Sunday, 27 January 2013

Are you still in prison?



In last week's Blog, I wrote that 'it is time to be blunt and admit that the root of the conflict about how we behave is Control. The Control of our behaviour is influenced by our personal selves AND by the society in which we reside, AND by the Church or Synagogue which we join'.  

When we take control, or allow society and/or our Church or Synagogue to take control...we are still in the prison that Jesus has redeemed us from.  

Try asking yourself the following questions:  

Do I feel guilty about any of my past actions?
Am I bitter towards anyone for their past actions towards me? 
Do I resent having been rejected for a job, for a promotion, or for what I wanted?  
Do I worry about my body, my weight, my diet, and what I wear
Am I anxious about my job, my children, my money, or tomorrow? 
Do I suffer from stress?  
Do I retain and hold on to unforgiveness for past wrongs done to me? 
Do I fear the future, my enemies, old age, or the next unexpected disaster in my life?
Do I get depressed?

If you have answered 'No' to ALL the questions, you are not being honest with yourself, and you are still firmly rooted in your prison!!

We ALL behave or react in some of the questions, because we ALL 'fall short of the Glory of God', as Paul writes in Romans 3.23.

So....do we just accept our failures, go to Church or Synagogue at the weekend and ask God for forgiveness.....go home, and carry on as before? 

Is it not strange and odd that we have to repeat the same exercise day after day, and week after week, and that we never seem to be able to break free from guilt, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, stress, fear, or unforgiveness?   Why not?  

Because the Control of our behaviour is influenced by our personal selves AND by the society in which we reside, AND by the Church or Synagogue which we join....and this Control is NOT influenced by God, because we do not trust Him or follow His instructions!  

As I write this challenge, I can hear the cries of protest that you are making!

Please accept that I know how you are trying to trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, as in Proverbs 3.5.  I am trying to as well! We ALL want to agree with the Psalmist that whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You....I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:3,11. 

BUT...the evidence in our lives is that we are not trusting in the LORD in the way that He intends ....because we cannot seem to walk out of our 'prison' of guilt, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, fear, and stress.

How, then, does He explain to us what we should do?  To begin with, we need to understand that all our failures listed in the questions above are examples of our 'sins', our dysfunctions.

'Sin' is not confined to acts like murder, theft, lying, or adultery. The Hebrew word translated 'sin' in the Bible means 'missing the mark' as in shooting an arrow at a target.  The aim is to hit the mark, and the 'mark' and target is the standard set out by God in His instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The Torah, the Law of Moses, is the blueprint for functional, healthy life that He intends us to experience with Him, AND with our fellow human beings, AND with our selves.

The Law of Moses given by God on Mount Sinai is the same as the 'Law of Christ' in the Gospels. When Jesus, Who was and is God Himself, incarnate and made manifest to Man, said 'Keep My Commandments', He was referring to the Law of Moses. 

So....what actions must we take to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling as we step out of our prison of slavery to guilt, fear, bitterness, resentment, and anxiety?   

Step 1 is to forgive, and we must:

1. Forgive ALL those who have wronged us intentionally or unintentionally, in thought, word, or deed, including our parents, siblings, spouses, friends, acqaintances, enemies, and ancestors, as in Matthew 6: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. For if we forgive men their sins against us, our heavenly Father will also forgive us.


2. Forgive ourselves for our dysfunctional, sinful failures of guilt, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, stress, envy, and fear.  If God will also forgive us, should we also forgive ourselves? Of course we should....but we find it so difficult.

3. Forgive God for allowing all our troubles to come upon us, summarised in Psalm 88:
LORD, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?... I suffer Your terrors; ...  Your fierce wrath has gone over me; Your terrors have cut me off.... Loved one and friend You have put far from me ..

If you agree with these 3 points, you might like to say the following prayer:  

LORD Jesus, I believe that Your Crucifixion redeemed me from the power of sin so that I may be forgiven, and I believe that Your Resurrection destroyed death so that I may receive Eternal Life. 

I now renounce all pride, all rebellion, all religious self righteousness. I submit myself to You, Jesus, as my LORD. You are the LORD of my mind, my will, my body, my feelings, my emotions, my thoughts, my spirit, my soul, and ALL my relationships, particularly my relationship with You. 

I confess before You all my sins of fear, guilt, anxiety, stress, worry, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, holding nothing back.  

By a decision of my will I forgive unreservedly, all those who have ever sinned aginst me intentionally or unintentionally, in thought word, or deed. I include all my ancestors, for the sins which they committed that have affected me and my life. I also forgive myself for the all that I have done out of my own will and rebellion, that has separated me from You. 

I now turn from all fear, guilt, anxiety, stress, worry, bitterness, and resentment....and I turn to You, LORD, for mercy and forgiveness. I believe that because I confess my sins, 'You are faithful anf just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness'.

I now receive Your forgiveness for all my sins and dysfunctional behaviour, that have separated me from You, and that have prevented me from receiving the benefits of Your Salvation in my life.

'To You, O LORD. I lift up my soul. My God, I trust in You. Remember, O LORD, Your tender compassion and Your mercy. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my youthful rebellion. According to Your mercy, remember me for good. O LORD, for Your Name's sake, forgive my guilt, fear, anxiety, stress, worry, bitterness, resentment, and unforgivenes. Turn Your face, the wholenesss of Your Being, towards me, and have mercy upon me. Guard, protect, and keep my soul; rescue me, for I put my trust in You.'

Accept this prayer of mine, O LORD, from a willing heart.  Amen.

This prayer is Step 1 in 'working out our Salvation with fear and trembling'.....and the beginning of the walk out of our prison. 

May I pray for you that God will give you His gift of freedom in His Salvation, and that He will guard you with a hedge of protection. 
I pray that He will illuminate the wholeness of His Being towards you bringing order, and that He will provide you with love, sustenance, and friendship. 
I pray that He will lift up the wholeness of His Being and look you, individually, and that He will set in place all that you need to be whole and complete.  Amen.

Until next week....and Step 2...










 



 



Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Why bother to 'work out Salvation'?




In last week's Blog I asked the question, 'Are you 'saved'?'  

I believe, and am certain, that you and I are 'saved' from the 'trouble' that we might be in at The Great White Throne Judgment....and you and I should believe and be certain that we are 'saved' from The Second Death.


You and I can be confident and secure that we have been 'saved' from Hell and the perpetual damnation of The Second Death.   When you and I came to Jesus, and trusted in His sacrifice for us, individually, at His Crucifixion, we received His Salvation, and the forgiveness of our sin.  

Therefore, you and I are 'saved'  from Hell for Heaven, 'saved' from The Second Death for Eternal Life with God.

Does this clear, unarguable, certain, Biblical fact make any difference to the way you and I behave?  Should it make any difference to the way we behave, given that we have secured our places in Heaven already?  

The evidence of the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels suggests that He devoted most of His time to explaining how you and I should behave.  

Jesus highlighted he battleground of His conflict with the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self–indulgence.... For you outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Paul's subsequent conflict with the same Scribes and Pharisees was about how we behave. This is what Paul meant when he wrote to the new believers in Philippians 2.12: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.   

Perhaps it is time to be blunt and admit that the root of the conflict about how we behave is Control. The Control of our behaviour is influenced by our personal selves AND by the society in which we reside, AND by the Church or Synagogue which we join:  

1. Personal.
Who is in control of my behaviour?   
I am.  I decide when I want to be angry, kind, deceitful, manipulative, or self sacrificing.

Who can tell me that I cannot behave as I want?  
Noone.  If anyone risks criticism of my behaviour I defend my right to behave as I want.

2. Society.
Who controls my behaviour towards other people? 
The laws and customs of the society in which we reside claim to control the limits of my behaviour towards others.  
BUT...the way in which these limits are contolled is that, in reality, there are NO limits.

For example: 
I can lie, manipulate, and deceive anyone.....and to do so successfully is regarderd as praiseworthy.
I can, and it is recommended that I should, have any form of sexual activity with anyone, male or female.
I can, and should, aspire to riches and celebrity status, because to do so will give me influence and power over others.
I have the 'right' to behave in whatever way that is disruptive to others, and damaging to myself and others. In addition, my 'right' to do so must be defended in court.
I cannot, and must not, criticise anyone for their disruptive and damaging behaviour to others. If I challenge their 'rights' I must be punished.

This system of Control that Society has developed is maintained on the basis that it is the will of the majority.  It is considered that the high point of human development in Society is that the democratic will is the arbiter and controller of our individual and corporate behaviour.

What is more....this Democracy is so advanced and beneficial for Society, that it must be imposed on any country that has a different system.

As a result of this attitude, Western, democratic, countries have sought either to influence or to impose democracy on Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and a variety of other dictatorships.  These attempts have been failures!  

3. Church and Synagogue. 
Who controls my behaviour in the Church or Synagogue?
The answer to this question is supposed to be God. Tragically, that is NOT the answer. 
God does NOT control, influence, or limit my behaviour as a member of the Church or Synagogue. 

This is the real situation whether:
The Church is Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Free Fellowship, or ....?? 
The Synagogue is Hasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, reform, Liberal, or....??

The evidence that God is NOT in control of either Church or Synagogue is abundantly clear from the various power and control battles that are raging:

 In the Church:  
The battle between the sexes over who can be a priest or bishop who controls congregations.
The battle over who can control, limit, or de-limit sexual behaviour.
The battle over who controls, and how to use the Church's money, assets, and property.
The battle over who controls and decrees what Jesus taught.
The battle over who Jesus was, and is. 

In the Synagogue:  
The battle over the minutiae of the 'fence' of extra laws added to the Torah given to Moses.  
The battle over the relevance of Torah.
The battle over who Messiah is.
The battle of assimilation, integration, and/or separation of Jewish and Gentile society.

ALL the battles in Church and Synagogue are about CONTROL.  There is really no difference between Society and the Church or Synagogue. Each one tries to impose control on the individual. 

What was the conflict about in the Gospels and in Paul's Letters?  It was about who should be in control....in Society, Church, and Synagogue.

The answer is that Jesus and Paul taught that GOD should be in control....because His control, limits, influence, and instruction are the ONLY way to peace, health, happiness, and wholeness....individually and in society.  

When you and I came to Jesus, and trusted in His sacrifice for us, individually, at His Crucifixion, we received His Salvation, and the forgiveness of our sin.  Having received His Salvation....we must then work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.    

How do we do this, in practical, real ways?  The answer is to hand over, give up, and reject our own, and the Church's democratic control over our lives and behaviour, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His Commandments.

Why does Paul suggest that working out our own salvation will mean that we do it in fear and trembling?    

Try keeping the Sabbath.....rather than Sunday.

Try not eating blood or anything unclean....like pork, ham, bacon, sausages, prawns, or shrimps.

Try keeping the Biblical Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles rather than Easter and Christmas....  

and see what reaction you receive from your Roman Catholic or Anglican priest, your Methodist minister, your Baptist or Free Fellowship pastor.
Then you will understand why Paul wrote in fear and trembling...!!! 

But, you may ask:
Is it necessary to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?  
Why should we risk being accused of rebellion by priests and pastors?
Why should we antagonise, threaten, and potentially lose our friends in the Church?
What are the benefits of such a dramatic change of behaviour and lifestyle?
Why did Jesus and Paul teach such a change in behaviour?

These are genuine and legimate questions.  

Until next week, when we shall see that the answers that Jesus gives should persuade us to act....

    



Thursday, 17 January 2013

Are you saved....??


In last week's Blog I outlined some of the Biblical references which give a hint of what Eternal Life will be like, as an experience. But perhaps it would be good, helpful, and important, to check whether we are 'saved'....or not.....

There are at least 3 questions that need an answer:

1. Were the following representative 20 great characters in the Old Testament 'saved'?: 
Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, Joseph, Joshua, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

2. What does the Hebrew word translated 'salvation' in the Old Testament mean?

3.  Do you have to, and need to, believe in, and trust in, the finished work of Jesus at His Crucifixion and Resurrection.....in order to receive 'salvation', and to be 'saved'?

Let's take the 3 questions one at a time:

1. Were the following representative 20 great characters in the Old Testament 'saved'

YES....without any doubt! The Psalmist is clear that when God restores His relationship with Man through Man's request for the forgiveness of sin....he shall be saved!
Psalm 80:3  Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!

Solomon is similarly clear:
Proverbs 28:18  Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

David confirms that he has received the shield of Your salvation in Psalm 18, and in Psalm 35:
:
Psalm 18:2,35,46  The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.... You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. ...The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.

Psalm 35:9  My soul shall be joyful in the LORD; it shall rejoice in His salvation.

In addition, following the death of his child conceived in his adultery with Bathsheba, David prays:
Psalm 51:12  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 

Again, the Psalmist prays that 'Your salvation may be known among the nations':
Psalm 67:2  That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.


2. What does the Hebrew word translated 'salvation' in the Old Testament mean?

The Hebrew word translated 'salvation' is 'yeshuah', and it means 'a deliverance or freedom from a trouble'.  There are 2 important points to note:

1. Is there a connection between 'yeshuah' and the Hebrew name of Jesus, which is Yeshua?  Of course there is, and we shall see why shortly.

2. The 'trouble' that one is 'saved' or delivered from is the ultimate penalty for sin, which is The Second Death, as the Prophet Ezekiel, and Paul note:

Ezekiel 18:20  The soul who sins shall die. 
Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death...

We have already noted that The Great White Throne Judgment, The Last Judgment, is the event when God delivers His punishment, The Second Death, to those that Ezekiel and Paul refer to. 

However, to be punished with The Second Death is likely to be suffered only by those who have lived lives of consistent, unending, persistent, unvarying, unfailing, and undeviating evil and wickedness.  Have I made the point clearly enough?  I hope so!!


3.  Do you have to, and need to, believe in, and trust in, the finished work of Jesus at His Crucifixion and Resurrection.....in order to receive 'salvation', and to be 'saved'?

In the answer to question 1. I quoted from Psalm 67.2  that 'Your salvation may be known among the nations'.  

One of the aims and achievements of Jesus at His Crucifixion and Resurrection, was to make available to ALL peoples of the world the chance and possibility of atonement with God, with the forgiveness of sin:
1John 2:2   He Himself is the atonement for our sins, and not for ours only (the Jews) but also for the whole world.

Before His Crucifixion and Resurrection, 'salvation' was available to those who journeyed to Jerusalem and offered an animal, substitutionary, sacrifice for their sin in the process of the sacrificial system in The Temple, or earlier in The Tabernacle.  This 'salvation' was received by all those in the Old Testament who offered their sacrifice....including ALL those 20 great characters!!

This was the ONLY way in which a person could receive 'salvation', and forgiveness of sin, before His Crucifixion and Resurrection.  If a person lived in Britain, Gaul (France), Russia, or China before Jesus, the ONLY way to receive 'salvation' was to get on a donkey, or a camel, or walk to Jerusalem.

AFTER His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the subsequent destruction of the Temple in 70AD/CE, 'salvation' and the forgiveness of sin became available to ALL people in the world, but ONLY on the basis of trust and commitment to the price that He paid at His Crucifixion.

That price was the price of His Life Blood which paid for the Redemption of ALL Mankind.  

So....ALL mankind is redeemed.  The problem for ALL mankind, then, is to accept or to refuse His 'salvation', which became a possibility as a result of His Redemption.

It is as if ALL Mankind was in a locked prison cell. His Redemptive act, at His Crucifixion, unlocked the prison door, and threw away/destroyed the key, so that the door can never be locked again.

The next step for Mankind, individually, is to accept His 'salvation' by trusting in His Redemptive act....and to walk out of the unlocked prison cell.   Tragically....the vast majority of Mankind remains in the prison cell, despite the fact that the door is unlocked.

So.....are you 'saved'??   I believe, and am certain, that you are 'saved' from the 'trouble' that you might be in at The Great White Throne Judgment....and you should believe and be certain that you are 'saved' from The Second Death.

BUT....have you received His Salvation, and the forgiveness of your sin, which enables you 'to walk as He walked', and to press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus at the First Resurrection....so that you can have a thousand year preview experience of ultimate Eternal Life.....!!

Until next week....when I will attempt to explain what Paul means when he writes in Philippians 2.12: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling......
  














Thursday, 10 January 2013

What is 'Eternal Life'?


Over the last 9 Blogs I have tried to make Biblical sense of The Second Coming of Jesus, our Messiah, and to put the course of the various events into the correct sequence.  Now we come to the end bit....Eternal Life.   

What is Eternal Life?....
Is Eternal Life going to be enjoyable, rewarding, interesting, and fulfilling?....
Or is Eternal Life going to be an unending experience of singing Psalms and praising the LORD, together with the Heavenly Host of Angels?.....

Perhaps we might start to answer these questions by referring to Paul's comments in 1 and 2 Corinthians, and John's comment in 1John: 

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at The Last Trumpet. For The Trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'  1Corinthians 15.51-54

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 2Corinthians 5.2-4

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1John 3:2 

We can extrapolate from these three passages that:

1. Our physical bodies and our souls, our being, will no longer decline into old age and gradually cease to work as when we were young....summarised by this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

2. We shall no longer exercise our rebellion against the LORD, and our irresistable desire to do our own thing....summarised by we shall not be found naked as Adam and Eve were in Genesis 3.21-23:

Adam said, 'I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.' And the LORD God said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?'
  
Therefore, we can note from this passage that we shall return physically, emotionally, and spiritually to the state of incorruption and immortality in which Adam and Eve were before their rebellion and Fall.

3. Thirdly, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Luke 24.40-43 describes how Jesus, in His resurrected Body, was clearly recognisable, could talk, and could eat as He had done before His Resurrection. His sudden appearance amongst the disciples indicates that He could travel without the restrictions of space and time:
He showed them His hands and His feet.But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, 'Have you any food here?'. So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence. 

Our newly resurrected, incorruptible, immortal bodies will be able to do the same....be recognisable to our friends and relations, talk, and eat as we used to do....and have the added advantage of travel unrestricted by space and time....now you see me, now you don't! 

There is an early preview of this experience in Acts 8.26-40, after Philip met the eunuch: 
An angel of the LORD spoke to Philip, saying, 'Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.'....and a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians,...was returning. ... So Philip ran to him, and ...Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the LORD caught Philip away, ...But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea. 

Geograhically Azotus, modern day Ashdod, is some 23 miles north east of Gaza...so the Spirit of the LORD caught Philip away and saved Philip from making the day and a half's walk from the Jerusalem to Gaza road to Azotus!! 

The 3 explanatory points describe what Adam and Eve were like, and could do, before the Fall....and what God had intended for Man 'in the beginning' of His relationship with Man.  

The purpose of God's plan and His gift of incorruption, immortality, and unrestricted use of space and time, was so that He, the LORD God, could 'dwell with Man', as He set out in Exodus 25.8, 29.45, and Zechariah 2.10, and which He will fulfill in Revelation 21.3:

Exodus 25.8  Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
Exodus 29:45  I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God.
Zechariah 2:10  'For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,' says the LORD.
Revelation 21:3  I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, The Tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.'

The Psalmist seems enthused about the prospect!:
Psalm 27:4  One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the House of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His Temple.
Psalm 84:10  A day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Psalm 16:9-11  My heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Paul, like us, has a problem understanding the details of what it means to experience the 'face to face' relationship with the LORD:
1Corinthians 13:12  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 

Whatever the details are, the experience is going to be great, as described in Revelation 7 and 22:
Revelation 7:14-17  The ones who come out of The Great Tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb...are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His Temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Revelation 22:5  There shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the LORD God gives them light. 

It seems, therefore, that Eternal Life is NOT just going to be an unending experience of singing Psalms and praising the LORD, together with the Heavenly Host of Angels.....it is going to be much more than that, although, for the moment, we see in a mirror, dimly!

Enjoy the prospect...and press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.....so that you can have a thousand year preview experience of ultimate Eternal Life!!

Until next week....  



Friday, 4 January 2013

The 'Second Death'



In last week's Blog I wrote that the preaching of 'Hell and damnation' for all those who do not accept Jesus is Scripturally wrong, theologically incorrect, and displays a tragic lack of underestanding of Who God is, and what His plan for Man is. The reality of The Great White Throne Judgment will be that God will condemn very few to 'The Second Death'. 

So....what is 'The Second Death' , and what are the qualifications to be condemned to it?  

3 references in Revelation 20 and 21 give us some explanations....but also some serious difficulties:

Revelation 20:6  Blessed and holy is he who has part in The First Resurrection. Over such The Second Death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Revelation 20.14  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is The Second Death.
 And anyone not found written in The Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
 

 From these 2 verses the qualifications to avoid The Second Death are:

1. To be included in The First Resurrection....for which we have already read that we need to be a believer in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus our Messiah together with keeping His Commandments. 

2. To be found written in The Book of Life, which we have also read that we need to pass the Judgment of God at The Great White Throne Judgment on the basis that we have behaved, and lived a life, in accordance with the standards of God's Torah.  That is to say, a life, attitude, and behaviour governed by mercy and compassion to our fellow humans, rather than a life of unremitting and consistent evil and hatred towards them. 
To pass the Judgment of God at The Great White Throne Judgment is possible even though we have never heard of God, Jesus, Messiah, or His Commandments in His Torah, that He gave to Moses at Mount Sinai. 
For those many millions of people in history who had never heard of God or Jesus, to be judged on any other basis than against the standard of His Torah, would be unjust, inequitable, and totally against the character of God.

From these 2 verses it seems that very few will be condemned to The Second Death. However, Revelation 21.8 presents a problem:

Revelation 21.8  ...but the cowardly, unbelieving, unjust, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is The Second Death. 

This is the verse on which the 'Hell fire and damnation' preachers base their sermons of fear, guilt, and condemnation. I suspect that the key to this verse is the phrase 'shall have their part'. 
This phrase means that those listed in the verse have the potential to be condemned to The Second Death....and NOT that those listed will all, automatically, be condemned.

'The Second Death’ is a final death, in contrast to the first death, which came as a result of Adam’s Fall, and which was destroyed by Jesus at His Resurrection.

Jesus explains in the Parables of the Dragnet and the Wheat and Tares what will happen at The Second Death, following The Great White Throne Judgment:

Matthew 13.47-50: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind. When it was full, they drew to shore; and they gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away...So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire, (The Second Death). There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.  


Matthew 13.24-30:  The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.  So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ He said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them (The Second Death), but gather the wheat into my barn (Eternal Life).’  


Both these Parables suggest further ammunition for the 'Hell fire and damantion' preachers. However...all is not lost! God's plan is 'to dwell with Man'....NOT to condemn as many as possible to The Second Death.  The clue to what He will do is in the Word Association between 'tares', zonin, and 'harlot', zanah: 
The Hebrew word for tares is ‘zonin’, which was a degenerate form of wheat that looked the same as wheat but produced no fruit.   Whenever Israel turned away from God they are described by a related word, ‘zanah’, which means a harlot, because a harlot degenerates and corrupts the creative act:

You have played the harlot against your God.  
Hosea 9.1
The tares can only be separated at harvest because they look the same but produce no fruit.   Who are the tares? Jesus explains: 

 
Matthew 13.36-43 His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the Parable of the tares of the field.’  He answered and said to them:
‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, Messiah. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the Kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.  The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.  Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire (The Second Death), so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, (reject Torah,) and will cast them into the furnace of fire, (The Second Death).
 

So, from this explanation, ALL those who practice lawlessness, (reject Torah,) will be cast them into the furnace of fire, (The Second Death).  BUT what about all those who had never heard of His Torah?

The answer to the apparent blanket condemnation is that:
1.  There is a vital difference between the potential and the automatic condemnation of The Second Death. 
2. It is also vital to remember that the 'prize' of the Bible is The First Resurrection, and to be priests of God and of Christ, and to reign with Him a thousand years.   

The condemnation of The Second Death is for those who:
1. Have missed out on the main 'prize' of the Bible, and
2. Who have lived their lives with an attitude of unremitting and consistent evil, wickedness, and have lacked any vestige of mercy and compassion. 

Remember also, that even though Israel behaved most of the time as a harlot against God, God never abandoned or rejected Israel permanently.  He always left room for Israel to return to Him.  

Thank the LORD that He does the same with the cowardly, unbelieving, unjust, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars......and with you and me!!

Finally, don't worry about, or take any notice of, any 'Hell fire and damnation' preaching.  You will NEVER be condemned to The Second Death.  

Rather,  as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:14, press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Until next week....and 'Eternal Life'...