Tag Archive: WHY DO WE SUFFER?


No, dear reader, I haven’t mis-spelled a word in my title, I’m just rather partial to puns…

393px-Gojira_1954_poster_3Do you ever wish you could read a book or watch a movie in which nothing goes wrong, where nobody gets hurt and there are no problems to solve? I’ve discussed with my sons the fact that works of fiction probably would never meet with much, if any success, without trouble at their center.

Without some sort of tension to resolve-injustice, war, loss, unfulfilled desires, threats or enemies-any movie, novel or drama would probably be rather hum-drum and not very interesting to the majority of people. Can you think of any work of fiction without at least one problem to put right? Even Christian stories center on family break-up, loss, persecution or aggressive debate.

It seems that while we all hate to suffer ourselves, we want to see others suffering, at a distance…but then perhaps to see the problem resolved at the end of the story. The hero must win the battle, or wreak revenge, or get his desired lover. If there isn’t a problem, we like to create one…don_quijote_and_sancho_panzaWe like to tell ourselves that we enjoy seeing suffering because it “reflects reality” and touches upon our own struggles. Even sci-fi and fantasy stories are really just dressed up hypothesized versions of real-life problems, although in these times some Hollywood-style stories attempt or hope to shape reality rather than mirror it.

History is a long succession of stories filled with tensions and resolutions, and in many cases there is no happy ending. So it is even in the Biblical narrative. Problems begin almost on the first page, when Adam and Eve fail a simple test. But wait a minute: why is there a test to pass or fail in the first place? Wasn’t it God himself who put that nasty tree in the garden? And wasn’t it God who seems to have turned his back while the Tempter came to persuade Eve to disobey? Behind it all, God had a grand plan-a scheme, the subject of the Bible: a narrative which is still in process of being acted out and fulfilled. I’ve written about this in my series “Why Do We Suffer?”Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)I was looking at a few facebook pages of people I used to know, and I was amazed to see even there that a common source of mirth and hilarity these days is ridicule of Donald Trump. Of course this isn’t news to any of us-it’s going on in many places. And the things they say about him are hateful, spiteful and most often completely false. They come from a media and an entertainment industry which has declared war on the world’s leader and his supporters.

So what do they want in Trump’s place? Who would they replace him with? I’m convinced they want more of the same. They want what President Obama was working hard to give them: a throwing off of the influence Christianity has had over the past two millennia, and a reversal of the confusion and separation of Babel. At Babel God acted to prevent the world of men from being unified. He did that because he knew that any such unity would be in opposition against him and against all that he created mankind for. And sure enough, the modern socialistic, one-world movement seeks to redefine marriage, spirituality, gender, love, and just about everything you can think of which relates to the original plan of God for mankind. Trump, imperfect though he is-as we all are-and his supporters, seeks to set back the clock on the perversion of God’s plan. The dissenters, the “jokers” and the haters all seek to continue the movement away from God, which was so enthusiastically facilitated and encouraged by our last president, his appointed judges and his devoted followers.800px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_editedThe history of man has been likened to a tale of two cities: one the celestial city of God, and the other Babel, the city of man. It’s all actually one story only: history is His-story. I’ve written before about the “Beautiful City”, a place in which man will one day, he hopes, realize his Utopian dreams; where he can do whatever he wants without consequence or criticism, and from which God is banished forever. However, proponents of modern humanism and secularism do seem to like the idea of inviting into the free world one version of god and his followers, in the hope that this god will aid in the removal of the one they see as the great ogre-the Biblical God.

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot in vain? (Psalm 2:1 ESV).

Behind it all the devil works to take down free society so that the gospel of Jesus Christ can be strangled once and for all. Many people see this as a top priority in life. They just refuse to see the fact that the gospel cannot be controlled or suffocated, any more now than it ever has been; any more than it was at the beginning when Jesus Christ was crucified and his disciples scattered and persecuted throughout the world. Persecution, as horrible as it is, only serves to further the cause of the gospel.What-is-truth02All these people will accomplish is the loss of freedom. But freedom will not only be lost for those that they hate: it will be gone from them also, because the system they work to impose in God’s place is intentionally excluding the only source of freedom.

All the machinations of those who seek to destroy what the West has stood for, with all its failures and weaknesses, may succeed temporarily, and on a superficial level- the only level they’re willing or able to see and detect. But in fact they’re expending all their energies only upon that which God has already planned and foreseen. Man without God is like a convict digging an escape tunnel, only to find that the entire prison guard are waiting for him at the other end.

God’s grand story is still unfolding-we’re in the middle of it now. The last page of the story of rebellious man is not far away, and man himself is helping to write some of the detail. Our Creator will bring to completion the Resolution of all resolutions, when those who’ve sided with God’s only son Jesus Christ will experience the happiest ending of all. And the happiest ending of all will begin a never-ending succession of wonderful, amazing stories without tension, trouble, or problems.

There can be no other outcome for the world than God’s victory over man’s rebellion, because God is the creator and sustainer of all things. Not only this, but he, and his Son, are the beginning and the end of the grand story:

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:12 The words of Jesus Christ-see verse 16)

 

 

 

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Greetings fellow time-travelers! Here’s the continuation of my post on suffering caused by malevolent spirits, and my series on suffering in general. If you missed the first half of part 7, published a couple of days ago, you might want to read that before this

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HOW DOES SATAN OPPOSE US AND CAUSE SUFFERING?

From the start I want to stress again that I don’t believe all or even most suffering is inflicted by demons, but that some is. All the other causes I’ve written about before are in action, and they’re mostly related to human nature and the Curse.

Satan not only hates God, he also hates those made in the image of God: humans. There are several ways in which the enemy of our souls can cause suffering:

THE DEVIL’S WORK 1: SIN

The Bible says that the world we live in-the world of men, of society and culture, the plethora of religions and philosophies, the way of life which ignores our Creator-is governed and directed by the ways of Satan. In fact Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” (John 14:30). Paul called him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Consequently not only are we vulnerable to temptation directly from Satan and his servants just as Adam and Eve were, but the entire ungodly world system we live in-shaped and directed by “the prince of this world”-presents all kinds of ways for us to turn away from God. We tend to think that the ways of the world are more attractive and more “fun” than the ways of God. The reality is otherwise, because ungodly motives and actions always end in trouble and loss for ourselves and for others. As one example, children lose stability, love, happiness and faith in mankind when a father leaves home for another woman.

It’s more common for us to be led into sin by our own attraction to the ways of this world than by the direct work of malevolent angels (James 1:14). The “devil made me do it” theology among some Christians is nothing more than an excuse for their own failures. The devil cannot make the believer who is walking in faith do anything: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In contrast the devil and his angels can lead unbelievers into all kinds of things, because apart from the Spirit of God they have no power to resist and no motivation to do what’s right:

“The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” 1 John 5:19).

THE DEVIL’S WORK 2/ DECEPTION

“…the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…”  (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Of course, temptation as in point 1 is deception. The kind of deception I’m speaking of in point 2 is that passed on in the philosophies of men, and of fallen angels who are in rebellion against God. These include false religion and false gods which lead millions away from our Creator; immoral and ungodly lifestyles which cause broken families, disease, rejected children, abortion and loneliness; false belief systems such as evolution and the idea the we’re all here because of random processes, chance, natural selection and multiplied millions of fortuitous mutations which have never been observed. Such philosophies have fueled all kinds of dark political systems such as Communism-responsible in the 20th century for well over a hundred million deaths around the world. See my post series on communism:

https://nickyfisher.com/2012/06/15/war-religion-and-atheism-part-3-lenin/

Most deception is much more subtle than communism.

THE DEVIL’S WORK 3/ PERSECUTION

Christians around the world face persecution because of their faith in and association with Jesus Christ. This persecution comes from the hatred of men for the faith, but ultimately from the devil and his angels who are in constant opposition to God and all his people. Persecution in recent years in the Middle East against the Church has been of such an intensity and of such unspeakable horror that it cannot have had anything but a spiritual origin. Media people in the West largely ignored what has essentially been attempted genocide against a Church which has existed in some of these ancient nations since the beginning.

THE DEVIL’S WORK 4/ OTHER PEOPLE

This point is related to the above discussion on “Deception”, but really needs to be noted separately.

Demons are unseen, but they are able and willing to extend their wishes into the physical world through people, either verbally, or through their actions or their teachings. People who are open to lies and falsehood; people who are not governed or guided by the truth of God; people in the right position of influence and power are good candidates to fulfill demonic wills. It’s hard to imagine, for example, that Adolph Hitler and his accomplices were not prompted to unleash war on the whole of Europe, slaughtering indiscriminately and without remorse, attempting to wipe out an entire nation of people-God’s chosen. On a much smaller scale, one person can be led into an illicit relationship by another persons help, perhaps (not always) by demonic prompting.

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War, poverty, disease, ignorance, and so many other maladies can be the result of the sinful actions of man, sometimes caused by spiritual entities.

We could look at several examples from the Bible. One of the better known ones is where Jesus reproved Satan who was speaking though Peter, who was suggesting that he avoid going to Jerusalem and so the cross:

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns (Matthew 16:23 NIV).

THE DEVIL’S WORK 5/ THE CURSE

This particular subject is perhaps my own idea. It may or may not be correct, so please question what I’m saying, and give me any thoughts if you wish.

It’s my personal conviction that the devil and his fallen angels help to administer the Curse, which I discussed in an earlier part of my series. Again, I’m not talking about any  “Yin-Yang” type of belief here as discussed in the Dao De Jing. What I mean is that God employs-nay conscripts-the devil and his fallen followers in the out working of the Curse. How does this play out in life, you may wonder? My answer is that while God has subjected all of nature to frustration (ROMANS 8) through the Curse, the frustration works in our lives and in our bodies in many ways other than ageing, sickness and death. Our intentions, our dreams, our efforts are frequently frustrated and come to nothing. Surely a loving God would not want us to be frustrated, you may think. Well, he did arrange for us to live fairly short life, to age and to die, didn’t he? I can only think that his motivation is to prevent us from living in long-term opposition to his ways, and to use the specter of mortality to sober us up quickly.

I believe that one out working of this frustration in our lives is in what we call in the US “Murphy’s Law”, or in the UK “Sod’s Law”. It has many other synonyms. Search for my post on the subject, published a few years ago, soon to be re-written and improved.

CAN SATAN CAUSE PHYSICAL SUFFERING?

We’ve considered Hitler’s war on mankind, but can the devil and his demons directly cause hurt?

We’ve seen that demons can lead people to physically hurt other people in many ways. In Peter’s warning of the “roaring lion”, mentioned earlier, he said that as a result of the devil’s efforts “the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”. This suffering was clearly tangible: a physical, material suffering.

However, it’s possible for physical suffering to be directly imposed on us by our unseen enemy. You only have to look at what happened to poor Job as a result of Satan’s attention. He lost most of his family and his home and he lost his own health not only as a result of Satan’s prompting of people around Job, but also directly from the will of Satan, in conjunction with God’s approval (Job 1:12-19).

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Most tellingly, it was Satan who directly inflicted physical suffering on Job:

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:7).

Paul suffered physically as a result of the work of a demon, though under God’s direction. He was sent a “messenger” of Satan to torment him and to keep him humble. Notice that this was a problem in his flesh (verse 7).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read of the woman who was crippled- bent over- for eighteen years of her life, until Jesus healed her. Jesus said that this physical harm was inflicted by Satan (Luke 13:11-16). .

In Revelation 2:10 we read how Christ warned some believers that the devil was going to put them into prison and they would be persecuted to death. This is about as physical as suffering can be! It seems clear from scripture that while trouble can be inflicted by Satan directly-if he has permission-he can also influence people to do the job for him. Refer to Nazi Germany as a prime example.

VICTORY IS OURS

The most important point in this entire subject is that God is supreme, and he loves us. We have problems in life now, but ultimately believers are on the winning side, and we cannot possibly lose. Don’t forget that Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Our bodies are temporal: our souls are eternal. Jesus Christ is the shepherd of our souls. Paul said:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit…For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans chapter 8, verses 1, 8, 35, 37, 39).

 

The traditional view of Satan’s work on earth has depicted him whispering over our shoulders and talking us into doing bad things that we really want to do anyway. He’s the CEO of hell, and causes havoc on the earth. Meanwhile God wrings his hands as he runs around frantically trying to minimize the devil’s work, and trying to patch up the damage.

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Welcome to the most unpopular subject in the world: suffering. This part (7) of my series may be a little more popular than the rest, since even in our “enlightened” age people are fascinated with the devil. On one occasion I was witnessing in the street when one young woman hissed in my face, “I don’t believe in God-I believe in the devil!”. She was perhaps speaking for many other people who prefer the darker side of life.

Part 7-itself divided in two-is necessarily devilishly long: I’m sorry. Please scroll down to get the gist of it if you wish.

In this part of my edited and re-written series, based on Biblical scriptures, I consider whether and to what extent the devil and his angels contribute to our problems in life. Unbelievers and also some believers will find the subject difficult to take seriously: I say ignore spiritual opposition at your own peril.

There’s no question, Biblically speaking, that our most threatening enemy in life is the devil, along with his accomplices:

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

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BIG-PICTURE REALITY

In contrast to that age-old image I noted above, when you really get stuck into relevant Bible passages, and when you look around and use a little logic, you see that there are no battles directly between God and Satan. The very few battles between Satan and his angels and God’s faithful angels are brief and have an unavoidable outcome of defeat for Satan. However, the fascinating and provocative reality is that God not only spares Satan and the other fallen angels but actually uses them. I’m not teaching a Yin-Yang type of theology here, in which good and evil are two sides of the same coin: they are not.

What I’m saying is that God is the almighty ruler and sustainer of all things, so that he can even find a use for those who rebel against Him. There’s no waste with God. Satan is on a chain , and one day that chain will be pulled in. You discover In Scripture-if you’re honest-that God is totally supreme and indisputably in control. Here are three illustrations from scripture of God’s total supremacy over Satan:

1: When God judged the earth by Flood because humanity had become so corrupt and violent (Genesis chapters 6 and 7) there was no attempt by Satan to stop the Lord from sending judgment: in fact he was nowhere to be seen.

2: When Jesus dealt with demons during his earthly ministry his power over them was unhindered, so that they feared that their time was up:

“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29 NIV).

3: The fate of the devil and his followers is already sealed, and it’s one of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41).

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GOD USES SATAN AND HIS FALLEN ANGELS

Contrary to our culture’s centuries-old belief that Satan causes trouble on earth while God fights back and attempts to minimize it, and that he’s down there in hell overseeing the punishment of the lost, the Bible makes clear that God uses Satan to send testing and suffering, and that Satan’s independent desire to see us suffer (and be sure that it is intense) is allowed or encouraged within God’s plan to test, discipline, shape, punish or judge unbelievers and believers. Here are some examples:

When the Spirit of God left Saul because as king he was serving himself and not God, we’re told that “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Samuel 16:14).

God searched for a spirit to entice Ahab into defeat and death. Micah said:

I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him…and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab….?’ “Then a spirit came  forward…I will go out and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets…’ And he (the Lord) said ‘You are to entice him, and you will succeed; go out and do so’ (1 Kings 22:19-23).

In the New Testament, we see that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-11). It’s important to see that “Jesus was led by the Spirit…to be tempted by the devil”: It was the will of God that Jesus be tested.

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Paul realized that in order to keep him from becoming conceited by his close experiences with God a physical ailment was given to him by God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). God sent “a messenger of Satan” with the ailment. Paul prayed three times for healing and God refused.

The work of Jesus Christ on the earth reveals God’s supremacy. As noted above, the demons he dealt with were well aware that they were destined for torment at his hands. However, we can easily see that they were not being tormented then: they were released to continue their existence and their activities on the earth. They will not be dealt with permanently until after the coming Millennium (Revelation 20:10-14).

Perhaps the absolute clincher in the argument that God gives permission to Satan to cause suffering is found in Revelation. Apart from the fact that God allows the devil to persecute believers to the death (Revelation 6:11) we also read that Satan will be released from his future prison, for a brief time, in order to deceive the nations:

“And when the thousand years were ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth…” (Revelation 20:7,8).

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Wow-is God helping the devil to do evil? No, God is using the devil to do the Lord’s work. Is God really the ultimate “baddy” and the ultimate trouble maker? No, God wants to test our hearts: do we love God, or are we in opposition to him? Satan is a tool that God uses to do the testing.

GOD PUTS A LIMIT ON OUR SUFFERINGS

When Satan wanted to put Job’s faith to the test, he had to first get the Lord’s permission to do so (Job 1:9-12, and 2:4-6). God put a limit on what Satan was allowed to do in order to test Job, and he said to Satan “Very well then, he is in your hands, but you must spare his life” (2:6).

We naturally think that God should have put a much greater limit on Job’s sufferings and on our own: take that up with the Lord. However, even if we die at the hands of evil men through persecution, there’s an end to suffering:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul (Matthew 10:28 KJV).

Thanks to all of you who’ve read this far. You did well, and I didn’t ask for any money, did I! The rest of part 7 on spiritual opposition will appear on Wednesday at 4:30AM PST Don’t miss it!

 

Why does a new car devolve into a rusted, broken wreck? Why do the weeds keep coming back in the garden? Why do we get sick? Why does life sometimes seem like an unwinnable battle…

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(Picture by Marlith)

I’m tackling the problem of suffering from a Biblical point of view, because I really believe that the Bible gives solid answers, unlike many-or all-of the world’s alternative religions and philosophies.

Perhaps the most hopeless philosophy is that of naturalistic evolution. While some atheists put a brave face on their future by saying that they’re part of the onward and upward evolution of life, they can’t escape their own beliefs. Yes, they can feel good about themselves and their mortality by making the world a better place to live in for everyone else, but according to evolution suffering and death are necessary components of evolution. As individuals we struggle, suffer and die, with no hope of anything afterwards. We are, in this philosophy, no more important or valuable than a tape worm, and we prove to be no more than parasites on the earth.

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Atheists and evolutionists in general tend to dismiss the Biblical God by saying that he isn’t doing his job, which is to stop all suffering and to give everyone a good time. Well excuse me, but who told them that that was God’s “job” description or God’s obligation? And if he doesn’t do it by their prescription (or ours) isn’t that up to him? How are we going to force his hand anyway? Who decides what God “should” do, and how he should run the world that he created and sustains? Where does it say in the Bible that God promised to stop all suffering and give everyone a good time, except at the end of the Revelation? Just because God doesn’t do things our way, it doesn’t mean he isn’t there at all.

The source of most of human suffering is laid out for us clearly in the early chapters of Genesis. I wrote in part two about the free will that God gave to man, to choose between right and wrong, as well as the ability to decide on many things. Genesis tells us that God gave man a simple test of that free will, because without an opportunity to make the wrong choice and disobey, there could be no free-will.

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God gave Adam and Eve a perfect place to live in, with the companionship of a beautiful healthy mate, and his own presence. He also gave them all kinds of delicious and exotic natural foods to eat freely. However, God made one tree that they were not permitted to eat fruit from, and warned them clearly that if they ate from that one tree they would die. They failed the test.

God would not let imperfect man live for ever in a perfect world, so he profoundly changed the order of things. He told Eve that she would bear children in pain (Genesis 3:16). He removed Adam’s access to the tree of life, which would have given him and us health and life without end (Genesis 3:22, 23). He told Adam that he would henceforth have to work hard for a living, until the day he died, and made it clear that the world would no longer be just a playground of pleasure, but was cursed along with his own life. It would actually provide some resistance to him (verses 17 to 19).

Yes, death was and is the result of Adam’s disobedience. Paul stated the situation clearly, when he said “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12).

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It’s not just humans who suffered from Adam’s decision. Paul explained that “the creation was subjected to frustration” (Romans 8:20), and that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (verse 22).  Whereas God created a perfect world with the potential for perpetual fulfillment and happiness, now all of nature is running down and decaying, and is not on an onward and upward journey of evolution.

This may seem to us like very stiff punishment for “one little mistake”. However, decisions do have consequences, and God can do what he wants to do. More than that, God’s action was a road-block to human nature which already tended towards rebellion against the creator. It wasn’t long before the dark side of humanity was at work again, when Cain, Adams’s son, murdered his brother (chapter 4).

And the rest is history, because like it or not we all inherited the same sin nature that Adam had. It’s not just that we have that same willingness to ignore God’s clear guidance which was written into our conscience and later in Scripture, but we’ve inherited that nature just as surely as we inherit genetic material from our ancestors. It’s as if we’re born with a disease, which God calls “sin’.

We’re not left without hope, because right from the beginning God had a plan-as I said before, “Plan B”- to rescue mankind from sin. Paul wrote:

…if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

We all now have the opportunity to make a very positive choice with our free will: a choice which will ultimately rid us of all suffering and give us eternal life. Jesus said:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25, 26).

Paul wrote:

Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (1 Corinthians 15: 21).

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus… (Romans 6:23).

In this provision of forgiveness and eternal life is seen God’s concern and love for us, even while we suffer for now in this fallen, broken world.

 

 

 

 

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