into the funeral services industry has obviously opened my eyes to the many complexities that surround death.  Death is indeed a profound and complex subject with many factors shaping ones attitude towards it.  From religious to individual temperment and personalities, there are a wide range of human reactions and emotions to death and loss.  Grief alone is a journey in and of itself.  But is it possible that our reactions to death are somehow based upon our attitudes towards death?

For most people, attitudes towards death are affected at least in part by some religious lens or spiritual view.  But in general terms, most people probably fit into three main positions on the nature of death and what lies beyond it. 


According to a 2011 Global Poll, some 26% of people surveyed attempt to plead ignorance and remain unsure about what happens after death.  Agnostics are partially correct here in the sense that nobody really knows about death until after they are dead.  But agnostics generally just plead ignorance on the issue and it seems that a quarter of the population find comfort and hope in not really knowing or believing in anything


For others, like Stephen Hawking, death is simply the permanent cessation of all vital functions.  Hawking likens death to the shutting down of a computer.  He once said that ‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.  There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.’  For sceptics, death is essentially the inevitable end of the biological process of what we call life.  As such, death permanently ends our existence.  When we die, other than fond memories and our decomposing remains, there really is nothing left of us at all.


However, for the majority of us, death is not nearly as bleak as what the sceptics say.  Rather than being the end of our existence, death is something that can be instantly or ultimately survivable.  Apprantly many believe that there is some sort of ongoing existence beyond death.  Of course the narratives about what this looks like are many and the understanding of what takes place after death varies greatly, but it seems that most people believe in some sort of life after death.  

So what about you?  What is going to happen to you after death?  Ever thought about it?

Well, perhaps this blogging series will provoke a discussion or two with the living amongst us.  That’s the point.  It’s seems that our culture is almost fearful to even say the very word at times.  We even try and use nice phrases and other terminology to communicate that a death has occured.  But according to statistics, over half of the human population believes that there is some sort of afterlife for their loved one and even the possibility of communicating with the dearly departed.  So I guess that majority of us do breathe while driving past cemeteries after all.

In my next blog I will take a look at death and the afterlife from an ancient and contemperary perspective.  In other words, we will travel back to Egypt and it’s ancient Near East culture and then fast forward to see some of concepts that have been popularized by Hollywood today.  

Until then.


Spirit Truth and Reconciliation

When I was a boy I went to kids camp at Ottawa Valley Pentecostal Camp (OVPC).  Now, I am originally from ‘the Valley’, and attending the various camps and services at OVPC was a staple experience for our family.  My siblings and I would attend the week long children’s camp and also enjoy the children’s programs and services during family camp.  I mention this because I’m fairly certain that I learned my first ‘kingdom’ song at kids camp.  It went like this:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you, Hallelu, Hallelujah”

Time and time again we would sing this song at chapel services and children’s church.  We would even practice it so that we could perform it for the adults in the main service.  There were even actions that went with the words too!  It was really cutting edge for its time.  However, I am not sure that I sung this song for the right reasons.

Here’s what I mean.

While singing this song, I believed that as long as I was a good little boy and sought after God’s kingdom first, then ‘all these things’ would be ‘added to me’. This meant that I could expect a new bike, lots of money, and all of the deserts known to humanity as long as I sought after ‘the kingdom’… Hallelujah! The problem is that I was singing this song while thinking about ‘all these things’. I knew that I should not be thinking about all the things that I wanted, but there seemed to be a premise and even a promise made that if I would seek the kingdom first, then a whole bunch of stuff was going to be coming my way. No wonder we say Hallelujah at the end!

Here’s the point.  

When presented this way, seeking the ‘kingdom’ can become sort of a means to an end, and we can be tempted to think that God’s Kingdom is quid quo pro for riches. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s why.

It was Matthew who remembered Jesus saying these words about ‘seeking first the kingdom’. We can see it for ourselves in his gospel (6:33). If you decide to read some of what Matthew wrote, you will notice that the context of Jesus’ words and ‘seeking the kingdom’ has more to do with the provision of basic clothing, shelter and food than riches. Jesus seems to make the point that Father God will provide our basic needs when one follows through on seeking His kingdom. In other words, seeking the kingdom is more about the divine presence of daily bread rather than diabolical loaves magically appearing.

In my previous blog I wrote about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and the associated problems with the ‘systems’ of this world.  

Here’s the gist.

I am convinced that the Bible helps me understand that there are hostile forces at work here in this world. Furthermore, these same ‘powers’ operate in a progeny-like fashion revealing their true source. The New Testament writers also seem to pick on this and characterize these powers similarly; Jesus is depicted as One who reflects the behaviour of Father God (Yahweh) here on earth, and others who represent and reflect the nature of someone else. The temptation scene in Luke helps me understand who the other ‘parent power’ is.

In Luke’s cosmic showdown in the wilderness, the devil now steps out from behind the curtain for a direct confrontation with the only One who is able to perfectly manifest the good purposes of Yahweh and implement His kingdom for humanity. It is Jesus, the Nazarene. Remember Him? But now Luke overemphasizes the point that behind Jesus isn’t just a stable, some animals or angels; we see that behind Jesus stands the Holy Spirit!

So after Jesus successfully resisted the diabolical will of Satan, Luke tells us that He then began to demonstrate what God’s kingdom looked like. In other words, Jesus demonstrated what Spirit-empowered living is all about: healing a broken world.

Here’s the idea.

The Bible teaches that God’s Spirit is present everywhere, and that the entire universe is His field of operations so that the redemptive purposes of God are completed in all of creation. There was no doubt in Jewish thinking, that the world and all creatures are dependent upon God for life and strength.  When the New Testament speaks of resurrection and new creation, the creative power of the Spirit is always assumed.  This means that it is the Spirit who brought life to the world in the first place, and it is only the Spirit who can bring new life to it.  

If that is true, then a proper kingdom longing then, is for God’s Creator Spirit to come and make everything new.  Could it be that simple?  

One Old Testament prophet says that creation will be desolate ‘until the Spirit from on high is poured out on us, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field’ (Is. 32:15).  Clark Pinnock says that “these OT prophets can speak of the Spirit this way because He is the power of Creation.” 

If the Spirit is all of those things, then perhaps Luke is correct in emphasizing the Spirit’s empowering (anointing) upon Jesus.  For Luke, it seems that the Spirit is now on Jesus because God’s ‘energizing life’ is now available and here to bring about God’s newness of life to a hurting and broken world.  

When reading the Gospels, it is apparent that God is for those who suffer and is always on the side of healing, restoration and redemption.  There are those who believe that God’s Spirit ought to extend towards and effect the systems of humanity itself.  This means that they very ‘systems’ of the world could reflect a power that is liberating and transformative rather than dominating and punitive.  

Perhaps it is as simple as this.  I guess it all depends on which song you are singing.   

In our nation there is major reckoning concerning the injustices committed against First Nations people and the attempted genocide of their culture by those claiming to represent Jesus and His Father.  If the Bible portrays the kingdom of God to be ‘good news’ because it signifies a new world order that embraces those who hurting, broken, and living on the margins of society, then perhaps we really do need the power of Yahweh’s Spirit now more than ever.  

I will end with this.  

According to NT Wright, the followers of Jesus are commissioned and empowered by the Spirit to announce to the world that there is a different way of being human.  If this is true, then followers of Jesus who orient themselves to this type of living demonstrate a counter-cultural character that is more aligned with God’s Kingdom than the ‘systems’ of this world.  In other words, a genuine Spirit empowered witness seeks to bring God’s ‘newness’ into any and all situations via the life of the Kingdom Spirit. 


The system is broken

We live in a world of systems.  From government, healthcare and education to technology, groceries and minor sports, it seems like our entire world is based upon and functions within some sort of system.  In fact it does.

Whether we like it or not, our morning routines, work, recreational and social lives employ and align with micro and macro systems that are based on a set of specific rules, criteria and information that we have either embraced or deemed to be positive and beneficial to our lives.  We often don’t eve give it a second thought.  We just go with the flow and accept what status quo says is status quo.    

Now this is not a negative thing, and in fact it is probably impossible for human beings to not operate within a social system or a connected network of some sort.  As social beings we rely on accepted practices and norms to help us establish culture and function within in.  But what if the very ‘systems’ that operate in the world and are used as foundational aspects to society and culture are broken?  Worse, what if the system itself is actually evil?  

Ok, now allow me to say right from the beginning that I can feel and sense your nervousness and tension about a statement suggesting that ‘the system is evil’.  Statements like can unfortunately lead people into thinking that there needs to be a demonstration on Parliament Hill or a fist shaken at the powers that be.  I am not suggesting anything of the sorts, nor have I ever participated in such a thing.  But I am suggesting that the Bible helps me understand that we need to discern the economic, political and religious systems that are operating in the world today. 

Here’s why.

One of the fascinating scenes from the New Testament is the cosmic showdown between Jesus and the Devil in the wilderness.  From Luke’s gospel we are told that Jesus (led by the Spirit), enters the wilderness for a period of forty days.  But this is not some sort of rugged overland trip or adventurous journey into the outback.  Jesus is going there without any supplies in order to be tested from the very source of all things diabolical: the devil.

Luke tells us that Satan indeed shows up and begins to tempt with a series of probing questions.  Much has been made of this encounter over the years and many words have been inked in commentaries telling us the meanings associated with this trio of temptations.  In a sense, I too am adding to the plethora of comments and opinions.  But here is where I am going with this.  When looking at the three temptations that Jesus faced, we are seeing a clash of two kingdoms: one that is potentially based upon the socio-economic, political and religious systems of the world, and another that is based on the Kingdom of God. 

Here’s how.

  1. The Bread of Economy: “If you are the Son of God tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3)

Biblical commentators over the years have pointed out that the gospel writers emphasize the fact that Jesus seems to overturn the socially defined constructs of the first-century world and culture.  It is true that the gospel writers show Jesus not aligning with the commonly understood cultural code and social norms, but Luke however highlights Jesus’ association and time spent with the poor, marginalized and outcasts of society more than what Matthew and Mark do. You could say that Luke pays more attention to the Mediterranean socially constructed social system more than others.

In that system, ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ were ancient socially constructed terms used to classify humanity based upon their economic situation in society.  The ‘poor’ had become accustomed to living on the fringes of society because the ‘rich’ have used their resources to solidify their upper position.  In the dog-eat-dog world of the Roman Empire, the rich and powerful were all that mattered.

If that is true, then Jesus’ rejection to make magic food in the wilderness could be seen as a commitment to remain in a lifestyle of poverty and continuing to keep Himself aligned with the poor.  Jesus was from Nazareth in Galilee after-all.  If Jesus did make delicious bread from those dusty rocks, His actions could have been understood socially.   

If Jesus did miraculously provide bread in the desert, He would have used His divinity to elevate His social status from the majority of those living within the poverty stricken region of Nazareth.  Seriously, who else is able to turn rocks into wilderness wonder-bread when hunger pains hit?  In other words, Jesus would have been using the power of the Spirit to potentially not only meet His physical needs, but to also adjust and possibly elevate His social status among the poor.  

2.  The Power of Politics: “I will give You their splendour and all this authority; because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want.  If You, then will worship me, all will be Yours” (4:6-7)

Contrasting the mundane offer of bread, Jesus is instantly given a vision of promised absolute, earthly power.  The devil instantly is able to show Jesus all of the inhabited kingdoms of the earth and claims to have the ability to offer them to Jesus.  

Much has been made of the fact that Jesus did not dispute the devil’s claim to offer up the kingdoms of the world. Some people believe that the devil had the right to make this claim and that Jesus has specifically come to win back all those kingdoms.  However, it can also be noted that Jesus did not affirm the devil’s offer either.  It could be argued that such a claim was not even worthy of an answer.  In addition, the devil is Biblically portrayed to be a liar. Regardless, the central issue here is the devil’s attempt to displace God as Jesus’ benefactor.

Notice in this back and forth conversation that the devil makes five references to himself, three to Jesus and none to God.  It all seems to point to and highlight that the devil is seeking to extract a great price from Jesus: His allegiance.  This matters big time.  In other words, who will Jesus trust or look to in order to receive His kingdom?  

It was well known in the Ancient world that Caesar was proclaimed as ‘god’ and was deemed to have an everlasting empire.  Luke seems to pick on this and suggest that an absolute, earthly power looks like a diabolical claim and quest.  If this is true, then perhaps the good news of God’s Kingdom is aimed at the poor for a reason.  Also, the promise of God’s Kingdom seems to be given to those who are aware that their righteousness, consolation, reward and honor are found only in the love of God and the inclusive fabric of His Kingdom.  In other words, the devil claims to have the ability to give Jesus total political authority and a powerful political kingdom.  However, Jesus does not grasp the opportunity to gain this position of power by way of idolatrous worship since Father God is His benefactor.    

3. The Spectacle of Religion: “So he took Him to Jerusalem, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.” (4:9)

In this third and final temptation, the devil brings Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple where He is asked to make a spectacle of Himself in order to prove His divinity.  If Jesus would fall to the ground, surely the angels of heaven would intervene and preserve His life.  The devil is essentially asking Jesus to perform a self-centered act and use God’s power for His own ends.  Had Jesus jumped, the sin would have been pride.

It’s been noted that temple worship was at an all-time low when the Son of God came to earth.  In Jesus’ day, the Jewish people were being extorted by the temple and its High Priest by forcing people to purchase sacrifices and not allowing them to bring their own.  Jews who traveled from afar to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices had to purchase their animals from the Temple in order to offer sacrifices within the Temple.  It was a system of corruption.  The priestly aristocracy had taken over and were charging exorbitant, monopolistic prices for these sacrificial animals.  It was literally double duty exploitation of the greatest insult.  

However, even worse was the fact that there were two High Priests in the Temple when there was only to be one.  In the eyes of many people, the whole Temple system had become something opposite of its intended purpose, and essentially made it illegitimate because of its hierarchy.  The temple had become a place of self-service to the religious leaders.  

Jesus would have been following along the lines of other temple leaders who were using the building and system to selfishly serve their hierarchical needs and perverted purposes if He had thrown Himself down from its peak.  Jesus will have no part of this spectacle.  

In summary then, we could say that Jesus seems to resist these triple temptations and show a reluctance to use His power to elevate Himself socially, to gain power via diabolical authority, or to draw prideful attention to Himself via religion.  In other words, it seems that Jesus holds fast to another way or alternate mode that seemingly dispenses with the economic, political and religious methods of this world.    

So what is catch?  

If the systems of the world are broken and maybe even diabolical, how then are we to live here on earth?  

I guess that will be the subject matter of my next blog.  

But perhaps you could ask yourself and consider what Jesus does seem to embrace, embody and enunciate for life here on earth.  

Until then,


Lambpower: Part 2

Is anyone getting tired of hearing about the continuous and ongoing corruption across levels of government or the seemingly lack of a moral compass from those in leadership?  

Does there also seem to be a continual covering-up and blatant denial of organizational abuse of power and the errors of systematic oppression?  

Why is there an addictive need to control, dominate and oppress people?  

Surely there must be another way …

In my previous blog I began to share from War Ewing’s The Power of the Lamb: Revelation’s Theology of Liberation for You.  To read that blog click here.

In this week’s blog I will share what is needed so that humanity is able to not only confront these ‘beastly’ oppressive powers in the world, but what is also needed if there is to be any hope for unity and healing.  Ward calls it ‘Lambpower’

In the book of Revelation, John gives the world a startling picture of what is needed so that transformation and healing is able to come to the world and all human relationships.  But here’s a warning, the imagery and solution might not be what you would expect or want to see.  But it should be a familiar image if you are somewhat familiar with the nursery rhyme involving a little girl named Mary. 

In the languages of the ancient Mediterranean world, there were many words for sheep and lambs that were used in common Greek and Hebrew.  John could have used any number of them in the book of Revelation.  However, when it came to describing the Lamb of God throughout Revelation, John uses a very special world that is shocking. 

In the fifth chapter of Revelation John says this:

“Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne …

Did you catch that?  

The Lion of the tribe of Judah, which was to destroy the enemy, turns out to be a little, young lamb.  Remember what is was that followed Mary to school that day?  Yes, that’s right.  It was a little lamb.

Now, it’s one thing to say that a lion has now become a lamb, but John also says that this lamb also bears the marks of being slaughtered or slain.  So, in the vision given to John (while being in the Spirit), John sees, describes and emphasizes that God’s power and victory is achieved via a meek, helpless and vulnerable little lamb.  

For Ward, ‘John has carefully chosen an image that conveys unprotected and perilous existence’.  In other words, it seems that God’s understanding of true victory and power looks like vulnerability and surrender.

Now, for the ancient followers of Jesus and congregations of Asia Minor, the parallels were seemingly obvious.  We need to remember that it was John who told them about Jesus’ non-violent surrendering to the Jewish leaders and Pilate in his gospel.  John who witnessed and wrote about Jesus’ vulnerability and strength when He accepted the undeserved suffering and injustice heaped upon Him that lead up to His death on the cross.  We also need to remember that it was John who told us that there is no greater love than to suffer and give one’s life for others.  

So now, the same John says that the same love of God is operating and needed in the world now.  

Stop and think about that impact of John’s message in a world of Roman domination and power.  What is able to stop this evil power of the beast?  What will ultimately destroy and do away with these oppressive and violent powers? 

Ward says that the messaging in Revelation indicates that the love of God as witnessed and demonstrated in Jesus is the very love that will win the world.  

In his words, ‘the beast was unable to destroy or stop that love, and it was that love which triumphed.  The cross remains to this day as the symbol of the supreme act of love, consciously and willingly accepted by an innocent man.  No act of love this deep, this strong, this pure, this giving, can ever be seen as defeat.  The ruler was more controlled than controlling; the power was revealed as malevolent and impotent.  The Lamb faced the beast and conquered.  The victim is the victor.’

So let me ask you this question: how does this concept of power clash with our culturally conditioned one?  

Think about all of the ‘people power’ marches and demonstrations that we have seen here in the West over the past few decades.  What seems to be the ethos and messaging from the leaders of those movements, and the very movement itself?  Think about the recent ‘freedom convoy’ in our Nations Capital.  

For Ward, it seems that Lambpower is characterized by love, acceptance and supporting other people’s freedom and giving without demanding results.  It seems that Lambpower is more about vulnerability and surrender than non-violence and protest; and more about acceptance and yieldedness than about resignation and passivity.  In other words, true power ought to align itself with the very life and way of Jesus the Nazarene. 

Today, we need to think about the ramifications of what John is saying.  What would happen if we began to think this way and apply the way of the Lamb in our everyday relationships, marriages and parenting?    

What would happen if we decided to let go of our need to compete and need to climb the corporate ladder?  What would happen if we realized that our personal worth does not depend on winning?  What would happen if we left behind our need for control and selfish desire to always be in charge and have the final say?

Ward believes that this is exactly what humanity and the world needs.  This is the kind of self-giving and vulnerable love needed to bring God’s healing and unity to our broken and fragmented world. This is the kind of love that brings God’s newness and freedom to our hurting and wounded spirit.  In other words, we all need to embrace and receive the life changing love of God in Jesus.

This is the message, mission and model of God’s victorious Lamb, Jesus Christ. 

So in our current apocalyptic age and present day world, John continues to give each of us a choice: the way of the beast or the way of the Lamb.  

I pray that we will choose the way of Jesus and either begin to follow or continue to follow this ‘little’ Lamb wherever He may lead.


Lambpower: my review of Ward Ewing’s book – ‘The Power of the Lamb: Revelations Theology of Liberation for You’

How do you define power?  What does experiencing powerless mean?  Are there powers at work in the systems of the world today?  Does the Bible speak about power?  

Ward Ewing is an Episcopal priest and also serves as Dean and President of The General Theological Seminary in New York City.  He is also the author of Job: A Vision of God.  I recently picked up a copy of ‘The Power of the Lamb’ due to my ongoing interest in the book of Revelation.  I was very intrigued by the title of the book and wanted to see his take on Revelation.  I was not disappointed and am writing this blog to also propel his message about the concept of power and its effect on humanity and culture.  Ward believes that ‘a key issue of spirituality for our time is empowerment’.   

Let’s see what he means. 

For Ward, ‘Revelation is about power’ because John uses the words ‘power’ (dunamis) and ‘authority’ (exousia) more than any other book in Scripture. You may have heard those words before if you are familiar with or have been exposed to the Pentecostal tradition of Christianity. Pentecostals have been known to focus on the ‘power’ of God’s Spirit. Perhaps this is why John was writing to the seven churches after-all. Maybe he was speaking an empowered word or testimony to others via God’s Spirit. In some circles we call that prophesying.

Regardless, Ward insists that John was writing to these congregations because they would have been small, poor, and struggling to survive. They would have been divided by internal squabbles and even suffering from external discrimination. Rome and Jews were targeting this new group of Jesus fanatics in ways that are not understood today. Christians were seemingly being harassed in ways similar to what Luke describes in the book of Acts. But John’s reason for writing appears to take on a different goal. He seems to be very concerned about the internal life of God’s people and congregations to which he is writing.

Why would John need to do this?    

Ward believes that it is because these early believers were now dangerously drifting in beastly waters and were in need of a wake up call.  When you read the letters to the churches you get a sense that complacency was setting in to the point that false teachers were being tolerated and followed.  It seems that some congregations had even lost their commitment to the way of Jesus and perhaps even losing hope for a better today and tomorrow.  Maybe a bleak outlook and mindset was beginning to set in as Rome powerfully continued to dominate, conquer and control the narrative and landscape. 

 In short, maybe John wrote to help these early Christians understand and live according to a new power that was present and already at work in the world.  Ward calls it the power of the Lamb, or Lambpower.

I understand that looking at the book of Revelation this way maybe new for some and not the accepted norm for others.  But if John was truly seeing something ‘in the Spirit’ on Patmost island, then maybe the day of Pentecost really did initiate Spirit-filled dreams and visions for those who believe.  Maybe John does know a thing or two about Spirit empowerment after-all. 

If so, then God’s Spirit did allow John to see and talk about the oppressive nature of power and its evil desire to control, manipulate and have dominion. Appropriately then, we see that ‘the beast’ in Revelation (a multi-headed conglomerate monster) is depicted as desiring to overpower people and force them to worship at its altar. John even uses other symbols of oppressive power (the four horseman, plagues, warrior locusts, little horn etc) to help convey understanding that the ‘beast’ symbolically represents the oppressive, overwhelming, unrestrained and controlling powers of evil that operate in the world.

This is where Ward’s work and book can help us discern and understand our world today.  You may be asking yourself that very question: How does the imagery of Revelation and its message play out in the world today?  

Well, it may depend on how you view and understand community, social structures and happiness.

Ward says that oftentimes we can tend to see human community in terms of a hierarchy of power. At the top of ‘the ladder’ are those who wield great power and have great influence. Conversely, at the bottom of the ladder are those who do not have power or influence; they are powerless. Our social structure then, is made up of complex micro-systems of pyramids that form other pyramids so that very few powerful people are actually at the top. For Ward, although this quest to ‘climb to ladder’ is generally embraced and endorsed in Western culture, it is actually a delusion.

Here’s what he means.  

“The more power we have, the more we fear losing it, the higher we climb on the ladder, the greater is the danger of tumbling down.  Striving for financial security has the curious effect of leading not to security but to more striving.  Striving to succeed produces the competition that keeps us driving ahead with all our energy until we collapse.”

In essence then, the very ‘systems’ of this world that promise us a sense of self-worth are actually based on social status and overall material wealth.  Think about it.  How does most advertising and messaging from the worlds media make us feel?  We feel prodded to devote our energies towards our ‘wants’ by getting a fancier car, having that larger house or owning that cottage by the lake.  The warning from Ward is that by working for this ‘success’,  we can actually surrender our conscience and become blind to the very ‘systems’ that threaten to destroy our world and take our freedom.    

What?  Really?  How, and especially how do you get that from the book of Revelation?  For Ward, these beastly powers can be seen via the four horseman and the imagery of Babylon.  

Consider this.  Businesses often enter the marketplace seeking to contribute and provide something that is positive and beneficial.  However, in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world, the same business needs to conquer their corner of the market so that profits are made and revenues gained.  It is here that the commendable goals of business soon give way to conquering attitudes.  The white horseman emerges.  

Then, if the same business fails to gain enough security and control, the original goal of providing a needed product or service can be replace by a desire to be number one and beat all competitors.  There now can be no peace in the marketplace.  The red rider has arrived.  

Next comes increasing pressure to maximize growth and preserve the company at all costs through leverage strategies and other means of control. This is all done so that the market will swing in the company’s favour. The scales of the green horseman and its abuse of the economic system seem to be manifesting.

Finally, ongoing domination now becomes the main goal and desire of the company.  Individual needs no longer matter and human injustices seem to go unnoticed.  A militant mind-set now seems to run the board room so that any and all opposition to the company is annihilated.  The fourth horseman is now one the scene and is running the show.  

Ward believes that the incarnation of this evil is also seen in the imagery of Babylon.  For Ward, ‘Babylon’ is the ‘embodiment of the beast in the world of political and economic power’.  John portrays Babylon to be beautiful and rich, but her nature and relationships are impure and lack commitment.  We can see that her main objective seems to be the pursuit of personal satisfaction and individual gain.  She seductively attracts and moves those who participate with her towards domination and destruction.  Finally, her single most characteristic is her need to control.  

Ward believes that ‘Babylon’ is recognizable today through her continued insatiable appetite for growth and shows up institutionally when goals are served rather than people.  In other words, the systems of Babylon manifest whenever they move from servant to master.  This means that the institutional glory of ‘Babylon’ is now more important that the individual people who are its members.  Ward believes that ‘to place institutional glory above human integrity is the blasphemy for which the beast is known.’

Perhaps this is why John is writing after-all.  Perhaps there are textile workers in Laodicea and Thyatira or money changers, merchants and traders in Sardis, Ephesus and Smyrna that were on the bottom of the social and economic ladder and trying desperately hard to make a living.  Maybe they needed help to discern the powers that are at work in the world after all.  

But how?

This perhaps is the cruz of John’s message and a big reason why Ward wrote his book.  He says that in the world today there are ‘two spiritualities (that) strive for a person’s allegiance: the beast and the Lamb.  One cannot belong to both.’

So if John has outlined what evil beastly power looks like, then he also surely indicated what good and true power looks like as well.  Thankfully John did!  This is what Ward refers to as ‘Lambpower’.

Stay tuned for my next blog and the conclusion to my review of Ward Ewing’s book.


Does God still love the world?

An often quoted verse from the Bible is John 3:16.  It has been referenced and quoted countless time from church pulpits, Sunday school rooms, street corners and even football games.  I used to say that this was the “Touchdown” Bible verse back in the day due to the likelihood that somebody would be holding up a “John 3:16” for the NFL Sunday afternoon cameras to see.  

The verse goes like this: For God so loved the world, that He gave His One and only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him will never die but will have eternal life.  

But here’s the thing, is this verse still accurately representing God today? 

In Barbara R Rossing’s ‘The Rapture Exposed: The Message and Hope in the Book of Revelation’, this very notion surfaces as she dives into the complicated world of end-times theology, evangelical fundamentalism, Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind novel series and a popular event known as the ‘Rapture’.  

Rossing, who teaches New Testament at the Luther School of Theology in Chicago, believes that there is danger and deception lurking behind the modern day predictive script and politics of fundamentalisms escapist end-times storyline.  Her arguments are very convincing and speak for themselves.  

Here’s why.

Rossing notes that it all began in 1830, when fifteen-year-old Margaret MacDonald attended a healing service in Port Glasgow, Scotland.  During the service, she was said to have seen a vision of a ‘two-stage’ return of Jesus Christ.  This story was immediately adopted and amplified by John Nelson Darby, a British evangelical preacher and founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement.

This new teaching insisted that Jesus was now going to return twice, rather than just once.  According to Darby, Jesus’ first return would be ‘in secret’ in order to ‘Rapture’ his followers out of the world and up to heaven.  Then, Jesus would return a second time to establish His kingdom here on earth after seven years of world-wide wars and global tribulation.

Sound familiar?

Maybe the name ‘Darby’ and ‘Rapture’ are unfamiliar to you, but if you have ever heard people talk about Armageddon,  Antichrist, a one-world government, or being left behind, then you’ve probably been exposed to the theological system invented by Darby and his followers.   It’s called ‘dispensationalism’.

According to Darby, God divided all of human history into seven distinct dispensations, or specific times when God dealt with humanity differently and specific to that dispensation of age.  Darby’s best-selling Scofield Reference Bible helped to establish this teaching and was a popular tool in spreading this new system of thought.  Prominent institutions like Dallas Theological Seminary and the Moody Bible Institute began to adopt Darby’s teaching, timetable and end-times system.  

Rossing states that many people were attracted to Darby’s dispensationalist system and its Rapture theology because it offered a comprehensive and rational (science-like) presentation of the Bible and end-time events.  This was especially appealing due to the sweeping scientific claims of Darwin in the early 1900’s.  It seemed that Christians were given a system that could finally compete with science and its rational approach to history.  Furthermore, this ‘system’ offered an explanation of the very challenging and contradictory book of Revelation.  

But was Darby’s system correct?  

Rossing does an excellent job at systematically debunking Darby’s dispensational theological system and eventually proclaims it to be a “fabrication of Darby” that was unfortunately invented less that 200 years ago, shipped to America and exported to the world.  In other words, Rossing is convinced that ‘dispensationalism’ has been duping minds and hearts for centuries.

At the crux of it all is the notion of Jesus returning twice, or in ‘two distinct stages’ separated by a period of seven years, as dispensationalists claim.  For Rossing, this violates all early Christian creeds and the actual Bible itself!  Nowhere do the creeds or the Bible describe Jesus as doing such a thing.  In fact, Rossing believes that such a notion has given rise to a ‘beam me up’ escapist attitude and an unbiblical mindset that has turned God into a capricious body snatcher and orchestrator of mass mayhem and world violence.  

With their ‘war-like’ end-times script, Rossing states that dispensationalists have supported a militant, and triumphalistic vision of the future that stands in direct opposition of Revelations vision of Jesus and God’s heart for the world.  In other words, John’s vision of Jesus conquering as a ‘slaughtered Lamb’ has been replaced with LaHaye’s contemporary Left Behind Jesus who comes to conquer the world as a roaring lion.  

Rossing says that ‘we cannot afford to give in to those violent stands in our biblical tradition.  We must say ‘No’ to the dispensationalists’ distorted claims that the book of Revelation is God’s battle plan for the end.’  

I couldn’t agree more. 

For years I was taught the dispensationalists lens and system in my church and Pentecostal tradition.  From Sunday school and youth class to sermons and Sunday night alter calls, I struggled to understand the charts and its view of the end of days.  But as long as I was a ‘good little boy’, I wouldn’t get ‘left behind.’ 

Rossing says that many (like me) were ‘raised on a daily diet of fear, (and) their view of God resembled the song about Santa Claus coming to town: “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry”.  Only it was Jesus, not Santa’

Here is where I will end.

Rossing asks a poignant question:  Does the Bible really teach that Jesus will come to snatch Christians off the earth, causing ‘lots of death’, before inaugurating a seven-year period of tribulation?  

Good question.  

But before you answer that question, perhaps you should ask yourself this one: Does God really still love this world?


Remembering Daryl: The stuff that legends are made of

It’s been said that the value of a man is not measured by what he does for himself, but measured by what he does in the lives of others.  During the past number of days, thousands of people are remembering the impact of such a man.  His name was Daryl, and I called him uncle. 

On this earth Daryl Faught was known and loved by countless people who were privileged to cross his path.  In the wake of his passing, memories are surfacing and stories are being shared.  Daryl had a way about him that left a lasting impression.  He was a ‘once you met him, you would never forget him’ kind of guy.  That’s because legends never die, and Daryl Faught was a legend.  And like other legends, it began with the game of hockey and an outdoor rink.

As a young boy Daryl took to the game of hockey naturally and began to dominate at the local Snake River rink. In 1964, with Daryl, the Snake River Allstars won it all. At sixteen Daryl was invited to go north and try out for the Espanola Junior A’s. Red Sullivan was the coach at the time and took a shining to Daryl’s offensive ability. As a natural sniper, Daryl seemed to be able to find the net and score with ease. However, after making the team Daryl decided to come back to the family farm. Not too long afterwards, Red Sullivan personally called the Faught farm trying to find a way for Daryl to come back. But Daryl did not return.

Later in life, Daryl found hockey again, but this time it was behind the bench as a coach.  He was a natural and had instant success at the local level.  I was fortunate enough to play for Daryl during his inaugural 1989-90 season when we won the local league.  Setting his sights beyond the local league play, Daryl continued to win at all levels and mould players into winning teams.  

In 1994 he won the Upper Ottawa Valley Midget championship.  In 1996 he won with the Muskrat Midget Voyageurs.  In 1998 he won the Triple A Summer ETA title.

He was coach of the year in 2001 and 2002 with his championship team, the Muskrat Midget Voyageurs. 

In 2005 he won the Eastern Ontario Valley Division title with the Shawville Junior B’s.  

In 2009-2010 he won with the Upper Ottawa Valley Aces.

In 2010 he announced his retirement.  

In 2012 he returned.

In 2013-14, Daryl coached the Upper Ottawa Valley Major Midgets, the Aces, to win it all one last time.   

Wow.  What a record.

All in all, you could say that hundreds of players in the Ottawa Valley were impacted by Daryl’s hockey knowledge and demand for effort.  I am sure that Daryl’s players were told multiple times that his ‘mother could skate faster’ than they were going, and that his ‘two sisters could shoot the puck harder’ than they could.  I remember hearing those words during some on-ice drills and thinking the exact opposite, but never dreamed to voice that my grandmother, aunt and mother probably never shot a puck or skated in a hockey practice their entire lives.  I simply put my head down and attempted to skate faster and shoot harder.  So did hundreds more.  This was coach Daryl’s way, and he made good players become great ones.   

Daryl was also a celebrated ‘cattle man’, and took over the farm that I knew as Grandpa’s.  It was originally known as the old Ready farm on Durack line (near Osceola), but was now the place where Daryl would flourish in the beef industry.  I admit that all beef cows look like BBQ to me, but Daryl could see and value the quality of steers like no other.  His beloved herd was dear to him because he built it himself from the ground up.  With hard work, determination and a committed drive to succeed, Daryl made extraordinary things happen on that ranch.  That’s because Daryl was an extraordinary man, and became so by accomplishing extraordinary things.  

Beginning with Charlais, but switching to Black Angus, Daryl’s herd grew to become renowned in the Valley and beyond.  By initialling buying and bringing in small herds from the west, Daryl eventually started to mould his herd into prized cattle.  Generations of cattle were now being registered as D&K Angus.  This was Daryl’s brand.  

Having an eye for cattle, Daryl’s keen breeding insight soon generated an entire herd that was admired for its consistency and quality.  Among the Canadian Angus Association, Daryl received high praise for the superlative qualities of his cattle.  His herd became a benchmark for other aspiring breeders and was living proof of Daryl’s exceptional breeding.  Even now, D&K Angus will continue producing quality bovines for years to come.  It’s as if Daryl is still living and impacting farms today via his cattle creation. 

This leads me to another aspect of Daryl’s life: carbon.  Daryl was an ironworker, and spent many years together with his brother (my uncle Jack) in the wild west of Canada and beyond working and walking the ‘high-steel’.  Daryl sparked and riveted his way to the top of the ranks and became one of the best metal workers in the industry.  As a foreman, he and his gangs completed countless structures, projects and buildings in the Province of Ontario, but especially within Renfrew County, base Petawawa and Atomic Energy (AECL).  Think about it.  There would literally be thousands upon thousands of welds, rivets and beams that Daryl would personally have had his hand on.  His skill and professionalism in the guild was felt across the nation.  Daryl was simply one of the best.  

During his final days leading up to his passing, the president of the local Steel workers union called and told him that he was a ‘legend in the industry’.  That kind gesture reinforced something that we all knew:  Daryl’s life was an epic saga and worthy of folklore. 

Finally, there was also a deep side to Daryl’s life that I will refer to as conviction.  Daryl was a man of faith and deep conviction.  You didn’t have to be around him long to know that there was something solid in and about his life.  You could tell that he had a connection that went beyond this world.  He did.  

Daryl was not a church-goer, but was committed to serving God nonetheless.  As a follower of Jesus, Daryl embodied the gospel or lived it outside the walls of a building by doing good deeds.  Daryl was no softy, but underneath the rugged cowboy exterior was a tender heart of unconditional love.  Living by the Golden Rule, Daryl sought to treat others better than himself.  Whether it was purchasing airfare for a friend, or delivering food to a neighbour, Daryl was always going the extra mile and was always willing to lend his helping hand.  In this way Daryl resembled the One who said, “Love your neighbour as yourself”.  This was Daryl, and this was his way of expressing the love of God.  

This made Daryl a delight to be around and fun to be with.  There was an attractive quality about him that won the hearts of many.  Even in his final months, many medical doctors, nurses, and hospital staff admired his positive outlook and upbeat style.  ‘It’s all in the Lord’s hands’ Daryl would often say.  After receiving the initial bad news that he would only have a few months to live, Daryl determined that he would ‘make it to my birthday’, and then maybe ‘I’ll make to Christmas’.  Months went by, and then a whole year.  Daryl had surpassed all medical timelines that were given.  That was his way.  He kept on keeping on day after day.    

Yes, Daryl did eventually succumb to cancer, and on January 14, 2022, seventeen months after the initial diagnosis, Daryl Faught went home to heaven.  But his story did not end that day.

In the twinkling of an eye, or in the flash of light, Daryl was escorted from the farmhouse in Osceola to the fields of heaven.  As his lungs exhaled here on earth, they inhaled heaven’s fresh air in eternity.  As his eyes closed here on earth, they were reopened in paradise.  Daryl had passed through the Valley of Death.

As Daryl opened his eyes, his first sight was the face of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene.  Daryl’s hands that once gripped wire and metal now extended towards the Hand of the Master who bid him welcome.  His ears now heard the voice of angels and cheers from others who gathered to welcome him home.  In an instant Daryl was surrounded and re-united with his mother Laura and father Elmer who lovingly embraced their son and welcomed him home.  

I can almost see it myself and feel the reality of it in my soul.  That’s because Daryl and I share the same faith and have trusted the same Person with our very lives.  His name is Jesus and Daryl knew Him well. 

Today, I know that Daryl is truly home with God.  But for those of us left behind, we must continue our journey on this side of eternity.  I realize that losing loved ones is never easy and can bring a certain shadow or valley-like feel.  Grief is like that, and journeying through any loss event takes time. 

For Aunt Kathy and others, the memory of Daryl will continue to generate a full scale range of emotions that is rooted in rich memory.  I pray that we will all embrace the genuiness of his life, and allow ourselves to be changed because of it.  For me, I will remember my uncle Daryl as simply the best hockey coach, cattle-man, and man of carbon-steel that I ever knew.  I will also reflect upon and be thankful for how he demonstrated his commitment to the way of Jesus. 

Uncle Daryl, I will fondly remember our final talks together on the farm and look over our text message thread often.  I will also look forward to playing shinny on one of the many rinks in eternity with you some day.  I’ll bet that you’re already teaching some of the OT saints the art of the game and how to rip it top shelf where they keep the peanut butter.  I also know that there are still some moves up your sleeve that you didn’t get around to showing all your pupils yet.  

I guess that leaves all of us with some time to hone up our hockey skills here on earth.

Until we lace up in eternity uncle … 


** Special thanks to my cousin ,Tara Faught, for all the hockey info, and for being Daryl’s hockey travel companion and greatest fan.