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The Shaft to the Abyss

Half of the Gospel of John is devoted to the events of Passion Week: Jesus’ final week on earth. In the passage below, Jesus drops a hint about Good Friday and Easter Sunday. A first century doctor either interviewed Jesus following his resurrection or had a vision of Jesus’ trip to Hades, Acts 2:31. Paul devotes 1 Corinthians 15 to explaining the significance of Jesus conquering death via his resurrection.

In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places (homes). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I am going away to prepare a place for you. And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way, John 14:2-4.

Jesus doesn’t explain how He was able to visit the Abyss which John uses to describe hell. Yet, during one vision, John sees a shaft open up momentarily to unveil this bottomless pit. As soon as the fifth angel in heaven blew his trumpet, the shaft to the Abyss opened to reveal a glimpse of hell. Out of this shaft came a plume of smoke like a modern-day industrial plant polluting the sky above.

Then the fifth angel blew [his] trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth; and to the angel was given the key [a]of the shaft of the Abyss (the bottomless pit). He opened the [b]long shaft of the Abyss (the bottomless pit), and smoke like the smoke of a huge furnace puffed out of the [c]long shaft, so that the sun and the atmosphere were darkened by the smoke from the long shaft, Revelation 9:1-2.

Hell is one of those topics which rarely comes up at a funeral. To avoid depressing family and friends, heaven is brought up to bring comfort to those in audience. Yet, when you consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13-14, few people follow the less traveled road. Therefore, may this blog cause you to consider the shaft of the Abyss. May the fear of death scare people straight toward eternal life.

by Jay Mankus

An Eagle’s Perspective on Life

As someone who grew up 30 minutes from South Philadelphia, whenever an eagle is brought up, I immediately think of the National Football League franchise “the Philadelphia Eagles.” Meanwhile, the bald eagle became the iconic emblem of the United States on June 20th, 1782. While the eagle represents freedom in America, the Bible provides an eagle’s perspective on life.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; 31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired, Isaiah 40:30-31.

Prior to the invention of drones, eagles would provide a bird’s eye of the earth. One Old Testament prophet compares the Lord to a mature eagle. Although young Christians become exhausted, tired and weak, the power of the Holy Spirit will rise you up by renewing your strength. The above passage serves as a promise from God whenever you feel like you don’t have the energy to take another step in life.

Then I [looked and I] saw a solitary eagle flying in midheaven, and as it flew I heard it crying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the rest of the trumpet blasts which the three angels are about to sound! – Revelation 8:13

Yet, the title of today’s blog comes from a vision from John the Revelator. Following the 4th of seven tribulations in the book of Revelation, John sees an eagle flying solo. After scanning the devastation from the first 4 tribulations, this eagle cries out in a loud voice. Like a news video after a natural disaster, this eagle’s perspective on life serves as a cautionary tale of the troubling times ahead in the end of days.

by Jay Mankus

It’s as Hot as Hell Out There

In my first summer as a South Carolina resident, I have endured a drought in June and severe thunderstorms in July. However, as August is about to begin, temperatures are expected to reach triple digits. When you add in the extreme humidity, some may suggest “it’s as hot as hell outside.” This idiom comes from an ancient proverb comparing the Bible’s description of hell with hot summer days.

Then He will say to those at His left hand, Begone from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! – Matthew 25:41

One chapter in the Gospels is devoted to what heaven will be like, Matthew 25. Yet, on the other side of heaven is hell. Jesus describes hell as a place of eternal punishment for those who were kicked out of heaven, Isaiah 14:12. This cursed destination is unlike any summer heatwave on earth. Like an active volcano, there is a river of fire which is filled with brimstone and Sulphur.

Then the fifth angel blew [his] trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth; and to the angel was given the key [a]of the shaft of the Abyss (the bottomless pit). He opened the [b]long shaft of the Abyss (the bottomless pit), and smoke like the smoke of a huge furnace puffed out of the [c]long shaft, so that the sun and the atmosphere were darkened by the smoke from the long shaft, Revelation 9:1-2.

One of Jesus’ former disciples has a vision of what hell will be like. While looking through a shaft, John sees a bottomless pit. Based upon the description in the passage above, hell is like working in an old coal mine except you can’t leave. As for now, heatwaves will continue until September. While it’s never a pleasant experience to be drenched in sweat, make the best of summer until the cool winds of fall arrive.

by Jay Mankus

Staying Optimistic While Living in a Woke Culture

As I try to keep up to date with current events, I often find myself shaking my head pondering, “how did we get here?” Gender identity, pronouns and progressive ideology have replaced traditional Judeo-Christian values as the social norm. Since watching cable news makes me depressed, I’m trying to stay optimistic while living in a woke culture.

For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions, 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

The apostle Paul provided similar advice to a teenage pastor in the first century. Paul was trying to prepare this spiritual leader for potential scenarios that might pop up from time to time. Whether through a vision of the future or divine insight, Paul warns of a time when human nature will influence society. When people wander away from the truth, the climate for a woke culture is made possible.

As for you, be calm and cool and steady, accept and suffer unflinchingly every hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully perform all the duties of your ministry, 2 Timothy 4:5.

When you combine the passage above with Philippians 4:8-9, the best advice is to stay positive. Rather than react immediately to calls for you to be cancelled, stay calm, cool and collective. Additionally, take on the mindset of Jesus’ disciples, 1 Peter 3:17. As Christians mature by becoming willing to suffer for doing what’s right and true, you’ll stay optimistic while living in a woke culture.

by Jay Mankus

A Bad Day for Lawn Care

When I lost my teaching position more than a decade ago, friends from church offered me a position for a season. From March to October, I served as an assistant superintendent at the Middletown Veterinarian Hospital and Horse Farm. In other words, I cut grass, weed wacked and provided daily maintenance for two different properties. Similar to my college internship instead of working on a golf course.

The [a]grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever, Isaiah 40:8.

One of the first to comment on lawn care in the Bible is an Old Testament prophet. Isaiah speaks of the seasonal aspect of grass. At some point in a year, grass will wither, and flowers fade. From my own experience working for a local land and hard scaping company, winter months are often spent doing snow removal to help pay for monthly bills like insurance.

The first angel blew [his] trumpet, and there was a storm of hail and fire mingled with blood cast upon the earth. And a third part of the earth was burned up and a third of the trees was burned up and all the green grass was burned up, Revelation 8:7.

Whenever I read the Bible, I usually learn something new daily. Earlier this week, I continued my study of the final book in the Bible. According to John, there will be a great hailstorm mixed with fire in the last days. John’s vision includes the aftermath of this storm. When the dust settles, all of the green grass on earth will be burned up. This will be a bad day for the lawn care, signaling the end of this business.

by Jay Mankus

Black and Blue

Like any good movie, an audience will speculate in their minds how this story is going to end. Such is the case of Jesus who was sitting on the Mount of Olives when his disciples privately approached. Following a prophetic message about future events, the disciples wanted to know about what signs they should be carefully watching for or expecting. The remainder of Matthew 24 is a glimpse of future events.

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in place after place; All this is but the beginning [the early pains] of the [c]birth pangs [of the [d]intolerable anguish], Matthew 24:6-8.

While on the Island of Patmos, one of the oldest disciples receives another vision of the future in the passage below. One current event to closely watch for is a rise in deaths throughout the world. According to a 2017 study, on any given day, nearly 100,000 people die of natural causes across the globe. According to John, when death rates increase due to murder, famine, plagues like the Coronavirus, and animal attacks, the arrival of the 4th seal in the Book of Revelation is at hand.

So I looked, and behold, an ashy pale horse [[a]black and blue as if made so by bruising], and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades (the realm of the dead) followed him closely. And they were given authority and power over a fourth part of the earth to kill with the sword and with famine and with plague (pestilence, disease) and with wild beasts of the earth, Revelation 6:8.

Black and blue is often associated with bruising that occurs after an accident, fall or contact with another object. Due to the regeneration process, young people tend to heal quicker as bruises vanish over a short period of time. Yet, the older human beings get, bruises may not go over, sticking around for months. According to John, this black and blue colored horse is symbolic of death. When unnatural death rates increase dramatically, this future period of time could mark the beginning of the 4th seal in Revelation.

by Jay Mankus

Hear, Listen, and Heed God’s Voice

Depending upon how well you sleep the night before and how you’re feeling when you get up, your mental alertness varies. If you wake up in a fog, you’ll overlook the obvious signs of God’s presence. Meanwhile, your ability to hear will be impaired until your body fully wakes up. On the other hand, if you’re well rested and possess a sound mind, hearing, listening and heeding God’s voice is possible.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

Anyone who has ever battled depression for an extended period of time, turns their attention to within. This fragile state of mind causes me to block out what’s going on around me. My main concern is dwelling on my pathetic state, seeking a pity party from others I come in contact with. Subsequently, you may end up like Elijah who isn’t hungry and would rather sleep, hoping his situation improves in the morning.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:20.

According to a vision received by John, God will try to get your attention. John uses the analogy of God knocking on a door, perhaps the door to your heart. If you’re sober, you’ll have a better chance of listening, seeing, and sensing the presence of God. Yet, John suggests hearing and listening is just step 1 and step 2 of this process. The final call is heeding the advice God gives you. Ready, set and engage God.

by Jay Mankus

Sorting Out the Details

Whenever you plan a weekend getaway or vacation, one member of your family has to sort out all the details. If you’re flying, what’s the best day and time to get the cheapest deal? Where are you going to stay and how close is this to the main attractions? During one trip early in my marriage, I forgot about all the Nascar fans in town for the race at the Monster Mile in Dover. My oversight made it impossible to find a hotel on our way back, ending up in a dive in the middle of nowhere.

If you know (perceive and are sure) that He [Christ] is [absolutely] righteous [conforming to the Father’s will in purpose, thought, and action], you may also know (be sure) that everyone who does righteously [and is therefore in like manner conformed to the divine will] is born (begotten) of Him [[r]God], 1 John 2:29.

One of Jesus’ disciples writes about sorting out all the necessary spiritual details to conform to God’s will for your life. The apostle Paul starts this process by developing the right mindset in Romans 12:1-2. While reaching out to a teenager pastor in the first century, Paul encourages this spiritual leader to daily apply his gifts and talents, 2 Timothy 1:6-7. As Christians begin to ascertain their spiritual gifts and adopt the mind of Christ, sorting out God’s will for your life begins to fall into place.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

However, sorting out all the details of conforming to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action will vary for each Christian. Some who come to a personal faith in Jesus late in life often have a clear vision of God’s calling. Young followers may have to explore for a couple of years or a decade, going through their own prodigal experience. Or if you’re like me you have to reinvent yourself at a stage in life to transition into a new job or calling. Whatever steps God takes you through, remember that success is the process of arriving until the Lord calls you home.

by Jay Mankus

Purpose, Thought and Action

There is a theme that one of Jesus’ disciples weaves through a few of his first century letters. The first reference of purpose, thought, and action appears in the passage below. A similar statement is made at the beginning of 1 John 2. The point that John is attempting to make is that confirming to God’s will requires a 3 part process: purpose, thoughts, and actions. This reveals your true allegiance.

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action], 1 John 1:9.

Purpose is the reason for which something is created or done. From my own personal experiences, having purpose is similar to vision. If you know what you want to do and where you want to go, purpose serves as a compass to guide and direct your life. However, when you lack knowledge, purpose, and vision, you’ll go through life aimlessly, without a clear sense of direction, Hosea 4:6.

My little children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father—[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action], 1 John 2:1.

Thought and actions tend to go hand in hand. When a thought is conceived within your mind, you’ll like act upon this sooner or later, James 1:14-15. Those who develop a purpose drive life as described in Rick Warren’s book, thoughts and actions will follow. However, the key is not simply listening to the Bible. The ultimate goal is to become doers of God’s Word, Matthew 7:24. Jesus gives Christians a purpose, the Bible plants thoughts into our minds and the Holy Spirit prompts believers to take action, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Praying for Blessings, Happiness and Protection

In my lifetime, more than 100 artists have written songs with pray, prayer or praying in the title. This includes secular artists like Praying by Kesha, You Got To Pray by M.C. Hammer and Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi. Regardless of your religious upbringing, when people get desperate, prayer is a natural response to someone in need. One of Jesus’ disciples suggests that prayer leads to blessings, happiness and protection.

Never return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating), but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection, and truly pitying and loving them]. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing [from God—that you may obtain a blessing as heirs, bringing welfare and happiness and protection], 1 Peter 3:9.

A prayer is like a wish that pops into your mind. Sometimes a prayer can be a vivid vision of how you would like a situation in life to turn out. This may not be a Hollywood ending, but it’s an image of hope of how things could, might and should be if God gets behind the desires on your heart. Since story book endings are rare, prayers provide requests for change, progress and if possible a miracle. Yet, sometimes it’s the person who is praying who needs to change.

Then Satan answered the Lord, Does Job [reverently] fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have conferred prosperity and happiness upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land, Job 1:9-10.

The passage above comes from the first completed book in the Bible. Shortly after Lucifer is banished and kicked out of heaven, this spiritual being finds a place on earth as the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2. Following the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan needed to ask permission from God to tempt Christians. When the hedge of protection surrounding Job’s family is removed, hell is unleashed upon his life. Through all of the trials Job endured in life, he learned the importance of praying for blessings, happiness, and protection from evil.

by Jay Mankus

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