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Entries in Punishment (3)

Wednesday
Sep202017

The Judgment of the Nations II

We apologize that the audio is not available for this sermon.

Matthew 25:35-46.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 17, 2017.

Today we finish part two in this look at Jesus judging the nations after His Second Coming.  This is an event that is in the future, but towards which we are hurtling quickly.  The Bible is clear that Jesus will return after a devastating period called The Great Tribulation.  This period is at least 3.5 years long and some speak of it as 7 years.  During this time mankind chooses to put a tyrant in charge of the world that then uses religion and economics to control all peoples.  At The Second Coming of Jesus, this governmental system is destroyed, leaving only the surviving populace left.  This is who Jesus is judging in this passage.

Last week we saw how Jesus will come in a spectacular manner and as the King of all Kings.  He sets up a throne and will judge who gets to enter into the new kingdom.  His judgment is a matter of discerning who is righteous and who is not.  Regardless of whether or not a person survives to this point, the question is the same for every person in every generation.  When I am judged by God will He see me as righteous or wicked?  It is easy to say that He will see us as “basically good.”  Of course we all think that we should be accepted.  But will God think so?

The sheep on the right hand

We left off with verse 34 last time, and saw how Jesus was separating the sheep from the goats, or the righteous from the wicked.  Thus the sheep or righteous are put on his right hand.  They are basically told that they are blessed because they will get to enter into the Kingdom that Jesus is setting up.  In Revelation we see that this kingdom will last 1,000 years on this earth and thus it is often called the Millennial Kingdom.  Technically Jesus already is a king over a kingdom.  But that kingdom is from heaven and in the hearts of men.  This point in time represents a real and significant change in the administration of Jesus.

So how does he determine the good from the bad?  Interestingly enough, he says to the people on his right hand that it is their care for even the least of his brothers and sisters.  He gives a list of 5 situations in which they helped his family (hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, in prison).  They had fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned.  Even more than this, Jesus states that when they helped his family they were helping him.  It is interesting that the righteous are clueless to this dynamic.  So this is not a group of people who are trained in the Word of God.  I believe that most of these people refused to take the mark of the beast, but not necessarily because they believed in Christ.  They probably witness the hatred of the world against Christians and feel sorry for them.  In helping them they take a stand against the beast and with God’s people.  Jesus accepts this as having taken a stand with Him.

This begs the question.  Just who are the brethren of Jesus?  In Matthew 12:50 Jesus says, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”  At the time, his mom and brothers were trying to get into see him and take him home.  They thought that he was out of his mind.  When told that his mother and brothers were outside, Jesus counters with the recognition that his true brothers (family) are those who do the will of God.  The will of God is for all people everywhere to repent of their sins and believe on Jesus, a.k.a. To become true, born-again believers in Jesus, Christians.  Sometimes people try to interpret this as the Jewish people themselves.  Let me say that its proper meaning is those who follow Jesus.  However, the bible is also clear that The Great Tribulation is about God bringing the nation of Israel to a place of repentance and salvation from their enemies.  So there is room to recognize that God will hold people accountable for how they treated Christians and Jewish people who He is bringing to salvation.  We should always beware working against those whom God has pledged Himself to. 

Now the key to this passage is the close identification that Jesus makes with his family.  These people are being blessed because they identified with the family of Jesus in times of difficulty.  Jesus considers a good deed done for them as a good deed done to Him.  This does put a bit of a wrinkle in the mentality of those who say they like Jesus, but don’t care for His followers.  If you really like Jesus then you will recognize how closely He identifies with his followers and bless them when they need help rather than piling on with the rest of the world.  You don’t have to like them, but you do need to love them.  Why?  We need to do so because Jesus loves them so much that he inseparably identifies himself with them.  This is just as important among fellow believers.  How do we treat one another as the brothers and sisters of Christ, or even as the least of his brothers and sisters?  We cannot use the status of a person and their failings as an excuse not to love them.  Now let’s turn to the goats.

The goats on the left hand

Next we are told that the goats (wicked) are put on the left hand.  In verse 41 they are called cursed, and the implication is that they are cursed by the Father.  Their punishment is given in the command to depart from Jesus and go into the everlasting fire.  This is the fire that was originally created for the devil and his angels, but to which wicked men will go also.  It is clear that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, in this life.  Which will it be for you?  Sure you can deny it or theologize its existence away.  But the truth is that Jesus will judge us and give us our reward or punishment.  Which will your life warrant?

In parallel fashion, Jesus points out that the goats had not cared for his brothers and sisters.  In fact, this is probably putting it rather mildly.  The Tribulation period will involve one of the greatest persecutions of God’s people ever.  Those who do not pledge allegiance by taking the mark of the beast will be excluded from buying and selling, and also will be hunted down and put to death.  Whether these actively helped in this persecution, or passively allowed it to happen, they are held accountable.  Whatever good they had withheld from his family, He considers it withheld from Him.  Now, not to help people who are hungry, thirsty…etc. is an injustice on the face of it.  No person deserves to be abused for simply refusing to join a political system.  But again we notice that Jesus takes it personal.  Even believers should stand up and take notice of this.  Some believers have no problem talking about other Christians behind their back and saying all manner of things that they have no proof of.  Won’t Jesus consider it as if we did it to Him, if we are wrong?  We should love one another on its face value.  The other Christian has just as much right in God’s family as I do.  Even if I hold a position that is “above” them, it does not give me the right to be unloving towards them.  That said, we do live in an age where to hold someone accountable to the Word of God is considered unloving by some.  When we love each other, we truly love Christ.  When we correct each other we should do so with the humility of knowing that I will have to give account before Christ some day.  We must remember that we all bear the image of Christ.  When we love each other we love Christ in a very real way.  This is probably the key to understanding why Christians are not called to take over the world and fix it.  Our job is not to fix the world, but to offer it salvation.  In the middle of this, we also become a litmus test to those who interact with us and within each society.  Just as the treatment of Jesus proved Israel of the first century was worthy of judgment, so the world’s mistreatment of God’s people will prove its worthiness of judgment.  This is not a fun job, but it will allow us to become like Jesus, rather than becoming like the devil and his angels.

In conclusion, we need to see that faith in Jesus will lead to good works that God will accept.  Some people get hung up on the fact that there is no mention of faith.  However, this is like saying God isn’t in the book of Esther.  He isn’t named or blatantly acting like He did at Sinai, but He is there nonetheless.  So too, the people had to exercise faith in those actions of mercy they gave to God’s people.  Some will even say that these people aren’t being saved they are just being allowed to enter the Kingdom.  Yet, verse 46 says that these same people will enter into eternal life.  To have Jesus is to have eternal life.  1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life.”  Because they are mortal, they are in the same condition that Christians are in today.  Their initial faith led to actions worthy of repentance.  Rather than joining with antichrist against God’s people, they have stood with God’s people before mankind.  This faith has put them in relationship with Christ, which is to have eternal life.  However, they must continue in faith in Jesus in order to continue in eternal life.  They are not being saved by works, but rather being saved by faith that was alive enough to do works.

Also, we should note that in this passage the main point is about helping God’s people.  So does that mean it doesn’t matter if we help the lost or not?  Or, another might ask, “Shouldn’t we help unbelievers too?”  The short answer is of course we should.  But let me simply answer this by quoting Galatians 6:10.  “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Clearly we are instructed to do good to all.  Friend, don’t go another day without making your peace with Jesus, and taking your place among His family.  No they aren’t easy to love, but then neither are you.  We will have to become more like Jesus in order to accomplish such a tall order!

Wednesday
Sep132017

The Judgment of the Nations I

A great theme throughout the New Testament is the mercy and the grace of God that is offered to everyone who will put their faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  However, the reason it is such great grace and such immeasurable mercy is because it saves us from the judgments that are coming upon the earth at some point in the future.  The passage that we will look at this morning deals with this judgment that will happen when Jesus comes back to earth in order to set up his earthly kingdom.  Something we should keep in mind is the fact that by this time many “judgments” will have occurred already (as we see in the book of Revelation).  During the seven years leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus, God will send forth severe judgments on the earth.  Some of them involve the removal of His protection from our own actions.  The Beast Leader of Revelation will come forward and take control of the whole earth, bringing it under a mandatory economic system that involves allegiance to him.  He will have many people put to death.   Other judgments involve God actively doing things such as: allowing the spirit-beings to be released from the bottomless pit, earthquakes, and other environmental destruction.  We also see in Revelation 19 that the nations of the world will gather their armies together in the Middle East in order to fight against Christ and stop His coming.  We are told that these armies will be completely destroyed, and the beast and the false prophet will be captured and thrown alive into the Lake of Fire.  Thus we are given a scene of a conquering King who is judging those who are left among the nations, those who have survived the horrors of The Great Tribulation.

Takes place when the Son of Man comes

The phrase “Son of Man” was used a lot by Jesus referring to himself.  On one hand it is a title that emphasizes that someone is human, i.e. born of a human.  He wanted us to know that he truly was human.  This should not be seen as a contradiction of his also being the Son of God, i.e. divine.  On the other hand, this phrase is also a technical term for an individual that was revealed in Daniel 7:13-14.  It was revealed to Daniel that none of the empires of the earth would last.  Rather, God would give everlasting dominion and a kingdom that cannot be destroyed to a character called “The Son of Man.”  The Son of Man would be representative of the saints and share his kingdom with them.  Jesus clearly saw himself as this character and his apostles clearly taught this about him later.  This passage represents that point in the future when the Son of Man takes up this rule upon the earth.

We are told that the Son of Man would come in his glory.  The idea of coming in glory refers to both how it will appear to those who see it, but also to the particular stage of Christ’s activity.  The first coming was all about his humbling.  But the Second Coming will be all about his being glorified.  We should also connect this to Matthew 24:30.  There Jesus tells us that the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (similar descriptions are in Daniel 7:13-14).   This glorious appearing involves visibility to the whole earth with Jesus in the sky, accompanied by angels who are most likely visible as well.  Some would also say that resurrected believers will also accompany Jesus, but that is another sermon.  On top of all of this, in the book of Revelation the Apostle John sees Jesus in a way that makes clear that he is not the same as he was when he was a lowly teacher in Israel.  His glorified form is described in Revelation 1:13-16.

“13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  (NKJV)

He is not coming again to lay his life down for sinners.  He is coming to bring the judgment that has been warned against for millennia, and He will be in glorious form.

Part of his glory is to sit on the throne of his glory.  This is as opposed to sitting at the right hand of the Father’s throne where he is now (Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1).  His Second Coming takes place because the Father has determined the time is ready for Jesus to come back and begin his 1,000 year rule on this earth.  Christians are already a part of the kingdom of God.  But that kingdom is ruled from heaven and has a very spiritual nature to it.  At this point, the Kingdom of God will take on a more physical reality because Jesus and his place of rule will be a visible place here on earth.  It is important for Christians and the denominations, to which they belong, to avoid seeing their buildings and headquarters, or even each country, as synonymous with God’s kingdom.  No leader or city on this earth is to be confused with what this passage is talking about.  Jesus is the only king and until he comes back no earthly city has claim to the allegiance of Christians.

We are also told that part of taking his place upon the throne of his glory is to judge all the nations.  As I said earlier, it is the survivors of The Great Tribulation that are in view here.  Thus Christ takes time to remove all things that are wicked before He continues His kingdom.  The nations have already had their political aspect judged.  Here the individuals of the nations are brought before Christ and he gives a decision regarding their future.  It is amazing how many people and even Christians who do not understand that Jesus is the judge of all people.  But this is a cardinal teaching of the New Testament.  Jesus is the judge of the dead and the living.  He has been given this position by the Father.  Please remember that the key understanding of the word “judgment” is that of making a decision.  He is making a decision between what is good, or acceptable, versus that which is not good, or wicked.  This is pictured by a separation of sheep from goats.  Notice that though these are all people who may not have noticeable differences to us, Jesus is able to determine a spiritual difference between them.  Those who are classified as sheep are those who are putting their faith in God.  Those who are classified as goats are those who have not trusted in God, and His Anointed One Jesus.

This judgment will lead to an individual being rewarded because they are deemed righteous or punished because they are deemed wicked.  We are only going to look at the righteous today and will pick up the rest of the story next Sunday.  Notice that the sheep are told that they are blessed of the Father.  They are blessed because they get to experience and enter the kingdom of God.  This kingdom will not be ruled by the wicked politicians of this world, or even hypocritical religious leaders.  It will be ran by the perfect judge, Jesus Christ.  This will truly be a Utopian age in which wars will cease and the ability of mankind is enabled by the grace of God to become what He intended it to become.  The Bible says that people will live longer during this period of time and will not die from diseases and other maladies.  Revelation 20 gives some more information on this 1,000 year period.  Now it is important to recognize at this point that these people are still mortal.  However, there will also be a large host of glorified believers who have accompanied Jesus to earth along with the angels.  They are not emphasized in this passage, but we know they will assist Jesus as kings and priests in His administration.  So the Millennial Kingdom will have both resurrected humans (who cannot die) and mortal humans who can.  This mixed group will be like Noah and his family stepping off of the ark.  They were spared the destruction of God’s wrath and are blessed with the grace and peace of entering the new age.  Many people of this world believe they can bring about a new age that is full of peace and joy.  All attempts that do not look to Jesus to bring it about are doomed to failure, even if they are done by Christians.  We cannot make this happen.  But we can serve Christ faithfully as we wait for the day in which this will come to past.

We do not know when Christ will return.  We are simply told to continue to be faithful to what Christ has told us to do.  Our mission statement is that we exist to connect people to the Abundant Life found in Jesus.  We must make sure each day that we are drawing life from Jesus and following Him in all that we do or say.  We must make sure that we are taking our place in His family of believers and doing our part to encourage others.  We must make sure that we are having compassion on the lost and making them aware of Christ’s offer to join his people and enjoy the blessing of the Father.  Our reward is sure no matter how dire things may get on earth before then.

Judgment of the Nations audio

Wednesday
Jan142015

Ready For The Second Coming Of Jesus

Today we will be looking at Luke 12:35-48.

Leading up to this portion of Scripture, Jesus has been warning his disciples about the temptation to tie their hearts to the things of this world and miss out on the things of God.  In short they will not be ready for their personal judgment.  Here Jesus connects this to a time of Judgment that is still future; the [Second] Coming of the Son of Man.  As difficult as it was to accept, Jesus clearly taught in many places and times that he was going to leave his disciples behind and they would need to be faithful until he came back.  It was upon this coming back that he would judge the nations and give the authority of the nations unto his followers.  This idea of being ready for his coming is central to all that Jesus taught from the cross to his ascension.

Now it is easy for modern man and even modern theologians to state that Jesus and his disciples were just mistaken.  That is, Jesus taught and they thought that he was coming back in their life time.  First of all, let me point out that Jesus continually referred to a long delay that would tempt his followers to quit looking for his coming.  Also, second of all, if you had to put together important principles for people of the last 2,000 years, how would you go about it?  In other words, did the message, “Be ready for my coming,” have no meaning or affect upon previous generations?  It is clear from history that those believers who expected Christ to come back lived very different lives from those who created theological explanations as to why Jesus wasn’t literally coming back (i.e. they spiritualized the statement and treated it as a metaphor).  Even though we do not know the day nor hour of his coming, we are told even commanded to be ready.  So what does that look like?

Waiting Servants and The Lord’s Instructions

Jesus gives a parable (a true-to-life story that pictures spiritual truth) to help us understand what it means to be ready.  The parable is that of servants waiting for their master to come back from a wedding feast.  Now Jesus told several such parables and the emphases and particulars often change.  In some places we are the virgins awaiting the bridegroom to take us to the feast.  In others we are invited to the wedding by the Father of the bride.  Here we are the servants waiting for the master to come back from “the wedding” (we are not told whose and it seems to be irrelevant for the point Jesus is making).  Each of these different parables have their spiritual significance.  In fact in Revelation 19 we are told that a wedding feast for Christ and his bride is thrown right before Christ comes back to judge the nations.  So what is expected of these servants in this parable and how does that relate to us?  Let’s look at the instructions of Jesus.

First, they are to have their waists girded or tied up (like a belt).  In the culture of that day long robe type clothing was what they wore.  If one had work to do they would pull up the robe and tie it around their waist so that it would not slow them down and get in the way.  Thus, this is about being ready to work.  If you showed up on a muddy construction site in dress shoes and slacks, everyone knows you are not going to be any help in the labor that needs done.  So believers today can ready themselves for Christ’s coming by “being dressed for work” and all hindrances tied up or put aside.  This idea of being ready for service for this parable is a present readiness for service at his coming.  Yet Jesus and his apostles also challenged believers to be ready to do the work of the Father for everyday.  Jesus told his parents, “didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”  Also, in 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul tells the young minister Timothy, “Preach the Word!  Be ready in season and out of season….”  What does it mean to be ready in season and out of season?  It is a way of saying be always ready (in this case to proclaim the gospel and teachings of Christ).  Thus the believer has two layers of readiness.  We must tie up any activity of our life that might trip us up and hinder us from serving Christ; particularly sins of the flesh.  Instead of living life as “fully” as we can, the believer restrains themselves and looks to the Spirit of Christ for direction rather than to the Spirit of this Age of consumerism, materialism, and sensualism.  Are you ready for service every day?  Whether or not Jesus comes back today, it makes a huge difference in the life of a disciple if they are ready for service because the Holy Spirit will impact a lost world through such a person.

Next we are told to have our lights burning.  On one hand this part of the parable is about our ability to see.  Without light it is impossible to serve at night.  This is a dark world and yet, Christ has given us the light of Truth.  Like a light to a dark room, the Truth of Christ enables us to understand the “room” of this world and our life.  Yet, the light of God’s Word is not just to help us see so that we can choose what we want to do.  Rather, it helps us to see and it directs us in what we should be doing.  Thus the person who has their lights burning is a disciple that is living by God’s Truth and his instructions.  Now notice, a lamp can be lit or unlit.  God’s Word is light.  But if it is not believed and lived out by a person (the lamp) other humans will never see the light.  Thus a burning lamp requires being filled with oil (the Spirit of Christ), having our wicks trimmed (pruning off sin and its destructive effects), and the continual maintenance of that initial God-given spark of life.  Is your life readied for the return of your master?  Do you have your lamps burning or has the flame gone out?  Another parable (The 10 Virgins) warns us that if we don’t get our lamps working today, we will be caught unaware and unready.  We need to realize that our enemy the devil will seek to distract us from our proper service.  Once he has us distracted he will move quickly to extinguish our lamp.  We need to be the kind of waiting servants that are not just sleeping until the master returns.  Rather we are continually monitoring and preparing our life for his return.

This leads us to the third instruction: we are to be watching for his coming.  The life of a believer needs to be one of expecting the Lord to come at any moment.  This will affect our perspective and our attitude.  Some may be tempted to withdraw from society and retreat into a well-stocked bunker.  However, this would actually be disobedience to the directions of the Holy Spirit.  We are to be busy with His business today and ready for His business of tomorrow.  Those who truly expect the coming of Jesus will be more careful how they live.  But when we doubt his coming or think it will never “really” come (literally), we will tend to walk in the flesh, never really getting around to service and hindered on every hand in making any preparations.  Notice that the passage speaks of Jesus coming in the second or third watch.  The first watch is the easiest to remain vigilant.  It requires less effort to remain alert and often others are still awake.  Similarly, the last watch of the night (4th watch) is easier as well.  You have gotten good sleep and are merely waking a bit early to be vigilant.  But the 2nd and 3rd watch are the hours that are late at night and early in the morning so from 9PM to 3AM.  The main point is that he will come at a time when it is not easy to stay vigilant.  In fact he says that his disciples would not think it would be the time.  “Surely, he won’t come now it’s after midnight.”  We are to be prepared especially in those times when we don’t think he would come.  Thus this is an always expecting him attitude.  This should not make us “no earthly good.” Rather, it should make us all the more busy about our Father’s work so that nothing will be undone when he comes.  The enemy seeks to steal the treasure of God’s truth that has been given too you.  If you do not watch, he will steal the very things that make for your faith.  Guard your heart.

Blessing for Faithful Servants; Punishment for the Unfaithful

Now Jesus speaks to the blessing that belongs to those who faithfully execute his will and heed his warnings.  Jesus says in verse 37 that when the master comes he will gird himself and serve his faithful servants.  There is a certain beauty to this promise.  We gird ourselves to serve him today and he promises to gird himself and serve us when he comes.  That doesn’t mean he hasn’t already served us and is not serving us today.  The very nature of our God is service.  Christ served us by laying his life down at the cross to pay the price for our sins.  Christ is serving us by giving the Holy Spirit to those who believe upon him and intercedes for us daily.  Christ, however, is going to serve believers in that day he returns.  He will put down the scoffers and mockers who have persecuted the faithful and he will give all authority into the hands of his saints.  You might notice that Jesus acted this out on the night of his betrayal.  He makes them to sit at a meal, picks up a towel and washes their feet.  Who are we that he would be mindful of us to serve us in such a way?  That is the eternal mystery.  The God of heaven rejects the proud and great of this world and stoops down to serve the outcasts and the off scouring of the earth.

In verse 41 Peter asks a question because he is confused that it would be possible for one of them to not be ready for their lord.  But instead of answering Peter Jesus plows on in pressing the point.  Jesus points out two adjectives that he is looking for in his disciples: Faithful and Wise.  In this case they really are facets of the same thing.  The wise servant is not one who has figured out many great ways to serve the master.  Rather, he is the one who is faithful to the instructions that the master gave.  The master will make such a servant ruler over all that he has.  This scope of authority and its future expansion is a clear indication that God has rewards and duties for us in the age to come.  If we are faithful with God’s things in this life then in the age to come he will give us things that will be ours to do with what we want.  Yes, the usurpers have taken over the earth and exercise the authority thereof, but Christ will come and remove them.  This will be a day in which his followers are given greater authority.  Thus the blessing is being served by Christ himself and being given greater authority.  Yet, now we turn to the unfaithful.

In verse 45-48 we see those who cease following the instructions because of the delay of Christ’s return.  We can see all around us the evidence for why Christ would warn about such things.  These unfaithful servants don’t quit.  Rather they begin to abuse the other servants and their place or position within the house of Christ.  Next to this is the temptation to eat and drink to drunkenness.  Thus the unfaithful servant uses the master’s things to satisfy the desires of their flesh (i.e. partying with the master’s supplies).  As drunkenness is to drink so gluttony is to food.  This person is no longer prepared for service, a lit lamp, and expectant of Christ’s return.  They have overturned such an agenda and live to please their own flesh.  Their heart is tied to the things of the world at the expense of the things of Christ.

Thus Jesus says that his coming will surprise them.  They will not only think he is coming but they will be “unaware.”  Awareness is crucial in everything that we do in life.  This person is dulled to the very things Christ wants them to be perceptive.  No matter how faithful we are, if we stop being faithful we are in jeopardy.  We don’t say a person ran a good race because they the first quarter of it well.  If they quit and walk off the track they did not run a good race.  I could prepare for and expect Christ’s coming for 50 years.  But if I give up and start living for my flesh, I then put myself in jeopardy.  The “party it up” life desensitizes us to the purposes and times of God.

Yet, being surprised is the easy aspect to this.  They will also be appropriately punished.  In fact the “cut him in two” is a clear statement of execution.  The unfaithful servant will be given the portion of the unbelievers (aka the enemies of the master).  Thus they are clearly eternally lost.  Now, I need to bring this to a close.  It is clear that Jesus points out the perfect judgment that will be exercised.  Those who know better what they should be doing will be held more accountable and receive a worse punishment.  God is a perfect judge and that can give us relief on one hand and cause for concern on the other.  Do I want to be an unfaithful servant who is punished or a faithful servant who is blessed?  Faithfulness to these commands is what will make the difference.  Maranatha!

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