Category Archives: Everlasting – Eternal

If Hell Is Eternal Separation From God, Then…

God cannot be omnipresent.  The modern church believes that God is everywhere and there is no place where God is not.  David supported this teaching when he said,

“(Psa 139:7) Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?

(Psa 139:8) If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

(NOTE:  The whole chapter is worthy of your time and meditation!)

Yet, the modern church also believes that eternal conscious torment in hell is away from God’s presence.  They say, as I did for many years, that hell is eternal separation from God.  How can this be?  This is an oxymoron.  The term oxymoron is an oxymoron (composed of two words meaning sharp and dull, implied that one thing is both sharp and dull at the same time).  So, my question to the modern church is this; how can God be omnipresent yet be eternally separate from hell?  Is there anything God created outside His presence and control?  If you wrestle with these things let me  assure you that God is not a liar, nor is there anything He created outside His presence nor is the modern concept of hell as eternal separation from God true.  It is false and that itself should give you hope, and the knowledge that God is not  a monster but a lover of His creation who only has the best in store for it (them).

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Did You Choose To Be In Adam?

One question I remember being asked many years ago when I was a pastor was this:  If I didn’t choose to be in Adam, why am I guilty of his sin?  Well, most of that question is valid.  Let me dispel the false part of that question.  I know this goes against everything I was taught in seminary and the local church business I was brought up in, but here goes.  No one but Adam is guilty of his sin!  Now, I know that makes perfect sense to the majority of people because it is only reasonable.  We don’t punish one of our children for the sins of the other, do we?  No, we don’t!  Most Christians would agree that throughout the Old Testament (most all of it, especially from Moses forward) the Law spelled out an eye for an eye, justice and restitution.  No more, no less.  You steal a lamb, you give up a lamb and possibly some interest, money lost because they couldn’t use that lamb that was stolen.  But, it wasn’t, “You stole my lamb, now you die.”  Certainly, though I am not spelling out every law here, but the law would never indict an innocent for the sins of another.  That would not be fair.

So, what about the rest of the question?Am I indeed in Adam?  Or, if I am not guilty of Adam’s sin, what am I guilty of?  What is it I inherit from Adam?  Well, first off, the first and last question just posed are answered the same way.  Yes we are “in Adam,” meaning we inherit something from him because we are human like him.  What we did inherit is death.  If you are born into this life you will surely, one day, die.  Adam’s sin was Adam’s sin and he was expelled from the Garden, promised he would work the ground with his hands until he died, and lost immortality after his sin.  We believe that if Adam hadn’t sinned he would still be alive today, in the physical sense. Though we are not told specifically that people would have immortality if there was no original sin, we do know that death was specifically given because of that first sin.  It is possible that God never planned or made people immortal from the beginning, at least as we are told from the record of the beginning, Genesis.

So why is this a deep and important subject?  For this reason, among others; if we never chose to be in Adam, then we also never choose to be in Christ!  WHA-A-A-T?!  Human free will has nothing to do with either situation, meaning we have no choice whether to be born and die, nor do we have any choice whether we will have immortality (typically assumed to be from belief in Christ, a free choice or a choice of God for only an elect few).  To keep this short and on point, without straying any further than I should, Adam sinned and everyone after him inherited death.  Likewise, Christ died and paid sin’s penalty and everyone will inherit immortality (life with God).  1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  You have to twist the clear meaning of the Greek text to get anything but this!  The parallelism in this verse is exactly the same as that we find in Romans 5, my new favorite passages in the New Testament (Bible).  Why else would Paul compare Adam and Jesus?  One brought death to humanity, ALL HUMANITY, and the other brought life to humanity, ALL HUMANITY!  Period, exclamation point.

Dwell richly in these thoughts my friends and see if the joy of Jesus’ birth isn’t magnified in your mind and life!  God bless you!

Craig

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The words of Jesus are spirit and life

Jesus states in John 6:63 that His words that He spoke are spirit and life.  This was said after a rather lengthy explanation that He and the Father are essentially one.  Jesus explains that He is the bread of life and was sent by the Father to come and save mankind.  He explained this “bread” metaphor in several ways; well, you can easily read the text for yourself.

So, here is my point for posting this information.  Can your understanding of God’s Word (aka Jesus) pass what some have called the meditation test?  Here is what I mean.  Jesus’ words, true words from God, will give life and hope to its hearers.  God’s word (Jesus being the Logos and giving the Spirit to all mankind to lead into all truth) will build our trust in Him, and in our Lord Jesus Christ.  They will build our hope, increasing our love for Him and giving us a more full understanding of His plan to love all His creation.

Does your understanding of the Gospel do this?  Does your understanding of God’s judgments give you this?  Can you truly love God more through your understanding or belief in eternal conscious torment for those who “fail to believe in Jesus during this short life?”  As you meditate on your understanding of “hell,” does your love for God grow?  Does your faith in God grow?  Ask yourself this final question:  Why would the Spirit communicate a truth that only undermines or diminishes your trust in God and your love towards Him as you meditate on it (the concept or understanding of eternal conscious torment in hell)?

Please share with me how you deal with this situation/these questions.  May God illuminate in you His eternal truth of the Good News of Jesus which is the salvation of all His creation!

Love in Christ,

Craig

 

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 10

 

 

Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis

 

 

Acts 13:46

 

 

(Act 13:44) Now on the coming sabbath almost the entire city was gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

 

 

(Act 13:45) Yet the Jews, perceiving the throngs, are filled with jealousy, and they contradicted the things spoken by Paul, blaspheming.”

 

 

(Act 13:46) Being bold, both Paul and Barnabas, say, “To you first was it necessary that the word of God be spoken. Yet, since, in fact, you are thrusting it away, and are judging yourselves not worthy of eonian life, lo! we are turning to the nations.”

 

 

(Act 13:47) For thus the Lord has directed us: I have appointed Thee for a light of the nations; for Thee to be for salvation as far as the limits of the earth.'”

 

 

(Act 13:48) Now on hearing this, the nations rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord, and they believe, whoever were set for life eonian.”

 

 

(Act 13:49) Now the word of the Lord was carried through the whole country.

 

 

(Act 13:50) Yet the Jews spur on the reverent, respectable women, and the foremost ones of the city, and rouse up persecution for Paul and Barnabas, and they ejected them from their boundaries.”

 

 

(Act 13:51) Now they, shaking the dust off their feet against them, came to Iconium.”

 

 

(Act 13:52) And the disciples were filled with joy and holy spirit.

 

 

 

Previously in this chapter (vv. 15-43), Paul talks about how Jesus is the Savior and takes away sins through faith in Him. He explains this to the Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The context in the surrounding verses (from vv. 44-52) is the Jews rising up against Paul and Barnabas for preaching the word of God to Gentiles. When Paul told the Jews that God had appointed this, to turn from bringing the word of God to the Jews and instead give it to the Gentiles, the Jews were incensed and threw Paul and Barnabas out of the area.. And so, I will put it before you, the reader, does this verse or the surrounding verses talk about final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief? (My answer is no, it does not.)

 

 

Acts 28:24-27

 

 

(Act 28:24) And these, indeed, were persuaded by what is said, yet others disbelieved.”

 

 

(Act 28:25) Now there being disagreements one with another, they were dismissed, Paul making one declaration, that, “Ideally the holy spirit speaks through Isaiah the prophet, to your fathers,

 

 

(Act 28:26) saying, ‘Go to this people and say, “In hearing, you will be hearing, and may by no means be understanding, And observing, you will be observing, and may by no means be perceiving,

 

 

(Act 28:27) For stoutened is the heart of this people, And with their ears heavily they hear, And with their eyes they squint, Lest at some time they may be perceiving with their eyes, And with their ears should be hearing, And with their heart may be understanding, And should be turning about, And I shall be healing them.'”

 

 

 

We just got done looking at the exact same reference from Isaiah that we saw in John 12. It is great that Paul shows that he was taught well and that he validated the Apostles’ teaching about what Jesus taught. Back to these verses, though, I have to say that once again there is absolutely no reference to final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief. This was probably a mistake by Packer to include it here. I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

 

Romans 2:5-12

 

 

(Rom 2:5) Yet, in accord with your hardness and unrepentant heart you are hoarding for yourself indignation in the day of indignation and revelation of the just judgment of God,

 

 

(Rom 2:6) Who will be paying each one in accord with his acts:

 

 

(Rom 2:7) to those, indeed, who by endurance in good acts are seeking glory and honor and incorruption, life eonian;”

 

 

(Rom 2:8) yet to those of faction and stubborn, indeed, as to the truth, yet persuaded to injustice, indignation and fury,

 

 

(Rom 2:9) affliction and distress, on every human soul which is effecting evil, both of the Jew first and of the Greek,

 

 

(Rom 2:10) yet glory and honor and peace to every worker of good, both to the Jew first, and to the Greek.”

 

 

(Rom 2:11) For there is no partiality with God,

 

 

(Rom 2:12) for whoever sinned without the law, without law also shall perish, and whoever sinned in law, through law will be judged.”

 

 

No argument from me here. I agree with Paul and I agree that God will judge those who are unbelievers, those who sin, those who are without the law. In verse 12 Paul uses the term apollumi, perish, to explain those who sin without the law. Here is the definition given by Strong for this word:

 

 

 

This is Strong’s number for the word “perish” G622

 

ἀπόλλυμι

 

apollumi

 

ap-ol’-loo-mee

 

From G575(apo – my addition) and the base ofG3639 (olethros – ol’-eth-ros From ὄλλυμιollumi a primary word (to destroy; a prolonged form); ruin, that is, death, punishment: – destruction., my addition to the text); to destroy fully (reflexively to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively: – destroy, die, lose, mar, perish.

 

 

So, although Paul explains that those who sin without the law, those who are ignorant of God’s law (apparently then also of God Himself!), they will be destroyed, die, lose, be marred, or perish. However, Paul speaks of NO finality here at all. This is not a final judgment. There is certainly a judgment of the unrighteous, the sinner, but no specification of this judgment being a final judgment, nor of this “perishing” being a total destruction, as annihilationists believe.

 

 

We must be very careful when studying Scripture to not go beyond what is written, merely because it is what we have been taught. We have been taught many “inferences” in Scripture which point to many things that are not expressly stated. This leads to much ignorance of Scripture and division among God’s children. One quick example may help the reader. There is absolutely no verse in the Bible that talks about a pre-tribulational rapture of all believers. There is no verse that states the “Left Behind” situation made popular by dispensationalist teachers. It is derived through inference which is not necessarily true, and is in fact not true because it can not be supported in Scripture. This pre-trib rapture has led to much, if not most, of the Christian church looking for signs of the second coming of Christ and the pulpit crime of torturing people with the threat of being “left behind” at the rapture (or the first part of Christ’s second coming!). Many, as I have been, are told to get right with God now, before the rapture happens and you are left alone in the world with Satan and all the unbelievers. This is attached to the threat of eternal conscious torment in hell also and typically.

 

 

We must not only read what is in the text of Scripture and seek to understand what it meant to those originally written to, but not add to Scripture what was never intended to be there. We must acknowledge we have presuppositions about God’s Word and leave behind those presuppositions that deter us from understanding the text. So much of what the church today believes has come into existence over the last few hundred years. Universal salvation has been around and believed since the days shortly following Christ’s death and resurrection. More on this subject in the future.

 

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 9

 

 

Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis

 

 

John 12:25, 48

 

(Joh 12:20) Now there were some Greeks from among those going up that they should be worshiping in the festival.

 

 

(Joh 12:21) These, then, came to Philip who is from Bethsaida of Galilee, and they asked him, saying, “Lord, we want to become acquainted with Jesus.”

 

 

(Joh 12:22) Philip is coming and telling Andrew, and again Andrew and Philip are coming and telling Jesus.”

 

 

(Joh 12:23) Yet Jesus is answering them, saying, “Come has the hour that the Son of Mankind should be glorified.”

 

 

(Joh 12:24) Verily, verily, I am saying to you, If a kernel of grain, falling into the earth, should not be dying, it is remaining alone, yet if it should be dying, it is bringing forth much fruit.”

 

 

(Joh 12:25) He who is fond of his soul is destroying it, and he who is hating his soul in this world, shall be guarding it for life eonian.”

 

 

(Joh 12:26) If anyone should be serving Me, let him be following Me, and where I am, there My servant also shall be. And if anyone should be serving Me, the Father shall be honoring him.”

 

 

(Joh 12:44) Now Jesus cries and said, “He who is believing in Me is not believing in Me, but in Him Who sends Me.”

 

 

(Joh 12:45) And he who is beholding Me is beholding Him Who sends Me.

 

 

(Joh 12:46) I have come into the world a Light, that everyone who is believing in Me should not be remaining in darkness.”

 

 

(Joh 12:47) And if ever anyone should be hearing My declarations and not be maintaining them, I am not judging him, for I came not that I should be judging the world, but that I should be saving the world.”

 

 

(Joh 12:48) He who is repudiating Me and not getting My declarations, has that which is judging him; the word which I speak, that will be judging him in the last day,

 

 

(Joh 12:49) seeing that I speak not from Myself, but the Father Who sends Me, He has given Me the precept, what I may be saying and what I should be speaking.”

 

 

(Joh 12:50) And I am aware that His precept is life eonian. What, then, I am speaking, according as the Father has declared it to Me, thus am I speaking.”

 

 

 

In verses 25 and 48 we read of implications of belief or unbelief regarding life in an age to come. Verse 48 comes closest to any connotation that one may draw regarding final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief. However, reading verse 48 again, several questions should come to the surface. First, what is the reason for thinking of a “finality” here? What does the term “last” (eschatay, Greek for last, pertaining to the end of a period) refer to? Is this a reference to the end of all things? Or, since in the surrounding verses Jesus is talking about an age of time, is Jesus referring to the end of life on this earth? Also, going back to verse 47, which should also frame verse 48, Jesus’ emphasis is on saving the world, not judging the world. Jesus’ emphasis on saving the world, seems to me, to negate any connotation that He is bringing a final judgment upon unbelievers.

 

 

It appears to me that Jesus is not speaking of the end of all time, but the end of life, the period of time we have here in this life on earth. Why? From the time of his entry into Jerusalem on the donkey, to verse 50, the main theme is belief/unbelief and what that means to the life right now. Jesus talks about giving up the world to follow after him now, during this life. He speaks about how much better it is to believe than not believe. The whole context is “this worldly,” not “other worldly.” Verse 25 has, at best, a slight hint toward something after this life, but in no way is it descriptive of anything specific about existence after this earthly life. One must read into that verse and the context here about a final judgment day or a separation of believers and unbelievers. Otherwise, Jesus is merely speaking about how much better it is to believe in Him now, than not believe in Him. This is due to the fact that He came to SAVE the WORLD. There does not appear to be any final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief here in these verses.

 

I remind the reader that Packer’s point is that all these verses he lists have to do with a final rejection or destruction of the unbeliever.  My focus is not completely on a total exegesis of all of these verses but, at times, to merely point out that there is another understanding of the passages cited and to show or disprove Packer’s claim to a finality of rejection or destruction of unbelievers at the end of all things.

In Christ,

Craig

 

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 7

 

 

Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis

 

 

Packer says the “task for the universalist, as we can now see, is to circumvent the seemingly clear New Testament witness to the eternal destiny of those who live and die without Christ, under the self-serving sway of the anti-God allergy in human nature that constitutes our original corruption….Today’s universalists for the most part posit that the unconverted will spend time in hell exposed to postmortem evangelism as previously described, along with steady divine pressure on their spirits to change from what they were, until the moment comes when they emerge, transformed, to join in the ongoing praises of the Lamb.” (pg 185)

 

 

[NOTE: I find it interesting that Packer, from pages 185-187 (the whole section spans from page 185-189), explaining the universalist position on eternal punishment has ten footnotes. Of these ten footnotes, eight are footnotes referencing only one author, Nels F. S. Ferre. I did an internet search to try to find out info on Ferre, but had a hard time finding any biographical info on him that went beyond his credentials. I do not have time to read the 31+ works of Ferre for this review, but want to raise this question: Why does Packer rely so heavily on one author for the “universalist view” on hell when, although seemingly prominent as a universalist, there are many contemporaries of Packer’s that are advancing universalism that he could have quoted from? (such as Thomas Talbott, Gary Amirault, Robin Parry, aka George MacDonald, to name a few) I have found in my own research, a tendency from my seminary days, to cherry-pick authors to support my view and to pick radical authors of opposing views to show how radical they are as opposed to the mainstream. This is one of the reasons why I am undertaking this project, to expose the problems and false claims of the ruling mainstream theologians that continue to oppress Christianity with false readings of the Scriptures. I merely wanted to point out this “strange” occurrence as I was reading this chapter. One other footnote was from Emil Brunner and the other was a reference to a work by Dixon discussing Ferre’s views.]

 

 

So hell must be seen as really a means of grace, a house of correction and place of conversion. Universalism is an unlimited optimism of grace. The final triumph of God’s love will be when ALL people will finally be saved. “In these terms,” he states, “universalists seek to turn the flank of the historic Christian understanding of the Bible’s witness to eternal punishment.” (pg. 187)

 

 

Packer asks, “How do the universalists justify their hypothesis about hell? Some have claimed specific exegetical justification, citing as their front line three linked classes of texts: six allegedly predicting the actual salvation of all (John 12:32; Acts 3:21; Rom 5:18; 11:32; 1 Cor 15:22-28; Phil 2:9-11); two supposedly announcing God’s intention to save all (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9); and five held to affirm that through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross, followed by his resurrection and dominion, God must and will eventually save all (2 Cor 5:19; Gal 1:20; Titus 2:11; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2).” (pg. 187)

 

 

The arguments, he states, in support of universal salvation is “forlorn.” (hopeless) First, the universal terms “all” and “world” [in the previous paragraph’s list of passages] are limited or too general “by their context to maintain that every human being everywhere, past, present, and future, is being clearly, specifically, and inescapably spoken of as destined for salvation.” He then defaults to standard commentaries saying that all the commentaries find in theses passages is that God will save the elect or that the Gospel invitation goes out to all people equally. He also states that universalists read out of the text more than what is in them. I have dealt with, if memory serves me correctly, most or all of these verses in previous chapter reviews and I believe I have provided an adequate explanation of these verse to at minimum, cast doubt on the traditional interpretation, and at best offer a true explanation of what God was communicating through the authors of the texts. I will not go back over these texts unless I deem it necessary to reinforce a future point.

 

 

Second, and going back to the point he made in the previous section, is the fact that the same authors who seem to imply universal salvation also make statements about “final rejection and destruction” of people due to their unbelief. He comments that unless the authors couldn’t realize they were contradicting themselves, one must conclude they did not believe in universal salvation. He lists a plethora of verses, a longer list than that of two paragraphs before, that I feel, by their sheer weight, are supposed to make the universalist cower in fear, or the everyday Christian feel secure in their belief in ECT in hell. Well, I am going to take on the whole list and put them in context and let the reader decide whether Packer has done his homework and is correct, or whether he, like so many others, grabs verses out context in the hopes that no one will check their work and catch them stretching the truth to fit their theology. Keep in mind what he said about these verses; they talk about final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief.

 

 

Here is the list of verses that were listed above in that he says are verses about “final rejection and destruction.” I will be answering the question: Do these verses deal with final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief?

 

 

John 3:18, 36; John 5:29; John 12:25, 48; Acts 13:46; Acts 28:24-27; Romans 2:5-12; Romans 6:23; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Cor 4:3-4; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6, 25; Philippians 1:28; Philippians 3:19; 1 Tim 4:16; 1 Tim 5:24; 1 Tim 6:9; Hebrews 3:14-19; Hebrews 6:4-8; Hebrews 10:26-31, 39; 2 Peter 2:3, 6, 9-10, 17, 20-22; 2 Peter 3:7, 16; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 3:10, 15; 1 John 5:16.

 

 

[NOTE: All verses listed will be from the Concordant Literal Version (CLV), also known as the Concordant Literal Translation (CLT). The reader may find this version free in pdf format or their nice software program called Interlinear Scripture Analyzer from www.concordant.org or through Tentmaker Ministries website http://www.tentmaker.org/e-sword_modules/index.html. You would need to download the E-Sword program and then load the additional modules. It is well worth the time involved!]

 

 

I begin with John 3:18, 36. I will also include some surrounding verses to help you with some context. I encourage the reader to go back and read the whole chapter these verses are found in, keeping in mind the question we are seeking to answer, based on the claim by Packer that these are all verses that deal with final rejection or destruction.

 

 

John 3:18, 36

 

(Joh 3:16) For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian.”

 

 

(Joh 3:17) For God does not dispatch His Son into the world that He should be judging the world, but that the world may be saved through Him.”

 

 

(Joh 3:18) He who is believing in Him is not being judged; yet he who is not believing has been judged already, for he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”

 

 

(Joh 3:19) Now this is the judging: that the light has come into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the light, for their acts were wicked.”

 

 

(Joh 3:20) For everyone who is committing bad things is hating the light and is not coming to the light, lest his acts may be exposed.”

 

 

(Joh 3:21) Now he who is doing the truth is coming to the light that his acts may be made manifest, for they have been wrought in God.” (CLV)

 

 

 

(Joh 3:35) The Father is loving the Son and has given all into His hand.”

 

 

(Joh 3:36) He who is believing in the Son has life eonian {age-enduring}, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him.” (CLV)

 

 

 

Conclusion: The judging of verse 18 is the judgment that the non-believing one loves darkness and their acts are wicked. There is nothing final about this judgment. And, verse 36, says nothing of a final judgment, but merely states that God’s indignation is still upon the one who stubbornly refuses to not believe in Jesus. There is no “final rejection or destruction” shown in either verse as Packer would lead us to believe. I see no future aspect to this passage in John 3, but see more a temporal, present aspect that Jesus is passing on to His disciples for their present age.

 

 

I will stop here for this section and resume with John 5:29 next time. I will try to keep the remaining sections a bit shorter so as not to be overwhelming, but also to give the reader an opportunity to ponder the texts being discussed, raise questions or comments, have them answered, and then move on. I hope this works for you (and me!) Until next time, God’s blessings to you!

 

 

In Christ’s love,

 

Craig

 

 

 

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 6

 

Examining Universalism III:  The Biblical Teaching (cont’d)

Before he closes out this section, Packer says he can make four comments on the material, the verses put forth to prove everlasting hell/punishment. First, he says, “it has been suggested that they [the passages threatening eternal punishment, Matt 25:31-46; Rev 20:10, 15; Matt 12:32; 2 Thess 1:8-9; Heb 6:2; 9:27, et al] are not informational at all, but that Christ and the apostles spoke them as in effect a horrific bluff…in order to drive them into faith and faithfulness out of fright.” He says this attitude or reason for giving these texts does not fit the context. My first comment is “suggested by whom?” Who does he have in mind that suggests that Jesus and the apostles were trying to scare people into heaven? This attitude flies in the face of many NT scriptures that talk about salvation by faith and God opening the mind to accept spiritual things, most notably the Gospel. It also flies in the face of the fact that nowhere in the Bible do we see anyone preaching a Gospel message that includes avoiding eternal punishment in hell. Look at Peter’s “sermons” or Paul’s teachings, or any other writer and not once is their preaching like we hear today. Preaching today typically follows a pattern of preaching a topic or passage, explaining it, and either along the way or at the end, a plea is given to avoid hell, by believing in Jesus and the work of the cross and resurrection, and obtain heaven as your final reward. Where is the teaching of hell in the Gospel, or Good News, as it is called? How can the Good News be good if it entailed first preaching everlasting punishment? Unfortunately, Packer does not enlighten the reader to who it is that suggests a view like this.

Second, Packer states that if “anyone who, for whatever reason, thinks these passages [see list in previous paragraph] inconclusive regarding eternal punishment for the impenitent must answer the question: How could our Lord and his apostles have made this belief any clearer?” He says that Jesus could not be more clear that he means eternal punishment for the impenitent. Packer says there is no doubt that this was exactly what Jesus and the apostles meant. Well, if it was so clear, why are there so many different theories or explanations of these passages that make sense and actually bring together so many other Scriptures and ties together all of God’s past, present, and future? I have already addressed these passages in depth in previous chapter reviews. But, the long and short of it is, if you have only short legs to stand on, meaning very little proof that your doctrine is coherent, then you make statements like Packer’s. His lack of explaining the terms aionios and kolasis, especially from the universalist understanding, is disingenuous. It is hardly worthy of him to not help the reader understand why these terms are such a big deal to an evangelical/Christian universalist. However, it is much easier to preach to the choir and get a nod from your audience when you only give your own viewpoint/understanding/doctrine to the audience who mainly agrees with you. In my opinion, Packer would do the reader a huge service by explaining why or how the universalist thinks, especially the universalist of today, and then showing proof why this is not rational, coherent, logical, does not fit with the story line of Scripture.

My conclusion so far, for this entire work, is that it wasn’t written to convince the universalist that he is wrong doctrinally, nor to sway those sitting on the fence trying to make honest sense out of the Bible. No, I believe this book was solely written to appease the proponents of everlasting punishment and to bring back into their ranks those who have begun questioning hell. This is a kind of, get in-line (see all the heavyweight authors!) or get-on-out type of book. But, this is merely my impression, and the reader of this review, and hopefully the book as well, will carefully look into the doctrine of hell or everlasting punishment, and through reason, draw their own conclusion as to what God is speaking.

The third comment was about annihilationism. He states that annihilationism must be read into the texts and cannot be read out of them. He says that universalism and annihilationism are really two different sides of the same coin. The coin is that fact that one way or another, hell needs to be emptied for God to be acceptable. I have already stated that I do not believe in annihilationism, though I do understand better why someone would hold to that view. I do take issue with his treatment of both views as essentially the same. No sir, I think if you did any serious reading to understand universalism, you would separate the two as distinct, rather than conveniently lumping them together to try to make quick work of both of them. I may or may not treat this is the next chapter which covers annihilationism. I am still deciding on whether to cover it or not. You will know this in the future.

Fourth, he says that the idea that God can’t deal with sin and the impenitent with everlasting punishment is wrong. He says that those who believe that everlasting punishment violates God’s attributes and does not resolve the moral problems created by evil and human sin don’t understand that eternal punishment is the solution to the problem of evil. He says eternal punishment vindicates God’s justice and the manifestation of His righteousness and that God should be praised for this. He says we are to be joyous that God will (has) taken final action against evil and that our joy over His taking action, condemning people to eternal conscious torment in hell, will cause us everlasting joy. So let me get this last point right; we who will be in heaven for all eternity will rejoice over all those burning in hell forever and we will praise God for His everlasting punishment of those people in hell? And, if we truly understood God, and His holiness, we would not rebel against people being punished in everlasting torment forever, we would be joyous about it? Packer uses Rev 18:20 and 19:2 as his justification for the joy and celebration. What I have read in those verses is merely about God’s dealing with sin, but not about everlasting punishment. Yes, God will judge people. Yes, there will be a heavy price to pay for unrepentance and sin against a holy God. I do not deny this nor does anyone I know who is a Christian or evangelical universalist. The rest of the book of Revelation explains the eon for which a millennium occurs and also the eon for which Satan and his angels are confined to the lake of fire. It also shows the restoration of the nations and what leads up to the end of the Scriptures and time, 1 Cor 15:22-28.

I am going to leave this section as is, and let you digest some of what he has said and what I have written as well. If you have questions about the conclusions I have come to and why, let me know. If you also question what Packer has written or need some clarification on his writing in his chapter, ask away. If I receive none, I will go ahead and proceed on to the next section, The Universalist Thesis.

Blessings to you!

Craig

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Part 5 Supplement

 

Part 5 Reference Supplement

 

I forgot to put references in the previous part of the book review. Rather than stack up a large number of different resources to show the meaning of aion, correctly translated age-lasting, and some further thoughts from other scholars on Matt 25:31-46, I remembered this resource and decided to just include a few chapters for you to read. If you would like further info about this resource or where to obtain a copy of it for E-Sword Bible software or html / .doc(x) or pdf file, let me know. I will be happy to provide these for you. Just comment to me or email me the request. This book was well worth the read!

 

(The bold chapters in the Table of Contents are included here)

An Analytical Study of Words

by Louis Abbott

CONTENTS

About the Author

Dedication

Foreward

1. Definitions of Aion, Aionios

2. Usages of Aion

3. Opinion of the Scholars

4. Apparent Contradictions

5. “Forever and Ever” — A Poor Translation

6. What Saith the Translations?

7. Eonian Means What? A Search for Truth

8. Greek Tools

9. Examples in Greek Literature

10. Bibles Without Everlasting Punishment

11. Verses “Proving” Punishment Will Be Everlasting

12. Scholars Acknowledge Restitution of All

13. Punishment? Yes – Everlasting? No

14. A Long, But Not Eternal Visit to Hell

15. The “Chosen” – Not “I Have Chosen”

16. Clearing Things Up

17. The Complete Revelation

Appendix 1 – Commentary of Previous Presentation

Appendix 2 – Do You Believe All in the Bible?

Appendix 3 – Reconciliation Scriptures

Appendix 4 – What Pleases Our Father

Appendix 5 – What if We Are Wrong?

About the Author

Louis Abbott was born in 1915. In 1928, he received Christ. One day, while pastoring a church, a man challenged Louis regarding his teaching about eternal torment. Louis accepted the challenge.

For three years Louis searched the Scriptures, searched the Greek and Hebrew words behind the English words “Hell,” “eternal punishment,” “everlasting destruction,” etc. At the end of those three years, he realized he had been taught error regarding the ultimate fate of mankind. Feeling he could not longer preach the doctrines of his denomination, Louis gave up the pastorate, but he never gave up studying.

Taking Greek courses from Moody, Loyola University, and other places, he finally came to the place where, in order to get further, he had to teach himself. At the present day, his personal library, consisting of thousands of Bible reference books, probably has more reference books on the New Testament Greek than many Bible Colleges and Seminaries.

For almost 50 years now, Louis has been spending many of his evening hours and weekends studying the subject matter of this book. There would be few in the world today who would have spent as much time studying these words as Louis has.

Louis has given me some of the books in his personal library. On the inside cover, he would put the date he finished the book and note the pages on which he made notations. I am amazed at how many reference books he has read. Most people, including scholars, usually use these kind of books to look up a subject when needed. They usually do not read these kinds of books from cover to cover, making notes along the way. But that is how Louis read many of these very difficult books.

Whether the reader will be given the grace to see the wonderful truths contained in this work is up to the Holy Spirit. I only want to make it clear in this introduction to Louis Abbott that the research contained in this book comes from over 50 years of thorough, dedicated years of “searching to see if these things be so.” Louis Abbott has come to the conclusions in this book, not because of his religious background, but because he was willing to test his traditions. May the reader be given the grace to put “fear of God” above “fear of man and his traditions” and read this book with an open mind and willing heart.

– editor

Chapter 1

Definitions of Aion, Aionios

“Usage is always the decisive thing in determining the meanings of words.”

“Over time, words often change meaning, sometimes even taking on an opposite one.”

There will be a couple of places in this publication where a long list of references are cited which may be dull reading to some of you. But due to the importance of clearly understanding the meaning of these words, I ask that you bear with me in those two or three places. I want the reader to be absolutely certain that what is presently in this book has been thoroughly researched.

Dictionaries only give the meaning of a word as it is used at the time the dictionary is written. Over time, words often change meaning, sometimes even taking on an opposite one. The word “let” in the 20th century usually means “to allow.” But in King James’ England, the word “let” often meant just the opposite – “to restrain.” The word “suffer,” had the meaning “let” in the 16th century. This meaning has been removed from the modern use of the word. As word meanings change, so will the definitions found in the dictionaries of that time period. “Carriage” was cargo four hundred years ago – today it describes the vehicle which carries the “carriage.” At one time, a “gazette” was a low value coin which could purchase a newspaper. Today, the meaning of “a certain coin” has disappeared. A dictionary, unless it contains the etymology of the word, is usually of little to no help in determining the meaning of a word hundreds of years ago. Lexicons, concordances, and etymology books are needed to ascertain the true meaning of a word within a given culture and period of time.

Listed below are the definitions modern dictionaries give to the first set of words we want to look at. Keep in mind … what they mean today and what they meant two thousand years ago, are two different subjects.

Olam, aion, and aonion are defined in dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries, and the like, as follows: (Here is one of those long lists I mentioned)

  • Page and Company’s Business Man’s Dictionary and Guide to English: Eon: A long space of time; cycle; forever; eternally; always; at all times.

  • New World Dictionary: Eon: Period of immense duration; an age; endless; for eternity.

  • Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: Eon (n.): An immeasurable or indefinite period of time; incessantly; synonym of constantly, continuously, always, perpetually, unceasingly, everlastingly, endlessly.

  • Standard Unabridged Dictionary: Eon: An age of the universe; an incalculable period, constituting one of the longest conceivable divisions of time; a cosmic or geological cycle; an eternity, or eternity. The present age, or eon, is time; the future age, or eon, is eternity.

  • Shedd Theological Dictionary (vol. II, p. 683) Eonian: pertaining to, or lasting for eons; everlasting; eternal.

  • Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon: Aion: A period of existence; one’s lifetime; life; an age; a generation; a long space of time; an age. A space of time clearly defined and marked out; an era, epoch, age, period or dispensation.

  • Thesaurus Dictionary of the English Language: Eon: An age of the universe.

  • Earnest Weekly’s Etymological Dictionary of Modern English: Aeon: Age.

  • Universal Dictionary: Aeon: A period of immense duration; an age.

  • Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon: Aionios: (1) without beginning or end; that which has been and always will be. (2) without beginning. (3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.

  • Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible: Eternity: The Bible hardly speaks of eternity in a philosophical sense of infinite duration without beginning or end. The Hebrew word olam, which is used alone (Psa_61:8) or with various prepositions (Gen_3:22; Gen_13:15, etc.) in contexts where it is traditionally translated “forever,” means, in itself, no more than “for an indefinitely long period.” Thus, me-olam does not mean “from eternity,” but “of old” (Gen_6:4, etc.). In the N.T., aion is used as the equivalent of olam.

  • The New Testament in Modern Speech, by Dr. R. F. Weymouth: Eternal: Greek: “aeonion,” i.e., “of the ages.” Etymologically this adjective, like others similarly formed, does not signify “during,” but “belonging to” the aeons or ages.

  • The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (vol. IV, p. 643): Time: The O.T. and the N.T are not acquainted with the conception of eternity as timelessness. The O.T. has not developed a special term for “eternity.” The word aion originally meant “vital force,” “life;” then “age,” “lifetime.” It is, however, also used generally of a (limited or unlimited) long space of time. The use of the word aion is determined very much by the O.T. and the LXX. Aion means “long distant uninterrupted time” in the past (Luk_1:70), as well as in the future (Joh_4:14).

  • Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Mat_25:46): Everlasting punishment – life eternal. The two adjectives represent the same Greek word, aionios – it must be admitted (1) that the Greek word which is rendered “eternal” does not, in itself, involve endlessness, but rather, duration, whether through an age or succession of ages, and that it is therefore applied in the N.T. to periods of time that have had both a beginning and ending (Rom_16:25), where the Greek is “from aeonian times;” our version giving “since the world began.” (Comp. 2Ti_1:9; Tit_1:2) – strictly speaking, therefore, the word, as such, apart from its association with any qualifying substantive, implies a vast undefined duration, rather than one in the full sense of the word “infinite.”

  • Triglot Dictionary of Representative Words in Hebrew, Greek and English [this dictionary lists the words in this order: English, Greek, Hebrew] (p. 122): Eternal (see age-lasting). (p. 6): English: age-lasting; Greek, aionios; Hebrew, le-olam.

  • A Greek-English Lexicon, by Arndt and Gingrich: (1) Aion: time; age; very long time; eternity. (2) A segment of time; age. (3) The world. (4) The aion as a person: aionios, eternal. 1. Without beginning. 2. Without beginning or end. 3. Without end.

  • Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, by Abbott-Smith: Aion: A space of time, as a lifetime, generation, period of history, an indefinitely long period – an age, eternity.

  • Hasting’s Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. I, p. 542, art. Christ and the Gospels): Eternity. There is no word either in the O.T. Hebrew or in the N.T. Greek to express the abstract idea of eternity. (vol. III, p. 369): Eternal, everlasting – nonetheless “eternal” is misleading, inasmuch as it has come in the English to connote the idea of “endlessly existing,” and thus to be practically a synonym for “everlasting.” But this is not an adequate rendering of aionios which varies in meaning with the variations of the noun aion from which it comes. (p. 370): The chronois aioniois moreover, are not to be thought of as stretching backward everlastingly, as it is proved by the pro chronon aionion of 2Ti_1:9; Tit_1:2.

Chapter Eleven

Verses “Proving” Punishment Will be Everlasting

“Professor A.T. Robertson and A.B. Bruce agree that ‘kolasis aionion’ of the KJV has a literal meaning of ‘age-lasting correction.'”

“Let me say to Bible students that we must be very careful how we use the word ‘eternity.’ We have fallen into great error in our constant usage of that word. There is no word in the whole Book of God corresponding with our eternal…”

-G. Campbell Morgan

Mat_25:31-46 concerns the judgment of NATIONS, not individuals. It is to be distinguished from other judgments mentioned in Scripture, such as the judgment of the saints (2Co_5:10-11); the second resurrection, and the great white throne judgment (Rev_20:11-15). The judgment of the nations is based upon their treatment of the Lord’s brethren (verse 40). No resurrection of the dead is here, just nations living at the time. To apply verses 41 and 46 to mankind as a whole is an error. Perhaps it should be pointed out at this time that the Fundamentalist Evangelical community at large has made the error of gathering many Scriptures which speak of various judgments which will occur in different ages and assigning them all to the “Great White Throne” judgment. This is a serious mistake. Mat_25:46 speaks nothing of “grace through faith.” We will leave it up to the reader to decide who the “Lord’s brethren” are, but final judgment based upon the receiving of the Life of Christ is not the subject matter of Mat_25:46 and should not be interjected here. Even if it were, the penalty is “age-during correction” and not “everlasting punishment.”

Dr. J.D. Dummelow, in his commentary on Mat_25:31-46, says, “Christ here speaks of the judgment of Christians alone, because that was the question which most concerned the apostles and their future converts… A common interpretation, however, is that the judgment of all mankind is meant.”

Professor A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the N.T., and Prof. A.B. Bruce, in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, agree that the kolasis aionion, the “everlasting punishment” of the KJV, has a literal meaning of “age-lasting correction.”

Dr. F.W. Farrar says: “It may be worthwhile, however, to point out once more to less educated readers that aion, aionios, and their Hebrew equivalents in all combinations are repeatedly used of things which have come to an end. Even Augustine admits (what, indeed, no one can deny), that in Scripture aion and aionios must in many instances mean ‘having an end,’ and St. Gregory of Nyssa, who at least knew Greek, uses aionios as the epithet for ‘an interval.'” Dean Farrar also states: “The pages of theologians in all ages show a startling prevalence of such terms as ‘everlasting death, everlasting damnation, everlasting torments, everlasting vengeance, everlasting fire’ – not one of which has Scriptural authority.” Dr. Farrar was well versed in the Biblical languages, author of books on the life of Jesus, the life of Paul, and Greek grammar, as well as others.

Dr. Edwin Abbott, headmaster of the City of London School, wrote in his Cambridge Sermons (p. 25), “And as for ourselves, though occasionally mentioning in language general and metaphorical, states of eonian life and eonian chastisment awaiting us after death, the Holy Scriptures give no detailed information as to either condition.” Dr. Abbott’s conviction, as expressed, showed he thought the received dogma was untenable.

An argument was introduced by Augustine, and since his day incessantly repeated, that if aionios kolasis does not mean “endless punishment,” then there is no security for the believer that aionios zoe means “endless life,” and that he will enjoy the promise of endless happiness. But Mat_25:46 shows the “eonian chastisement” and “eonian life” are of the same duration – lasting during the eons, and when the eons end, as Scripture states they will (1Co_10:11; Heb_9:26), the time called “eonian” is past and the life called “eonian” is finished, but life continues beyond the eons, as Paul teaches at 1Co_15:26: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” That is, the last, the final one in order. How will it be destroyed? 1Co_15:22 gives the answer: “For as IN ADAM ALL are dying, even so IN CHRIST ALL shall be made alive.” Death is destroyed when ALL have been vivified, or made alive, IN CHRIST. There will then be no more death. Just as life is destroyed by death, so death is destroyed by life. Our present bodies are mortal and corruptible (1Co_15:44-55), but when mankind is made alive IN CHRIST they will be raised immortal and incorruptible.

Those who believe in a universal salvation as is spoken of at Col_1:15-20, and see the purpose of God’s love and His plan for the eons, are secure in their belief that the same number of those who are now dying as a result of Adam’s disobedience will be made alive in Christ. The ALL of these verses represent exactly the same number of mankind. Rom_5:18-19 says, “by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men – by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men – by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall the many be made righteous.” The “all men” and the “many” in these verses include the same number of humans in both cases.

The “all” in 1Co_15:22; Col_1:15-22; and Rom_5:18-19 mean the same in every case. God’s eonian purpose is to head up ALL in the Christ, as is stated in Eph_1:9-10; Eph_3:11.

Dr. Alford Plumer’s An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (pp. 351-352): “It is often pointed out that ‘eternal’ (aionios) in ‘eternal punishment’ must have the same meaning as in ‘eternal life.’ No doubt, but that does not give us the right to say that ‘eternal’ in both cases means ‘endless.'”

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, preacher, teacher, evangelist, and author; sometimes called the “prince of expositors,” wrote in his Studies of the Four Gospels concerning Mat_25:31-46, “Then, moreover, we must be careful not to read into this section of prophecy things which it does not contain; for while it has been interpreted as though it were a description of the final judgment, the Great White Throne – These shall go away into age-abiding punishment; but the righteous into age-abiding life – the terms are co-equal in value, and whatever one means the other means. Only remember that here Christ is not dealing with the subject of the soul’s destiny either in heaven or hell. They are terms that have to do wholly with the setting up of the kingdom here in this world…” In Dr. Morgan’s, God’s Methods with Men, he says (pp. 185-186), “Let me say to Bible students that we must be very careful how we use the word ‘eternity.’ We have fallen into great error in our constant usage of that word. There is no word in the whole Book of God corresponding with our ‘eternal,’ which as commonly used among us, means absolutely without end.” In his book, The Corinthian Letters of Paul, the same author states concerning 1Co_15:22 (p. 191): “The word Adam is used here in the sense of headship of a race, the one from whom the race springs. But God’s second Man was the last Adam. If we say second Adam, we presuppose the possibility of a third Adam, another from whom a race shall spring. There will be none such. It is ‘first Adam’ and ‘last Adam.’ What does relationship with Him mean? In the program of God all are to be made alive in Christ.”

Sir Robert Anderson, a writer on eschatology, says, “The N.T. unfolds an economy of times and seasons; many ages head up in the one great age, within which the manifold purpose of God, in relation to earth, shall be fulfilled. Here, these words eon, age are applicable, and are used.”

Dr. Edward Plumptre, an eschatologist, wrote, “I fail to find, as is used by the Greek Fathers, any instance in which the idea of time duration is unlimited.”

Dr. William White says, “That of the widely different subjects to which aeonian is applied in the N.T., in 70 they are of a limited and temporary nature.”

Professor Knappe of Halle wrote, “The Hebrew was destitute of any single word to express endless duration. The pure idea of eternity is not found in any of the ancient languages.”

Professor Hermann Oldhausen said, “The Bible has no expression for endlessness. All the Biblical terms imply or denote long periods.” Dr. Oldhausen was a German Lutheran theologian.

Lexicographers note the fact that it was not until the fifth century A.D. that theologians began to read the sense of endlessness into Bible words. Dr. Lewis S. Chafer deplores the difficulty that the average reader of the Bible will encounter in seeking to understand the real meaning of these passages, when he notes how hopelessly the KJV has obscured the word aion. He said, “The word, which in common usage has a limited meaning, is used by the translators as the one English rendering for at least four widely differing ideas in the original. So that if the truth contained in this important body of Scripture is to be understood, the student must not only know the various meanings which are expressed by the one word, but also be able to determine the correct use of it in the many passages in which it occurs. Therefore, the KJV has placed the simple truth they contain beyond the average reader of the Bible. The English word ‘world,’ as used in the New Testament, may mean a distinct period of time, commonly known as an age (as its original is a few times translated), or it may refer to the things created: the earth, its inhabitants, or their institution. The ages are often referred to in Scripture, and the study of the exact conditions and purposes of each of them are not fanciful; but it is rather the only adequate foundation for any true knowledge of the Bible.”

Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas wrote in The Christian, in a comment upon Heb_11:3, “the word rendered ‘worlds’ is ‘ages’ and refers not so much to the material creation as to the world regarded from the standpoint of time… The last mentioned (age, aion) is the name used here, and it seems to refer to what may be called time-worlds, the idea being that of various ages or dispensations being planned by God with reference to a goal toward which all are moving.”

Dr. Thomas’ notes on Rom_5:18-19 were, “As mankind’s connection with Adam involved him in certain death, through sin, so his relation to Christ insures to him life without fail. The double headship of mankind in Adam and Christ show the significance of the work of redemption for the entire race.”

Professor Max Muller says in reference to the Latin word aeternum, “that it originally signified life or time, but has given rise to a number of words expressing eternity – the very opposite of life and time.” He says the Latin aevum, that is, the Greek word “ainon, later aion, became the name of time, age, and its derivative, aeviternus, or aeternus, was made to express eternity.”

Dr. Isaac Watts says, “There is not one place in Scripture which occurs to me, where the word death necessarily signifies a certain miserable immortality of the soul.”

Professor Taylor Lewis states, “The conception of absolute endlessness as etymological of olam or eon would clearly have prevented plurals.” He continues, “‘ever’ (German: ewig), was originally a noun denoting age, just like the Greek, Latin and Hebrew words corresponding to it.” Dr. Lewis wrote an interesting article for Lange’s Commentary about the use of the words olam and aion as used at Ecc_1:4.

Jeremy Taylor, a hell-fire advocate, wavers, and after his ebullient flashes of Systematic Hellology, is constrained to the following modification in Jeremy Taylor’s Works (vol. 3, p. 43), “Though the fire is everlasting, not all that enters it is everlasting,” then adds, “The word everlasting signifies only to the end of its period.” Would that other hell-fire advocates were so honest.

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 5

Examining Universalism III: The Meaning of Eternal Punishment

Packer begins this section by making some unsubstantiated claims. First, he says that his survey of universal salvation “has shown the speculative character of this theory in all its forms and has uncovered in passing one of the motives that drives it today, namely, a generous desire to affirm all major religions as highways to the highest human happiness, so that no adherent of a different faith need ever convert to Christianity.”

Second, he states that the universalism that he has set aside with his evaluation shows that universalism is clearly sub-Christian soteriology (study of salvation). I believe I have clearly refuted his position by offering a biblical plan of salvation supported by many texts of Scripture, including not only the New Testament, but the Old Testament as well. I have shown clearly where his translation of key biblical words is at best one of several interpretations, and at worst, just plain wrong! The universalist point of view unifies more of Scripture than any other system I have ever seen. The Arminian (Methodists, Church of Christ, Pentecostals, most Baptists, Charismatics, et al) falls short because in the end, man’s will is sovereign over God’s will. In Reformed theology (Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist, Christian Reformed, Lutheran, et al.) God is sovereign over all things, but His love takes a backseat to the justice He must mete out to all those who are the non-elect, which is most people. Neither system takes into full account God’s nature as love, nor all the verses in Scripture that refer to the salvation of all people. Each system must make, what I will call, excuses for why Scripture seems contradictory at points, and then they have to rely on eternal conscious torment to rescue them in the end.

Clearly I believe Packer has overreached with his beginning comments in this section. We will now follow with his section on The Biblical Teaching.

Biblical Teaching

Beginning this short section, Packer uses Matthew 25:31-36 as his proof-text that the Bible teaches “eternal punishment,” meaning punishment forever and ever. He makes the statement that “one’s profession of faith is validated by the quality of one’s life.” The wicked go to “eternal punishment” and the righteous go to “eternal life.” He then explains the two terms for eternal punishment. First is aionios for eternal. He says this means belonging to the age to come, which will not end, compared to the present age which will come to an end. Second, the Greek term for punishment, kolasis, he says means retribution, “as distinct from causeless, infliction of pain by or on behalf of whoever’s authority has been flouted, as an expression of that person’s displeasure.” He finally states, in these opening two paragraphs on page 183, “So eternal punishment means a divine penal infliction that is ultimate in the same sense in which eternal life is ultimate – prima-facie (at first look, on its face), therefore, everlasting and unending.”

Several issues jump right out. I agree that Matthew 25:31-46 is talking about works (one’s profession of faith is validated by the quality of one’s life = one’s faith is seen in the works he/she does). Whose works is Jesus talking about? Chapters 24 and 25 are being spoken on the Mount of Olives to the disciples (Matt 24:1-3). So these two chapters are a warning to the disciples to watch how they act. Several parables are given explaining that they are to be ready for the end of Judaism. The parables of the fig tree, the ten virgins, and the talents, and the example of those in Noah’s day, show the need for preparation and being ready for the end of Judaism. These passages do not speak of the end of time and cannot speak of the end of time. In 24:34 Jesus says that in no way will this generation pass away before these things take place. This teaching comes right after He explains that knowing these things is easy because it is just like them knowing that when they see leaves begin sprouting on a fig tree, they know summer is approaching.

In this “sermon” on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is showing the believers how God will treat them according to their works. This text (25:31-46) is a warning to the disciples, the believers gathered around Jesus who were gathered privately (Jesus gathered true believers privately, not the masses who were called “disciples” or mere followers, following after Him similar to groupies today, mainly to get something from Him, food, prestige, power, whatever). What is the warning? The warning is to not act like those in 25:41-46. Don’t leave those you can help needing food, drink, shelter, clothing, nor in need of fellowship. leave people who People are either deemed righteous or condemned based on their faith as evidenced by their works. Since the subject here is works, it cannot possibly refer to the immortal world. No one can work there way into heaven, since it is through faith that we are saved! And, Packer certainly does not believe that anyone can evidence their faith after this life through good or bad works. We know good works do not save and therefore cannot enable someone to go to heaven. Immortal life is a gift of God! (Eph 2:8-9) Getting an “end times” declaration of eternal rejection or destruction out of these verses misses the whole point of Jesus’ teaching!

(Mat 16:26) For the Son of Mankind is about to be coming in the glory of His Father, with His messengers, and then He will be paying each in accord with his practice.”

(Mat 16:27) Verily I am saying to you that there are some of those standing here who under no circumstances should be tasting death till they should be perceiving the Son of Mankind coming in His kingdom.”   (CLV)

Jesus came by the manifestation of his grace and truth, in other words in his kingdom and glory, and in the glory of his Father. The kingdom of God refers to the system of religion that Christ came to establish, the gospel kingdom that was not fully set up until the Jews who persecuted Jesus were humbled by the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem, their power and then put under subjection of the government and dispersed. All the events after Jesus resurrection and leading up to AD 70 were the building up of this kingdom which was then fully established in that year. Jesus’ spiritual kingdom could not have been set up fully before all these events took place. Jesus came to demolish the reign of Judaism and open up salvation to all people everywhere.

In chapter 24 the Apostles asked Jesus when these things would take place. From Matt 24:5-28 we read about all the calamities that will happen before the destruction of Jerusalem. The description is representative of the way calamities were described in those days. Calamities were represented by upheavals in nature. For examples of this refer to Isaiah 13:10, Isaiah 34, Ezekiel 32, and Joel 2.

Then the parable of the fig tree is given to show the nearness of these calamities. And, to cement the nearness in their hearts and minds, he goes even further by stating that some in this present age will not die before this comes to pass.

Then the separation that takes place between believers and unbelievers is talked about. The wise and faithful would inherit the gospel kingdom while those who opposed the gospel and persecuted Christians would suffer under the calamities that were to come upon the nation. The separation of those to the right or left showed the distinction between the two groups. The ones on the left were to suffer age-lasting punishment. This punishment was the physical calamities brought on in this life, in this age (since there is no reference at all to an age to come!) due to not believing the gospel and living under its protection. The ones on the right enjoyed spiritual life in this age as long as they remained faithful. During this life they were brought to the knowledge of the truth in this life and enjoyed that truth in this age knowing that one day they will have true everlasting life. There is no reference here to immortal life but merely to application to this life.

The great thing about this kingdom for the Jew was that even though in this life they (Jews) who did not believe would suffer punishment, (pruning to result in benefit), Paul goes on in his writings to explain to Jews the assurance that one day “all Israel will be saved.” Paul says that even though the Jews were stubborn that God would have mercy on them all (Rom 11:32).

(Mat 25:31) Now, whenever the Son of Mankind may be coming in His glory, and all the holy messengers with Him, then shall He be seated on the throne of His glory,   (CLV)

This is figurative language and cannot be taken in a literal fashion, and here is why. The Scriptures clearly show that Jesus’ coming in his kingdom and glory happened in the days of his ministry and the following years of the apostles. We know this because some who were listening to his instruction lived to witness his coming in the spiritual manifestation of his truth, and this especially through the Holy Spirit who was poured out on many during those days and illuminated Jesus’ truth. Look at Matt 16:26-27.

Packer then shows his bias when he says that eternal (Greek aionios, which is an adjective and cannot mean or prove more than its underlying noun aion) means belonging to THE AGE TO COME! The main and best definition of the term, aion, both biblically and extra-biblically is a period of time of indefinite/unknown length. And, since the adjective derives its meaning and force from the noun it stems from, aionios cannot possibly mean MORE than its root. Since aion means an age, age-lasting or a period of time of indefinite length, the adjective aionios cannot mean forever and ever, everlasting, or eternal, in the sense we understand it today. The subject determines the meaning of the word. For example, in the Bible we read of everlasting hills and the everlasting God. Are the hills forever and ever, eternal? No, because they will one day be replaced by the new earth. Is God forever and ever, eternal? Yes, because He has no beginning nor ending, He has always been. He was never caused/created. In one sentence the same word means for a limited period of time and the next it means forever and ever. And when the Scripture writers wanted to emphasize a point, or show significance in size or time, they would repeat the word, such as aions of aions, meaning a very, very long time (literally ages of the ages or ages of ages). See this blogs’ page on Aion / Aionios for more references of this.

And, if that isn’t enough, then think about this. The context dictates the meaning of words as well. The context cannot mean forever and ever because Jesus is talking about works, which for the saints in the next life, according to Packer’s own beliefs, is only and always good, if they are even done in “eternal “ life. The saints cannot be doing bad works in the next life, or eternal life as he states it. Nowhere do we see reference to the specific things that we will be doing in heaven, in life after all the ages are completed and God becomes all in all. So, is Jesus saying that these are the works of those who are in the life to come, or is He saying that it is works that save us and give us eternal (literally age-lasting) life or eternal (literally age-lasting) death? Packer does make it confusing. However, this is expected based upon his doctrinal stance. For many like him, it is not about letting the text speak for itself, but trying to make sense out of a pre-suppositional doctrine and making scripture fit that doctrine.

Let me just add a little more information for the reader. There are Greek terms used in the New Testament that mean “without end.” One of those terms is aphthar(tos/sia), which means incorruptible, immortal, incorruption, but is never used in conjunction with punishment (see Rom 1:23; 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Peter 1:4; 1 Tim 1:17; 1 Cor 15:42, 50; 2 Tim 1:10). Another term, also meaning immortal is athanasia, used in 1 Cor 15:53-54 and 1 Tim 6:16, also never associated with punishment. Another term is akatalutos, translated endless, and used once in the Bible in Heb 7:16, once again, never applied to death or punishment or misery. It would seem that if our Lord desired to teach the apostles about endless, immortal life, that He would have used the specific term aphthartos/aphtharsia, athanasia, or akatalutos, rather than the term aion/aionios, which was understood as an age or indefinite period of time. It would seem that eternal (endless immortal) life or death would be a sufficient subject that Jesus would want to be misunderstood about. And since there are specific terms for it, Jesus would most likely have used one of them to be very clear about the “eternal” destiny of believers and unbelievers!

My conclusion then is that Packer has these verses wrong and comes to the wrong conclusions based on the text itself.

But, let us look also at the word for punishment, kolasis, and see if there is more to it than what Packer has led his readers to believe. For as much effort as I have put into studying the term aion/aionios, I do believe that this term, kolasis is more important to understand in verse 25:46 than aion/aionios is. The reason for this is related to the various meanings of the word and their implications. This term has a range of meanings, as most words do. It can mean punishment, chastisement, correction or the pruning of trees. A frequent meaning was this last definition, the pruning of trees. Why are trees pruned? They are pruned to improve and benefit the tree! Take that idea and overlay it in verse 46, we see that age-lasting or an indefinite period of punishment is for the improvement and benefit of man. This “everlasting punishment” is given for some wise and benevolent purpose, not as retribution as Packer states, but to ultimately benefit those who are being chastened or punished! What about the term chastisement (punishment, penalty, correction)? We have the same connotation with this word as well. The connotation being that of remedial (curative, healing) punishment, not retribution (vengeance, payback).

One last point that I want to make to solidify the understanding I am putting forth here. So then, let’s put all this together and come to an understanding of what Matthew wrote, of what Jesus was truly saying in this passage, Matt 25:31-46. This passage is part of a long discourse spanning chapters 24 and 25. This is the culmination of the parable of the sheep and the goats. There are several illustrations in these chapters as well. Verse 31 tells us when all this takes place, as we read in verse 31, which precedes the parable:

Then, Packer also mentions Revelation 20:10, 15 to show that the unbelievers would experience the lake of fire forever and ever. I treated these verses in a previous chapter review. Hell Under Fire – Chapter 5 – The Revelation on Hell Part 2

Packer next makes the claim that, “eternal punishment is not merely a matter of these two texts [referring to Matt 25:31-46 and Revelation 20:10, 15], however.” He cites Matt 12:32, the sin against the Holy Spirit not being forgiven as another example of the teaching of eternal punishment. After this he also lists the same (tired!) list of Scriptures that other authors have already explained. I have treated all the other texts in previous chapter reviews. Pay particular attention to Chapters 3&4. I will not rehash all those other texts (listed in this chapter under this heading are Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:24; Matt 8:12; 13:42; 24:51; Luke 13:28; 2 Thes 1:8-9; Rom 2:5-9; Heb 6:2; 9:27; 10:27, 31).

Instead I will tackle Matt 12:32, since I have not done so in previous chapter reviews as I recollect.

(Mat 12:31) Therefore I am saying to you, Every sin and blasphemy shall be pardoned men, yet the blasphemy of the spirit shall not be pardoned.”

(Mat 12:32) And whosoever may be saying a word against the Son of Mankind, it will be pardoned him, yet whoever may be saying aught against the holy spirit, it shall not be pardoned him, neither in this eon nor in that which is impending.” (CLV)

First, as I read verse 31, I became aware of something I hadn’t seen before. Jesus says every sin and blasphemy shall be pardoned men. This makes more sense to me today, from the standpoint of universalism, than ever before. Every sin, all men will be saved. Through one man came condemnation for all men and through the one God-man comes the salvation of all men. All men sinned in Adam, all man’s sins shall be pardoned. Interesting, isn’t it? Isn’t it also interesting that Jesus was talking to Jews when he commented on this subject. I agree that their will be a judgment for this sin, for those who have committed it (who that is I shall save for another time!) in this eon (the time in which Jesus was speaking). And I believe what Jesus said about the impending age in verse 32. But there is at least another age after that where all sin will be forgiven and death is done away with and God becomes all in all, with everyone worshiping God. But, Paul taught that in the end, all Israel will be saved. No contradiction between what Jesus taught and what Paul taught! How wonderful! Jesus said all sins will be forgiven man and Paul teaches that very thing. Therefore, the Jews who Jesus was talking to, even if they had committed this sin, will one day still be saved! So, we must be misunderstanding Jesus’ point about the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit.

Second, Jesus said in verse 32, “neither in this eon nor in that which is impending.” The only thing not pardoned is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, in this age or the age to come. Whoever says something against Jesus (Son of mankind) will be forgiven and whoever says something against the Spirit will not be forgiven. There is a parallel here. If this age is the only time we have to get things right, then how can someone commit this unpardonable sin in the next age. His destiny, according to most of Christianity is already settled, so it is a moot point and nonsense for Jesus to mean that only the unpardonable sin could be committed in this life and the next life, and not have the other group be forgiven either in this life or the one to come.

Next, let me pose a question that was posed to me. How can a person sin against the Father, and not have that sin be against every member of the Godhead? I know, they are distinct in themselves yet one. Can a sin be committed against one and hidden from the others? When Jesus said if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father, and I and the Father are one, did He mean it? Are our sins multiplied against us if we commit a sin against Jesus, but then the Father gets offended that His Son was sinned against and now the sin is against Him too? How could a sin be against only one member of the Godhead and not against the whole Godhead? I wold love to hear an explanation of this. I have never encountered nor read of an explanation of this situation. I would love some help trying to understand this.

There was a mode of speech among the people of Jesus’ day that when two things were held up in distinction from one another, and one of the two was much more difficult to be done than the other, it was common for the Jews to say that one should be, and the other should not be. The Pharisees had rejected the best and strongest evidence that could be presented to prove who Jesus is and that He was/is God. It was improbable then that they would ever be convinced by or for Jesus. Basically what is happening in Jesus’ talk is Jesus is saying that even though some may sin against Him they will be more easily or sooner be forgiven than the one who attributes the things of God to Satan. It is easier to repent of sins against Jesus, all manner of sin and blasphemies, than it is for someone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit to repent of their sin against the Spirit.

Therefore, based on this evidence, it is highly doubtful that this has anything to do with “eternal punishment” as Packer believes. The evidence points toward Jesus referencing this present wicked generation of His day, and also the age to come; all the people that would live after Jesus’ time. And that Jesus was using a common Hebraism, saying one thing was easier to accomplish than something else.

I will stop here for now and take up the next section, The Universalist Thesis in the next part of Chapter 8’s review. Help me understand a few of those things I brought up that I would like some clarification on or your thoughts on what has been said here. Also, if you have questions that need clarification I would love to hear them as well. As always, may god richly bless you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Craig

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 4

Salvation in Scripture

Packer begins this section by saying that universalists affirm salvation in its fullest sense, then he defines what salvation is:

Salvation, in Scripture as in life, is the process, or outcome, of being saved; that is, being rescued from jeopardy and misery, preserved and kept safe from evil and disaster, protected against hostile forces, and thus firmly established in a state of security. The Bible focuses throughout on God as the One who saves, and on needy humans as beneficiaries of his saving action.”

Packer says that “the master theme of the New Testament is God’s work and gift of spiritual, eternal salvation through Jesus Christ the Lord, a work whereby guilty, vile, and helpless humans are delivered from sin, God’s wrath, death, and hell.”

He further states that:

This Christian salvation has three tenses – past, present, and future. Believers have been saved from sin’s penalty, are being saved from its power, and will one day be saved from its presence, for when we are glorified there will be no sin either in us or in our environment…and is mediated through, a personal relation that constitutes its very heart, namely: (1) faith-and-love fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in adoring gratitude for what has been given so far and in expectant hope for more to come; and (2) a relation supernaturally created and sustained in the present by the Holy Spirit, one that it seems will last forever.”

I can agree with Packer in his definition above. God is the One who saves and mankind is needy in many regards, but especially in regard to salvation. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot make ourselves sinless and worthy of God’s love, protection, etc. I will take a bit of exception to what Packer calls, “the master theme of the New Testament.” I believe this is the master theme of the whole Bible and I will use slightly different language to describe it, namely, God’s reconciliation restoration of all things to Himself.

Further, I can agree with his assessment of the salvation in the past, present, and future. Where I believe we do differ is when and where this salvation can and does take place.

Universalists and Salvation

At first glance I was excited to see this section come up. My excitement waned a bit as I read through it. He asks the question at the outset, “Do universalists really understand salvation in these terms?” He then goes on to label three different types of universalism; secular salvationism, postmortem salvationism, and pluralist salvationism.

Secular salvationism is that belief which says that “the destination everyone will share after he or she has died is not conceived in a way that includes the elements in the biblical gift of salvation as stated above.” It is similar to the Hollywood fantasy that in the end everyone will die into happiness, though not necessarily through the biblical mandate of belief in Jesus Christ.

Clearly, this is an unbiblical view, especially in relation to what was shared above. I agree with Packer that secular salvationism is not accurate from a biblical standpoint.

I will take the next two out of sequence. I want to discuss briefly pluralist salvation. Pluralism refers to “a range and variety of thoughts, beliefs, ideals, convictions, hypotheses, and points of vie on a subject, or of cultural and religious life-patterns and value-systems overlapping or in parallel,” and that every one of these is valid and enriches us all. In pluralism, Jesus Christ is just one of many great religious leaders, all equals, who have been used by God to teach people the way of salvation. Therefore, salvation can be found equally in Buddhism, Brahmanism, Hinduism, and any other religion or religious experience because God uses them all to draw people to himself.

This, too, I believe is in serious error. I believe that Christ and His early followers affected the whole world with their teachings and beliefs. Therefore, I believe that all religions, in one way or another, share some traits with Christianity, if for no other reason than they were affected by Christ’s teachings throughout history or the fact that everyone is an image-bearer of God and in similar ways resonates with each other due to this fact. However, I do not believe that each individual belief held by every world religion is helpful or necessary or right (true) in bringing people to salvation. I think, as the Bible clearly states, there is one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. I believe that He is revealed as fully as necessary in the Bible. I believe that belief in anyone or anything but Jesus Christ (and the Father and Spirit) will not lead you to salvation. There is salvation in no other name and that at the name of Christ, eventually everyone will be brought to true worship of the One True God, the God of the Bible, and His Son Jesus Christ through whom we (everyone) will be saved. Therefore, I, too, reject pluralist salvationism.

That leaves postmortem salvationism, and I purposely left this for last in this section. Postmortem, meaning, after death, salvationism states that “God will deal savingly with all who, for whatever reason, left this world without faith in Christ.” God will carry out, what some have called, eschatological evangelization, meaning, basically end-time evangelism. This entails confronting those who died without Christ, after their death, with their sin and continuing to do so until everyone succumbs to belief in Jesus. How this takes place varies depending on which universalists you talk to. But, the bottom line is that somehow, someway, after death, those who died without Christ will come to faith in Him and enjoy salvation forever. Packer says those who believe in this view “work with a fully Christian idea of salvation.” But, this is the concern for him. Packer believes that the opportunity for salvation ends at death and that peoples’ fates are sealed at the moment of death. I would classify myself as in this view, believing that somehow, though not shown the details scripturally, that God will reconcile ALL people to Himself and restore them to fellowship with Him, just as the Bible tells (shows) us (see 1 Cor 15:22-28, Col 1:15-20, Rev. 20-21 for some example texts, some of many, by the way!). I believe 1 Peter 3:19-20 gives us some insight into how (or that) this takes place.

I will be writing more on this subject after this book review is completed. By the way, this book review has become somewhat cumbersome in the respect that it seems like I keep saying many of the same things over and over again. Oh well, I guess that is the nature of the error as I see it. I am looking forward to finishing this WHOLE review and moving on to other, and probably more meaningful, things, but I do desire to finish what I have started. So with that, let me continue.

Looking over the chapter, I think it would be good to stop here. The next section is about seven pages long and does not divide up real well so I will keep it as a whole. It may be a fairly short review, though, since it is dealing once again with the meaning of eternal punishment, ground which we have more than covered in the past sections and chapters. We shall see. Until then, God’s richest blessings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Craig

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