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                                         The Fellowship of Suffering I:




Human beings were not made to experience suffering. God created Adam and Eve, holy, harmless and full of joy with no intent on Adam violating that love relationship.  (Genesis 1:26; crf Hebrews 7:26) Yet, he also created Adam with free will.  God has taken a great risk in creating all his intelligent life with the ability to choose to serve Him or not to serve him.  The rebellion of Lucifer and one-third of the angelic host comes as a result of creating beings with the gift of free moral agency.  However, this rebellion which began in heaven, then continued on earth, will only happen once. (Nahum 1:9)  Though it is unfortunate Adam “bought-in” to Lucifer’s philosophy, yet we should be eternally grateful for the Plan of Redemption that was initiated by God to save man. (Zechariah 6:12,13; crf 1 Peter 1:20)


What type of God would do this at the cost of immense suffering to Himself over thousands of years, with the foreknowledge he’d lose billions of angels, including the first angel and then billions of human beings, also including the first born to our first parents?  Only a God with “Eschaton” in mind. {More about that in a minute.} But think about it…God really did not have a choice, if He continued to create with the purpose of Love reigning supreme.  Sooner or later He would need to deal with the ‘Rebellion of Sin’ possibility.  But He also knew, that it would provide opportunity for “the riches of His glory” to be revealed which could happen in no other way. Therefore, at cost to all three members of the Godhead, He went forward anyway.


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Eschaton, which is similar to eschatology—referring to end-time events, has to do with the way God orients His thinking in salvation.  In other words, God sees the final result of something and He starts from there. He will dialogue or ‘orientate’ from that point back. He knows the beginning from the end, so He will approach something from that ultimate orientation.  In the Great Controversy theme, ‘Eschaton’ then deals with the ultimate conclusion of this controversy—when sin and sinners are at last destroyed. Sin will never again raise its ugly head.  God went forward with man’s creation, knowing full well, man would sin (though He didn’t need to, and God commanded him not to), but it happened anyway.  God orients His purpose for man with this ultimate reality—complete restoration. He is ever moving forward with this in mind, restoring man back into the image of God.


All this said, I come back to my opening line:  Human beings were not made to experience suffering. But the day Adam sinned and the plan of salvation ‘kicked in’, God gave us a tremendous gift--the bestowment of grace (disguised in the enmity between man and the serpent which Christ planted), man was enabled to endure suffering, I really believe.  Guilt, brings suffering and guilt results in distrust in God’s great plan of love for us. As a result of Adam’s guilt, he hid from God, because of his shame. In Adam’s guilt and shame, came separation; separation with his wife and separation with God.  God never ever desires that there be separation with us. Through the gift of Christ, that separation is no more. Spiritual oneness is again restored. But because sin still reigns, God’s process of restoration takes time.


When tragedy strikes {and our hearts go out to those families who lost loved ones in the string of tornadoes in TX, AL, TN and AR over the last week} and the devil snatches away our loved ones, separation again occurs. Guess who takes another risk in permitting the tragedy? That’s right, God does.  Because in every tragedy, often someone points their finger at God with the accusation, “Why did YOU do this?”  God has to bear more suffering, though the devil caused it. There is good news and bad news when tragedy strikes.  The bad news, there is a very real possibility that in many cases the separation of that loved one from the family will be eternal. The good news is that in some cases this separation—painful as it is—will only be temporary. It is temporary due to ‘eschaton’. Through the fellowship of suffering, the Arbiter of every destiny is working out His plan of a final separation and unity for each.  How can He do this and operate in harmony with man’s free will choice? 


Stay tuned for the second part in this mini-series of “The Fellowship of Suffering” when we explore this further. Until then, meditate on this passage of Scripture:


  “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”  (Phil 1:29)  And remember, trust God anyway…

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