Monthly Archives: July 2013

Is God Internally Conflicted? Does God’s Love Or Justice Prevail?

Before I get back to my book review of Chapter 5, I wanted to interject some very valuable information from a book I am currently finishing called The Evangelical Universalist by George MacDonald.  One issue that has really caused me some grief through the last 10 years has been the setting in opposition of God’s love and His justice.  In reformed theology, this is the belief:  God is love but He is also just.  God loves the elect  with a special love, but all others with a general love because He allows them to live and enjoy life here on earth for a time.  However, the elect of God, the special few I spoke briefly about in the last post will receive  God’s ultimate love by being ushered into His presence, His heaven after this life.  There they will spend all eternity with God, worshiping Him forever.  The reprobate, the unsaved, the unbelievers in Christ, because of their willful sin and love of continuing in that state, will suffer eternal conscious torment in hell forever.  This is because God is just.  In no form or fashion is this looked at as a loving act, since God is essentially removed form the situation.  He merely gives them what they want, to live after their own desires and remain in their sin.

And so, we are told that God is loving, BUT He is also just.  Whether reformed Christians deny this or not, it is in fact true and there is no getting around this opposition.  God loves the elect BUT is just with the unelect.

This traditional Christian doctrine of hell (ECT – eternal conscious torment) divides God’s nature into these two parts creating an internal conflict within God.  The traditional view of hell (ECT) says, “God loves mankind and desires to save them BUT at the same time God is holy and cannot tolerate mankind’s sin.So, since God is just, He must punish sinners.”  The internal conflict is just as previously stated.  God is loving and desires to save us BUT He also wants to punish us because He is just.  Therefore God’s love and justice are in distinct opposition with each other.

Since this is so, what are we to believe about God?  Our joy in God’s new heavens is because He loves and is merciful.  And, the ECT of those who don’t believe in Jesus in this life (the damned, the condemned) is a direct result of God being just, and not because of His love.  No theology but evangelical universalism can reconcile this situation.  The Calvinist cannot.  The Arminian cannot.  The evangelical universalist looks at both mercy and justice as loving acts and therefore, those in heaven receive His mercy and love and are truly blessed.  And those in hell are under His wrath, but not absent from His love, but merely suffering under the severity of His love.  This suffering is due to their own sinfulness (not being covered by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross) and unbelief  in God/Jesus.  HEaven and hell are equally manifestations of His love, mercy, justice, holiness, and wisdom.

Would you / can you worship / believe in a god who is so internally conflicted or would you / can you believe in a God who is unified in His person and loves all His creation equally?  Does it make the Bible and God more coherent to see His elect as  receiving blessings without having to suffer in hell for an age and the unbelievers to receive punishment for their sins and then be fully restored one day, just as Paul told us in 1 Cor 15, Col 1, and elsewhere?  Which God/god makes more sense out of the biblical texts and the overall storyline of God’s creation?

Unfortunately I have to stop there and head to work (again!) but I do look forward to your comments and questions.  What we believe about God is far more important than money (i.e. a full-time paid ministry position), holding to church tradition or dogma, or just leaving this situation alone because you don’t know what to believe or are afraid to challenge the “majority” belief.  Remember, we are taught to test all things and to hold fast to that which is true!  Let me know if I can help in your quest for the ultimate truth of God!

Blessings to you!

Craig

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The Elect

Are the elect a super-special group from among billions who have ever lived?  Are they the elite of the elite?  According to those believers in reformed theology, the elect are those small number of special saved  Christians who will be in heaven and have special rewards.  They are those who are the saved in this life who have the special mercy of God abiding on them as opposed to all the “others” who are determined, by virtue of Adam’s sin, to condemnation.  But not only to condemnation, but to “eternal” condemnation.  This condemnation is not only because they are under the sin of Adam, or stained by Adam’s original sin, but because they want to stay in that sin rather than come to God for cleansing.  The elect are those who have been chosen by God to receive His mercy and in fact cannot do otherwise, according to reformed theology.  Arminians do not believe this.  They believe, as failed pastor and former Muslim Ergun “Butch” Caner says, “They are elected because they selected (Christ).”  Well, I thought this info below was very interesting and compelling enough to cause me to think deeply about this issue of election.  See what you think.  Respond (comment on this post) if you dare!

The following is an excerpt from Gerry Beauchemin’s blog, God’s Love Wins.

In The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, a foundational handbook for the missional movement, Newbigin lays out the rational for the Church to be on mission. He argues that rather than our salvation being about a personal election to heaven it is a calling out and rescue of a people in “exile” in order to extend the same release from captivity to the world:

“God’s electing grace calls into being a people charged with the responsibility of being the bearers of His universal salvation…To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To be the elect in Christ Jesus, and there is no other election, means to be incorporated into His mission to the world, to be the bearer of God’s saving purpose for His whole world, to be the sign and the agent and the firstfruit of His blessed kingdom which is for all.”
Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (“The Logic of Election” pgs 86-87)

We are not elected to the position of “the redeemed” just to sing about our own personal redemption but to be ourselves redeemers who have been given the “message of reconciliation” by our Redeemer for the world. An election assumes an office. An office assumes a responsibility, a job; a calling to fulfill. Newbigin did not believe our election was to proclaim the gospel message to an indeterminate audience called the “elect” but rather to the others God is determined to save through us, the rest of the world. We are blessed to be a blessing; we are saved from the world for the world. We are even at times against the world in order to be for it and save it.

Read the whole page here:  http://godslovewins.com/articles-missionfounder.htm

In Christ,

Craig

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 5 – The Revelation on Hell Part 1

 

After reviewing this chapter, I feel it best to make this into a multi-part chapter review. There are three verses that Beale tackles in this chapter and I will take each one as a separate part. This way, I will be able to explain with a bit more depth the inter-weaving of the texts and their association with the Old Testament, which is critical toward understanding the revelation given to John.

 

 

I have avoided an in-depth study of this book simply because of the “mystery” involved within it. Or, at least that is what I have thought for years. I, like many of you, have not sought understanding because everyone seems to have their own interpretation of it, and who could know which is right. After all, it is filled with shadows, and types, and figures, and numbers, and a host of things that us “ordinary” Christians do not have a clue about. Anyone who has told us they know what the book says either has been looked at as extremely deep or extremely conspiratorial, at least in the circles I have run in. To say that the Revelation has a straight-forward meaning or is easy to understand is looked upon as very naïve. Some have stated that everything contained in it is literal and this has spawned teachings such as The Left Behind series. Others have taken it as completely figurative and have advanced theories that we are in the end-time age and there is no millenium or parousia (rapture, in Latin).

 

 

Because of such varying understandings Christian leaders have come up with many categories to describe the different belief systems. Pre-, mid-, or post-tribulationists, pre-, post-, or a-millenial are some of the categories you will hear talked about in churches today. Some churches even make it a point of orthodoxy for church membership. If you don’t believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church and a pre-millenial return of Christ for His people, then church membership will be denied to you.

 

 

Fortunately, I will not be discussing any of these topics in this review. The topic of hell in the Revelation is important for many reasons. One reason is that there is a relationship to salvation involved here. There is also the importance of destiny after death, not to mention the all-important topic of the nature of God and His forgiveness. These are things that we will touch on in this review.

 

 

The three verses discussed in this chapter are Revelation 14:9-12, 20:10, 20:14. Unfortunately, from a universalist perspective, the questions and concerns dealing with the salvation of all mankind will most likely not be addressed because, “These passages will be the focus of this exegetical essay, though other relevant passages in the book may be considered tangentially, and in passing I will evaluate the annihilationist view. The goal of this discussion is not only to determine John’s concept of “final punishment,” but also how it fits into the flow of ideas in the wider context of each passage.”

 

 

At this point in the book, after saying this so many times in past chapter reviews, universal salvation is passed over for taking on the annihilationist view. This book should have been sub-titled, “Hell Under Fire: Destroying the Annihilationist View.” Be that as it may, I again will look at what is written from an evangelical universalist point of view.

 

 

(Rev 14:9)And another, a third agent (messenger), followed them, repeatedly saying in a great voice, “If any one is continuously worshiping the little wild animal, and its image, and is continuously receiving an imprinted mark upon his forehead or upon his hand,

 

 

(Rev 14:10)he will also drink out of the wine of God’s rushing emotion (strong passion; anger) — of the one having been mixed undiluted within the cup of His inherent fervor (natural bent; impulse; indignation; wrath). And he will be examined (scrutinized with the touchstone to test his “metal”)within Fire and Deity (Divine qualities) in the presence of (before; in the sight of) the set-apart agents, and in the presence of (before) The Little Lamb.

 

 

(Rev 14:11)And the smoke of their examination by the touchstone continually ascends into (for) ages of the ages.And those continually worshiping the little animal and its image — and if any one continually receives the imprinted mark of its name — they, continually, are not having rest DAY and NIGHT.

 

 

(Rev 14:12)Here exists (is continually) the patient endurance (the remaining under) of the set-apart ones (the saints) — the ones continually keeping watch upon (guarding, observing, having custody over) God’s commands (orders; precepts) and the Faith of Jesus (the Faith pertaining to Jesus; the Faith belonging to Jesus). (JMNT)

 

 

Let me say, right from the outset here, that I see nothing in these verses that talks about an eternal conscious torment in hell, nor annihilation, nor anything like what the traditional theology believes. I will explain further after I show how convoluted the modern theology gets and the depths to which they will sink to find proof-texts for their man-made theology.

 

 

Beale begins with verse 9, stating that the third angel appears and announces a judgment much worse than death to those who are aligned with the beast in verse 10. He says, “The effect of this wine, however, will not be temporary. God’s wine will make the nations submissive to his judicial will forever.” He further states, “’In the cup of His anger’ reiterates “he…will drink of the wine of the wrath of God” in order to emphasize the definitiveness and severity of the last judgment to which all unbelievers are forced to submit. At the last day they will be “tormented with fire and brimstone.”” This torment is supposedly spiritual and psychological. Beale says this is the meaning of the word (torment) elsewhere here in Revelation, referencing the nature of trials that come before the final judgment or are part of the final judgment. He lists the following verses as support. By the way, the term used in each of these verses is the Greek term basanizo or basanos, which literally means to test using this special stone, a touchstone, to test the quality of gold. I have highlighted the Greek word that was translated into English below in bold print, using the Jonathan Mitchell New Testament (JMNT) translation.

 

 

(Rev 9:5)And it was granted (given) to (for) them, not that they should be killing them, but rather that they may be examined (tried as metals by the touchstone; distressed)[for] five months. And their examination [is/was] as the distress (metal testing) of a scorpion whenever it may strike a human.

 

 

(Rev 9:6)And in those days the humans (the men) will seek (search for; pursue) death, and will by no means (under no circumstances) find it. And they will set their desire to die, and death will flee (escape) from them.

 

 

(Rev 11:10) And the ones continuously having a house down upon the earth (the ones continuously dwelling upon the Land) are continuously rejoicing upon them, and they will be gladdened (made glad) and will send presents to each other, because these, the two prophets, tested and examined (applied the touchstone to test the purity of the metal of) those continuously having a house down upon the earth.

 

 

(Rev 18:7)As much as she glorified (glorifies) herself and indulged (lives in proud luxury), so much give to her examination (testing) by the touchstone and mourning (grief; sadness; sorrow), because within her heart she is continually saying, “I continually sit as a queen, and I am not a widow; I may by no means see mourning (grief; sadness; sorrow).”

 

 

(Rev 18:10)standing away, at a distance, on account of the fear of her examination (testing) by the touchstone,repeatedly saying, “Woe, woe, the great city! Babylon, the strong city! Because in one hour your judgment (judging) came!”

 

 

(Rev 18:15)The merchants of these things — those becoming rich from her — will stand away at a distance, because of the fear of her testing (examination) with the touchstone,continually weeping and mourning,

 

 

(Rev 20:10)And the devil (slanderer, accuser; one who thrusts-through), the one continuously deceiving them (repeatedly leading them astray) is cast (or: was thrown) into the lake of the Fire and Deity, where the little wild animal and the false prophet [are] also. And they will be examined and tested by the touchstoneday and night, into the ages of the ages.

 

 

Beale says that the point is that those who deny God will be forced to acknowledge Him as they are being punished. He says these scriptures indicate a torment day and night forever and ever. That this punishment will be a memorial for all to see forever. Though Edom was destroyed, or annihilated, these ones will not be annihilated, but preserved forever in a state of torment. The reason they will not be annihilated is that there is a parallel in Rev. 20:10 relating to the devil, the beast, and the false prophet. Those three will be thrown into the lake of fire and tormented forever and so will all those who worship them. Therefore, no annihilation. Beale spends the next four pages explaining from every conceivable angle why this is not annihilation. I think he proves his case. However, why is it that all these authors keep taking on annihilationism rather than universalism? Me thinks it is easier to debunk than evangelical universalism!

 

 

Now, let me spend a little time explaining why I think he makes much out of something relatively simple, and still misses the mark significantly.

 

 

Neither verse 9 nor verse 10 say anything about death. They do speak of God’s wrath and His anger, and the testing that comes for those who still do not worship God. When the word basanizo or basanos is correctly translated into English, we don’t get the word “torment,” but the word testing as shown above. This, of course, alters what these verses are actually saying. “The smoke of their testing” is figurative language and is not literal. There is no smoke (though this terminology fits with the traditional view of hell, a hell that is about eternal burning, sulfur, etc!). The testing by God is not actually with fire and sulfur, but a very deep and painful understanding that they have sinned against God and are paying a penalty for that sin. Also, eternal is not in these verses either. Eternal is a mistranslation of aions of aions (ages of ages) as shown above. It only means for a period of time, most likely a long period of time, they will suffer under God’s wrath and anger.

 

 

These other verses used by Beale also show the same thing: a wrong understanding of the term aionios, and the term basanizo/basanos. When the correct words are used the meaning is changed. Testing connotes a period of time that has an end. The testing comes to an end and the end, as we shall see, is that all are reconciled to God, just as Revelation indicates.

 

 

Now, let me ask a very serious question. Why does the majority of the Christian world, i.e. traditional Christianity, always focus on the negative aspects of things like judgment, wrath, vengeance, death, “hell, meaning eternal conscious torment, and the like, rather than God as love and everything He is, flowing from that love?

 

 

My case in point: The focus on hell, under fire, and how this is a tragic thing, and must be reclaimed and then the misrepresentation of such texts as Revelation 14. Why? Because as you continue to read, chapter 15 comes right after this text. What does chapter 15 say?

 

 

(Rev 15:4)O Lord[= O Yahweh], who may by no means(or: who may in no way) fear You and glorify (bring good reputation to) Your Name? Because [You] only(alone; without accompaniment) [are] appropriately pious, sanctioned, benign [Vat. 2066 reads: Set-apart (Holy)]. Because the multitudes (nations: ethnic groups) WILL arrive, and they WILL worship in Your presence (in Your sight; before You), Because Your righteous acts (rightful ways; acts of fairness & equity; just decrees and decisions; actions according to the way pointed out; ACT OF JUSTIFICATION and actualization of justice; rightwising of relationships) ARE MANIFESTED(were brought to light; were made to appear).”

 

 

Why do men of God choose to give us only half the story? Why didn’t Beale follow up his explanation of judgment with the fact that all nations will come to worship God? Chapter 15 shows that one day all nations will worship God. And, I might add, worship cannot be forced! In other words, it is not worship, if it is not done willingly from the heart! What is seen is that those who don’t worship God will one day be judged for a period of time, and that judgment will be painful, but that eventually, through the “testing” comes purification, just like the silver is put in the fire and the dross skimmed off., and once purified, these former worshipers of the devil will now be worshipers, true worshipers of the one True God.

 

 

There are other verses here in Revelation that follow this “final judgment followed by salvation motif.” They are as follows: Revelation 6:12-17 (judgment) and Revelation 7:9-17 (salvation). Rev. 11:18a (judgment) and Rev. 11:18b (salvation), Rev. 14:6-20 (judgment) and Rev. 15:2-4 (salvation, Rev. 16:17-18:24 (judgment) and Rev 19:1-10 (salvation); and Rev. 20:7-15 (judgment) and Rev. 21:1-22:5 (salvation).

 

 

At this point, I think I need go no further to show what Revelation is saying and to deny the teachings of Beale regarding Rev. 14:9-12. I will take a further look at the remaining two texts and most likely make some briefer comments, since what is said here is damaging enough to his case of hell in Revelation. Until next time, God bless you as you seek His truth and His love!

 

 

Craig

 

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How Much Will You Pay To Keep Someone From Hell?

As I have been reading lately for some of the posts I have put up, I was reminded of a thought that had troubled me for a long time.  As I lead congregations as a solo pastor, I found that most Christians talked about missions and were very adamant about funding missions, all with the hopes of seeing someone rescued from the clutches of hell and brought to the gates of heaven (salvation).  The thought that has troubled me is that we don’t see any disciples of Christ today like the first ones during Jesus’ ministry.  The apostles gave up there livelihoods, their fortunes, even their families, to go and follow Jesus.  Many of the disciples that followed Jesus around gave up much as well.  I have not seen that kind of commitment in the traditional church today.

If we understand how horrible hell is, how long people  will be there, how could we not give every cent  we have, every minute of our lives, every resource we could find, to keep even one person from going there?   How can we spend one more minute not sharing the message, the Gospel, with every single person we can?  I have had, and seen in others, an attitude that says that we just don’t care that much about the lost.  I say that because everyone supposedly “knows” how bad hell is.  And if that is the case, and we aren’t spending everything we have, and are to rescue people from going there, how can we say we know what hell will be like, biblically speaking (biblically defined)?  How can we say that we are burdened for the lost if we are not willing to give our ALL?  Do you share my previous concern?

Well, let me back away from this a bit, since I am no longer of the camp that espouses the concept of eternal conscious torment.  Briefly, I believe that hell is a place of punishment geared toward restoration, not retribution/vengeance for all eternity.  In later posts, I will explain more fully what I believe the Bible says about heaven and hell, about witnessing, missions, etc.  But for now, I will leave things here for you to contemplate, those of you who still hold to the traditional view of hell as described above.

For all the billions of dollars spent every year by Christians for mission work to save souls, I still don’t see much sacrifice going on.  Christians still attend their fancy buildings, in fancy clothes, transported there by fancy vehicles.  And yet, less and less people are getting saved every year and less and less church attendance is registered, which would seem to say that hell is winning the battle!

What are your thoughts?   Is the picture I painted accurate or off-base?  Are you giving everything you have and are you burdened for the lost?  Do you believe that God/Jesus wants you to give every single thing you have to witness to the lost?  Or, do you see something different in the Bible that we need to catch on to? These are difficult questions to answer.  Let’s reason together about this topic!

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 6 – Biblical Theology: Three Pictures of Hell

NOTE: I have the materials I need to review Chapter 5 concerning Greg Beale’s take on Revelation and Hell. I will therefore not need to be out of sequence except for this one chapter. I would hold off publishing this, but it has been so long since my last chapter, I did not want you to wait any longer. So, keep in mind, this comes out of sequence, but we will return with Chapter 5 next time. Then we will, as far as I can tell now, continue in chapter sequence for all future reviews.

In the first paragraph of his chapter, Biblical Theology:  Three Pictures of Hell, General Editor of this work, Christopher Morgan, states,

This chapter endeavors to provide a basic overview of the New Testament teaching on hell with the goal of uncovering its primary depictions.  There is no need to supply a thorough exegesis of the major New Testament passages on this topic because Robert Yarbrough, Douglas Moo, and Gregory Beale have already provided that in their chapters.  In addition, no attempt will be made to interact significantly with the Old Testament teaching on hell since that has already been successfully accomplished in Daniel Block’s chapter.  Rather the focus here is threefold – to summarize the teaching on hell as portrayed by each New Testament author…to show how three predominant pictures of hell (punishment, destruction, and banishment) emerge from this survey, and to offer some proposals for interpreting these three pictures.

Morgan’s focus will be on three themes of punishment, frequently portrayed as retribution, judgment, suffering, and torment by fire. Destruction, often described as perishing, death, or the second death. Banishment commonly pictured as separation from the kingdom of God, exclusion from the presence of God, or being cut off from something living. The next five pages are spent discussing a basic overview of hell in the gospels and Paul’s writings. I will not even attempt to go over the same ground that has already been covered since there really is nothing new nor worthwhile given there.

Morgan does discuss briefly some texts that others skimmed over or did not treat at all. He gives a basic overview on Hebrews 6:1-3 and 10:27-30, saying these passages refer to future punishment. He says Hebrews 6:1-3 is a foundational elementary teaching on eternal judgment. He also says that Hebrews clearly teaches that hell comes from God as punishment, judgment, and retribution. And, that is all that is said. I know of no Christians who deny that there will be a future judgment and that everyone will suffer under this judgment. But again, the issue is not whether or not there is a coming judgment, but about the nature of that judgment, whether it is for an age or forever and ever. And again, as I have spoken of in earlier reviews on earlier chapters, the key is how the term aionios is defined. If it is defined as forever and ever (then hell is viewed as eternal conscious torment), then you come away with the beliefs held by every author in this book. If, however, you render aionios as an age of time, then you see things quite differently. And the stark difference is this:  Either you believe God will pour out retribution on all unbelievers forever in a place called hell, a place of eternal conscious torment, OR you believe that God’s judgment and punishment and banishment and how He deals with sin is restorative, meaning, in the end He will restore all people to Himself and all people will willingly worship God.

Morgan also talks about hell in Peter’s epistles and Jude, since Jude parallels Peters writings closely. He says Peter’s writings are filled with references to future punishment and to that I concur. Again, how that judgment is viewed depends on what I just discussed. What I think many believers gloss over or are not taught alongside these “judgment” texts is the full story of how God deals with unbelievers or those who oppose His people, harkening back to Old Testament times. And since Peter is writing to call believers away from false teachers and back to serving God, much of what he wrote concerns judgment. Peter, being a Jew, writing to Jews, refers back to the prophets, which was pretty standard for Jews to do.  He recalls all the calamity that God meted out to those who opposed Israel. However, because it doesn’t fit his concern in his short letters, Peter leaves off a critical teaching of one of the prophets. This teaching needs to be remembered because it not only shows that God judges people’s sin, including Israel’s, but that He also restores those same ones whom He judged. Take the following text to heart and see if it fits with eternal conscious torment or if it fits better with God restoring all people back to Himself. Here in Ezekiel 16, Ezekiel is writing to Israel about how awful they have acted and how they have treated God. Ezekiel also explains what the outcome is of the ones God has judged in the past.

46 And your elder sister, she is Samaria, and her daughters, who are dwelling on your north, and your younger sister is the one dwelling on your south; she is Sodom and her daughters. 47 And you have not only gone in their ways, but you also did according to their detestable things. ⌊In such a short time⌋ you behaved more corruptly than they in all of your ways. 48 ⌊As surely as I live⌋,’ ⌊declares⌋ the Lord Yahweh, ‘surely your sister Sodom and her daughters did not do as you and your daughters did. 49 Look! This was the iniquity of Sodom, your sister: Pride, abundance of food, and ⌊prosperous ease⌋ was to her and to her daughters, and ⌊she did not sustain the needy and the poor⌋. 50 And they were proud, and they did a detestable thing ⌊before me⌋, and I removed them ⌊because⌋ I saw it. 51 And Samaria did not sin ⌊according to even half of your sins⌋, and you caused your detestable things to increase more than they, and you made your sister righteous in comparison with all of your detestable things that you did. 52 Also, you bear your disgrace, by which you furnished justification to your sisters through your sins by which you acted more abominably than they; they were more righteous than you, and also, you be ashamed and bear your disgrace through your making your sister righteous.

53 And I will restore their fortune, the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and even the fortunes of your captivity in the midst of them, 54 in order that you may bear your disgrace and you may be put to shame because of all that you did at your consoling them. 55 And as for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, they will return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters, they will return to their former state, and you and your daughters will return to your former state. 56 And was not Sodom, your sister, a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride. (Ezek 16:46-56)

The three themes Morgan talks about add nothing new to the argument. I agree, many New Testament texts refer to the punishment of the wicked. What I do deny is that God’s justice is solely retributive. Morgan lists a bunch of texts that do not bear out the idea of retributive justice. One such example is 2 Peter 2:17. I believe God’s justice is just, but it is also restorative in nature. God does not punish for the sake of punishment, but for the sake of those transgressors coming to a full realization of their sin, suffering under the judgment of that sin, and being covered by the blood of Jesus either in this life or the next, in order that every knee will bow in worship to God. Again, we arrive at the same argument: Is God’s punishment eternal or for an age?  Does God’s punishment have the purpose of vengeance or of mercy and grace?  Does God’s punishment show God’s retribution or restoration?  Is God love, but just, or is God love AND He is just and merciful and long-suffering, etc?

The second theme is destruction. He says that death or destruction is spoken of in many verses. And, again, the argument comes back to how the term “eternal” is defined. The understanding of kolasin aionion, judgment eternal, as some render it, and more accurately rendered, judgment for the ages, is looked at as the key in deciding this issue. Paul shows us what the wages of sin are (death) and those wages are not annihilation and they are not eternal conscious torment in a place called hell. The wages of sin, going back to the Garden of Eden and Adam’s original sin, is DEATH. Every person who lives will suffer death (both spiritually, estranged from God for an age and then transformed to be in Jesus Christ, and physical, in that all eventually die). Morgan adds nothing new nor significant to the issue at hand.

The third theme is banishment. He says that punishment stresses the active side of hell, but banishment shows its horror by what a person misses. As I wrote in a recent post, Morgan states that most Christians, when asked, describe hell as separation from God. In my post, God IS NOT Omnipresent, I took on this issue. Either God is omnipresent and hell IS NOT separation from God, or hell is a place of separation from God and He is not present in or involved in hell, and therefore is not and cannot be omnipresent. That argument still stands here. But, Morgan also states that,

“banishment is much stronger than separation. It suggests God’s active judgment while separation could simply imply divine passivity…They are forever banished from his majestic presence and completely miss out on the reason for their existence – to glorify and know their Creator.”

Morgan’s definition even strengthens the force of my argument against the omnipresence of God, if hell is banishment. And, if God is not omnipresent, then the Bible is a lie (or at the least contains lies, because at least David states there is no place one can go to hide from God!). And if it is a lie, or contains lies, then God is a liar because it is said to be His Word. And if God is a liar, He is not worthy to be followed after and is really no god.

Finally, Morgan makes the following observations.

“The three pictures of hell are not easily integrated into a simplified whole, however…But this does not mean that these three pictures do not have important systematic implications…understanding them will further biblical and systematic theology. These pictures of hell correspond to the biblical teaching concerning God, sin, the atonement, salvation, and heaven.”

He says the three pictures are biblical portraits of God.

“Hell as punishment shows Gods as Judge, who justly sentences the wicked. Destruction portrays God as Warrior or Victor who defeats His enemies. And hell as banishment views God as King who allows only his citizens into his kingdom.”

Hell as a

“portrait of sin shows punishment, recognizing sin as guilt, crime, trespass, or transgression. Destruction portrays sin as death and as opposition or spiritual death. And banishment views sin as alienation from God.”

Morgan continues by saying,

“God’s wrath is on sinners, and hell is the culmination and release of that wrath (Romans 1:8-2:8; 5:6-11) Sinners are condemned already, but they await the ultimate condemnation in hell (John 3:16-36; 5:24-28) Sinners are now dead spiritually, but await the second death. Unbelievers are alienated from God now but will be finally excluded from his presence.”

So, the ultimate outcome for sinners is God’s wrath, not His love. I think, given the true Gospel and Good News is thwarted by this. Instead of Jesus being a joy to the world, He is the one who forever separates because of His death, and is mostly wrath and not joy. If most of the world suffers His wrath, then He is not a joy to the world.

“The three pictures of hell also appear to illustrate the biblical doctrine of the atonement. On the cross, Jesus died as a substitute for our sins and drank the cup of wrath – punishment. On the cross, Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice for our sins – death. On the cross, Jesus experiences separation from the Father’s fellowship as cries, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””

Do any of you see a problem with this portion? What cried out to me was that it completely leaves off the resurrection of Christ. How does hell portray the resurrection? It cannot and it does not. Jesus is not forsake forever, is “restored,” and this is the whole point to God’s purposes! The purpose of God is not to punish sin, but just as we see in Jesus, to restore all things back to Himself! The analogy would hold if Jesus was not resurrected from the dead. And, hell would be eternal conscious torment forever, if Jesus has not risen. God’s purpose for us is seen in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As by one man sin entered into the world, and condemnation by that sin, so also through the one act of the man Jesus came salvation (reconciliation to the Father) for all! There is no clearer understanding in all the Bible than this. One man (Adam) sinned and all are guilty. One man (Jesus Christ) died and resurrected and ALL are reconciled to God. What a story! What a great and loving God! Do you serve a god of ultimate wrath and vengeance or a God who is LOVE and will see all He has created made new again?

I will finish with this. In this chapter there is nothing new added to our understanding of the bible or the ultimate state of all people. The categories Morgan comes up with add nothing new to our understanding. They are just one more way that the elite can seem more deep in their thinking than the average believer, therefore continuing the distinction between clergy and laity, the false distinction that really sent the church into the mess it has been in for nearly 1600 years (or more!). I was sadly disappointed, but also encouraged that if this is the best of the scholastic world, the truth of God has nothing to fear. And those of us who stand opposed to all things traditional that subvert the work of God, we know that are work is not as difficult as some would make it out to be.

May the love of God so consume your thinking that the thought of an eternal conscious torment repulses you to the point of abandoning it once and for all. You will not stand alone in that belief. There are many who have repented of this view of God and are living the life God marked out for us, the one where sin abounds, but grace MUCH MORE ABOUNDS! Don’t be the one who elevates sin to be the victor. Elevate God’s love as VICTOR and be set free from the traditions that so easily ensnare people. To God alone the glory!

In Christ’s love,

Craig

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Filed under Book Reviews, Everlasting - Eternal, God's Love, Hell, Universal salvation

How many should we be praying for?

 

 

In a round about way, this was the question that a certain famous apologist/debater asked on his famous radio program last Tuesday. He was prattling on about how “all” can and does mean different things depending on the context (by the way, I agree about that, that context dictates our translation). He was talking about a few specific verses, what he calls “the big three.” The three 2verses are 1 Timothy 2:4 (actually includes verses 1-6), Titus 2:11, and 2 Peter 3:9. A specific focus was on the 1 Timothy 2:1-6 passage.

 

 

(1Ti 2:1) I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men:

 

 

(1Ti 2:2) for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence.

 

 

(1Ti 2:3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;

 

 

(1Ti 2:4) who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.

 

 

(1Ti 2:5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

 

 

(1Ti 2:6) who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;

 

 

 

The famous apologist/debater asks, “Did Paul instruct Timothy to pray for all men, for everyone? Is that what Paul means by “all men?”

 

 

He goes on and says, “”Did Paul say, Timothy, when you gather in the church, remember to pray for the Amorite high priest that lived 1,000 years ago?” Well, pray for every single human being whether alive or dead. All men is defined in the next portion of that verse, “for kings and all those in authority.” All men? Those are kinds of men. The phrase “all men” must be used as all kinds of men. Even those who persecute you and who have authority over you, pray for them. All kinds of men are saved, that’s what it means. God even saves Californians. As a matter of fact, even those from San Francisco! The proof is that Jesus died a ransom for “all men,” same group. Are you really going to suggest that Paul, the apostle, Paul’s teaching was that Jesus is a mediator between God and every single human who ever lived?”

 

 

That’s enough of his diatribe to get the understanding that he believes that Jesus only died for a select few people and anyone who believes differently, well, they deserve condescension and ridicule. So, besides my obvious problems with his attitude, is his problem with the text itself and the analogy or example he gives. I don’t want to exegete the text today, but want to put into perspective what he is saying, and what many Reformed people believe.

 

 

This famous apologist/debater says it is absurd to think that Paul told Timothy to pray for every single person in all of history, past and present, even those God’s wrath has been given out to (as the debater says, the Amorite high priest who lived 1,000 years before Paul’s day!). This debater said that Paul told Timothy when he goes to church, he was supposed to pray for only those who persecute him (us) and those in authority over him (us). After all, the debater says, it is absurd to pray on a Sunday for billions of people ( all men), but its not absurd to pray for ALL those who are in authority over us.

 

 

So, who are those who are in authority over us? How about our local officials. Where I live, that is quite a few folks because I live in a major city. There are probably a thousand local officials that have authority over me. There are police. There are judges who rule on cases. There are security guards at stores. There are all the inspectors that enforce codes. There is the local school where the school board exercises authority over parents and children.

 

 

Then, how about county and state officials who have authority over me. There are many of them, maybe more thousands of authorities. Now, step into the federal government and we may get into the ten thousand range or more! From the President, to his cabinet and agencies that impact our lives because of their authority, to all the federal agencies that exercise surveillance and security for the country.

 

 

Wow! That’s a lot of people to pray for on Sunday night! Oh, but wait, I haven’t even listed those who persecute me or persecute other Christians. Man, now we are really getting into thousands and thousands of people. When you start thinking about all the people who hate Christians, including political progressives, liberals, fascists, communists, atheists, Muslims, many other religions in my own neighborhood or city, state, etc. Yikes! I dare say we might get into the hundreds of thousands of people to pray for every week, but at least its not “all men!” I don’t know how I would fight the discouragement if Paul ACTUALLY MEANT ALL MEN! Wow! I can handle hundreds of thousands of people to pray for every week, but boy, don’t expect me to pray for the whole world (according to the debater and Paul the Apostle: all men)!

 

 

I mean, I am only human for crying out loud! I admit, even on my best Sundays, or Wednesday night prayer meetings, I have only been able to pray by name for about 20-30 people and their specific situation. I am glad God doesn’t require me to pray for ALL MEN! Whew! That’s a big weight off my mind!

 

 

Do you sense a teensy-weensy bit of sarcasm? Let me finish by getting serious for just a moment. Why is it ridiculous to think that Paul meant for Timothy (and us) to pray for ALL MEN, meaning all people everywhere? There are so many texts in the New Testament alone that use universal language to show the expanse of our mission, the expanse of God’s power, the enormity of God’s grace and love, the depth of burden we should have for all people, etc. I mean, why wouldn’t we want to pray for all people? We are commanded to pray for our fellow believers. That’s a whole lot of folks! Did Paul mean to discount them? We are told to pray for those who persecute us. Does that mean only those who DIRECTLY persecute us, or does it include people all over the world who suppress God’s truth and His people? Should I not pray for the ones who are beheading Christians around the globe? I realize I would have to ADD those thoughts (only pray for those who directly persecute me, only pray for those believers who are physically around me, etc) to the text Paul wrote, but come on, really, ALL MEN? Also, if the debater can add into the text, “all kinds of people,” maybe I could add into the text, “No really,” says Paul, “I mean ALL MEN EVERYWHERE FROM ALL TIME!”

 

 

If the debater thinks it is ridiculous to think Paul meant to pray for ALL MEN who are living or have ever lived, I say it is just as ridiculous to think otherwise! When “theologians” like him have to reduce their arguments to the absurd, like he does, it shows how desperately many have to act to make their “theology” work. One question I ask is where does Paul restrict prayers to church settings, and then also, where does he state that he means “types or kinds” of men? The debater keeps having to substitute his own “theology by tradition” into texts of the New Testament to have his beliefs make sense. My God is huge and when His Word says He sent His Son to this world and his son was “ a great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10), I believe Him. And, I believe that for Jesus to be a joy to all people means that God will eventually have to save all people for that to be true. How could Jesus be a joy to people condemned to an eternal conscious torment? He couldn’t and He won’t because God will restore all people, not execute retribution on the majority for all eternity! And, I am thankful that these things are biblically supported by many texts and by many witnesses throughout history. I am glad I see a purpose in all that God does and that purpose centers on Him loving His creation so much that He will restore it at the end of the ages! In my mind, if God does not restore us, especially to Himself, and overwhelm us with His love which will cause us to have a changed heart and a worshipful heart at that, then all of the suffering and evil in the world and all those who would go to an eternal conscious torment (if there was such a place) would be attributed to a horrific god who is not worthy of worship! I will be expanding on much of this in the future. But for now, I will let this stand alone and continue to work on my review to post by tomorrow.

 

 

What do you think Paul meant? How many will you pray for? Really, all men?

 

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Filed under "All" Passages, Understanding the Bible, Universal salvation

I’m Back, But Maybe At Half Speed

Thankfully I have gotten through the first major hurdle, by passing a state exam, and now will regain some time to begin writing again.  However, not knowing the whole program I am embarking on, I may have another 5 or 6 weeks of training to go through which may render me with little time to blog, much less time to sleep!  We shall see.  However, I am antsy to get back to my book review.  I still need to purchase a book to complete my review on Chapter 5 by Greg Beale, The Revelation on Hell.  Of course, the book review I am in the middle of is on the book Hell Under Fire. 

I have finished reading and made notations on Chapter 6, written by one of the General Editors Christopher Morgan, entitled Biblical Theology: Three Pictures of Hell.  Rather than stall my review by waiting on a book for chapter 5 to read and gain deeper insight from regarding Greg Beale’s views of the end-times and revelation to John, I will continue publishing subsequent chapters.  I hope I will be able to purchase the book I need soon.  Anyway, Chapter 6 should be out hopefully no later than Sunday this week, 2013-07-07.  Tipping my hand a bit, I was a bit stunned at the irrelevance of this chapter to anything that really seems to matter theologically regarding salvation and hell.  This book could definitely have done without this chapter.  I will explain why in my full review.

To wet your appetite a little more, here is the beginning of the review I am currently working on:

In the first paragraph of his chapter, Biblical Theology:  Three Pictures of Hell, General Editor of this work, Christopher Morgan, states,

This chapter endeavors to provide a basic overview of the New Testament teaching on hell with the goal of uncovering its primary depictions.  There is no need to supply a thorough exegesis of the major New Testament passages on this topic because Robert Yarbrough, Douglas Moo, and Gregory Beale have already provided that in their chapters.  In addition, no attempt will be made to interact significantly with the Old Testament teaching on hell since that has already been successfully accomplished in Daniel Block’s chapter.  Rather the focus here is threefold – to summarize the teaching on hell as portrayed by each New Testament author…to show how three predominant pictures of hell (punishment, destruction, and banishment) emerge from this survey, and to offer some proposals for interpreting these three pictures.

Will Morgan hit his target?  Hmmm?  We shall see!  Until then, stay tuned and love God more!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Hell, Universal salvation