Monthly Archives: August 2013

What Leads Someone To Repentance?

As I am studying a long list of Scripture verses for my book review (thanks to J.I. Packer for throwing together a long list that doesn’t really pertain too much to the issue at hand!) I ran across Romans 2:5.  This verse is supposed to show the reader that Paul teaches that there is a final rejection and destruction to those who don’t believe.

(Rom 2:5)  Yet down from (in accord with) your hardness (obstinacy) and unrepentant heart (unchanged thinking in the center of your being) you habitually collect and lay up stores (treasure up) in yourself (for yourself; to yourself) personal emotion (inherent fervor; passionate impulse; a mental bent or disposition; anger; indignation; wrath) within a day of personal emotion (fervor; passion; anger; etc.) and of an unveiling of God’s decision which accords with the Way pointed out [or: of a revealing of God’s fair and equitable dealing and verdict; of an uncovering of a just judgment of God],

Now, as I am trying to see the context to what Paul is saying, I went back to the beginning of the chapter here, and began reading.

 

(Rom 2:1)  Therefore (Because of which) you continue to be without a defense, 0 man –everyone continually judging (pronouncing a judgment; separating; picking out; determining; condemning) — for within that which you continue judging the other man (the different one), you are condemning yourself, since you who are continually judging are constantly performing (committing) the same things.

(Rom 2:2)  Now we have seen and thus know (are aware) that God’s judgment (decision rendered and pronounced; separation; determination) is down from (in accord with) Truth upon those habitually performing (committing) such things.

(Rom 2:3)  Yet you continue logically thinking (reckoning; counting on) this, 0 man — the one continuously judging those who are performing (committing) such things but also are habitually doing the same things — that you will make an escape out of God’s judgment?

(Rom 2:4)  Or, are you continually having a down frame of mind (despising; thinking down or with disrespect) concerning the riches (wealth) of His kind and gentle usefulness (benevolence with a sweet disposition; kindness), [His] delaying forbearance (the tolerant holding back) and [His] patient longsuffering, constantly being ignorant that  God’s kind and gentle usefulness (benevolence with a sweet disposition) is continuously leading you into a change of mind and purpose (repentance)?

Verse 2 begins giving immediate context to verse 5 and says God’s judgment is in accord with His truth and is upon those who do the things previously listed in chapter 1 through chapter 2:1.  Paul goes on and says if you think that you, who are judging those doing these things, will yourself escape judgment, think again.  Paul implies the hypocrisy of their way of thinking and asks the self-righteous believer if they are not, in fact, disrespecting God’s kindness, forbearance, patient longsuffering with them.  And then the tail end of verse 4 hit me right between the ears and cut me to the heart!

(Rom 2:4)  Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

The answer to my question in the title of this post is this:  The goodness of God leads someone to repentance!

Do you understand what Paul is saying here?  It is not the fear of eternal conscious torment in hell that leads someone to repentance.   It is not fear of anything that leads someone to repentance.  It is not fear of not measuring up to God’s standard.  It is not the knowledge of our own sin.  It is not the turn or burn lectures many receive every week at church.  It is not even our pleading that life will go better for you now if you believe.  It is the love of God, His kindness seen in Him and displayed by creation, by His children (believers) and spoken directly to a person by the Holy Spirit that leads to repentance!

 

WOW!  WOW!  I can hardly contain my joy at this thought!  For you, this may be a startling revelation.  Dwell upon this and take joy in the Lord who saves by His love, who turns people from darkness to light by His love, by His kindness!  What a far cry from what I have preached in the past, taught in the past, and what most believers hear from week-to-week.  Love the Father for His kindness to you.  Let His kindness turn your heart from hypocrisy and sin to faith, belief, and residence in Him.

Marveling at His Word!

Craig

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Filed under God's Love, Mercy

God’s Love in Action

Just some verses to show you what the Bible says about God, His love, His mercy, His judgment, His salvation, and the hope the world has in Him!  Enjoy these!

 

(All verses are from the Lexham English Bible (LEB) from my Logos 5 Software.)

 

NOTE:  Posted these verses but the two column format from Logos doesn’t quite work so well in WordPress.  I will leave the post up though, because for those who have this on RSS feed, it will read just fine.  For all others, simply highlight, right click, and copy and paste into a Word doc and you will have the verses to carry with you.  If you need help, let me know and I can guide you through the process.  Anyway, be blessed!

 

Genesis 12:3

 

And I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse. And all families of the earth will be blessed in you.”

 

Genesis 18:18

 

Abraham will surely become a great and strong nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed on account of him.

 

Genesis 22:18

 

All the nations of the earth will be blessed through your offspring, because you have listened to my voice.”

 

Genesis 26:4

 

And I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and I will give to your descendants all these lands. And all nations of the earth will be blessed through your offspring,

 

Genesis 28:14

 

Your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, and to the east, and to the north and to the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and through your descendants.

 

Genesis 26:3–4

 

3 Dwell as an alien in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 And I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and I will give to your descendants all these lands. And all nations of the earth will be blessed through your offspring,

 

1 Samuel 2:6

 

Yahweh kills and restores alive, he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

 

2 Samuel 14:14

 

For we must certainly die, and we are as the waters spilled to the ground which cannot be gathered. God will not take a life but devises plans for a banished person not to be cast out from him.

 

1 Chronicles 16:34

 

Oh give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good; his loyal love is everlasting.

 

Job 5:17–18

 

17 “Look, happy is the human being whom God reproves; and you must not despise the discipline of Shaddai, 18 for he himself wounds, but he binds up; he strikes, but his hands heal.

 

Job 42:2

 

“I know that you can do all things, and any scheme from you will not be thwarted.

 

Psalm 22:27

 

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to Yahweh. All the families of the nations will worship before you.

 

Psalm 22:29

 

All the healthy ones of the earth will eat and worship. Before him all of those descending into the dust will kneel, even he who cannot keep his soul alive.

 

Psalm 30:5

 

For there is a moment in his anger; there is a lifetime in his favor. Weeping lodges for the evening, but in the morning comes rejoicing.

 

Psalm 33:5

 

He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the loyal love of Yahweh.

 

Psalm 49:15

 

Surely God will ransom my life from the power of Sheol, because he will receive me. Selah

 

Psalm 62:12

 

And to you belongs loyal love, O Lord, because you will render to each according to his work.

 

Psalm 65:2–3

 

2 O you who hear prayer, to you all flesh will come. 3 Iniquities prevail over me. As for our transgressions, you will forgive them.

 

Psalm 66:3–4

 

3 Say to God, “How awesome are your works! Because of the greatness of your strength, your enemies will cringe before you. 4 All the earth will bow in worship to you, and sing praise to you. They will sing the praise of your name.” Selah

 

Psalm 66:11–12

 

11 You brought us into the net; you placed a heavy burden on our backs. 12 You let men ride over our heads. We went through fire and through water, but you have brought us out to the place of abundance.

 

Psalm 67:1–4

 

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us. May he cause his face to shine toward us, Selah 2 that your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations. 3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all of the peoples praise you. 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, because you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations on the earth. Selah

 

Psalm 72:11

 

and let all kings bow down to him. Let all nations serve him.

 

Psalm 72:17

 

May his name endure forever. May his name increase as long as the sun shines, and let them be blessed in him. Let all nations call him blessed.

 

Psalm 82:8

 

Rise up, O God, judge the earth, because you shall inherit all the nations.

 

Psalm 86:9

 

All the nations that you have made will come and bow down before you, O Lord, and glorify your name.

 

Psalm 86:10

 

For you are great and doing wondrous things; you alone are God.

 

Psalm 86:13

 

because your loyal love is great toward me, and you will have delivered my life from Sheol below.

 

Psalm 89:30–34

 

30 If his sons forsake my law and do not walk in my judgments, 31 if they defile my statutes and do not keep my commandments, 32 then I will punish their transgression with a rod, and their guilt with wounds. 33 But I will not break off my loyal love from him, and I will not be false against my faithfulness. 34 I will not defile my covenant, or alter what proceeded from my lips.

 

Psalm 98:6–9

 

6 With trumpets and sound of horn, shout joyfully before the king, Yahweh. 7 Let the sea with its fullness roar, the world and those who live in it. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands. Let the hills sing joyfully together 9 before Yahweh, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.

 

Psalm 102:19–20

 

19 that he looked down from his holy height. Yahweh looked from heaven over the earth 20 to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to liberate those destined to die,

 

Psalm 103:8–9

 

8 Yahweh is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love. 9 He does not dispute continually, nor keep his anger forever.

 

Psalm 107:1

 

Give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good, for his loyal love is forever.

 

Psalm 135:6

 

All that Yahweh desires, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the depths.

 

Psalm 136:1–26

 

1 Give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good, for his loyal love endures forever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his loyal love endures forever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his loyal love endures forever. 4 To him who alone does great wonders, for his loyal love endures forever. 5 To him who made the heavens with skill, for his loyal love endures forever. 6 To him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his loyal love endures forever. 7 To him who made the great lights, for his loyal love endures forever. 8 The sun to rule the day, for his loyal love endures forever. 9 The moon and stars to rule the night, for his loyal love endures forever. 10 To him who struck Egypt through their firstborn, for his loyal love endures forever. 11 And he brought Israel out from among them, for his loyal love endures forever. 12 With a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his loyal love endures forever. 13 To him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his loyal love endures forever. 14 And he let Israel cross over through the midst of it, for his loyal love endures forever. 15 But he tossed Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea, for his loyal love endures forever. 16 To him who led his people through the wilderness, for his loyal love endures forever. 17 To him who struck great kings, for his loyal love endures forever. 18 And he killed mighty kings, for his loyal love endures forever. 19 Sihon the king of the Amorites, for his loyal love endures forever. 20 And Og the king of Bashan, for his loyal love endures forever. 21 And he gave their land as an inheritance, for his loyal love endures forever. 22 An inheritance to Israel his servant, for his loyal love endures forever. 23 Who remembered us in our low estate, for his loyal love endures forever. 24 And he rescued us from our enemies, for his loyal love endures forever. 25 The one who gives food to all flesh, for his loyal love endures forever. 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his loyal love endures forever.

 

Psalm 138:4

 

All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Yahweh, when they have heard the words of your mouth,

 

Psalm 139:8

 

If I ascend to heaven, there you are, and if I make my bed in Sheol, look! There you are.

 

Psalm 145:7–10

 

7 They will utter the renown of your abundant goodness, and they will proclaim with joy your righteousness. 8 Yahweh is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in loyal love. 9 Yahweh is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works. 10 All your works will praise you, O Yahweh, and your faithful ones will bless you.

 

Psalm 145:14–16

 

14 Yahweh upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look hopefully to you, and you give them their food in due time, 16 opening your hand, and satisfying the desire of every living creature.

 

Proverbs 16:9

 

The mind of a person will plan his ways, and Yahweh will direct his steps.

 

Proverbs 19:21

 

Many plans are in the heart of a man, but the purpose of Yahweh will be established.

 

Proverbs 20:24

 

Away from Yahweh are the steps of a strong man, and how will humankind understand his ways?

 

Isaiah 2:2

 

And it shall happen in the future of the days the mountain of the house of Yahweh shall be established; it will be among the highest of the mountains, and it shall be raised from the hills. All of the nations shall travel to him;

 

Isaiah 14:24

 

Yahweh of hosts has sworn, saying, “Surely just as I have intended, so it shall be. And just as I have planned, it shall stand:

 

Isaiah 14:27

 

For Yahweh of hosts has planned, and who will frustrate it? And his hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

 

Isaiah 25:6–8

 

6 And on this mountain Yahweh of hosts will make for all peoples a rich feast, a feast of aged wines, fat filled with marrow, filtered aged wine. 7 And on this mountain he will destroy the face of the shroud, the shroud over all peoples, and the woven covering over all nations. 8 He will destroy death forever, and the Lord Yahweh will wipe off the tears from all faces, and he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth, for Yahweh has spoken.

 

Isaiah 26:9

 

I desire you with all my soul in the night; also I seek you with my spirit within me, for when your judgments are upon the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

 

Isaiah 26:10

 

Though the wicked person is shown compassion, he does not learn righteousness; he acts unjustly in the land of uprightness, and he does not see the majesty of Yahweh.

 

Isaiah 40:5

 

And the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed, and all humankind together shall see it, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.”

 

Isaiah 45:21–25

 

21 Declare and present your case, also let them consult together! Who made this known from former times, declared it from of old? Was it not I, Yahweh? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God besides me, and no savior besides me. 22 Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none besides me. 23 I have sworn by myself; a word that shall not return has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness: ‘Every knee shall kneel down to me; every tongue shall swear.’ 24 ‘Only in Yahweh,’ one shall say to me, ‘are righteousness and strength.’ He shall come to him, and all those who were angry with him shall be ashamed. 25 In Yahweh all the offspring of Israel shall be in the right, and they shall boast.”

 

Isaiah 46:10–11

 

10 who from the beginning declares the end, and from before, things that have not been done, who says, ‘My plan shall stand,’ and, ‘I will accomplish all my wishes,’ 11 who calls a bird of prey from the east, the man of his plan from a country from afar. Indeed I have spoken; indeed I will bring it to being. I have formed it; indeed I will do it.

 

Isaiah 48:10

 

Look! I have refined you, but not like silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of misery.

 

Isaiah 49:6

 

And he says, “It is trivial for you to be a servant for me, to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel. I will give you as a light to the nations, to be my salvation to the end of the earth.”

 

Isaiah 50:2

 

Why was there no man when I came, no one who answered when I called? Do I lack the strength to save? Or is there no power in me to deliver? Look! by my rebuke I dry up the sea; I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink because there is no water, and they die because of thirst.

 

Isaiah 52:10

 

Yahweh has bared his holy arm to the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

 

Isaiah 53:10–11

 

10 Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him; he made him sick. If she places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring. He will prolong days, and the will of Yahweh will succeed in his hand. 11 From the trouble of his life he will see; he will be satisfied. In his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant, shall declare many righteous, and he is the one who will bear their iniquities.

 

Isaiah 54:8

 

I hid my face from you for a moment, in the flowing of anger, but I will have compassion on you with everlasting faithfulness” says your redeemer, Yahweh.

 

Isaiah 55:7b–8

 

7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the man of sin his thoughts. And let him return to Yahweh, that he may take pity on him, and to our God, for he will forgive manifold. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” declares Yahweh.

 

Isaiah 55:11

 

so shall be my word that goes out from my mouth. It shall not return to me without success, but shall accomplish what I desire and be successful in the thing for which I sent it.

 

Isaiah 57:16

 

For I will not attack forever, and I will not be angry forever, for the spirit will grow faint before me, and the breaths that I myself I have made.

 

Jeremiah 3:17

 

At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of Yahweh,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to the name of Yahweh, to Jerusalem, and they will no longer go after the stubbornness of their evil heart.

 

Jeremiah 10:23

 

I know, O Yahweh, that to the human is not his own way, nor to a person is the walking and the directing of his own step.

 

Jeremiah 23:20

 

The anger of Yahweh will not turn back until his doing and until his keeping the plans of his mind. In latter days you will look closely at it with understanding.

 

Jeremiah 31:33–34

 

33 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares Yahweh: “I will put my law in their inward parts and on their hearts I will write it, and I will be to them God, and they themselves will be to me people. 34 And they will no longer teach each one his neighbor, or each one his brother, saying, ‘Know Yahweh,’ for all of them will know me, from their smallest and up to their greatest,” declares Yahweh, “for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will no longer remember.”

 

Jeremiah 32:17

 

‘Ah Lord Yahweh! Look, you made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you,

 

Jeremiah 32:40

 

And I will make with them an everlasting covenant that I will not turn away from them, my doing good to them, and my reverence I will put in their hearts so that they will not turn aside from me.

 

Lamentations 3:31–33

 

31 For the Lord will not reject forever. 32 For even though he causes grief he has compassion according to the greatness of his royal love. 33 He does not afflict willingly, or grieve anyone.

 

Ezekiel 36:23

 

And I will consecrate my great name, which was profaned among the nations and which you have profaned in the midst of them, and the nations will know that I am Yahweh!” ’ a declaration of the Lord Yahweh, when I show myself holy before their eyes.

 

Ezekiel 36:26

 

And I will give a new heart to you, and a new spirit I will give into your inner parts, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh.

 

Ezekiel 36:27

 

And I will give my spirit into your inner parts, and I will make it so that you will go in my rules, and my regulations you will remember, and you will do them.

 

Ezekiel 36:36

 

And the nations who are left all around, you will know that I, Yahweh, I built that which was destroyed; I planted the desolate land; I, Yahweh, I have spoken, and I will act.’

 

Ezekiel 16:55

 

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.

 

Daniel 7:14

 

And to him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all the peoples, the nations, and languages would serve him; his dominion is a dominion without end that will not cease, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.

 

Daniel 9:24

 

“Seventy weeks is decreed for your people and for your holy city, to put an end to the transgression and to seal up sin and to make atonement for guilt and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint the most holy place.

 

Hosea 13:14

 

Should I redeem them from the power of Sheol? Should I deliver them from death? Where are your plagues, O Death? Where is your destruction, O Sheol? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

 

Joel 2:28

 

And it will happen afterward thus: I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your elders will dream dreams; your young men shall see visions.

 

Jonah 4:2

 

And he prayed to Yahweh and said, “O Yahweh, was this not what I said while I was in my homeland? Therefore I originally fled to Tarshish, because I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and having great steadfast love, and one who relents concerning calamity.

 

Micah 7:18–19

 

18 Who is a God like you, forgiving sin and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, for he delights in loyal love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will trample our iniquities. And you will hurl all their sins in the depths of the sea.

 

Habakkuk 1:12

 

Are you not from of old, O Yahweh my God, my Holy One? You shall not die. O Yahweh, you have marked them for judgment; O Rock, you have established them for reproof.

 

Habakkuk 2:14

 

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, like the waters covering the sea.

 

Malachi 2:10

 

Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we unfaithful to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?

 

Malachi 3:6

 

“For I, Yahweh, have not changed, and you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.

 

Matthew 18:34–35

 

34 And because he was angry, his master handed him over to the merciless jailers until he would repay everything that was owed. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from your hearts!”

 

Luke 12:59

 

I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid back even the last cent!”

 

Matthew 5:44

 

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

 

Matthew 9:36–38

 

36 And when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were weary and dejected, like sheep that did not have a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest that he send out workers into his harvest.”

 

Matthew 12:20–21

 

20 A crushed reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not extinguish, until he brings justice to victory. 21 And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

 

Matthew 18:14

 

In the same way it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

 

Mark 9:49

 

For everyone will be salted with fire.

 

Mark 10:26–27

 

26 And they were very astounded, saying to one another, “And who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With human beings it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

 

Luke 2:10

 

And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring good news to you of great joy which will be for all the people:

 

Luke 3:6

 

and all flesh will see the salvation of God.’ ”

 

Luke 4:18

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because of which he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to send out in freedom those who are oppressed,

 

Luke 15:4

 

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the grassland and go after the one that was lost until he finds it?

 

John 1:7–9

 

7 This one came for a witness, in order that he could testify about the light, so that all would believe through him. 8 That one was not the light, but came in order that he could testify about the light. 9 The true light, who gives light to every person, was coming into the world.

 

John 1:13

 

who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.

 

John 1:29

 

On the next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 

John 3:17

 

For God did not send his Son into the world in order that he should judge the world, but in order that the world should be saved through him.

 

John 4:42

 

And they were saying to the woman, “No longer because of what you said do we believe, for we ourselves have heard, and we know that this one is truly the Savior of the world!”

 

John 6:33

 

For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

 

John 6:51

 

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

 

John 8:12

 

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world! The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

John 8:56

 

Abraham your father rejoiced that he would see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”

 

John 12:32

 

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

 

John 12:47

 

And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I will not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

 

John 17:4

 

I have glorified you on earth by completing the work that you have given me to do.

 

Acts 3:21

 

whom heaven must receive until the times of the restoration of all things, about which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from earliest times.

 

Acts 3:25–26

 

25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God ordained with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed.’ 26 God, after he had raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning each of you back from your wickedness!”

 

Romans 2:4

 

Or do you despise the wealth of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

 

Romans 3:3–4

 

3 What is the result if some refused to believe? Their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! But let God be true but every human being a liar, just as it is written, “In order that you may be justified in your words, and may prevail when you are judged.”

 

Romans 5:8

 

but God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Romans 5:17

 

For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through the one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 5:18

 

Consequently therefore, as through one trespass came condemnation to all people, so also through one righteous deed came justification of life to all people.

 

Romans 5:20

 

Now the law came in as a side issue, in order that the trespass could increase, but where sin increased, grace was present in greater abundance,

 

Romans 8:21

 

that the creation itself also will be set free from its servility to decay, into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 

Romans 11:15–16

 

15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean except life from the dead? 16 Now if the first fruits are holy, so also is the whole batch of dough, and if the root is holy, so also are the branches.

 

Romans 11:26

 

and so all Israel will be saved, just as it is written, “The deliverer will come out of Zion; he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

 

Romans 11:29

 

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

 

Romans 11:32

 

For God confined them all in disobedience, in order that he could have mercy on them all.

 

Romans 11:33

 

Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how incomprehensible are his ways!

 

Romans 11:36

 

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for eternity! Amen.

 

Romans 12:21

 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Romans 14:11

 

For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will praise God.”

 

1 Corinthians 3:15

 

If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but so as through fire.

 

1 Corinthians 13:8

 

Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will pass away. If there are tongues, they will cease. If there is knowledge, it will pass away.

 

1 Corinthians 15:22

 

For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

 

1 Corinthians 15:23

 

But each in his own group: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s at his coming,

 

1 Corinthians 15:26

 

The last enemy to be abolished is death.

 

1 Corinthians 15:28

 

But whenever all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected all things to him, in order that God may be all in all.

 

1 Corinthians 15:54

 

But whenever this perishable body puts on incorruptibility and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: “Death is swallowed up in victory.

 

1 Corinthians 15:55

 

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

 

2 Corinthians 5:14

 

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all; as a result all died.

 

2 Corinthians 5:19

 

namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

 

Galatians 3:8

 

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the good news in advance to Abraham: “In you all the nations will be blessed.”

 

Ephesians 1:9–11

 

9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in him, 10 for the administration of the fullness of times, to bring together all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in him 11 in whom also we were chosen, having been predestined according to the purpose of the One who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

 

Ephesians 2:7

 

in order that he might show in the coming ages the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

 

Ephesians 3:6

 

that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow sharers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

 

Ephesians 2:14

 

For he himself is our peace, who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of the partition, the enmity, in his flesh,

 

Ephesians 4:8–10

 

8 Therefore it says, “Ascending on high he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men.” 9 Now “he ascended,” what is it, except that he also descended to the lower regions of the earth? 10 The one who descended himself is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order that he might fill all things.

 

Philippians 2:10–11

 

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Philippians 3:21

 

who will transform our humble body to be conformed to his glorious body, in accordance with the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

 

Colossians 1:19–20

 

19 because he was well pleased for all the fullness to dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself, by making peace through the blood of his cross, through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

 

1 Timothy 1:19–20

 

19 having faith and a good conscience, which some, because they have rejected these, have suffered shipwreck concerning their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, in order that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

 

1 Timothy 2:3–4

 

3 This is good and acceptable before God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

 

1 Timothy 2:6

 

who gave himself a ransom for all, the testimony at the proper time,

 

1 Timothy 4:9–11

 

9 The statement is trustworthy and deserving of complete acceptance. 10 For to this end we labor and suffer reproach, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers. 11 Command these things and teach them.

 

1 Timothy 5:8

 

But if someone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 

2 Timothy 1:9

 

who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

 

2 Timothy 1:10

 

but has now been disclosed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought to light life and immortality through the gospel,

 

Titus 2:11

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people,

 

Hebrews 2:2

 

For if the word spoken through angels was binding and every transgression and act of disobedience received a just penalty,

 

Hebrews 2:9

 

but we see Jesus, for a short time made lower than the angels, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that apart from God he might taste death on behalf of everyone.

 

Hebrews 2:14–15

 

14 Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, he also in like manner shared in these same things, in order that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and could set free these who through fear of death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives.

 

Hebrews 7:25

 

Therefore also he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him, because he always lives in order to intercede on their behalf.

 

Hebrews 8:10–11

 

10 For this is the covenant that I will decree with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I am putting my laws in their minds and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God and they will be my people. 11 And they will not teach each one his fellow citizen and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

 

James 1:18

 

By his will he gave birth to us through the message of truth, so that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

 

James 2:13

 

For judgment is merciless to the one who has not practiced mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

 

James 5:11

 

Behold, we consider blessed those who have endured. You have heard about the patient endurance of Job, and you saw the outcome from the Lord, that the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

 

1 Peter 1:8

 

whom, although you have not seen, you love; in whom now you believe, although you do not see him, and you rejoice greatly with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

 

1 Peter 2:12

 

maintaining your good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in the things in which they slander you as evildoers, by seeing your good deeds they may glorify God on the day of visitation.

 

1 Peter 3:19–20

 

19 in which also he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 who were formerly disobedient, when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while an ark was being constructed, in which a few—that is, eight souls—were rescued through water.

 

1 Peter 4:6

 

Because for this reason also the gospel was preached to those who are dead, so that they were judged by human standards in the flesh, but they may live in the spirit by God’s standards.

 

2 Peter 3:8

 

Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that one day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.

 

2 Peter 3:9

 

The Lord is not delaying the promise, as some consider slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

 

2 Peter 3:15

 

And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom that was given to him,

 

1 John 2:2

 

and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

1 John 3:8

 

The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this reason the Son of God was revealed: in order to destroy the works of the devil.

 

1 John 4:8

 

The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

1 John 4:16

 

And we have come to know and have believed the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him.

 

1 John 4:14

 

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

 

Revelation 1:17–18

 

17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead person, and he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last, 18 and the one who lives, and I was dead, and behold, I am living forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of Hades.

 

Revelation 5:13

 

And I heard every creature that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea and everything in them saying, “To the one who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever.”

 

Revelation 15:4

 

Who would never fear, Lord, and glorify your name? For only you are holy, because all the nations will come and worship before you, because your righteous deeds have been revealed.”

 

Revelation 20:13

 

And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and each one was judged according to their deeds.

 

Revelation 21:5

 

And the one seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” And he said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”

 

Revelation 22:3

 

And there will not be any curse any longer, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his slaves will serve him,

 

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 3

 

 

Importance

 

 

Packer lists four reasons that universalism is growing today.

 

 

1. Living in what have become multi-religious communities and rubbing shoulders regularly…with people of many faiths, we would like to tell ourselves that their religions are as good for them as ours is for us – which means that, whatever salvation is, it will finally be theirs as we hope it will finally be ours.

 

 

2. Few today are as clear as they need to be on the specifics of the Christian view and way of salvation and how it differs from what is prescribed and hoped for in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and other world faiths. So no problem is seen in treating all religions as one and on that basis taking universalism for granted..

 

 

3. With Christianity losing ground so fast in the West, it is reassuring to think that God will finally save all those who now shrug off Christianity as an irrelevance, and reassurance in the face of troubling facts is always welcome, at least to most people.

 

 

4. Establishing affirmative rapport with non-Christian faiths remains a main agenda item for liberal theologians, and that is a frame into which universalism naturally fits. Thus…universalism…will generate more interest in the future than it does now.

 

 

I have no doubt that the fact that the world has become a smaller place has aided in many things, including exposing many people to other world religions that would never have been exposed to them before. But, I think this is just a convenient excuse to use. A statement like this could be made about liberal theology, word of faith theology, Mormonism, and many more. This is definitely not unique to universalism.

 

 

His second point is nearly the same as the first, and my point then is nearly the same as my first point. Throughout Christian history this has been true. After all, isn’t this the excuse the Roman Catholic Church has given for the huge division between clergy and laity? The laity is too stupid, too common, or not “called of God” therefore those in power and leadership in the church must, for the good of the peasant class, tell them what to believe.

 

 

Packer says that Christianity is losing ground in the West, but never gives any explanations for that. Apparently, then, universalism is merely an opportunistic belief system that is capitalizing on the demise of Christianity. I know this is probably more than he believes, but it does seem to follow based on what he said. Again, universalism is not the cause of the demise, but I believe thinking people who have been so suppressed and oppressed by the modern Christian church are finally getting fed up with the treatment they have received. They are actually studying the Bible using many of the available modern tools at their disposal, and coming to conclusions that others before them could not have come to because of their societies and place in history.

 

 

I think that people are opting for universal salvation because they, like myself, are finding out that many Bible texts they have been taught for so many years are just flat wrong. So many things in the church are not what they have seemed for too long. I think people are waking up to the false teaching they have received and there is a disconnect between what they have been told and what they see. This is causing many questions and the answers are not being found in traditional denominationalism but in universal salvation.

 

 

Liberal theology can be blamed for a lot of things, including pluralism and the like, and many are following a more New Age focus and trying to find Jesus in anything and everything. I do agree that, as Packer says, it is “increasingly important that we should properly understand it [universalism] and soberly assess it by the light of the Bible.” That is what I have sought to do throughout this book review (as well as the last two years of my life) and I have seen the traditional view of hell and the end times and, for that matter, salvation as seriously in error, according to what is taught in the traditional church.

 

 

Packer says that all forms of universalism make the following claims:

 

 

1. Universalism alone does justice to the biblical revelation of the love of God, that is, of God as love…that one day God will be all in all.

2. Constantly implicit (though not always verbalized): Evangelism is not the prime task in the Christian mission, whatever….Matthew 28:19-20 might seem to indicate.

 

 

He says concerning number one, “that universalists claim any belief in the eternal loss and unending torment of any of God’s creatures makes God out to be a failure and something of a devil.” He further says that this is a bold claim and that it basically indicts most Christians’ beliefs and that most Christians are dishonoring God.

 

 

Of the second claim he says that universalists are basically out of the closet and out in the open with their beliefs. They are being more and more accepted as mainstream and this is a huge concern. He says the universalist believes the Christian mission should be radically altered in light of universalist eschatology.

 

 

I am not as strong in my belief as his first statement suggests. I have read many volumes of those who hold a strong belief like that, but I am not there. I do believe that universalism gets the love of God more right than many or most other theologies. I think all others are deficient but not devoid of the knowledge of the love of God. I truly believe that mainstream Christians need to seriously think, reflect, and study this whole idea of God being all in all, God restoring all things, and the whole concept of ECT (eternal conscious torment). If one would look at these biblical ideas from texts such as Rom 5, 1 Corinthians 15, Colossians 1, Philippians 2 and many others they might also re-think this whole idea of ECT in hell.

 

 

Regarding mission work and the Great Commission, at least for me, it takes pressure off of me and the focus off of me and puts it squarely where it belongs: on God and the saving work of Christ. When I talk to people now about God, salvation, the Bible, etc. I have a freedom in my thoughts to know that whatever I say concerning these things I know in the end God will overcome my shortcomings and frailties. He will acknowledge my loving effort for Him and will still open the minds of whom He chooses to in this life. He still sends preachers to help people understand that it is ultimately better to believe now (in this life) rather than later (after physical death). He still expects obedience from those who believe now. It still would be wrong and disobedient to not honor His commands. But the reason we do mission work is completely different compared to the reason most mainstream Christians do mission work. Universalists, I believe, do mission work to share the joy of the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than the avoidance of hell in the afterlife.

There are whole segments of the Christian population that believe you must first show a person that they are a sinner and on their way to ECT in hell, and then when they are thoroughly scared, give them the Gospel and how to avoid ECT in hell. Ray Comfort and Living Waters ministries, of which Kirk Cameron has been a part of for years, espouses this very thing.  Some very prominent theologians and pastors claim that until someone sees their sinfulness and their desperateness and despicable-ness as a wretched sinner in need of saving, they will never appreciate the Good News of Jesus Christ.  For them it must be the negative first and then the positive.  First you must, in essence, scare the “hell” out of  them so they can then appreciate God’s love for them.  Let me ask a serious question:  How does this approach work with your kids?  Do you,as a parent, threaten them with horrible things so they will come to love you, or love you more?  I would ask you to try this one on for size:  just  like the Father, try overcoming your kids “evil” with good.  Try loving your kids more despite the sins they commit.  See what happens.  Are you the person who believes that perfect love casts out fear?  Are you the person who believes that love conquers all, that there is nothing greater than God’s love, that nothing can thwart His love, or overcome His love?  Think about these things deeply today!  Then take a look at your evangelistic methods and ask yourself how things are going and whether you need to make a change today!

 

 

I look so forward to sharing my beliefs on this subject and what I believe the Bible really says about it. I think Paul really gives great insight into this matter. My beliefs will have to wait for now.

 

 

Examining Universalism I: The Method of Assessment

 

 

As usual this portion of the review has gone longer than I expected. I do want to review the next section though. It covers 2-1/2 pages so hopefully it won’t take long to get through. He begins by saying that most universalists hold some common ground with orthodox Christians concerning studying the Scriptures. First, it is common that biblical teaching is from God and is viewed as true and trustworthy. The point of contention is seen in interpretation and application. He says interpretation must be context, author, and focus-specific. We must understand the thought-flow of the words used and not stretch them beyond their limits. If we do we will be reading into the text something that is not there. Second, writers of Scripture should not be assumed to contradict themselves. What they write in one place should harmonize with what they write elsewhere. And third, we must keep in mind the immediate point the author is trying to make and the effect he is wanting to produce in the readers.

 

 

Consequently, all of Scripture is in harmony with itself. Major themes should not contradict one another. The major thrust of Scripture should be seen in the events recounted by its authors and the doctrines espoused should adhere and promote God’s work and guiding of His creation towards His goal.

 

 

Packer says that everything that is said of God involves analogical (figurative, non-literal) use of human language. He says this is a given because although we are made in the image of God, we do not share His attributes with Him. Though we may love, He does not love like us because His love is perfect and ours is not. God is not defined in our finiteness nor our we defined in His infinite-ness. For example, just because God is called “father” does not mean “physical progenitor” and therfore He is not like earthly fathers in all respects.

 

 

Packer further states that we must remember that we can draw false inferences about God if we overlook these analogical words used to describe qualities inherent in God. For instance, if we say that a good father would never expose his son to such suffering as Jesus underwent on the cross, applying this to God the Father, we are casting on Him earthly father qualities that He does not possess being perfect and holy and loving.

 

 

Packer lays this groundwork to help explain away many universalists reading of Scripture that he believes violates this analogical principle. In Examining Universalism II: The Meaning of Salvation, the next section, we will see this in practice, according to Packer. I understand what Packer is driving at but will reserve judgment until I see concretely what he is talking about and the examples he uses of universalist misinterpretation of Bible verses leading to a wrong view of salvation and consequently hell.

 

 

I do believe most Christians understand that God is far different than us and that He is perfect and we are not. Most know they are not omnipotent or omnipresent, etc. Most Christians also, I believe, understand that finite, fallible humans and human language fail to fully communicate and describe who God is and what He is like. Most understand that God is spirit and doesn’t have hands or wings. Though many have not heard the term anthropomorphism (describing God using human characteristics) they do understand that God is not man, but man’s creator and therefore far beyond man’s comprehension. I look forward to exposing his next section to the reader.

 

 

Until then, God’s richest blessings to you!

 

 

Craig

 

 

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 2

 

 

I am going to bite off a couple more sections of this chapter today. The next sections we will look at are Motivations and Variety.

 

 

Packer begins his Motivations section with the following statement:

 

 

Most universalists (granted, not all) concede that universalism is not clearly taught in the Bible; what then is the warrant for the universalist confidence? It seems plain that the deepest motivation in their minds has always been revolt against mainstream belief in endless punishment in hell for some people.”

 

 

And what lies at the base of this motivation to “revolt against mainstream belief in endless punishment for some people?” A few paragraphs later, after listing many prominent people who believe in universal salvation, he makes the following statement:

 

Rejecting all thought of an endless hell for some is prompted partly, to be sure, by direct compassion for one’s fellow humans, but mainly by the thought that inflicting eternal punishment is unworthy of God, since it would negate his love. This is apparent throughout the story scholars tell of medievals and some individual Anabaptists in the sixteenth century…to find a way of seeing all religions as one and of affirming salvation through them all. This vision of God’s loving nature and purpose has been the constant motivational taproot, the control belief that shapes everything else to itself.”

 

 

Packer makes such a sweeping statement that “most universalists concede that universalism is not clearly taught in the Bible,” that I hardly know where to begin. If he is saying that most, if asked, if they were 100% sure that we know for an absolute fact that the Bible teaches universal salvation, I would probably agree with him. However, let’s put a statement like that in some perspective. If you asked Christians today whether the Bible translation they used was 100% accurate, given that we don’t have the actual original writings of the apostles and others who wrote the Bible, would most say they are 100% sure that what they hold in their hands on Sunday morning is absolutely the God-breathed, Holy Spirit-inspired Word? My guess, and by guess I mean the evidence I have from personally asking questions like this for the better part of 20 years as a Christian, pastor, and Bible teacher and leader, and receiving answers to questions like this, is that most would say, “No, I am not 100% sure that the Bible (version, translation) I hold in my hand on Sunday morning is 100% the God-breathed Word given to the apostles and other writers.”

 

 

So what is the weight of such a sweeping statement by Packer? Zilch! Anyone can make sweeping statements about anything and appear accurate. You see, it is just like journalism, especially news reporting. You never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to, and you frame your question to get the desired answer. From my vantage point, it is hard and dangerous to ask the motivational question of someone from history who has long since lived and died. In writing, unless one specifically makes statements as to their motivation, we can only wildly guess what their motivation is, especially hundreds, if not thousands, of years later. The Bible even state that only God knows a person’s heart. All we can go by is what is stated in their writing and comment on that. So my caution to you, the reader, is be wary of authors who state motivations of others from history. Seek for yourself the information to either support or deny those assumptions of motivation.

 

With that said, I believe, from the many volumes I have read from universalists in history, that the deepest motivation is not for the repeal of endless punishment as it is FOR the salvation of all of those whom God has created. And, in studying all the biblical statements made that clearly state the restoration of all that has been created, especially humankind, past, present, and future, it is clear to me that the biblical writers (Paul specifically!) made more out of the mercy, grace, lovingkindness, and beneficence of the Father than they ever made out of an ECT in a place called hell. The problem, and I know this from personal experience, is that it is much easier for us to focus on the negative than to focus on the positive. And, given much of what passes itself off as preaching today, the negative is what is typically put forth.

 

Example: In much of the preaching I have listened to for the last 20 years, the sermon starts out with positive affirmations of benign (harmless, kind, innocuous) things. The sermon (and many Bible study teachings) will talk about the “The three things every parent should know about raising healthy, God-loving children.” It will state these three things from biblical texts showing how great it is for kids to obey their parents and the joy of a household in unity. And it will tend to uplift the hearers for 15 minutes to one half an hour. Then, the end comes, and typically, what many in Protestantism call, the altar call or appeal happens. In that appeal comes, more often than not, some sort of fear tactic to exhort the hearers to repent. And, more often than not, the appeal has in it, whether implied or stated, some statement that if you don’t turn from your sinful ways you will go to an ECT in hell. Now, I know this is very general, but it is frequent in many reformed churches and except for the very liberal churches who don’t really uphold the Bible as God’s truth, it is heard in many Arminian churches as well (Methodist, Wesleyan, Assemblies of God, Churches of Christ, Pentecostal, etc. mainline denominations that are not reformed, though many of these are very liberal today!).

 

In other words, the hearer hears essentially that God is loving, BUT He is also just. And perpetuated every week is this notion that God is divided against Himself. He wants to be all-loving, but He just can’t be because there are just so many darned sinful people out there committing sin that it is all He can do to bring His justice to bear in their lives. And, at some future time, He will really bring the hammer down on them and consign most of all the people He created in His image to an ECT in hell. Boy, if God could just be loving all the time, how great would that be?!! But unfortunately, He has to deal with sin, in a way that appears to us to be anything but loving, so that His holiness will be vindicated. Well, instead of that, how about this? God shows His love through His justice, through refinement of some in a place that will rehabilitate all those who go there, so they are persuaded in their own minds through “tough love,” that God is all-loving and will have all His image-bearers to love Him and worship before Him forever.

 

That is the message that I see in the Bible, not one that Packer puts forth (motivation to do away with hell and motivation to see all religions legitimized as Christian, essentially what Packer is saying). However, an author must guide his readers to where he wants them to go and so, Packer does this very thing. In other words, as I see it, he sets up a straw man (using sweeping generalizations) and then knocks them down.

 

Have people, who believe in the eventual salvation of all mankind had varying motivations and beliefs about what the Bible says on a wide range of doctrines? Yes! Have “historic, orthodox Christians” who believe in the eventual salvation of a few and the eventual damnation of the many, have varying beliefs about what the Bible says on a wide range of doctrines? Yes! So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the idea that ALL of Christianity is not monolithic (undiversified, mainly the same). It also leaves us, I believe, with much of Christianity striving to separate itself, from itself, and in essence calling everyone who does not believe exactly the way they do as unbelievers.

 

 

If you think I am just blowing smoke, try reaching a true unity between Reformed Baptists and Methodists, for example. By and large, the only thing they would ever do together, in unity, is give a thirsty man a free bottle of water! They would not normally be seen in Bible study together! Could you imagine? Anyway, my point is, to end this section, that Packer’s wide-ranging statements of motivation just are not very helpful. They make universalists out to be monolithic, all believing that one can do anything he/she wants to do because in the end everyone will be saved. Until I have time to post on that topic (how sin does mater, God does deal with it, we should all be concerned about it, etc.), I will just say that anyone who thinks that is what Christian or Evangelical universalists believe, is just dead wrong! See this blog’s pages on what we believe and what we are about.

 

The next section, I think, will help substantiate what I have just mentioned, that those who believe in universal salvation are diverse and wide-ranging. In Packer’s section on Variety, he states,

 

 

Motivationally, then, universalists are at one, but not in substantive theology.”

 

Well, a breath of fresh air here, but, I still stand by what I said earlier, that motivationally universalists, as he calls them, are not at one either! Do universalists hold some of the same beliefs? Yes. Are they sometimes motivated by the same things. Yes. Should their motivations be defined monolithically? NO!

 

He quotes Richard Bauckham. Bauckham says, “Only the belief that all men will ultimately be saved is common to all universalists. The rationale for that belief and the total theological context in which it belongs vary considerably.” To me, Bauckham seems to be saying exactly what I just got through saying. Universalism necessitates, at a basic level, that one believe in the final salvation of all people. But, the rationale (and motivations!) for that belief varies considerably!

 

 

Packer next explains that there are dogmatic universalists (like J. A. T. Robinson, and Nels Ferre) who believe in universal salvation as certainty. Others (like Karl Barth, Emil Brunner and others) think of universal salvation as a theological (biblical) possibility, but one cannot be certain. These types are labeled as “hopeful universalists.” He said that some believe that this life is not the only opportunity for a person to be saved and that many will go to a place of chastening (hell) for a long or short period of time (I would use the biblical term aion, meaning an age), but eventually be saved from that “hell.”

 

To show the reader the childishness that passes itself off as solid biblical teaching from icons of the Christian faith today, Packer quotes R. C. Sproul saying, “A prevailing notion is that all we have to do to enter the kingdom of God is to die. God is viewed as being so “loving” that he really doesn’t care too much if we don’t keep his law. The law is there to guide us, but if we stumble and fall, our celestial grandfather will surely wink and say, “Boys will be boys.””

 

WOW! What a mis-characterization and misrepresentation of Christian universalism, to the point that I think he should issue an apology. How childish of this well-known and well-thought of pastor, author, and theologian! Shame on you, Mr. Sproul! You, of all people, should know better! Maybe I will have to post on that topic sooner, rather than later (self, take a mental note, post on how Christian universalists believe that sin is serious and God is not winking and nodding at any sin!)

 

Packer mentions that most universalists affirm, from Philippians 2:9-11 that all will come and worship God.

(Php 2:9)  For this reason, God also lifts Him up above (highly exalts Him; elevates Him over) and by grace gives to Him (graces on Him) the Name — the one over and above every name! —

(Php 2:10)  to the end that within The Name: Jesus! (or: in the name of or: belonging to Jesus), EVERY KNEE —  of the men upon the heavens (of those belonging to the super-heavens) and of the men existing upon the earth and of the men dwelling down under the ground (or: pertaining to subterranean ones) — may bend (should bow) in worship or prayer,

(Php 2:11)  and EVERY TONGUE may speak out the same thing (should openly agree, confess and acclaim) that Jesus Christ [is] Lord [= Yahweh?] — into [the] glory of Father God (or: unto Father God’s reputation)!  (Jonathan Mitchell New Testament Translation)

He states that some back up this belief by believing that God will persuade people against their will by wearing them down over time to believe in Him. Packer says that those who believe this way do not mean it as God brainwashing people, but Packer says that is the way it sounds.

 

I believe in the sovereignty of God and I believe that God is all-powerful and able to accomplish all that He wills. And because of that, I think that God’s love is all-persuading and that however it comes to pass, which we do not know from the Bible nor fully understand, that God ‘s love is powerful enough to melt even the most-hardened of hearts. And that melting (for some in this life, for others in the pain of hell) will melt all hearts and all hearts will then be re-molded into God-exalting hearts, God-loving hearts, the way God initially created us to be.

 

 

Packer wraps up this section by surveying the variety of universalisms:

(1)the various universalisms are corollaries or spin-offs of other beliefs about God and/or man and, that (2) universalism in all its forms is a human wish seeking a divine warrant. What holds universalists together is a shared sense of embarrassment, indeed outrage, at the thought of a loving God ever excluding anyone from final happiness, rather than any common mind as to what that happiness includes and how today’s unbelievers worldwide will reach it…Do any of the speculations we have reviewed, marginal as they are to the main flow of Christianity over two thousand years, strike us as having the ring of truth?” (emphasis mine!)

 

Again, WOW! What statements to make! To me, this a lion’s share of hubris on Packer’s part. A shared sense of embarrassment because we believe God’s love will rule man’s hearts? Seriously, Mr. Packer? I am in no way embarrassed over my Father in heaven who loves more than you can possibly conceive, sir! To mock your brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to a biblical view that was held by many of our earliest teachers of the faith I would not call “marginal” or “speculations.” The earliest believers in the faith followed closely after these men (like Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and many others) who taught universal salvation and now the best you have to offer us is basically, “Might is right, I have more who believe in eternal hell than you have that believe in ultimate salvation of all. Therefore, my beliefs must be true!” SAD, sir!

 

The ring of truth? Yes sir, there is the ring of truth in ultimate salvation and there is much biblical support for it. Hundreds of verses spread from cover-to-cover that explain God’s ultimate reconciliation and restoration of all things. For the reader, I would again, refer you to excellent resources such as Tentmaker Ministries by Gary Amirault, and others like him for balance in understanding what the Bible says about universal salvation.

 

 

I will end this part of the review here. Has Packer “proven” anything by what has been stated? I see a host of assumptions based on majority power, but very little even-handedness in his assertions, and even less biblical support for what he says. Let me know what you think

 

 

In Christ,

 

Craig

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, God's Love, Hell, Mercy, Universal salvation

Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 1

 

 

This chapter is written by J. I. Packer and presents itself as the meat of the book, according to my current beliefs about what the Bible says concerning salvation and the end of all things. This is a long chapter, compared to all the other chapters, weighing in at a meaty 24 pages. The most any other chapter has is 20 pages. I applaud Packer’s length, because on the surface, he must be taking more time to treat the subject than others have their subjects. I am not saying this is a good thing, necessarily, because I still believe the conclusions he arrives at are wrong, as well as the assumption that his belief is correct, at times, merely because so many have believed it through the years.

 

 

The chapter is divided into sections:

 

 

Definition of Universalism

 

Motivation

 

Variety

 

Importance

 

Examining Universalism I: The Method of Assessment

 

Examining Universalism II: The Meaning of Salvation

 

       Salvation in Scriptures

 

      Universalists and Salvation

 

Examining Universalism III: The Meaning of Eternal Punishments

 

      The Biblical Teaching

 

      The Universalist Thesis

 

 

 

Examining Universalism IV: The Meaning of the Love of God

 

      Biblical Teaching on God’s Love

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

I think I will spend much time in this chapter and may only take a section or two at a time. One reason for this is that I plan on giving many links to materials in support of universalism that are referenced by Packer, or authors/theologians that are referenced in this chapter. It is important to me, and I hope to you, that you be the arbiter, the discerner of truth as to what the Word of God says, not some theologian you may hold in high esteem. The Word of God was given that ALL, meaning every last one, may know what it says and may understand who God is, Jesus is, and the Holy Spirit is. I mean all without exception, which is the true meaning of the word “all.” All never means all without distinction, because when there is a distinction, context qualifies its meaning. Otherwise there is too much ambiguity and too much left for someone to insert a wrong meaning. The Greek language, especially, is a very precise language, which English does not translate very well at times. Problems I have seen and experienced in translating normally stem from anachronism, reading back into the text our own meaning, rather than understanding the meaning of the period in question and considering immediate context, as well as overall context.

 

 

Let’s begin looking at the first section, Definition of Universalism, and see how far we get. Packer begins by giving a definition of universalist as “someone who believes that every human being whom God has created or will create will finally come to enjoy the everlasting salvation into which Christians enter here and now. Universalism is the recognized name for this belief.”

 

 

I can accept this definition and think that it is accurate. As far as definitions go, which isn’t very far, this is pretty generic and does not cause any concern for me. Packer continues and describes universalism as “extreme optimism about the future of our race.” He says that among Christian theological options it is an extreme optimism of grace or nature or both. It is a revisionist challenge to orthodoxy, whether that orthodoxy is Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant evangelical. He says the church officially deemed universalism a heresy ever since A.D. 533, the Council of Constantinople, or the 5th ecumenical council. He states that the doctrine of apokatastasis, or the universal return to God and the restoration of all souls as taught by Origen was anathematized.

 

 

Before I explain who Origen is and give you quotes and resources to see for yourself who this early church father was, I want to raise a few questions which are begged by statements Packer makes concerning the Council he cites. First, when did Origen live and die? Second, what was he famous for? What marked his life more than anything else? And after I answer a few of these questions, I will ask a few more that are pertinent to the case at hand. It is always worth defining who it is you are anathematizing before you make bold statements or stand on statements from 1500 years ago. So here goes.

 

 

One of the best resources that I have found to explain Origen and his impact on Christianity is Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During its First Five Hundred Years by J. W. Hanson, D.D., published in 1899. It can be found here http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Prevailing.html

 

 

For a more full list of Origen’s writings and history of Origen check out: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/origen.html

 

 

The following are excerpts from Hanson’s work:

 

 

Origen Adamantius was born of Christian parents, in Alexandria, A.D. 185. He was early taught the Christian religion, and when a mere boy could recite long passages of Scripture from memory. During the persecution by Septimus Severus, A.D. 202, his father, Leonides, was imprisoned, and the son wrote to him not to deny Christ out of tenderness for his family, and was only prevented from surrendering himself to voluntary martyrdom by his mother, who secreted his clothes. Leonides died a martyr. In the year 203, then but eighteen years of age, Origen was appointed to the presidency of the theological school in Alexandria, a position left vacant by the flight of Clement from heathen persecution. He made himself proficient in the various branches of learning, traveled in the Orient and acquired the Hebrew language for the purpose of translating the Scriptures. His fame extended in all directions. He won eminent heathens to Christianity, and his instructions were sought by people of all lands. He renounced all but the barest necessities of life, rarely eating flesh, never drinking wine, slept on the naked floor, and devoted the greater part of the night to prayer and study. Eusebius says that he would not live upon the bounty of those who would have been glad to maintain him while he was at work for the world's good, and so he disposed of his valuable library to one who would allow him the daily pittance of four obols; and rigidly acted on our Lord's precept not to have "two coats, or wear shoes, and to have no anxiety for the morrow."1 Origen is even said to have mutilated himself (though this is disputed) from an erroneous construction of the Savior's command (Matt. xix: 12), and to guard himself from calumny that might proceed from his association with female catechumens. This act he lamented in later years. If done it was from the purest motives, and was an act of great self-sacrifice, for, as it was forbidden by canonical law, it debarred him from clerical promotion. He was ordained presbyter A.D. 228, by two bishops outside his diocese, and this irregular act performed by others than his own diocesan gave grounds to Demetrius of Alexandria, in whose jurisdiction he lived, to manifest the envy he had already felt at the growing reputation of the young scholar; and in two councils composed and controlled by Demetrius, A.D. 231 and 232, Origen was deposed. 2  Many of the church authorities condemned the action. In this persecution Origen proved himself as grand in spirit as in mind. To his friends he said: "We must pity them rather that hate them (his enemies), pray for them rather than curse them, for we were made for blessing, not for cursing." Origen went to Palestine A.D. 230, opened a school in Cæsarea, and enjoyed a continually increasing fame. The persecutions under Maximinus in 235, drove him away. He went to Cappadocia, then to Greece, and finally back to Palestine. Defamed at home he was honored abroad, but was at length called back to Alexandria, where his pupil Dionysius had succeeded Demetrius as bishop. But soon after, during the persecution under Decius, he was tortured and condemned to die at the stake, but he lingered, and at length died of his injuries and sufferings, a true martyr, in Tyre, A.D. 253 or 254, at the age of sixty-nine. His grave was known down to the Middle Ages. 

1 Eusebius Eccl. Hist. VI. Butler's Lives of the Saints, Vol. IV, pp. 224-231, contains quite a full sketch of Origen's life, though as he was not canonized he is only embalmed in a foot note. 

2 Demetrius is entitled to a paragraph in order to show the kind of men who sometimes controlled the scholarship and opinions of the period. When the patriarch Julian was dying he dreamed that his successor would come next day, and bring him a bunch of grapes. Next day this Demetrius came with his bunch of grapes, an ignorant rustic, and he was soon after seated in the episcopal chair. It was this ignoramus who tyrannically assumed control of ecclesiastical affairs, censured Origen, and compelled bishops of his own appointing to pass a sentence of degradation on Origen, which the legitimate 
presbyters had refused. 

One of the most notable and most often quoted historian, Philip Schaff, had this to say about Origen:

“It is impossible to deny a respectful sympathy to this extraordinary man, who, with all his brilliant talents, and a host of enthusiastic friends and admirers, was driven from his country, stripped of his sacred office, excommunicated from a part of the church, then thrown into a dungeon, loaded with chains, racked by torture, doomed to drag his aged frame and dislocated limbs in pain and poverty, and long after his death to have his memory branded, his name anathematized, and his salvation denied; but who, nevertheless, did more than all his enemies combined to advance the cause of sacred learning, to refute and convert heathens and heretics, and to make the church respected in the eyes of the world * * * Origen was the greatest scholar of his age, and the most learned and genial of all the ante-Nicene fathers. Even heathens and heretics admired or feared his brilliant talents. His knowledge embraced all departments of the philology, philosophy and theology of his day. With this he united profound and fertile thought, keen penetration, and glowing imagination. As a true divine he consecrated all his studies by prayer, and turned them, according to his best conventions, to the service of truth and piety.”3

 

3 Hist. Christ. Church, I, pp. 54-55. 

The First of Christian Theologians.

 The first system of Christian theology ever framed--let it never be forgotten--was published by Origen, A.D. 230, and it declared universal restoration as the issue of the divine government; so that this eminent Universalist has the grand pre-eminence of being not only the founder of scientific Christian theology, but also the first great defender of the Christian religion against its assailants. "De Principiis" is a profound book, a fundamental and essential element of which is the doctrine of the universal restoration of all fallen beings to their original holiness and union with God. Origen's most learned production was the "Hexapla." He was twenty-eight years on this great Biblical work. The first form was the "Tetrapla," containing in four columns the "Septuagint," and the texts of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. This he enlarged into "Hexapla" with the Hebrew text in both Hebrew and Greek letters. Many of the books of the Bible had two additional columns, and some a seventh Greek version. This was the "Octapla." This immense monument of learning and industry consisted of fifty volumes. It was never transcribed, and perished, probably destroyed by the Arabs in the destruction of the Alexandrian Library.11 

11 Kitto Cyclo; Davidson's Biblical Criticism, Vol. I. 

Dr. Bigg on Origen.

 "There will come a time when man, completely subjected to Christ by the operation of the Holy Ghost," says Bigg, epitomizing Origen, "shall in Christ be completely subjected to the Father. But now," he adds, "the end is always like the beginning. The manifold diversity of the world is to close in unity, it must then have sprung from unity. His expansion of this theory is in fact an elaborate commentary upon the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans and the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Those, he felt, were the two keys, the one to the eternity before, and other to the eternity after. What the church cannot pardon, God may. The sin which has no forgiveness in this æon or the æon to come, may be atoned for in some one of the countless æons of the vast hereafter." This exegesis serves to show us how primitive church treated the "unpardonable sins." (Matt. xii: 32.) The sin against the Holy Ghost "shall not be forgiven in this world (aion, age) nor in the world (aion, age) to come." According to Origen, it may be in "some one of the countless æons of the vast hereafter."

 The historian Schaff concedes that among those quickened and inspired to follow Origen were Pamphilus, Eusebius of Cæsarea, Didymus of Alexandria, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzum, and Gregory of Nyssa; and among the Latin fathers, Hilary and Jerome. And he feels obliged to add: "Gregory of Nyssa and perhaps also Didymus, even adhered to Origen's doctrine of the final salvation of all created intelligences."2 

2 "The theology of Christendom and its character for the first three centuries was shaped by three men. Ignatius, Irenæus and Cyprian gave its organization; Clement and Origen its form of religious thought." British Quarterly Review, 1879. 

Origen Cruelly Treated.

 The treatment experienced by Origen is one of the anomalies of history. The first hostility to him, followed by his deposition and excommunication, A.D. 232, is conceded to have been in consequence of his opposition to the Episcopal tendencies of Bishop Demetrius, and the envy of the bishop. His Universalism was not in question. Lardner says that he was "not expelled from Alexandria for heresy, but for envy." Bunsen says: "Demetrius induced a numerous synod of Egyptian bishops to condemn as heretical * * * Origen's opinion respecting the universality of final salvation." But Bunsen seems to 
contradict his own words by adding: "This opinion he had certainly stated so as even to hold out a prospect of the conversion of Satan himself by the irresistible power of the love of the Almighty," bet he was condemned "'not,' as says St. Jerome, who was no friend to his theology, 'on account of novelty of doctrine--not for heresy--but because they could not bear the glory of his learning and eloquence.'" The opposition to Origen seems to have begun in the petty anger of Demetrius, who was incensed because of Origen, a layman, delivered discourses in the presence of bishops (Alexander and Theoctistus), though at their request, and because he was ordained our of his diocese. Demetrius continued his persecutions until he had degraded Origen from the office of presbyter, though all the ecclesiastical authorities in Palestine refused to recognize the validity of the sentence. His excommunication, however, was disregarded by the bishops of Palestine, Arabia and Greece. Going from Alexandria to Greece and Palestine, Origen was befriended by Bishop Firmilian in Cappadocia for two years; and was also welcomed in Nicomedia and Athens.4

4 De Pressense charges the acrimony of Demetrius to Origen's opposition to the encroachments of the Episcopate and to his disapproval of the ambition of the hierarchy. Martyrs and Apologists, p. 332. 

Origen's Theology Generally Accepted.

 That his opinions were not obnoxious is proved by the fact that most of his friends and followers were placed in charge of the most important churches. Says De Pressense: "The Eastern church of the Third Century canceled, in fact, the sentence passed upon Origen under the influence of the hierarchical party. At Alexandria itself his disciples maintained the pre-eminence, and at the death of Demetrius, Heraclas, who had been the most intimate friend and trusted disciple of Origen, was raised to the Episcopal dignity by the free choice of the elders. * * * Heraclas died A.D. 249 and was succeeded by another disciple of Origen, * * * Dionysius of Alexandria. * * * He was an assiduous disciple of Origen, and with his death the halcyon days of the school of Alexandria were now over. Dionysius was the last of its great masters." It is to be deplored that none of the writings of Dionysius are known to exist.

His Universalism Never Condemned.

 The state of opinion on the subject of universal salvation is shown by the fact that through Ignatius, Irenænus, Hippolytus and others wrote against the prevalent heresies of their times, Universalism is never named among them. Some of the alleged errors of Origen were condemned, but his doctrine of universal salvation, never. Methodius, who wrote A.D. 300; Pamphilus and Eusebius, A.D. 310; Eustathius, A.D. 380; Epiphanius, A.D. 376 and 394; Theophilus, A.D. 400-404, and Jerome, A.D. 400; all give lists of Origen's errors, but none name his Universalism among them. Besides, some of those who condemned his errors were Universalists, as the school of Antioch. And many who were opponents of Origenism were mentioned by Origen's enemies with honor notwithstanding they were Universalists, as Clement of Alexandria, and Gregory of Nyssa.

 Pamphilus and Eusebius, A.D. 307-310, jointly wrote an Apology for Origen that contained declarations from the ancient fathers endorsing his views of the Restitution. This work, had it survived, would undoubtedly be an invaluable repository of evidence to show the general prevalence of his views on the part of those whose writings have not been preserved. All Christians must lament with Lardner the loss of a work that would have told us so much of the great Alexandrian. It seems to have been the fashion with the ancient Latin theologians to burn the books they could not refute.

 Farrar names the eminent ancients who mention Origen with greatest honor and respect. Some, like Augustine, do not accept his views, but all utter eulogistic words, many adopt his sentiments, and Eusebius added a sixth book to the production of Pamphilus, in consequence of the detractions against Origen. While he had his opponents and defamers, the best and the most of his contemporaries and immediate successors either accepted his doctrines or eulogized his goodness and greatness.

 Origen bitterly lamented the misrepresentation of his views even during his lifetime. How much more might he have said could he have foreseen what would be said of him after his death.

 Pamphilus, who was martyred A.D. 294, and Eusebius, in their lost Apology for Origen, which is mentioned by at least two writers who had seen it, gave many testimonies of fathers preceding Orien, favoring Universalism,5 and Domitian, Bishop of Ancyra, complains that those who condemn therestorationism of Origen "anathematize all those saints who preceded and followed him," implying the general prevalence of Universalism before and after the days of Origen. 

Universalism in Good Repute in the Fifth Century.

 A.D. 402, when Epiphanius came for Cyprus to Constantinople with a synodical decree condemning Origen's books without excommunicating Origen, he declined Chrysostom's invitation to lodge at the Episcopal palace, as Chrysostom was a friend and advocate of Origen. He urged that clergy of the city to sign the decree, but, Socrates says, "many refused, among them Theotinus, Bishop of Scythia, who said, 'I choose not, Epiphanius, to insult the memory of one who ended his life piously long ago; not dare I be guilty of so impious an act, as that of condemning what our predecessors by no means rejected; and specially when I know of no evil doctrine contained in Origen's books. * * * Those who attempt to fix a stigma on these writings are unconsciously casting a dishonor upon the sacred volume whence their principles are drawn.' Such was the reply which Theotinus, a prelate, eminent for his piety and rectitude of life, made to Epiphanius." In the next chapter (xiii), Socrates states that only worthless characters decried Origen. Among them he mentions Methodius, Eustathius, Apollinaris and Theophilus, as "four revilers," whose "censure was his commendation." Socrates was born about A.D. 380, and his book continues Eusebius's history to A.D. 445, and he records what he received from those who knew the facts. This makes it clear that while Origen's views were rejected by some, they were in good repute by the most and the best, two hundred years after his death. 9

Even Augustine admits that "some, nay, very many" (nonnulli, quam plurimi), pity with human feeling, the everlasting punishment of the damned, and do not believe that it is so."  10  The kind of people thus 
believing are described by Doederlein, "The more highly distinguished in Christian antiquity any one was for learning, so much the more did he cherish and defend the hope of future torments sometime ending." 

Different Opinions on Human Destiny.

 Previous to A.D. 200 three different opinions were held among Christians--endless punishment, annihilation, and universal salvation; but, so far as the literature of the times shows, the subject was never one of controversy, and the last-named doctrine prevailed most, if the assertions of it in literature are any test of its acceptance by the people. For a hundred and fifty years, A.D. 250 to 400, though Origen and his heresies on many points are frequently attacked and condemned, there is scarcely a whisper on record against his Universalism. On the other hand, to be called an Origenist was a high honor, from 260 to 290. A.D. 300 on, the doctrine of endless punishment began to be more explicitly stated, notably by Arnobius and Lactantius. And thenceforward to 370, while some of the fathers taught endless punishment, and others annihilation, the doctrine of most is not stated. One fact, however, is conspicuous: though all kinds of heresy were attacked, Universalism was not considered sufficiently heretical to entitle it to censure.11 

9 Socrates, the ecclesiastical historian, defends Origen from the attacks of his enemies, and finding him sound on the co-eternity of Christ with God, will not hear of any heresy in him. Eccl. Hist., b. vi, ch. xiii. 

10 [Augustine's] Enchirid[ion]. ch. 112. 

11According to Reuss "The doctrine of a general restoration of all rational creatures has been recommended by very many of the greatest thinkers of the ancient church and of modern times.

There is much more that can and should be said regarding this man of God.  I encourage reading Hanson's work and specifically those chapters devoted to Origen.  Many of the works and those cited in endnotes can be found online or in bookstores today.  These quotes help us answer the questions I posed up front.

 

 

First, when did Origen live and die? Somewhere between A.D. 203-250. Second, what was he famous for? He was famous for being the first Christian apologist, defending the faith and promoting, among many beliefs, universalism. What marked his life more than anything else? His piety, love for Christ, his desire to be a martyr for the Lord, his steadfast pursuit and teaching of the truth, and more. And after I answer a few of these questions, I will ask a few more that are pertinent to the case at hand.

 

 

Now, the other questions to ask are: Why did it take so many years to anathematize Origen’s universalism? Even though he taught universalism and many of the early teachers, his students, believed and taught the same thing, why were they not anathematized by the church? Where did our belief in eternal conscious torment really come from?

 

 

First, I think it took so long because this was a “traditional” or “orthodox” belief held by the early church and early church fathers and was the prevailing doctrine of the church until the Roman Catholic Church assumed and held more money, power, and influence than the Eastern church and simply overpowered it and split from it. I hope to be able to publish papers supporting these beliefs in the future. However, many already have published papers concerning the early Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and its rise to power that what I have to write may not add much to the conversation. I am willing, time permitting, to b ring my own flavor to the argument though.

 

 

Second, I think that Origen’s followers were still very popular and therefore were not named or called out by name by the RCC because that would have diminished some of the influence they were seeking to amass. That is why , I believe, in the anathema of Origen in the Synod of Constantinople of A.D 543, only Origen was named, and the statement

 

 

IX.

 

If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration (apokatastasis) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.

 

 

Anathema to Origen and to that Adamantius, who set forth these opinions together with his nefarious and execrable and wicked doctrine2 and to whomsoever there is who thinks thus, or defends these opinions, or in any way hereafter at any time shall presume to protect them.

 

http://orthodoxchurchfathers.com/fathers/npnf214/npnf2216.htm#TopOfPage

 

 

 

Thirdly, from the history of the early church, especially the first 500 years that I have studied, ECT was one of three beliefs held during the middle years, say A.D. 250-500, that ECT became more prominent, largely due to the fear instilled in people to continue to give power and money to the RCC. It is easy to see where the doctrine of indulgences, seen prominently in the 1500’s came from and how it was raised up. If you were threatened with ECT in hell wouldn’t you do more to keep yourself out of it? Wouldn’t you pay whatever the cost was and work whatever work needed to be worked to stay out of there? Sure you would, as do so many throughout history. Well, let me leave that discussion for another time.

 

 

To close out this section and portion of the chapter review, let me conclude with this. As you read these quotes and hopefully will read more on your own, is it accurate to say that universalism is extreme optimism, connoting something radical that is on the fringes of belief, as Packer intimates? Is universalism truly a heresy deemed so by the earliest of Christian fathers and disciples, or did it, in fact, come many years later, and possibly to aid the RCC in consolidating its power and influence and money? As you hopefully continue to read Hanson’s work, I think you will find definitive answer to those questions and come away feeling as I have; to the victor goes the writing of history, regardless of truth or error. I can say this, after taking several church history classes in seminary, I can say I was never taught this belief of the early church. I was taught more that when Augustine came along, he reiterated the doctrine of the church and its history and that he was the foremost authority on it. How wrong I have come to see those things and how deceived I have felt by those who have trained me through the years. The shame isn’t all on them, and maybe very little at all they should rightly bear. The shame should be more on me for not being a true Berean and searching all these things for truth, and holding fast to what is in fact true.

 

 

That should be more than enough to chew on for now. I will take on the next sections soon. Godspeed and blessings to you!

 

 

Craig

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Church History, God's Love, Understanding the Bible, Universal salvation

Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 7 – Systematic Theology: Three Vantage Points of Hell

 

 

Well, believe it or not, I am done with chapter 7 and will provide the review here. After several readings and as much pondering of what was written as necessary. I am ready to write my review.

 

 

Ready?

 

 

There is nothing in this chapter worth noting concerning hell since everything that is said in this chapter regarding the fate of the wicked has already been said. One theme is brought out, the “already / not yet theme which adds absolutely nothing to any argument regarding hell that has not already been discussed.

 

 

How is that for a review! Honestly, there is nothing more that needs to be said. However, I will make a few points regarding a couple of things that Peterson mentioned and ask a question or two. Here goes.

 

 

Peterson says on page 161, “Scripture declares that God Himself is both Lord (Rom 14:9) and Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5).” Later he deals with the concept that sinners are judged already in this life and have their judgment here, yet will be judged later. My question is this: If the traditional teaching of final judgment is being taught in these previous verses, and by final I mean an eternal or forever and ever judgment, then why does God need to judge them again after they are dead? If they are judged already, the sinners who are not Christ’s, and will not be Christ’s at His coming, and are not the elect, and God knows will never believe in Him in this life, and there is no chance after this life for belief in Christ, why does God need to be the Judge of the living AND the DEAD? Could those passages entail something different than what we have traditionally believed?

 

 

But alas, in the Peter passage we do have a glimpse into what this might mean. 1 Peter 4:5 does talk about Jesus judging the living and the dead, but then we read verse 6,

 

 

(1Pe 4:6)for into this [purpose], also, the good news was brought and announced to dead ones, to the end that on the one hand they may be judged (separated and decided about) corresponding to men, in flesh (or: according to humans in flesh), yet on the other hand, that they may continue living (or: may be habitually living) corresponding to (down from; according to) God, in spirit.

 

 

 

To me Peter seems to be saying that what is done in this life is not the final answer, the final destiny of the saved or the wicked. And, when factoring in what we saw in the last chapter review concerning Revelation 21-22 and how the nations and the kings of the earth must have repented and then been healed and had their names written in the book of Life and entered into the New Jerusalem, I would say that we need to re-think some of our previous thoughts on this eternal separation of the saved and the unsaved.

 

 

Here is another question for you. This one I will not comment on because I haven’t studied it thoroughly yet. The question is, why does God in Ezekiel 7 say that He will judge with the people’s standard rather than God’s righteous standard? Any thoughts? I would really like to know your understanding of these things. I bring this up because Peterson comments that in both Old and New Testaments it is proclaimed that God will judge sinners according to their deeds. Ezekiel 7:27 is one of the passages he lists as showing this judgment.

 

 

Lastly, one other thing came up that I want to bounce off of you. Peterson says, “If we press as far as Scripture allows concerning the reasons people perish, we come to the further fact that God has sovereignly chosen multitudes for salvation before the creation of the world and has passed over others, allowing them to reap condemnation for their sins…He [God] is proactive in election; he grants grace to those who would perish without it. But he is passive in reprobation, allowing sinners to receive what their sins deserve.”

 

 

To me, and to many others, this shows a partiality in God that the Bible says is not in Him. Also, this says that God loves some and not others (the traditional, yet errant view of Paul’s teaching on Jacob and Esau, one He loved and the other He hated). I say partial because on the one hand God is actively doing something to help and the other group He is passive with, not acting on their behalf. Is this the same God that causes it to rain on the just and the unjust alike? Is this the same God that says that unbelievers give good gifts to their children, and treat them well, how much more will God do for His children. I understand this to mean that God is so much more loving and fair with us (all of His image-bearers) than we could ever be as humans.

 

 

On the next page, page 166, from the previous quote, Peterson then says, “God lvoed a world that hated him and sent his Son into it on a rescue mission. Although the purpose of the Son’s coming is to save and not to condemn, condemnation is a by-product of the Son’s saving mission. For every believer in Christ the verdict of the last day is announced ahead of time – he or she is “not condemned.” And for everyone who rejects the Son the final verdict is also announced – he or she is “condemned already.”

 

 

So here is my quandary, my puzzlement. Is God loving or isn’t He? Did God truly create everything and say it was good, putting His stamp of approval on all things, not creating anything imperfect, or did He create things that were not (ultimately) good or at the least, plan to restore fallen mankind in the end? On the one hand God seems to be indifferent at best, and unloving at worst concerning sinners, yet He loved the world (mankind) SO MUCH that He sent is unique, on and only Son into it to save it? On one hand the ultimate in apathy, on the other hand the ultimate in love. Can there actually be this much shadow of turning in God? Is God schizophrenic?

 

 

This quandary is solved in Evangelical Universalism, the belief that the early church held, the earliest disciples clung to for many centuries. The earliest believers did not believe a person’s ultimate (eternal) fate was sealed at physical death. They did not believe this short lifetime was all the chance anyone had to hear the Gospel and repent. They believed that, just as Paul taught and John taught (in Revelation that we looked at last chapter review) that all men will ultimately be reconciled to God and be restored to His fellowship and come to worship and enjoy Him forever.

 

 

What do you believe? Do you hold to a God who appears to love certain ones and is totally apathetic with the others? OR do you believe in a God who sent His Son to be the Savior of all Mankind and actually succeeded (or will eventually completely and totally succeed at saving the whole world!) at it?

 

 

Truly bless you with the scriptural teaching that God loves you and one day, whether now or later, you will experience His love as you have never experienced it before and you will be changed by it, to the praise of His glorious grace!

 

 

In Christ’s extreme and radical love!

 

 

Craig

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, God's Love, Hell, Mercy, Universal salvation

Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 5 The Revelation on Hell Part 2

 

Hell Under Fire – Chapter 5 – The Revelation on Hell Part 2

I am going to finish Chapter 5’s review today. It has been a long time coming due to my work schedule. I appreciate your patience. Let me quote a few statements made by Beale regarding Revelation 20:10-15. He says,

The “lake of fire” of Revelation 20:10 is not literal since Satan (and his angels) is a spiritual being. Therefore, the “fire” describes a punishment that is not physical but spiritual in nature. Neither are “the beast and the false prophet” merely two literal individuals but figurative for unbelieving institutions composed of people. Even the phrase “day and night” is not literal but figurative for the idea of the unceasing mature of the torment…Strictly speaking, even the expression aionas ton aionon literally can be rendered “unto the ages of ages.” At the least, the figurative point of the phrase connotes a very long time. The context of the passage and of the book must determine whether this is a long but limited time or an unending period. Both immediate and broad contexts of the book indicate that the expression refers to an unending period.”

In support of this reference to context being “eternal” for aionas ton aionon, Beale lists the following verses supporting the eternality of God’s power and glory and life, and the eternal reign of the saints. (Revelation 11:15; 1:6; 5:13; 7:12; 4:9-10; 10:6; 15:7; 1:18; 22:5) This is quite a list, but just like so many professors and Bible teachers, words and “concepts” are extracted from chapters with little attention paid to the context of the storyline of scripture. Here’s what I mean. All of these verses are literally rendered as “ages of the ages” or “into the ages of the ages.” Most modern translations translate these Greek terms as eternal or some derivative of the word eternal. The common definition of eternal is an unending period, something without beginning or ending, or a period that began but will never end, something that will always exist.

When the true context is looked at, and it is harmonized with other scripture, what we come away with is something different than the typical meaning of “eternal.” As I said, the literal translation is ages of ages or into the ages for all the verses Beale lists. When these verses are looked at in conjunction with the events of the end of everything that Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, a different yet totally understandable picture is seen. Revelation talks mainly about the Kingdom age where Christ will rule and reign and believers are with Him. This picture John paints of the Revelation given him is not of the ultimate end, but the age just before the ultimate end. So, John portrays the judgment of God on unbelievers, Satan, etc., a vindication of the believing ones who will have a sanctified place in Christ’s future kingdom, and, as I will speak about down the page, the ultimate reconciliation of all people.

The reason we know John’s Revelation is not the end of all time and the end of all things is because of 1 Corinthians 15. Look at the actual end of all time:

(1Co 15:20) Yet now – at this present time! – Christ is roused and awake from having been raised up from out of the midst of dead ones: a Firstfruit of those having fallen asleep, and yet sleeping (reposing).

(1Co 15:21) For since through a man [came] death, through a Man, also, [comes] resurrection of dead ones.

(1Co 15:22) For just as within Adam all keep on (everyone continues) dying, in the same way, also, within the Christ all (everyone) will be made alive

(1Co 15:23) – yet each person within his (her) own class or division (or: ordered rank; place or appointed position [in line]; arranged [time] or order of succession): Christ a Firstfruit, next after that, those belonging to the Christ (or: the ones who have their source and origin in Christ; those who are [a part] of the Christ) within the midst of His presence,

(1Co 15:24)thereafter, the goal (the finished work; the embodiment of maturity and perfection; the fulfillment; the result; the outcome; the end attained; the realization of the perfect discharge; or: the end; the closing act; the consummation), when He can proceed handing over (or: may progressively pass along and entrust; should by habit give over) the reign (or: kingdom) to God, even [the] Father (or: in [His] God and Father), at the time that He should bring down to idleness (make unemployed and ineffective; nullify; abolish; render useless and unproductive) every rulership of government (all headship and sovereignty), even all (or: every) authority and power!

(1Co 15:25)For it is binding (necessary) for Him to be continuously reigning (ruling as King) until which [time] (or: until where) He should (may) put (place) all the enemies under His feet.

(1Co 15:26)[The] last enemy being progressively brought down to idleness (made unemployed and ineffective; rendered useless and unproductive; nullified; abolished) [is] the Death.

(1Co 15:27)For, He subjects (arranges in subordination, bringing under full control) all things under His feet.” Now whenever He may say thateverything (all things) has been arranged in subjectionand placed under full control, [it is] evident (clearly visible) that [it is] with the exception of and outside of the One subjecting the whole (arranging all things in subordination under) in Him (to Him; for Him).

(1Co 15:28)Now whenever the whole (all things) may be subjected in Him (to Him; for Him), then the Son Himself will also be subjected (placed and arranged under) in the One (to the One) subjecting the whole (all things) in Him (to Him), that God can be all things within the midst of and in union with all men (or, as a nuet.: may be everything in all things; or: should exist being All in all).

Notice the language Paul uses here. Everything is subject to Christ. This is kingdom language. Subjects are in submission to the King. But, in the VERY end, when all things are in subjection to Christ, verse 24, Christ hands over the Kingdom to the Father; all rulership, all authority, all power. Then, in verse 28, after all things are handed over to the Father, and Jesus Himself subjects Himself to the Father, then and only then, will God become all in all. Then and only then will ALL people worship God willingly from the bottom of their changed hearts and wills. Then and only then will the things the Father created, and said they were all good, be finally restored to what they had been created for (worship of the one true God and to reflect Him and His glory and love). This is the true end!

And so, the passages Beale cites in Revelation truly should be rendered as occurrences and positions and essence in Christ’s kingdom age (this is the Millenium that Christians speak about).God receives glory and power during this age. Jesus, which most of these verses specifically speak about, is praised and worshiped and glorified. Jesus has life during these ages of ages, just as the Father does. The saints will reign with Christ during theses ages (since, when everything culminates and God becomes all in all, there will be no more kingdom to rule over nor kingdom to co-rule with Christ in). So, does Beale’s explanation of “eternal torment” hold according to all of Scripture? I don’t think so. And because of the explanation given about the Revelation and also Paul’s text in 1 Corinthians, the whole concept of ECT in hell, the lake of fire, etc. is not accurate, nor biblical. These things were “revealed” to us (hence the term “revelation”) not to be mystic or cloudy or beyond our understanding, therefore all we can do is speculate about these end things. These things were revealed by God through John IN ORDER THAT we would know what would happen in or towards the end of time and IN ORDER THAT we would hope in the Lord and praise and glorify Him because of this wonderful eternal plan. Below, I will explain the blessed hope and the ultimate reconciliation of all things to the Father, so hang in there!

I want to finish the two remaining passages because there is a hope for you to see and an understanding of Revelation that will tie all things together into an understandable, complete story that will no longer cause you to shy away from this book. Let’s dive into the last two verses (Rev. 20:10, 14) by looking at the passage itself, verses 10-15.

I am sure you have many questions about the Revelation and how events fit together and what things mean. One of the questions/concerns I have always had since the first time I read Revelation was this: Why are the leaves on the tree for the healing of the nations if all those in heaven at that point have already been healed by the precious blood of the Lamb? Why are the leaves necessary? Who are the “nations” being spoken about in Revelation 22? If you have had or still have these same questions, you will receive the answer in this post! Hallelujah! Share your joy with me when that time comes, OK?

Now, Beale puts together these verse like this. The devil, Satan, and the beast and the false prophet will be finally judged and cast into the lake of fire forever. They will never escape this judgment because it is eternal conscious torment. It is what many call hell. Then death and Hades, or those who have died physically and are now in hell will be handed over to the permanent bonds of the lake of fire. All those cast into the lake of fire will suffer forever and those who aren’t will be with God forever. This is also considered to be eternal separation from God, along with the suffering. This is significant because of what we see in the next chapter of Revelation, as well as chapter 22.

(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 touchstone day and night, into the ages of the ages.

(Rev 20:11) And I saw a great bright, white throne, and the One continuously sitting upon it from Whose face the earth (or: Land) and the heaven flee (fled). And a place is not found for them (by them).

(Rev 20:12) And I saw the dead ones — the great ones and the little ones — standing before the throne. And scrolls are (were) opened up. And another scroll is opened up, which is of (or: the one pertaining to) The Life. And the dead ones are judged (were evaluated) from out of the things having been written within the scrolls, according to their works (acts; deeds).

(Rev 20:13) And the sea gives (gave ) [up, back] the dead ones within it, and death and the Unseen give (gave) [up, back] the dead ones within them. And they are judged (evaluated) according to their works (acts; deeds).

(Rev 20:14)And death and the Unseen are cast (were thrown) into the lake of the Fire. This is the second death: the lake of the Fire.

(Rev 20:15) And if anyone is not found (or: was not found) written within the scroll of The Life, he is cast (or: was thrown) into the lake of the Fire.

Compare the key verses (10, 14) in a typical modern translation used by mainline churches.

Revelation 20:10–15 (ESV)

10and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur (brimstone, NASB, NKJV) where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades (hell, KJV) were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

What is actually taking place is a testing by use of a touchstone, referencing how the quality of gold was tested during biblical days. This testing was taking place day and night for, or into, the ages of the ages. As we will see, this testing has an end and is definitely not “eternal” as Beale believes. The understanding John is giving is one of trial by fire, in a sense, just as Paul talks about as well. All people’s works (beliefs also) will be tested against God’s standard. God’s standard is His Son Jesus. Those who have done works for the least, who have believed in the one and only Son, Jesus, will be tested and found pure (because of the blood of the Lamb) and those who are found wanting in works and belief in Jesus will be tested for the ages UNTIL purified and found worthy of entrance into the New Jerusalem. I will show that in Revelation 21-22 shortly. The lake of fire is that testing ground, that place of purifying for those cast into it, so to speak.

The belief that Beale holds (as does most of Christianity today) in conjunction with ECT in hell is that this life is the only time available to believe in Christ. His belief in salvation only in this life is shown in his translation of these texts as well. All the talk of eternal and the finality that brings negates the biblical passages that speak of the opportunity for salvation after this life is over, after one has experienced physical death from this life. If this life is the only time when one can be saved, what do we make of Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 3:18-22?

(1Pe 3:18)because even Christ (or: considering that Christ also) died [other MSS: suffered], once for all, concerning and in relation to failures to hit the target (about errors and mistakes; around and encompassing sins [note: some MSS: our failures; other MSS: your failures]) — a Just One (a rightwised One; One in accord with the Way pointed out; a fair and equitable individual) over (for the sake of) unjust ones (capsized ones; those out of accord with the Way pointed out; unfair and inequitable ones), to the end that He may bring (or: lead; conduct) you folks [other MSS: us] to (or: toward) God. [He], on the one hand, being put to death in flesh, yet on the other hand, being made alive in spirit (or: indeed, being put to death by flesh, yet, being engendered a living one by spirit or: [the] Spirit),

(1Pe 3:19) journeying (going from one place to another; passing on) within which, He also proclaimed (published; preached; heralded) the message to the spirits in prison (within a guardhouse):

(1Pe 3:20)to those being at one time unconvinced (unpersuaded; disobedient; uncompliant) within [the] days of Noah, when (while) he was continuing to be receiving forth and taking away from out of God’s state of emotional quietness (taking a long time before rushing or being in a heat of passion; long-enduring patience) while [the] ark was progressively being prepared and equipped (constructed to readiness) — into which a few folks, that is, eight souls, were brought safely through [the] water (or: were brought safely through, by means of water),

(1Pe 3:21)[to] which, also, an echo of correspondent form (a copy; an antitype; an impress which answers back) is now progressively delivering (rescuing) you folks (bringing you to safety): baptism — not [the] putting off of [the] filth (removal of dirt) away from [the] flesh, but rather — an inquiry (a putting of a question; an asking) into God made by a good (virtuous) conscience, through means of [the] resurrection of Jesus Christ,

(1Pe 3:22)Who continuously exists (is) within God’s right [side, or hand — i.e., the place of authority and ability to exercise power], going from place to place, journeying into [the] heaven of those being subjected (placed under) by Him (or: in Him; to Him): of agents (messengers), and of authorities, and of powers.

Does it not make more sense that Jesus went to those spirits, those who died (or those in Noah’s say who died unbelieving) to proclaim salvation to them, rather than rubbing their noses in something they can never have? I say this because this is the typical understanding of Peter’s writing, that Jesus went to proclaim what salvation is and what they missed out on. Do they really need to know what they missed out on? If they are in hell right now, does Jesus have to go and proclaim Himself and His sacrifice to those who already know separation from God and eternal conscious torment in hell? Is this not God or Jesus rubbing their loss in their own faces, in other words, a type of vengeance exacted against them? No, I do not believe that is why Jesus went to those spirits in prison. I believe He went there truly to proclaim salvation to them and for even some of them to believe and be rescued from that punishment. Those who remain will still have opportunity to believe. Some are more hardened than others and will take longer to believe, but will one day be overcome by God’s love and His plan for all His image bearers and will walk into the city whose gates will never be closed. Oops, I tipped my hand a bit. Well, let’s venture into Revelation 21-22 and truly understand what John was revealing to us.

Beale ends his dealing with the Revelation on Hell with Rev. 20:14. Unfortunately for Beale, this is not the last word on what happens in the end, which is supposedly what hell is about, that and ECT. Let’s look at chapter 21.

Revelation 21:1-8 show a separation between the saved and the condemned, believers and unbelievers. It is clear that there is a place called hell, a place where judgment and suffering for sins takes place. This is really undeniable. The condemned will be in a place of suffering that is apart from those found in Christ.

Revelation 21:9-22 describe in great detail the walls of the New Jerusalem. The description is truly remarkable, even beyond our full understanding. But notice what comes after this description. Verse 22 says that God the Father and The Lamb, Jesus Christ are the city’s temple. Verse 23 goes further.

(Rev 21:23)And the City continually has no need of the sun nor of the moon, to the end that they may (should) continually shine for her, for the Glory of God illuminates (enlightens; gives light to) her, and her lamp [is] the little Lamb.

Then verse 24: (Rev 21:24)And the multitudes (nations; Gentiles; ethnic groups) will walk about [i.e., live their lives] by means of her LIGHT. And the kings of the Land (earth) continually carry (bring; bear) their glory [Codex Vat. +: and honor] into her.

And now a very interesting thing takes place.

(Rev 21:25)And her gates shall by no means be closed (locked) [by] day, for night will not be in that place (or: for there will not be night there).

Why are the gates of the city not closed? Why are there walls in the New Jerusalem? Walls are meant to separate those outside from those inside and are also a means of protection. When the gates are closed, a fortress is created in the sense that those outside cannot come in and those inside cannot go out. We have just seen that there is a separation between the saved and the condemned. Those condemned are not in the city, only the saved are. Before we get fully into this line of reasoning, let me add a few verses.

(Rev 21:26)And they will carry (bring) the glory and the honor of the multitudes (nations; Gentiles; ethnic groups) into her.

(Rev 21:27)And under no circumstances may anything common (profane; ceremonially unclean) — even the one continuously making an abomination and a lie — enter into her, except the ones having been written (being engraved) within the scroll of “The Life of the little Lamb” (or: the little Lamb’s scroll of “The Life”).

Verses 23-27 show us that the nations, the multitudes, and the kings of the earth (Land) will walk around the city praising God and bringing glory to Him. They have entered the city which has permanently open gates. Those formerly in the lake of fire are now milling about the streets of gold with all the previously redeemed praising God! If you were of the redeemed and not in the lake of fire, would you have any reason to venture outside the city where God dwells? The answer is, of course, NO! So the open gates MUST be for those outside to come in. It also would make no sense for those inside to peer out and, and maybe, peer into the fate of the wicked in hell, for that would cause undo pain for the redeemed, wouldn’t it?

The nations or multitudes are not only coming into the New Jerusalem through its always open gates, but they are being ushered into it by the kings of the earth! Who are these multitudes and kings? We know from Rev. 1:5 that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. We also know that these kings hide in fear from the wrath of God (Rev. 6:15). Those same kings of the earth align themselves with Babylon and share in her fate (Rev. 17:2, 18). We see these same kings bringing their glory to Babylon in chapter 18. Then we see that the multitudes and the kings of the earth are aligned together with Babylon and share in that same judgment in Rev. 18:3, 9. These same kings wage war against the King of kings (Rev 19:19, 21).

These are the same kings of the earth that enter the New Jerusalem to bring their glory to God now, rather than to Babylon as they had before. Because of the focus of this book and thereby the chapter itself, Beale does not delve into a discussion of these things nor offer any explanation of these kings of the earth and the nations (multitudes). However, his commentary on Revelation, which is considered a classic and foremost work on Revelation, does tackle these issues. I want to briefly explain his position as contained in his commentary. Due to the length of his explanation which spans over 10 pages, I want to mention two key points.

First, Beale explains that John’s writing in Rev. 21:23-27 parallels Isaiah 60. In Isaiah 60 the kings of the earth submit their wealth to Israel to show their subservience or perish. And, after verse 11 we see the nations bowing before Israel in seeming acknowledgment of her sovereignty, basically in worship of Israel for her greatness. Beale takes Revelation 21:23-27 and refers it back to Revelation 5:9 and 7:9, saying that John is speaking of the redeemed as the nations. However, the redeemed are never referred to as the nations, but redeemed FROM among the nations. Nations always refers to the larger group, the total group of all people, and the redeemed as a subset of the nations. So, the nations and the redeemed are different groups of people.

Second, the nations are always referred to as enemies of Christ and enemies of the church. Why would John change that meaning, in mid stride, and now refer to “the nations” and “the kings of the earth” as the redeemed who will come and worship God? I think the reason for this is to fit his theology. If the nations and the kings of the earth do not refer to the redeemed then the only other conclusion is that of universal salvation. The conclusion to be drawn is that the reason for the open gates, the praise and worship of God by the nations and the kings of the earth is that somewhere along their journey in the lake of fire, they came to repentance and faith and were then allowed into the New Jerusalem, perfected by the blood of the Lamb and their robes washed clean. The conclusion must be that there is, in fact, salvation after physical death. And putting all these things together, in my mind, and the minds of many others, makes the best sense out of the Revelation than any other offering through the years.

This is why in Revelation 22 we read about the leaves of the tree being for the healing of the nations. If all those who are redeemed reside in the New Jerusalem, what need do they have for healing? They have already been healed. But, those who find repentance in the lake of fire and then walk out of the lake of fire into the New Jerusalem, they are ones who need the healing and they receive it! This is why the Spirit and the Bride say “Come” three times. Who are they calling to come forth? I believe, in the context shown here, they are calling forth those in the lake of fire to come forth in repentance that they may be healed and worship Almighty God! This picture fits perfectly with a God who is LOVE and who said HE will one day draw all men to Himself and will finally restore all things to Himself!

With this, since I have taken so much time here today, I will end this excerpt. I say to you, Glory be to the Father, and to the Lamb. All love and praise and worship are given to Him who holds all things in His hands. Fall down and worship this perfect God who continuously calls out to “Come to Me for rest!” How magnificent and powerful and wonderful is He who is our salvation! Glory in Him and tell the world to avoid judgment in hell / the lake of fire and throw yourself on His mercy today! Take of His life-giving water and enjoy the Good News that was given to all men!

Praise be to God! Amen and Amen!

In loving service to my Creator, Sustainer, and Savior!

Craig

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