Tag Archives: exegesis

Don’t Let Sin Reign in Your Mortal Body

Here is my provocative question for this post.  When you read what Paul wrote in Romans 6:12, “Let not Sin, then, be reigning in your mortal body, for you to be obeying its lusts.” (CLV, Concordant Literal Version), do you:

A. Believe this to mean “stop sinning” and refers to the “acts of sin” OR

B.  I will never stop sinning in my mortal body but thankfully as a new creation in Christ my sins have been removed and sin no longer tells me what to do, I tell it what to do! (get lost!)

If you choose A., then you are in league with the whole modern church today.  You believe just as most every other believer today because you believe that Paul is telling you to quit committing acts of sin, like adultery, swearing, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.  It also means you will probably seek to remove all appearances of evil and sin from your life.  Example:  We don’t believe it is a sin to drink alcohol, but we require our leaders to abstain from drinking alcohol because we do not even want to give the appearance of sin, or cause even the least of our brothers to stumble.  Or, I have been “saved” by God and in my past have struggled with pornography, therefore, when I want to rent a movie from Netflix, I search only G-rated movies because I do not even want to be tempted to sin.  Or, I know overeating is a sin, but I have a lust for pizza so, as a believer, I will never go down the pizza aisle at the grocery store, nor will I go to parties where pizza is being served.

If you chose B., you look back at my last paragraph and say, “Wow, I am glad I am not like those sinners over there!”  No, I am only kidding!  But seriously, you probably realize that Paul’s whole case in Romans is not some theological treatise for the seminary classroom, nor for the making of super saints!  It is for everyone, saved and unsaved alike.  It is especially for believers who understand that they will never be NOT sinning in this mortal body but thankfully Jesus paid it all, paid for every sin, past, present, and future, on the cross and in his resurrection.  You realize that you are not defined by your sin but by your identity with and in Christ.  When you realize you sin, and you realize it is an anomaly, that because you treasure His grace, you stop and say, “No more,” and you continue on reveling in the grace that super-exceeds the sin you just committed.  Then, rather than being sad over your sin, and letting sin ruin your disposition, you push it aside and focus on the grace of Christ, His ever and over-abundant love for ALL OF HIS CREATION, and go about praising Him the rest of the day!

Which kind of person are you?  Which kind of person do you want to be?  Think about it!  Send me your comments and let’s dialog about it.  Questions?  Me, too.  Let’s help one another find answers! As always,

Love in Christ,

Craig

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Filed under God's Love, Grace, Mercy, truth, Understanding the Bible, Universal salvation

Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 13

Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis

 

Well, again, this has taken awhile but I decided rather than scratch these first two passages in Hebrews 3 and 6 because they do not address the issue of final destruction or final judgment directly, as Packer says, I would explain these verses to show how misunderstood they are and how theologians with agendas (denominational bents, if you will) skew the meaning of verses to fit their presupposed theology.

 

Heb 3:14-19

(Heb 3:14) For we have become partners of Christ, that is, if we should be retaining the beginning of the assumption confirmed unto the consummation,

(Heb 3:15) while it is being said, “Today, if ever His voice you should be hearing, You should not be hardening your hearts as in the embitterment.”

(Heb 3:16) For some who hear embitter Him; but not all those coming out of Egypt through Moses.

(Heb 3:17) Now with whom is He disgusted forty years? Was it not with those who sin, whose carcasses fall in the wilderness?

(Heb 3:18) Now to whom does He swear, not to be entering into His stopping, except to the stubborn?

(Heb 3:19) And we are observing that they could not enter because of unbelief.

 

Verse 14 – We can go back to verses 1 and 6 of this chapter and see the same thing being talked about. The inference is that we who believe will be or are currently partners with Christ and will enjoy this partnership in the end of the age, or as some believe, the millenium.

 

Verse 15 – verse 7-8 also talk about a hardening and a warning to not be hardened against God and His truth. It is dangerous to be led astray by others’ teachings, even if it sounds right or makes us feel good.
“If,” eán (in Greek) implies a condition which experience must determine, an objective possibility, and thus refers always to something future. ( Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.) Therefore, the writer is telling his hearers, “If, possibly in the future, you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts as the Israelites of Moses’ day, wandering in the desert, did.”

 

Lastly, let me mention this. Verses 16-19 talk about how the disobedient (synonym: unbelievers) did not enter the rest of the land of Canaan. There are two different words used in verse 18 and 19 for unbelief. In verse 18, some translations use the word “disobedient,” and the word in verse 19 as unbelief. They are synonyms that speak mainly about unbelief that results in disobedience. They are not two different thoughts, but one thought and its consequences. One can read verses 18 and 19 as follows: 18 And to whom did he swear they would not enter into his rest, except those who were disobedient (unbelievers)? 19 And so we see that they were not able to enter because of disobedience (unbelief).

 

And so, the importance of these verses is that unbelief can (or has, does as seen by the wilderness wanderers who did not enter Canaan) result in disobedience leading to loss of rest, loss of reward although what is most important is not the result of the disobedience or unbelief, but the root cause of it, a hardened heart against God. As important, is the fact that there is still an opportunity in the future of hearing God’s voice and heeding His voice by not hardening their hearts against Him.

These verses do not speak about a final judgment or destruction.

 

Heb 6:4-8

(Heb 6:4) For it is impossible concerning those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and become sharers of the Holy Spirit,

(Heb 6:5) and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the coming age,

(Heb 6:6) and having fallen away, to renew them again to repentance, because they have crucified again for themselves the Son of God and held him up to contempt.

(Heb 6:7) For ground that drinks the rain that comes often upon it, and brings forth vegetation usable to those people [for whose sake] it is also cultivated, shares a blessing from God.

(Heb 6:8) But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to a curse, whose end is for burning.

Verses 4-6 are all one long sentence in the Greek and need to be treated together.

 

These verses talk about turning from truth and becoming apostate to the gospel of the kingdom of God. These are also the first verses which indicate that the author was addressing the Hebrews who had become believers in Christ, and were in danger of becoming apostate from the faith.

 

Earlier, in verses 1-3 of this chapter, the writer gave seven recommendations to the Hebrew believers as to how they should act. The writer urged them to: (1) leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ; (2) stop laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works; (3) stop arguing about what it meant about faith toward God; (4) leave the doctrine of baptisms of cleansings and washings; (5) leave the doctrine of the laying on of hands for the sacrificial animals; (6) stop arguing about the resurrection of the dead; (7) leave the question about eternal judgment.

 

Here in verses 4-6 the writer lists seven descriptions of those apostates who had come to know the gospel of Christ in truth. These seven results of the seven recommendations fully explain what apostasy is and what it brings.

 

Here, the first description of apostates is that it is “impossible for those once enlightened.” This enlightening is spiritual enlightenment, or spiritual understanding. Being enlightened is a gift of God’s grace, enabling one to understand spiritual things. The carnal, natural mind cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). The natural mind may study the facts, but only God can put understanding in the mind, unlocking the spiritual meaning contained in those facts.

 

The second description is that they “have tasted the heavenly gift.” According to Ephesians 1:3, this heavenly gift is:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

 

This heavenly gift contains a “taste of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Apparently, those whom the writer was addressing had been very knowledgeable about the sacrifice and ascension of Jesus. They had, in a sense, intimate knowledge of the fellowship of His sufferings, being that they too have suffered greatly after becoming Christians. We know many Jews who converted to Christ were suffering immensely because of their new faith.

 

The third description was that they “were made sharers of Holy Spirit.” There is no definite article preceding “holy spirit,” therefore the emphasis is upon some quality or characteristic of holy spirit which each person has received. The Hebrews had received the gift of holy spirit, they were aware of the gift, and, therefore, they were responsible to God for what they did with that portion of holy spirit they had received. That everyone has been given the gift of holy spirit is attested to in Acts 2:17:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”

 

Some people choose to interpret this verse as something which has not yet happened, something which will not take place until the “last days.” However, in Acts 2:16, Peter said, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” God has already sent a portion of holy spirit to everyone. Furthermore, we have been living in the “last days” ever since the ascension of Jesus. Therefore, everyone was being included in the writer’s thought’s here, not just Hebrew believers.

 

The fourth description was that they had “tasted the good word of a god.” Since the definite article was not used with theos, this could be translated as “tasted of the good, divine word.” They had tasted, or experienced, what the “divine word” said about Christ and his coming kingdom. The writer was warning them not to lose faith in the good news about Jesus being the messiah.

 

The fifth description was that they had tasted or experienced “and the powers of the coming age.” They recognized the power of holy spirit as a precursor of what it will be like in the next age, the kingdom of God.

 

The sixth description concerned “to renew them again to repentance” and having fallen away. In other words, they had tasted the good works of power, and fell away. The words fall away come from parapesontas, which means to fall by the wayside, to go astray, or to become lost. This is in relation to the proper manner of service and worship of God.

 

The writer was pleading with them to avoid such consequences. This is reminiscent of Paul’s experience with the Jews who followed him around, trying to convince his converts that they needed to be circumcised. The writer believed that someone was trying to turn these converted Jews back to the Old Testament style of worship. If they reverted to past beliefs, they could never again be renewed to repentance, or be brought again to a change of mind about Jesus as the messiah. They would be irrevocably lost, or out of the way.

 

The seventh description was that they “because they have crucified again for themselves the Son of God and held him up to contempt.” The author warned them that God would consider that they had again crucified His Son.

 

In the phrase “for themselves,” the word for comes from eautois, a compound of two prepositions which shows the cause of their crucifying the Son of God: it was for their own advantage, perhaps to escape persecution by the unbelievers who did not believe that Jesus was the messiah. However, to go back to the old Hebrew faith and deny that Jesus was the messiah would put him (Jesus) to “contempt or an open shame.”

 

This list of seven items signifies completeness. As we will see in the next passage, the writer also speaks about this in Hebrews 10:26-29.

 

When scripture says that those who turn away cannot be renewed again unto repentance, this does not mean that God deserted them. But it does mean that they have made such an irrevocable decision, that they are unable to ever again change their minds.

 

The writer pleads with them not to turn away. He knew the inevitable result of such action from the Israelite history of wandering in the desert. And some believe, this time they would not be missing 40 years but 1,000 years of sharing in the glory of Jesus, the Christ, during the next age.

 

The writer then turned to nature to cite another example. When it rains upon the earth, the one who tills the land receives a blessing from God. God sends rain upon the earth so that when they properly till the earth they will derive blessings, or food, from it. If they did not till the soil, the weeds would choke out much of the good crops. The same is true with our spiritual lives.

 

In verse 6:8, the author used the words from Isaiah 5:3-7 to warn the Hebrews.

3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.
4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why did I hope for it to yield grapes, and it yielded wild grapes?
5And now let me tell you what I myself am about to do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge, and it shall become a devastation.
I will break down its wall, and it shall become a trampling.
6And I will make it a wasteland;
it shall not be pruned and hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thornbushes.
And concerning the clouds, I will command ⌊them not to send⌋ rain down upon it.
7For the vineyard of Yahweh of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the man of Judah is the plantation of his delight.
And he waited for justice,
but look! Bloodshed!
For righteousness,
but look! A cry of distress!

 

The writer was telling them they would become the rejected briers and thorns if they departed from the faith of God, and Jesus, his Son. They would be rejected, meaning that after a rigid examination they will be disapproved, and then they will be near to being cursed. Near to being cursed by God means to be given up to barrenness. The writer did not completely close the door. It may be that God will still help them even if they turn away, but he warned that such help was an open option as far as God is concerned.

 

The phrase “whose end is to be burned” could be referring to a previous time when the Israelite people rebelled against Jehovah and turned to religions which promoted self.

 

Deuteronomy 29:12-13 records a covenant Jehovah made with Israel. Then, in Deuteronomy 29:22-28, came the warning of the dire judgment which would be brought upon them and their land if they turned away from Jehovah.

 

22“And the next generation, that is, your children who will rise up after you, and the foreigner who will come from a distant land, when they will see the plagues of that land and its diseases that Yahweh has inflicted upon it, will say, 23‘All its land is brimstone and salt left by fire, ⌊none of its land will be sown⌋, and it will not make plants sprout out and it will not grow any vegetation; it is as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Adman and Zeboiim, which Yahweh overturned in his anger and in his wrath.’ 24And all the nations will say, ‘⌊Why⌋ has Yahweh done ⌊such a thing⌋ to this land? What caused the fierceness of this great anger?’ 25And they will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, which he ⌊made⌋ with them ⌊when he brought them out⌋ from the land of Egypt. 26And they went and served other gods and bowed down to them, gods whom they did not know them and he had not allotted to them. 27So ⌊the anger of Yahweh was kindled⌋ against that land to bring upon it all the curses written in this scroll, 28and Yahweh uprooted them from their land in anger and in wrath and in great fury, and he cast them into another land, ⌊just as it is today⌋.’

 

For anyone who has the knowledge of God’s grace and the work of Jesus, the Christ, it is a serious issue to turn away from that truth.

 

One has to import the presupposition of an eternal conscious torment in hell into this passage to get a final destruction or judgment. It just is not there in its own context. This is a warning to the Hebrews to not turn, but nowhere is the falling away permanent or non-reversible in an age or ages to come.
Heb 10:26-31, 39

(Heb 10:26) For if we keep on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

(Heb 10:27) but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that is about to consume the adversaries.

(Heb 10:28) Anyone who rejected the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

(Heb 10:29) How much worse punishment do you think the person will be considered worthy of who treats with disdain the Son of God and who considers ordinary the blood of the covenant by which he was made holy and who insults the Spirit of grace?

(Heb 10:30) For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

(Heb 10:31) It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

(Heb 10:32) But remember the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great struggle with sufferings,

(Heb 10:33) sometimes being publicly exposed both to insults and to afflictions, and sometimes becoming sharers with those who were treated in this way.

(Heb 10:34) For you both sympathized with the prisoners and put up with the seizure of your belongings with joy because you knew that you yourselves had a better and permanent possession.

(Heb 10:35) Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward.

(Heb 10:36) For you have need of endurance, in order that after you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

(Heb 10:37) For yet “a very, very little while, and the one who is coming will come and will not delay.

(Heb 10:38) But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul is not well pleased with him.”

(Heb 10:39) But we are not among those who shrink back to destruction, but among those who have faith to the preservation of our souls.

Verse 26 – To sin willfully means that the act of sinning is done deliberately, not ignorantly; not an accidental act, but one done spitefully. It is not only a sinful act, but it is done in defiance of all that has been done by God, and his Son, Jesus.

 

The phrase “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” refers to an Old Testament scripture which the Hebrew believers were sure to know. Numbers 15:30-31 says:

30But the one ⌊who acts presumptuously⌋ from among the native or alien blasphemes against Yahweh, and that person must be cut off from the midst of the people. 31Because he despised the word of Yahweh and broke his command, that person will be surely cut off and bear the guilt.’”

 

The Old Testament prescribed certain sacrifices which were to be offered for known sin. But, if one did not follow the Levitical laws of sacrifice, then he would be cut off from among His people and be “on his own.” If the prescribed remedy was spitefully ignored, there was nothing else available. With this background, the writer was beginning to enlighten the Hebrew believers about the seriousness of going back to the Old Testament Mosaic Law.
In verse 27 we find out what there is to look forward to since there is no more sacrifice for sin to those who willfully sin: judgment and fury of fire. This is a future judgment as evidenced by the terms “fearful expectation.” Here is some food for thought. Was the payment for sin (death) taken care of by Jesus on the cross? Jesus conquered the wages of sin with His resurrection and therefore there appears to be no more need to make payment for sins. All those found in Christ, of course, are covered by His sacrifice. But what of the others? What of those who fall away? What of believers who will still be judged? So, what of those who willfully sin, as verse 27 states?

 

The future judgment will not be for sins but for works. Paul states this pretty clearly that our works will be judged and if found lacking, burned up (1 Cor 3:10-15). You see, Paul also explains that Jesus’ righteous deed gave all people justification. Romans 5:18-21 states:

(Rom 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.

(Rom 5:19) For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.

(Rom 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,

(Rom 5:21) so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul expresses this same teaching, salvation of all people in several other places that we have already discussed in this series. Jesus also stated that when He is lifted up from the earth that He would draw all men to Himself. (John 12:32) Not some men, but all men!

 

What the Hebrew writer is saying is that the grace of God in Christ has already forgiven sin and that our works are what retain our inheritance. God’s love saves all people, and that love is experienced in Jesus Christ.

 

Just because verse 27 talks about judgment and fury of fire does not mean there is a reference to an eternal conscious torment in a place called hell found here. No, there is a coming judgment for those who fall away that will be marked by a severity that will consume those who suffer it. But this consuming for those who willfully sin after coming to a knowledge of the truth will find themselves in outer darkness during the next age, the Kingdom of God. They will be under the rule of Jesus and His followers who reign with a rod of iron. This is the judgment that will devour or consume them.

 

Verses 28-29 are one long sentence. The writer most likely was referring back to a very familiar text to the Hebrew followers from Deuteronomy 17:2-7:

2If there is found in one of your ⌊towns⌋ that Yahweh your God is giving to you a man or a woman that does evil in the eyes of Yahweh your God to transgress his covenant 3and by going and serving other gods and so he bows down to them and to the sun or to the moon or to any of the host of heaven ⌊which I have forbidden⌋, 4and it is reported to you or you hear about it and you inquire about it thoroughly and, indeed, the trustworthiness of the deed has been established, it ⌊has occurred⌋, this detestable thing, in Israel, 5then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil thing to your gates; that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them with stones ⌊to death⌋. 6⌊On the evidence of⌋ two or three witnesses ⌊the person shall be put to death⌋. The person shall not be put to death by the mouth of one witness. 7The hand of the witnesses shall be first against the person to kill the person, and afterward the hands of all the people, and so you shall purge the evil from your midst.

 

The person who was guilty of worshiping other gods was to be put to death. Transferring this concept to the New Testament context means that the people who sin willfully after coming to a knowledge of the truth are guilty of idolatry. Such people are worshiping themselves, and making themselves into their own gods, which was the original sin of Adam.

 

Colossians 3:5 defines idolatry as, “…covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Verse 29 –

In the Old Testament, the people who turned away from Jehovah in idolatry were stoned to death because they despised Jehovah’s covenant. In verse 10:29, the author compared the sin of idolatry in the Old Testament and the New Testament and concluded that New Testament idolatry deserved “much worse punishment.” This comparison is rather frightening, especially in light of the fiery zeal which shall devour the adversaries.

 

The writer stated three reasons that the New Testament idolater is worthy of much more severe punishment. First, because “who treats with disdain the Son of God.” treating with disdain might also be expressed as “having stomped upon something contemptuously.”

 

Many of the people doing this are good, moral people. However, faith is the basic tenet of the gospel, not morality. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Those who live their lives in pursuit of worldly goods instead of pursuing spiritual things are adversaries, or enemies. They were pictured here in terms that most of them would never even think of applying to themselves. Yet, that is exactly the way it is viewed by God, and his Son, Jesus.

 

The second reason is that he “who considers ordinary the blood of the covenant by which he was made holy and who insults the Spirit of grace?” Many preachers and teachers almost make a fetish out of blood. It was not the blood, per se, but the death of Jesus which accomplished our salvation. Blood is only a symbol of his death because the life is in the blood; when one’s blood is shed, death occurs. Remember, it takes the death of the testator before a covenant, or will, takes effect. Therefore, it was the death of Jesus which such people consider an unholy thing.

 

Unholy simply means something which is common, or profane. It is not something considered as being set apart, or sanctified, to God. These people do not consider that the death of Jesus was any more significant than the death of any other person. To them, it was only a common event.

 

Most people might never put such a thought into words, but the way they live says it anyway. Again, as Jesus said, “If you are not for me, you are against me.” The book of Revelation pictures Jesus as spewing such lukewarm people out his mouth (Revelation 3:16)!

 

The phrase “by which he was made holy” indicates the grace of God. Notice, too, that the people who are worthy of much worse punishment, and who have treated with disdain Jesus, were “sanctified.”

 

Sanctified comes from hagiasthe, the verb form of hagios, which is most often translated as “holy.” As stated before, the word hagios, holy, or sanctified, has nothing to do with the character of the people designated as holy. It was something done for them by others, namely God, and his son, Jesus.

 

Therefore, the death, or blood, of Jesus, which activated the covenant (which some count as an unholy thing) actually was the same death which set all people apart to God for his service. Therefore, people should not live for themselves but for him who gave himself for them.

 

The third reason is that he “who insults the Spirit of grace.”

 

In the phrase “the spirit of grace” the definite article was used before spirit and also before grace. Therefore, this should read “the spirit of the grace. This is the one and only spirit representing the all of God’s grace as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son because of his love of humanity.

 

Anyone who treats this spirit with disdain or contempt is on dangerous ground. They insult the very act of love which was designed to give them the salvation they value so little!

 

This ends the third pathway which the writer followed to Jesus. The fourth pathway continues to the end of the chapter as the writer pled with his Hebrew brethren not to abandon their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. He continued to extol the punishment reserved for those who do such a thing, noting that they would be guilty of all the things listed in the above verses. And, more than that, the writer warned of even more drastic effects of apostasy.

 

Verse 30 –
Verse 10:30 was another appeal to the Old Testament, this time to Deuteronomy 32:35 which says,

“To me belongs vengeance, and recompense,”

and to Deuteronomy 32:36 which says,

“For the Lord shall judge his people.”

 

35⌊Vengeance belongs to me⌋ and also recompense,
⌊for at the time their foot slips⌋,
because the day of their disaster is near,
⌊and fate comes quickly for them⌋.’
36For Yahweh will judge on behalf of his people,
and concerning his servants;
he will change his mind when he sees that their power has disappeared,
and there is no one left, confined or free.

 

These two verses are a good example of the fact that New Testament writers were not always careful to quote the Old Testament exactly. However, they were careful that they did not change the sense, or intent, of the scripture quoted.

 

These Hebrew brethren knew that the Jehovah of the Old Testament was now the resurrected man, Jesus. However, their faith was beginning to waver and they were considering going back to their former worship. At the time Hebrews was written the old temple worship and sacrifices were still available in Jerusalem. The writer was referring to all the warnings about sin to persuade them not to revert, and this was not the last of the warnings!

 

Verse 31 –

Jesus is the one who will judge his people. “Falling into the hands” indicates punishment, not love; therefore, “it is a fearful thing.” Those who have treated with disdain Jesus, and considered it as worthless, and treated it with contempt, will not find their judgment minimal. It will indeed be a fearful thing.
And finally, verse 39:

(Heb 10:39) But we are not among those who shrink back to destruction, but among those who have faith to the preservation of our souls.

 

With these words, the writer made clear the destination awaiting any “who shrink back:” it is “to destruction.” The word destruction comes from apoleian. In some translations this word is translated as “perdition.” This translation helps many misunderstand the text and insert the idea of eternal hell. Destruction does not connote a final judgment or a final destruction. The destruction is the destruction of what they were created for, the purpose God has for all His image bearers; worship of Him, love, etc.

 

Destruction was on the one side, but the other side was “but among those who have faith to the preservation of our souls.” Some claim this verse as proof that, “you have to believe in order to be saved.” However, there are several errors inherent in such a stand. The greatest error concerns the definition of the word “saved.” Many believe that what we do, such as being baptized, believing, being born again, keeping the sacraments, or whatever else some religious organization may impose, is necessary and must be added to the grace of God. They contend that God only “offers” salvation, and that we must do something to appropriate it, to be “saved.”

 

This verse simply will not support such erroneous positions. One reason is that the word used here for saving comes not from the usual word sozo, but from peripoiesin, which means to come into possession of one’s own property.

 

Faith is the one thing that can give us possession of our own soul. It is only then, when we come to faith in God and what was accomplished for us in the sacrifice of Jesus, that we can then possess our own soul, or experience the “saving” of it. Otherwise, we are controlled by the impulses of the flesh over which we have no real control.

 

If we turn back in apostasy, we become slaves to the very fleshly desires which caused us to turn away from the faith. Many people simply do not understand that they are either slaves to the Lord, in which lies freedom, or slaves to sin, in which lies complete domination and destruction (see Romans 7:4-6).

 

And so, again I leave it to you the reader, has Packer in fact proven that these verses support a final judgment or final destruction? Has he proven an eternal conscious torment in hell? I believe he hasn’t What do you think? Comment to this section and let me know. As always, 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 12

Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis

Phil 3:19

(Php 3:15) Therefore as many as are perfect, [let us hold this opinion], and if you think anything differently, God will reveal this also to you.

(Php 3:16) Only to what we have attained, to the same hold on.

(Php 3:17) Become fellow imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who walk in this way, just as you have us as an example.

(Php 3:18) For many live, of whom I spoke about to you many times, but now speak about even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ,

(Php 3:19) whose end is destruction, whose God is the stomach, and whose glory is in their shame, the ones who think on earthly things.

(Php 3:20) For our commonwealth exists in heaven, from which also we eagerly await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

(Php 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.

Paul here explains that “the many” are enemies of Christ.  He says their end is destruction (meaning ruin or loss).  They will be ruined or suffer much loss.  That Paul is referring to physical things is given since the next clause states as much.  They are ruined by following after their own appetites, whether in food or in licentious behavior (whose God is their stomach and whose glory is in their shame).  And, so no one will mistake what he is speaking about, Paul states that these ones are thinking on earthly things.

Paul is contrasting the believers who should be focused on heavenly things rather than the unbelievers whose focus is on earthly things.  Why do so many teachers of the Word try to squeeze out of these verses that the destruction is spiritual?  I think it is because far too many Christian teachers have an agenda that they must fit these teachings into, to make their theology work.  How unfortunate this is, as I have so often stated in this review!

1 Tim 4:16

Although this passage has nothing to do with final destruction, it does bring out a point that I am emphasizing in this book review. Read the following few verses from this chapter and you will get my point.

(1Ti 4:4) For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving.

(1Ti 4:5) For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.

(1Ti 4:6) If you instruct the brothers of these things, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed.

Here Paul is saying that the false teachers who will spring up will not teach these things. This is how to identify them. But believers will teach what these verses say. Godliness, Paul says, is profitable for everything (vs. 8) and that statement is trustworthy and worthy of believing (vs. 9) Then we read verse 10, which is passed over by most Christians today because of what it teaches (universal salvation!).

(1Ti 4:10) For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

Why should the believer be striving toward or acting godly? Because, God is the Savior of all people! Paul emphasizes that the subset, especially those who believe, are a subset of all people. God will one day save all people, but there is a special set of people who in this life believe, and that subset, especially should practice godliness NOW because they believe NOW. Others will come to belief after this life when sin will not be a present issue for them, yet they were still not hearing or understanding salvation in Jesus. One day God’s love will penetrate their hearts and convert them.

Then Paul finishes this teaching by commanding that this be taught (godliness should be pursued by those believing ones and that God is the Savior of all people, vs. 11) . Practice godliness (vs. 15) that others may see your actions. By doing these things (godliness), you will save (deliver, protect, preserve) yourself and those who you are around and teaching. (vs. 16) There is no talk about salvation in Christ, or being saved and believing versus not being saved and being an unbeliever. It is about practicing godliness and recognizing that God is the Savior of ALL PEOPLE! It is about things going well with you by recognizing who God is and honoring that with our lives. It is not about FINAL DESTRUCTION!

I will say this. I am very glad that God rescued me out of the denominational, institutional churches that I was a part of, that had taught me so much error in regards to God and salvation. I am now seeing God in a much more glorious way than ever before and beginning to understand that all the works that we do, thinking we are pleasing God, were nothing more than filthy rags. God is never disappointed with me or you because of what we do or don’t do. He loves us because He knows who we are and what His purpose was for us all along, and He looks forward to the day when He will be all in all and all His image bearers will be worshiping Him!

Praise Him!

1 Tim 5:24

Real quickly, this passage does not speak about final destruction either, but a quick comment is in order.

(1Ti 5:24) Some men’s sins are evident, preceding them to judgment, and some also follow later.

This judgment is a temporal judgment in this life. Some sins get judged in this life and even after the judgment and apparent penalty is paid, the effects go on afterwards. The evidence of sin does not always disappear with the remediation of the sin. The consequences of sin may be evident throughout this life. This is all that is being spoken of here.

1 Tim 6:9

(1Ti 6:1) All those who are under the yoke as slaves must regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, lest the name of God and the teaching be slandered.

(1Ti 6:2) And those who have believing masters must not look down on them because they are brothers, but rather they must serve, because those who benefit by their service are believers and dearly loved.

(1Ti 6:3) If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not devote himself to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness,

(1Ti 6:4) he is conceited, understanding nothing, but having a morbid interest concerning controversies and disputes about words, from which come envy, strife, slanders, evil suspicions,

(1Ti 6:5) constant wrangling by people of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who consider godliness to be a means of gain.

(1Ti 6:6) But godliness with contentment is a great means of gain.

(1Ti 6:7) For we have brought nothing into the world, so that neither can we bring anything out.

(1Ti 6:8) But if we have food and clothing, with these things we will be content.

(1Ti 6:9) But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge those people into ruin and destruction.

(1Ti 6:10) For the love of money is a root of all evil, by which some, because they desire it, have gone astray from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.

Paul, again, takes up the topic of godliness here, just like he did in chapter 4 and 5. The ruin and destruction of verse 9 are again, temporal (this life). I need say nothing more about this passage, other than my opinion, that it is pretty ridiculous that teachers of the Gospel (like Packer and all who have written articles for this book!) get so much of Scripture wrong following after there own presuppositions and/or to continue to be paid for their labors. Being paid for laboring in the Gospel falsely is abhorrent to me and should be to you. God sees the motivation of their hearts and I pray that He corrects them in this life and spares them much pain in the life to come. Friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord, pay close attention to what you are being taught. As Paul warns, there are many deceivers and false teachers who have gone out into the world. Don’t buy into their ungodly teachings!

I will stop here for today.  The next few verses will come from Hebrews and Peter and will take a few pages in themselves.  I trust the Lord will bless you through the study of His Word and pray that He will use what I have written to bring glory to Himself and praise for Him into our hearts.  I look forward to your comments and suggestions to this post.

In Christ,

Craig

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 8 – Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? Part 11

 

 

Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis

 

 

Romans 6:23

 

(Rom 6:15) What then? Should we be sinning, seeing that we are not under law, but under grace? May it not be coming to that!”

 

 

(Rom 6:16) Are you not aware that to whom you are presenting yourselves as slaves for obedience, his slaves you are, whom you are obeying, whether of Sin for death, or of Obedience for righteousness?

 

 

(Rom 6:17) Now thanks be to God that you were slaves of Sin, yet you obey from the heart the type of teaching to which you were given over.”

 

 

(Rom 6:18) Now, being freed from Sin, you are enslaved to Righteousness.”

 

 

(Rom 6:19) As a man am I saying this, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For even as you present your members as slaves to Uncleanness and to Lawlessness for lawlessness, thus now present your members as slaves to Righteousness for holiness.”

 

 

(Rom 6:20) For when you were slaves of Sin, you were free as to Righteousness.”

 

 

(Rom 6:21) What fruit, then, had you then? – of which you are now ashamed, for, indeed, the consummation of those things is death.”

 

 

(Rom 6:22) Yet, now, being freed from Sin, yet enslaved to God, you have your fruit for holiness. Now the consummation is life eonian.”

 

 

(Rom 6:23) For the ration of Sin is death, yet the gracious gift of God is life eonian, in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

 

 

We know that from the beginning accounts in Genesis that when Adam and Eve sinned, death came upon mankind. The penalty for sin was physical death. Paul understood this and taught that here. But, in Jesus Christ is eonian life, life of or for the ages. He could be speaking of life for this present age, or more expansively of life throughout the ages. But, there is definitely no talk here of final rejection or destruction. The most that one could speculate about the physical death spoken of here and add to it would be the possibility that there is judgment attached to death. Yet it isn’t clear here that Paul is in fact saying that. So, Paul says that because of sin, death came and because of Jesus Christ life comes. Compare that to what was just spoken of in the previous chapter and it makes sense. Through one man came condemnation and through one man (God-man Jesus), came righteousness. And, if I may add, all mankind are condemned and Paul says in chapter 5 that ALL will be made righteous! Check it out!

 

 

1 Cor 6:9-10 (compare Gal 6:7-8)

 

 

(1Co 6:1) Dare any of you, having business with another, be judged before the unjust, and not before the saints?

 

 

(1Co 6:2) Or are you not aware that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world is being judged by you, are you unworthy of the least tribunals?

 

 

(1Co 6:3) Are you not aware that we shall be judging messengers, not to mention life’s affairs?

 

 

(1Co 6:4) If indeed, then, you should have tribunals for life’s affairs, the contemptible in the ecclesia, these you are seating?

 

 

(1Co 6:5) To abash you am I saying this. Thus is there not among you one wise man who will be able to adjudicate amidst his brethren,

 

 

(1Co 6:6) but brother is suing brother, and this before unbelievers!”

 

 

(1Co 6:7) Already, indeed, then, it is absolutely a discomfiture {an embarrassment} for you that you are having lawsuits among yourselves. Wherefore are you not rather being injured? Wherefore are you not rather being cheated?

 

 

(1Co 6:8) But you are injuring and cheating, and this to brethren!”

 

 

(1Co 6:9) Or are you not aware that the unjust shall not be enjoying the allotment of God’s kingdom? Be not deceived. Neither paramours {illicit lover}, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor catamites {homosexual, young boy with older man}, nor sodomites {engaging in homosexual sex},

 

 

(1Co 6:10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards; no revilers, no extortioners shall be enjoying the allotment of God’s kingdom.”

 

 

(1Co 6:11) And some of you were these, but you are bathed off, but you are hallowed, but you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God.”

 

 

I think whether you believe that Paul is talking about a kingdom here on earth during, or shortly after, Jesus’ time, or you are believing Paul is talking about a future kingdom, one thing is sure, there is no talk of final rejection or destruction here. An allotment in the kingdom would make sense given the many who will spend a time, an age, in hell being judged, being restored to the kingdom. After the time of judgment when all men are reconciled to God, they will all be healed (see Revelation 21-22, the tree in the New Heavens that bears leaves every month FOR THE HEALING OF the NATIONS, the same nations spoken of earlier in Revelation. More on this later.)

 

The following verses listed in this chapter by Packer do not have anything to do with final destruction or final rejection. Some mention those receiving judgment for their unbelief, in this life, and maybe in the next eon, but there is no talk about a finality at all. This, being charitable, is probably just a case of doing a word search without context. This happens often and many scholars/pastors use this to stack up the verses to seem so weighty on a certain subject that no rational person would think otherwise. However, as I have advocated throughout this review, think for yourselves, study for yourselves and cast off as many presuppositions as possible. Begin thinking for yourselves rather than mimicking others or adopting others’ beliefs.

 

2 Cor 4:3-4

 

Eph 5:6

 

Col 3:6, 25

 

Phil 1:28

 

As always, any questions or comments are appreciated.  God’s blessings to you!

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 8

 

Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis

 

 

John 5:29

 

(Joh 5:21) For even as the Father is rousing the dead and vivifying [making alive] , thus the Son also is vivifying whom He will.”

 

 

(Joh 5:22) For neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son,

 

 

(Joh 5:23) that all may be honoring the Son, according as they are honoring the Father. He who is not honoring the Son is not honoring the Father Who sends Him.”

 

 

(Joh 5:24) Verily, verily, I am saying to you that he who is hearing My word and believing Him Who sends Me, has life eonian and is not coming into judging, but has proceeded out of death into life.”

 

 

(Joh 5:25) Verily, verily, I am saying to you that coming is an hour, and now is, when the dead shall be hearing the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall be living.”

 

 

(Joh 5:26) For even as the Father has life in Himself, thus to the Son also He gives to have life in Himself.”

 

 

(Joh 5:27) And He gives Him authority to do judging, seeing that He is a son of mankind.”

 

 

(Joh 5:28) Marvel not at this, for coming is the hour in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice,

 

 

(Joh 5:29) and those who do good shall go out into a resurrection of life, yet those who commit bad things, into a resurrection of judging.”

 

 

 

For some strange reason I have gotten hung up on this text. It could be a bunch of things going on in my life, like working a lot of overtime, or any of many other concerns. Whatever it is, there is another element that I want to bring out right now. I have been literally stunned by this text. The more I read it, the more shocked and rejoicing in the Father and the Son I find myself. Why? Man, just look at what you read here. In this chapter Jesus does several healings and is sought after by the Jews to die at their hand. Jesus heals on the Sabbath, which all by itself was worthy of the Jews seeking retribution against Jesus. But, add to that the fact that Jesus so aligned Himself with the Father that the Jews claimed that He was equating Himself equal with the Father! Blasphemy, according to the Jews! This was an offense worthy of death! But that isn’t the amazing part.

 

 

Then Jesus tells the Jews that not only is the Father rousing the dead and making them alive, not specifying whether they have done good or bad, at this point, but goes on and says that He is rousing the dead also! Jesus says He is also making some alive, those whom He wills to do so. Jesus goes on and says that those who say they honor the Father must also honor Him as well. They cannot honor one without honoring the other. Those who are hearing what Jesus is saying about the Father and believe in the Father have life. Those are the ones who have passed from death into life.

 

 

Now here comes the amazing stuff. Jesus has been talking about rousing the dead to life. He says that an hour is coming when the DEAD will hear His voice. Those who hear will be living! What? The end of this life isn’t the dividing line between whether someone can/will believe. The supposedly great chasm fixed between the rich man and Lazarus must mean something other than what we have been led to believe? The dead can hear and believe and live? Oh my! What an amazing thing! What good news! What Good News of great joy for all mankind! And this must be good news for all mankind because there is no differentiation in the dead. Jesus merely says “the dead!” He doesn’t say the believing dead and the unbelieving dead. Just the dead. And look at what comes next.

 

 

There is an hour coming when all who are in the tombs will come forth. Those who hear and believe in the Father will come forth, just as Jesus said earlier, being roused from death and made alive to life. The others who are dead and not believing in the Father will be roused from death and made alive to judgment. There is hope, even after death, to believe in the Father and have life (and consequently in Jesus, though that doesn’t seem to be the focal point. But we know that Jesus and the Father are one.)! Nowhere here in these verses, nor the context of this chapter is there anything about a final rejection or final destruction. The life spoken of here that those who believe have is not said to be forever or eternal. It just says life. Nor does it say that the judgment is final or forever. It merely says those not believing will be in a state of judgment. When we ask the question, “What is this judgment He speaks of?” we can go back to chapter 3 and see that the judgment Jesus judges with is that the unbelieving ones love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (3:19-21). The believing ones love the light and want to make their deeds manifest to all, which corresponds to resurrection life.

 

 

What these verses are for the world is words of hope! What these verses are not are words of final rejection or destruction. That concept must be read into these verses for it cannot be read out of them! I encourage you to read and re-read these verses and see if what I am saying is true. If you do not see what I see, and you are not amazed by the hope for all mankind that is shown here, comment on this post so we can dialog and we can learn from each other.

 

 

I do not expect to spend so much time on one verse, but what if it was so? Would it be terrible? I am thankful for the light God has given me and what a blessing it has been to try to “figure” out what to write about these verses. I kept coming back to the same thing, AMAZEMENT! Will you be, can you be amazed with me concerning this verse (really these verses!)? I hope so and I hope God expands your hope in Him and your amazement in Him, and your desire to see Him for who and how He is: The Father of all who loves all of His children with such a special love that His love will one day melt even the hardest of hearts! To Him be all praise and glory and honor!

 

 

Love in Christ,

 

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 – 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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Matthew 25:31-46 and Eternal Separation?

Matthew 25:31–46 (LEB, Lexham English Bible)

31Now when the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right and the goats on the left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me as a guest, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you as a guest, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 40And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’ 41Then he will also say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 42For I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat, I was thirsty and you did not give me anything to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not care for me.44Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and not serve you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, in as much as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

(emphasis mine, see explanation below)

As I was reading these verses last night on my tablet at work, something leapt out of the text at me that stunned me.  You have probably had the same experience through the years as you have read the Scriptures.  You’ve read the same text a thousand times, if you’ve read it once, and for the most part have seen the same thing.  I think our traditions help cement this in our minds and cause us to not see things that are patently obvious.  Take this text for instance.

I have read this countless times and have focused on those two separate groups doing, or not doing, something for Christ through the proxy of normal human beings.  And this is certainly in the text.  The main focus has always been on the “eternal” aspect though.  If you do things  for Christ you will be rewarded with heaven.  If you don’t do things for Christ, you will go to eternal hell.  Eternal life or eternal punishment in hell.

Now, I have written so much on how I have come to understand that most Christian translators have mistranslated the Greek term aion as eternal, rather than age, age-enduring, but certainly a time period of limited duration.  Let me turn your focus here to what stunned me though.  There are two types  of people talked about here; the righteous and the accursed ones (unrighteous).  They are rewarded or condemned based on what they DID or DID NOT do.  They were judged for their actions, their deeds, their WORKS.  The subject of these verses CANNOT be referring to an eternal or immortal world.  What I am saying is one cannot EARN heaven by their works NOR earn punishment in eternal hell by their works, either!  This passage, therefore, must be talking about a judgment that does not endure, but has an end, or at least, culminates in the beginning of another age.

Let me explain also, that there is a parallel here that Jesus is speaking about;  good works earn eternal life and  equally, bad works earn eternal punishment.  If bad works earn “eternal” punishment, meaning forever and ever, but good works DO NOT earn eternal life, the parallel is rendered illogical.  So, if one earns eternal punishment one HAS to be able to “earn” eternal life through good works.  Therefore, if bad works earn eternal punishment good works MUST earn eternal life.  Since this contradicts other Scripture, that cannot be the real meaning.  Therefore, my contention is that Jesus is speaking not about our existence after this life, but about our life during this aion, this age.  If we translate the Greek term aion properly, it is much easier to come to an understanding of this text that does not contradict other Scriptures.

Though I do not have time at this moment to launch into a full exposition of Matthew 24-25, let me say this.  I, as well as many scholars today, believe that Matthew 24-25 is referring to the fall of Jerusalem in  AD 70.  The kingdom of God referred to in Matthew’s gospel refers to the kingdom here and now, the kingdom during the life of the hearers of Jesus.  The kingdom of God refers to the system of religion Christ came to establish, in opposition to the religion that the Jewish religious leaders had established.  And that kingdom was fully implemented when the Jewish religion and its system was finally laid waste in AD 70.  Over the last 150 years we have been fed a steady diet of end times scenarios that have not been known in Christianity before then.  So, in our lifetimes we have only known and heard taught as truth that Matthew 24-25 are to be taken literally, though Jesus himself said that “from now on I will speak in parables,” and that the chapters leading up to chapters 24-25 are rife with parabolic talk (meaning His words were pictures of things to come, not actual events and happenings) as are these two chapters!

I have gone off into deeper things and gotten away from my main point.  My main point being, Christians do not believe in works-based salvation (Eph 2 – salvation is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone boast…that they saved themselves!).  So Jesus cannot be meaning that our works dictate whether or not we ETERNALLY, forever and ever, are relegated to heaven or hell.  Works are for this age alone, therefore whatever judgment Jesus is talking about is either for this age alone (which has an end) or a future age that will also have an end.  I say this because the Scriptures say the end is here when God becomes all in all, and the second death is done away with as well.  So in my estimation we have at least two more ages (this age and the age to come) to finish before the end of all things and God restores all to Himself.  I will blog more about this in the future, as well.

I look forward to your thoughts on this text.  What can you add to help round out this understanding?  What can you add to help straighten me out, if I have gone astray?  What clarification do I need to provide for you to more fully understand why I was so surprised by this understanding?  What do you believe Jesus is talking about and why?  I look forward to engaging you in further discussion on this passage.  Thanks in advance for your sharpening of me, and hopefully I can help sharpen you as well.

Blessings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Craig

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What Does God Will?

As I am hoping to finish this book review in the next month or two, and as I study the verses I will be sharing very soon in conjunction with the next part of the book review, this is one question I am going to seek to answer.  Everyone throws around the terms “God’s will,” but few seek after it, and I fear, even fewer still, have any clue what God’s will is.  This, I believe, will be a journey that will yield huge results and as I get results I will share them with you.  If you have any starting points (verses) I would love for you to share them with me.  Not wanting to be selfish, but, it would be a great help to start that journey.   Just to let you know, part of my reason for this is because I believe that all believers need to read Scripture afresh.  I believe every believer needs to quit speculating about this or that and go to the Word and find the truth (versus merely believing what someone else tells them!).  My challenge to myself, and to you, if you should accept it, is to drop as many pre-suppositions as I (you) can re-read the Bible to find the “real” truth.  I believe all believers have a small measure of truth or a great measure of partial truth, but a re-read from a new perspective will change many things.  One of the things I believe it will change is my (your) evangelistic effort.  We shall see!  Jump on board and ride this train with me!

In Christ’s Love and Service,

Craig

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