Was Paul a False Apostle?

Was Paul a false apostle? This is a question I had never really considered before. But I was forced to consider it due to a conversation I started on my Facebook page. Here’s how this question came up.

First, I presented a brief line of reasoning to prove that God will save all. This line of reasoning is based on one of my longer essays called Just How Great Is God’s Love? Here is exactly what I shared:

A line of reasoning:

  1. God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)
  2. God wills that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:1-4)
  3. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Question: If God is love, and love never fails, then how can God fail to save all people as He has stated He desires to do?

Many of my readers objected with various arguments, but one of my readers presented a rather unique objection. He said, “I believe you just helped prove that Paul, who wrote ‘Love never fails’ is a false apostle. God cannot lie.”

As we began to go back and forth, he gave me nine reasons he believes Paul was a false apostle. By extension, he believes that Paul’s epistles should not be part of the New Testament. I have listed each of the nine objections below along with my rebuttals.

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#50 – Christ Will Drag All Men To Himself

One of the Scriptures concerning the ultimate reconciliation of all men that seems to fly under the radar is one that Christ Himself uttered and is recorded in the book of John.  It specifically concerns His death and the results (or fruit) of it.  It is found in John chapter 12.  The Scriptures leading up to this statement involve the resurrection of Lazarus and the subsequent decision by the pharisaical authorities to put Jesus to death b/c “the whole world is going after Him.” (vs. 19).  The timing of this statement occurs in the week leading up to His death.  Each of the Gospels make a distinction at this point in Jesus’ life; the week leading up to Christ’s death begins the climax of each of the Gospels.  Chapter 12 of John is where this begins; all the Jews are travelling to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and Jesus begins to change the focus of His teaching to that of His upcoming suffering on the Cross.

Within this context and immediately before the passage in question, Jesus stated that,

“unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies it bears much fruit.” (vs. 24)

He is revealing here how His death will bring about “much fruit,” that is, A LOT of fruit.  He then follows this with a confession that His upcoming death is distressing to be sure, but He wont let that deter Him b/c it was for this very purpose that He was sent and His death will both glorify the Father’s name and glorify the Son (vs. 23,27,28).  The question to ask here is how will Christ’s death bring glory to both the Father and the Son?  I believe the answer lies in the “much fruit” that His death will bring forth.

It is in this context that Jesus makes the peculiar statement I want to focus on.  He said,

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.  But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.”  (John 12:32,33)

It is plainly stated here that His being “lifted up from the earth” is a reference to His being lifted up to die by hanging on a cross.  His previous picture of being a seed that must fall to the earth and die is very much connected to this.  Seeds hang on trees (and/or plants) and when they are ripe they fall to the earth and are buried whereby they begin to grow and bear fruit.  Scripture says of Jesus that He was “hung on a tree” (Acts 5:30 and Galatians 3:3) and when He died He was buried in the earth in a tomb (like a seed being planted).  Therefore according to His mini parable He will rise up out of the earth (as a seed does) and begin to bear much fruit.

The “much fruit” that His death will bring is here defined as the “all men” that He will draw to Himself!  This is part of why I believe this passage speaks of Universal Reconciliation.  He will draw all men to Himself as a result of His death on the cross.  “All Men” is the “Much Fruit.

To me it is very simple to connect this statement in John with Isaiah’s and Paul’s declaration (which we looked at in a previous blog) describing His death and the subsequent fruit of it, as well as the glory that it will bring.  Notice also the subtle picture of Christ becoming like a seed and falling to the earth to die.

“Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)

These two sections of Scripture complement each other.  They both speak of Christ emptying Himself of His power and coming down to earth in the tiny and weak form of a man to die, the result of which highly exalts Him and brings about “much fruit” to the glory of God.  In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul even refers to our bodies as a seed that is to be planted

“But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?”  You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.” (1 Corinthians 15:35-38)

Thus Christ humbled Himself and became a seed and then fell to the earth and sowed His body in death even as a tree empties itself of its grandness and strength in order to become a seed that falls to the earth to die in order to grow up into magnificence again and bear much fruit.  That “much fruit” will be the “all men” that will confess Jesus Christ as Lord thus bringing glory to the Father and the Son.

A Conditional Prediction

If you haven’t already noticed there is a further element to Christ’s statement; it was conditional.  Therefore, if Christ made a conditional prediction like that, then surely if the condition was met He will make good on His promise and it will come to pass.  We have already seen how God cannot fail to keep His promises, or else it would become sin in Him (see my blog here).  So if Christ was crucified, which He was, then we can have full confidence that He will keep His promise and draw all men unto Himself!

Dragging All Men Unto Himself

The last thing we need to notice about this statement is the word “draw.”  In our English language it could imply that Christ will only try to attract our attention, but it will be up to the individual to respond.  I have no problem with this; unfortunately that is not what the Greek says.  The Greek word “draw” used here does not mean ‘to attract.’  In fact, the word draw literally means “to drag” (helko – Gr. 1670).  The Louw and Nida Greek Lexicon defines it this way, “to drag or pull by physical force, often implying resistance.

If Christ was lifted up, then He WILL drag all men to Himself, even if He has to use force!  And in all probability He will use force to do this b/c there is a lot of resistance within us.  It is even found within those of us who truly and sincerely try to follow Christ with all our hearts.  I am certain that we all can prove this by our own experience.

This promise of Christ was made irrespective of our desire to draw near to Him, He is going to take matters into His own hands and drag us to Himself!  Why?  B/c He knows what is best for us, and He ultimately refuses to allow even a single sheep to be lost. When sheep are disobedient and wander off the Shepherd has no choice but to break its legs and carry it Himself.  It might violate the sheep’s will, but the Shepherd knows what is best.  And the Good Shepherd knows that in many cases He will need to drag people against their will in order to bring them to Himself.

This becomes even clearer when we take a look at how this word is used elsewhere in the New Testament.  The apostle James uses it to describe a situation where one person exerts his will upon another,

“Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag (helko) you into court?”  (James 2:6)

When you are being sued, or summoned to court, you have no choice in the matter.  You can run, but you will be caught and when you are caught you will be dragged into court to face your judgment.  This is what was happening in James’ time, the rich with all their influence were dragging poor people into court b/c they had the power and influence to do so.

Luke also uses this word several times in the book of Acts to describe a similar situation,

“They seized Paul and Silas and dragged (helko) them into the market place before the authorities…” (Acts 16:19)

And,

“Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged (helko) him out of the temple…” (Acts 21:30; see also 17:6, 14:19)

I’m pretty sure that Paul was not a willing partner in the matter of his being “dragged.”  It’s quite a unique word study and the fact that Christ would employ this adverb, over and against other choices He might have had, is quite telling.

Finally, to drive this point home, in John 21 there is a scene where the Disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing.  Jesus shows up, unbeknownst to them and yells across the lake for them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, the Disciples do so and immediately catch an unbelievable amount of fish.  Peter then realizes that it is Jesus, so they all return to shore where,

“Simon Peter went up and dragged (helko) the net to land, full of large fish…”

The fish had no choice in the matter, they were caught and “dragged” to shore whether they wanted it or not. The only choice that mattered was the choice of the fisherman.  The fish in this scene are a type and shadow of people.  Jesus had given parables previously in His earthly ministry about the Kingdom of Heaven being likened unto a net that catches good and bad fish (Matthew 13:47-50).  The fish were symbols of people.  And Christ promised Peter that He would make him a fisher of men (Matthew 4:9; Mark 1:17).  In fact in Luke chapter 5 there is a scene very similar to this one here, where Christ uses the situation as a lesson to teach Peter that from now on he would be catching men rather than fish.

This is part of the reason why the Church has universally used the sign of the fish as a symbol for Christians.  The “type and shadow” of this scene symbolizes people who will be caught in that dragnet of the Gospel (Matthew 13:47); and although the fish may think they have a choice in the matter, they are actually being hauled in according to another’s will – the Fisherman’s.

This is what Christ was signifying when He declared that He would drag all men unto Himself.  It appears that ALL the fish in the “sea of humanity” are eventually going to get caught in the net and dragged ashore!

And its all founded upon Christ’s suffering on the cross.  It appears that His work on the cross was universal in scope and universal in application.  And since the condition of His promise has been met, His only course is to keep His word!

Paul’s Example

Furthermore, we have a perfect example of someone being “dragged” to Christ (against his will!).  The Apostle Paul!  And coincidentally…Paul says his conversion is a pattern for those who will follow afterwards!

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as a pattern for those who will hereafter (Gr. – in the future, end) believe in Him for eternal life.”  (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Lets stop and look at that for a moment.

First – Paul is the pattern for those who will believe in the future.

Second – He is the foremost sinner (!!!), which is a bold statement!  It’s bold b/c some of us have to accept this statement as true!  Well, at least those of us who believe that Scripture is inerrant (which this writer does); and those of us who truly believe that every single word was inspired (breathed) by God (which this writer does).  If we didn’t believe that then we could easily contest the veracity of such a statement.  We could point to Hitler, or Stalin, or Caesars, past Popes, barbarians or any number of others like these as being far worse examples of sinners.

Nevertheless God decided that Paul was the chief of sinners, the worst, the epitome of rebellion against God; and b/c of this reason God chose to make him an example of how much He loves even the vilest of sinners and that He has no problem overriding even the most rebellious and stubborn will.  Paul was “a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” (vs. 13)

Third – it is for this reason that he received mercy!  B/c Paul was the foremost sinner he received mercy!  And this is why he is a PATTERN for those who will believe later!  For if he was given mercy BECAUSE he was the foremost, how much more will everyone else be given mercy?!!!

God in His sovereignty decided to save Paul despite the fact that Paul was against that very thing happening.  Paul had obviously encountered and heard the gospel through Stephen’s famous sermon in Acts chapter 7, when the Jewish Council of high priests decided to stone Stephen to death for his preaching of the gospel.  (Not to mention many times previous when he encountered Jesus and other Apostles).  Paul was not merely a passerby on the sidelines; he was the one who was in charge of the stoning (Acts 7:58-8:1).  Paul had heard the gospel, but he had rejected it.  Yet God decided to save him anyways, even as God will do so with all the rest of humanity.

That is why Paul declares in Romans 11:32 that,

“God has shut up ALL in disobedience (sin) so that He may show mercy to ALL!”

The words “show mercy” used right there are actually the same Greek word (eleeo) that Paul uses in 1 Timothy 1:16 above, “yet for this reason I found mercy (eleeo)…”

There isn’t a worse sinner than Paul and he was given mercy as evidence (a sign) that God will save even the worst of the worst.  It didn’t matter how much Paul resisted and rebelled against God and against the Gospel message – God’s plan was to drag Paul to Himself.  And God used Paul as an example, a pattern, for everyone else who resists Him.  God will give us all the chance to choose, but in the end, He is going to drag us all to Himself and save us anyways!

Conclusion:

Christ promised that if died on a cross, as a seed falls to the earth and dies, that He would drag all men to Himself, as a seed bears much fruit.  And we know that His dragging is not dependent upon our will, but upon God’s choice and mercy as Paul exemplifies for us.

In the next blog we will look at Paul’s statement that all things that were created in the heavens and in the earth will be reconciled to God through Christ.

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Just How Great Is God’s Love?

The Bible does not lack for verses that tell of the love of God. There are hundreds of them.

Of course, the most famous of these is probably John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

In fact, the famous Christian author Max Lucado has written an entire book about this one verse. (The title of the book is simply 3:16.)

But here are the big questions:

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The Greatest Love Story Never Told: Why God Will Save All People

Editor’s Note: This letter was originally published on SecretEvangel.com in 2008.

It has taken me more than six months to write this letter.

Why so long?

Because it discusses my beliefs and how they’ve changed over the last five years. Beliefs are a sensitive subject, both for me and most of the people of the world.

Recognizing this sensitivity, I have done my best to write what follows in a spirit of love. Nevertheless, I imagine that what you read here will polarize you. After reading it, you may be angry. You may be shocked. You may even be…

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#49 – Special Salvation (1 Tim. 4; 1 Jn. 2)

1 Timothy 4

The last few blogs focused on the “timing” of God’s plan to save all men – i.e. how He plans to do it through several squadrons or harvests (distinct groups if you will).  I hope that this helps alleviate some of the questions that must be burning within anyone who does not have the time to search these things out for themselves.  Understanding that God isn’t going to accomplish His plan of Universal Reconciliation all at once gives us a little bit of clarity moving forward.  We can now begin to open up more and more sections of Scripture that detail this glorious plan of His without being bogged down with uncertainty about how it will all work out.

In this blog we will be looking at 1 Timothy 4:10 which describes the fact that though God is the savior of all men, believers receive a “special” salvation. In this letter Paul is speaking with Timothy (his understudy), who was put in charge of the Church at Ephesus; a place of hostile dynamics concerning spiritual warfare (see the book of Ephesians).  Paul gives much practical advice in his letter to Timothy, not the least of which is a bit of advice given in Chapter 2 which we have already looked at – that God’s plan (which will not fail) is to save all men, b/c Jesus gave His life as a ransom for all.  In light of this fact Paul encourages us to be generous in our prayers for all men (see 1 Timothy 2:1-6, as well as my blog here).

But fast forward a few chapters and Paul begins to warn Timothy that the Spirit prophesies that in the latter (end) times some will fall away from the faith by running after demonic and deceitful doctrines (4:1).  Some (many in fact) have used this very verse to condemn Universal Reconciliation, claiming that it is a deceiving and demonic doctrine.  But Paul details the doctrines that he is referring to in verse 3 saying,

“men who forbid marriage and advocate the abstaining from foods…”

Paul clearly is not referring to Universal Reconciliation, which if he was would absurdly contradict not only what he wrote in chapter 2, but what he is about to write here in chapter 4.  I do not mean to be a tattletale, but the doctrine of forbidding marriage has been adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in regards to the office of a priest.  Basically if you want to be a minister of Christ in the Catholic Church you have to be single.  This doctrine alone has led to the monstrous perversion and abuse that has finally come out into the light in recent years, scandalizing the Catholic Church.  And the abstaining from certain foods, though not explicitly an expressed doctrine, is certainly dogmatized by the 7th Day Adventists.

But Paul declares that such things have been,

“created [by God] to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”  (4:3-5)

We will have much more to say about this in a later blog as it relates to Peter’s vision in Acts 10 where God demolished the Jewish preconception that the clean and unclean food laws actually concerned people (Gentiles).  God told Peter that what He has cleansed was to no longer be considered unclean. Peter then declares that God told him not to consider any “man” unclean anymore.  This has massive Universal Reconciliation implications – all men have been cleansed by Christ’s sacrifice!

But getting back to the topic at hand, Paul says that God created all things to be received with thanksgiving, and that prayer sanctifies it.  In the same manner God Himself will receive all men back onto Himself with great rejoicing and giving of thanks, for they will all be sanctified through the prayers, which Paul told us earlier to lavish on all men!

Paul then comments a few verses later,

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance.  For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”  (4:9,10)

This is the specific point of this blog – that though God is definitely the savior of believers that salvation is not exclusive to believers.  Although believers receive a unique salvation in this life that does not mean that the rest will not also partake of salvation.  This truth might not seem 100% obvious with just a quick glance at this verse, but lets look at it again with some details highlighted.

The first part should be pretty obvious, but how exactly does the second part relate to the first?  The word “especially” used here is simply an adverb form of the word “special.”  Thus this verse states that all men will be saved, but believers get a special salvation!  I don’t know about you, but that absolutely fascinates and excites me!

It is possible, however, that some might accuse me of jumping to conclusions here, and that I’m incorrectly reading into what Paul is saying here.  Some might say that Paul is mentioning that God is mankind’s only savior, and only believers will actually be saved.  However, the context of chapter 2 and how it connects to the beginning of chapter 4 here would discredit such an interpretation.  On top of this Paul employs this exact term in another verse, which gives us a very obvious context by which to better understand how this word is employed.  He says,

“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, ESPECIALLY to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

Paul is not saying that we should do good ONLY to the household of faith, rather he is saying that we should do good to all men, and while we are doing good to all we should reserve a “special” goodness to give to fellow believers.  The same goes for the verse in 1 Timothy; Paul is not stating that God is going to save ONLY the believers, but rather that He is going to save ALL men, but believers in this life will receive a “special” salvation.

It is “special” b/c as we saw in the previous blogs on timing we are the,

“first to hope in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:12)

For,

“God has chosen [us] as first fruits of salvation.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

And,

“if the first fruits are holy, the lump (harvest) is also.” (Romans 11:16)

Our salvation is “special” b/c we sanctify the rest of the harvest.  We prepare the REST for salvation.  The “rest” includes the whole world.  We get to usher in all the rest, we will get to participate in their deliverance!

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing (revelation) of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  (Romans 8:19-21)

We will be part of setting all creation free!  We will set them free from their slavery/bondage to corruption, which is sin and death.  What greater privilege could there be than that!  But to be a good Bible expositor, we ought to apply the principle that, “every truth is to be confirmed by two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1)  Therefore, is there another verse in Scripture that declares something similar to what Paul has mentioned above in 1 Timothy?  I’m pretty sure that you have probably guessed that there is.

1 John 2

There just happens to be other verse that is uniquely similar to 1 Timothy 4:10 as it also contains a statement about the propitiation of not only believers, but of all men.  It is found in 1 John 2:2,

“[Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Like Paul, John is declaring that Jesus’ death and atonement for our sins doesn’t just cover those who accept and receive it; it covers the sins of the whole world! So it becomes apparent that there is a distinction between believers in this life, and those who will come to the Lord later.  God’s intent is not to cause our head to swell, as if we were better than everybody else; no, His intention is to help us realize that we will have responsibility, that we will be involved with bringing the rest into the Kingdom.  We will be uniquely situated to assist in bringing the rest of the world to Christ!

Conclusion:

God is the Savior of all men with believers receiving a special salvation. This is b/c we are the ones who will help prepare the rest in recognizing that which has already been accomplished for them.  He is not only the propitiation for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.

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#48 – 3 Harvests (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles)

3 Harvests of Souls

We have already seen multiple times how the Law is “a type and shadow of good things to come.”  Within the Law there are details concerning 3 specific harvests, which I mentioned in the previous blogs.  Paul even references the festivals associated with these harvests as “shadows of what is to come,” adding that the substance of those shadows was Christ (Colossians 2:16,17).

These harvests are prophetic of certain groups of souls that will be harvested by the Gospel.  Amazingly, the Bible uses this imagery quite prolifically.  These harvests are symbols of various souls being ushered into the Kingdom.

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36,37)

“And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” (Revelation 14:15)

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)

Each of these verses specifically connect our earthly harvests of – fruit/grain/vegetables being gathered into the community – to in-gatherings of souls into the Kingdom.  Jesus also gives us many more teachings that involved seeds and harvests as representing people in His parables.  He also gave His disciples the keys to interpret those parables saying,

“And His disciples came to Him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’  And He said, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.‘”  (Matthew 13:36-39)

There are many other verses in the New Testament where this imagery is used.  I need not point them all out, if you desire to read them all they would be found easily enough with a concordance.  What I have presented so far gives us a pretty clear view that a harvest speaks prophetically of people.  Therefore the type and shadow of the 3 harvests detailed in the Law concern 3 different harvests of people being brought into the Kingdom.

Each harvest involved a different food.  The feast of Passover concerned the harvest of Barley; the feast of Pentecost involved the harvest of Wheat; and the feast of Tabernacles deals with the harvest of grapes.  These harvests each represent a different group of people being gathered into God’s Kingdom.  I believe that these three groups are referenced in a verse that we have looked at now from several different perspectives; but lets look at it one more time, this time with a focus on the three harvests of souls,

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order (squadron/harvest): Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,  then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet…When all things are subjected to Him, then…God will be all in all.”  (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

The three harvests (or squadrons) mentioned above might not seem as clear cut on the surface so let me explain.  Firstly, when it refers to the first “squadron” it says, “Christ the first fruits;” but what we don’t realize is that Christ means “anointed.”  For Christ was the “Anointed one;” which is what the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ meant.  Christ is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah.  The word for Christ is many times in the New Testament translated simply as “anointed.”  When the word for Christ is used in the reference above it is in the nominative case, which means it ought to be translated “the anointed.”  It literally should read,

“But each in his own order (squadron/harvest): the anointed first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,  then comes the end,”

The Anointed First Fruits

Every other time the word “Christ” is found in those verses it is in the genitive case, and is properly referring to the person of Jesus Christ.  But here it is used in connection with “First fruits” and signifies that the first fruits were ‘anointed.’

Without understanding this, it would almost seem as if Christ is a group or “squadron/harvest” all by Himself.  While He certainly is a category unto Himself, being the very first who rose from the dead (as Paul had just mentioned previously), the connection here to “squadrons” would seem confusing if it applies to Christ alone.  Furthermore the context precludes this, for Paul is declaring that all of humanity is dead b/c of Adam’s sin but that they likewise will all be made alive through Christ’s work of redemption – Christ of course being excluded from this list.  Christ neither had Adam’s old fallen nature of sin (though He did have our fleshly body and did take our sin and curse upon Himself), nor did He need to be redeemed from that fallen nature and curse.  It would be absurd to think that Christ needed redemption from Adam’s curse and therefore became the first squadron/harvest of fallen souls to be made alive in Himself (!??!).

The context and Greek grammar both relate that the first group is a “specially anointed” group referred to in many other places in Scripture as “the first fruits.”  See my previous blog for more on first fruits here.

Those Who Are Alive At His Coming

So then the second group is referred to as “those who are Christ’s at His Coming.”  At first glance that would almost seem to be a redundancy?  Aren’t the “anointed first fruits” that body of believers known as the Church?  Certainly Scripture refers to us as the first fruits, so why would God’s people be divided into two groups?  The answer to this could fill a volume all on its own, and we have neither the time nor the space to get in depth about it.  But I can point this out, within Scripture and within the history of the Old Testament there is much reference to a “remnant.”  A group within this main body of God’s people who seem to stand out amongst the others in their dedication and devotion and obedience to God.  The New Testament refers to them as “overcomers.”

Within all of Israel were the Levites, who were especially and solely concerned about the things of God.  Within Christ’s own disciples there was an inner circle who saw and heard things that none of the others saw.  Within the Law there are more stringent rules and special provisions for leadership in contrast to those for the lay person.  Paul himself seemed to indicate that all would finish the race, but only a few would “win” (the crown) and therefore he seemed far more willing to pay more of a cost than others in order to gain that reward.  There are rulers in a Kingdom and there are citizens.

There are many many more such examples and clues that indicate a group within the main body of Christ that are given special privileges, who at the same time have a lot more required of them than the normal believer.  It is my position that the first group to be made alive (resurrected into the glorified and perfected life of Christ) will be that remnant and that, “those who are Christ’s at His Coming” will be the second group to be made alive (resurrected into Christ’s perfect glorified image).  I understand that this brings with it a host of other questions, but I am going to pass over dealing with such for now.

Then Comes The End

The next thing we tend to miss is that the third harvest falls under the category concerning, “then comes the end.”  It doesn’t sound too much like a category, I agree, but it must be connected with the context of what follows; namely the “placing of all His enemies under His feet,” and “all things being subjected to Him.”  We looked at putting His enemies under His feet in much more detail in a previous blog so we do not need to unpack that except to say that it refers to the last harvest of souls that will be converted into Christ’s footstool which is His Temple (His Body, where He dwells/finds rest; see my blog on the subject here)

That is why Paul wraps it all up with the declaration that “God will be all in all.”  The last harvest concerns the enemies of Christ being harvested and processed until they are fully a part of His kingdom.  So when it says, “then comes the end” it is referring to that last in-gathering of souls and the process by which that last group (who are Christ’s enemies) are brought into subjection to Him.

Therefore we see 3 harvests; 1 – the anointed first fruits (remnant within God’s people), 2 – those who are Christ’s at His coming (the main body of believers), 3 – the enemies who will become His servants and bring about the end (conclusion of God’s plan in history).  Now lets look at those three groups as they connect to the 3 harvests.

#1 – The Passover/Barley Harvest refers to the anointed first fruits, the Remnant (for Passover speaks of Christ’s death on the cross, and the Remnant is obedient unto death and are daily being changed more and more into Christ’s image as they take up their cross daily).  Scripture says that Christ is our Passover, and that He was unleavened (leaven refers to sin) and that we ought to be unleavened as He was (See 1 Corinthians 5:7).  The remnant have a special anointing/calling that requires much more from them than God requires from the rest of His people.

#2 – The Pentecost/Wheat Harvest refers to the Church at large for the Church began on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1).  Unfortunately many within the Church are yet rebellious, as children naturally tend to be rebellious.   This is b/c unlike Passover, the Feast of Pentecost was to be “leavened.”  This is a type and shadow that is prophetic of the sin that is within the Church.  It is part of all of us, and it will be “baked with fire” in order to remove it from us (Leviticus 23:15-27 – the 50 days they were to count refers to Pentecost, which means “50”).

The Tabernacles/Grape harvest refers to the enemies of Christ, all those who refused Him in this life and lived according to their own lusts and the depravity of the world.

Processing Each Harvest

On top of this each harvest had a specific procedure by which it was processed and refined.

The Barley needed only to be thrown into the air where the wind stripped it of its outer shell, its husk.  This is prophetic of that first company, the Remnant, who only need the moving of the Spirit (wind) to have their flesh (outer man) stripped away.  (The word for “Spirit” in both Hebrew and Greek is also the word used for “wind,” and Jesus even uses wind as an illustration of the moving of the Spirit.)

The Wheat needed to be beaten or threshed in order to have its outer shell removed.  This is prophetic of the second company, who even though they are followers of God are yet stubborn and somewhat more selfish than the Remnant, refusing to give up their own will and ways and life.  Such souls will need discipline and spankings in order to die to their old man.

The Grapes were crushed under foot.  This is prophetic of the final company of souls, the enemies of Christ, who need to be trampled under His feet in order to have their carnal mind and heart broken and removed.  They will receive the fiercest processing.  This is how Christ will “put all His enemies under His feet.”  Which is the context for that last squadron/harvest who brings about “the end” as we noted above (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

It is no coincidence that this is the same imagery of crushing grapes; a crushing which produces wine that will ultimately cheer the heart of God and man (Judges 9:13).  The crushing of grapes is awful to be sure, but it will ultimately produce a lasting fruit.

“’Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.  And the wine press was trodden outside the city,” (Revelation 14:8-20)

“From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)

Conclusion:

There are, actually, quite a lot of fascinating and amazing details related to these 3 harvests of souls; unfortunately we don’t have the time or space in this blog to pursue them all.  However, one can easily do a word search to discover all the instances that Barley, Wheat, or Grapes are mentioned in Scripture.  Each reference being a “type and shadow” that gives us further clues concerning the details about each harvest of people.  Here is a link to two booklets that might help you understand the prophetic significance of the first two harvests more clearly (Stephen Jones)

In the next blog we will be looking at how believers are given a “special salvation.”  Though it is special it does not preclude others from being saved, in fact, it is special b/c it is unique and distinct from the general salvation which all will partake of.

Posted in Hell, Salvation | 1 Comment

#47 – The First, Firstborn, Firstfruits, tithe (Eph.1)

In the last blog we noticed several texts regarding God’s Timing as it pertains to the Restoration of All Things.  This answered the question concerning why, if it God is going to save everyone, do we not see everyone saved yet?  The answer was God is going to do it in multiple stages.  In this blog we will look more specifically at those stages in order to give us a clearer picture of how and why God is working it out in this way.

We will start with a statement Paul made just after his declaration that at “the fullness of times” God would “gather together in one all things in Christ,” which we looked at in the previous blog.  Paul, having mentioned an administration where all things are finally brought together in Christ (vs. 9,10), proceeds here in Ephesians saying,

“In [Christ] we also have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the council of His will, to the end that we who are the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”  (Ephesians 1:11,12)

First to Hope in Christ

Aside from the painfully obvious, and shameless, declaration of God’s Sovereignty over all (an issue that concerns free will), a very controversial topic which I will avoid for now, Paul makes a point concerning “we who are the first to hope in Christ.”  After what we saw in the previous blog, it becomes clear here what Paul is referencing.  He is mentioning that those of us who are chosen to be part of that “first squadron” will be part of bringing praise and glory to God.

Paul is NOT saying that for some odd reason the first century believers will bring more glory to God than the rest of us believers who lived later on in history.  Nor is Paul saying that the first century believers will somehow stand out among the rest of us.

Obviously the Apostles will have a much greater honor than most Christians, for they are part of the foundation stones (Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone) of the spiritual temple that God is building (see Ephesians 2:19-22).  But the rest of the believers are all equal living stones which together make up this temple, each one of us being a crucial part of God’s house (see 1 Peter 2:4-8).

The temptation is to read this as referring to first century believers.  But Paul is really referencing those of us who become part of God’s temple in this life.  This is confirmed by the context shortly following this when Paul declares that God saved us and raised us up in order that,

“…in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Who is He going to show?  Certainly not us, we will already be aware of it, for we will be the ones who were beneficiaries of and partakers of His grace and kindness.  Those whom we will demonstrate the glory of His grace and kindness to will be all those who did not believe in this life.

Those of us this side of death who make up “Abraham’s seed” will eventually become a “blessing to all peoples.”  So when Paul says, “we who were the first to hope in Christ,” he is referring to those of us who are part of that first harvest of souls who make up the forefront “squadron” that are “made alive in Christ” (as we saw in the previous blog where we looked at 1 Corinthians 15).  Paul is saying that in God’s plan to ultimately “gather together all things in one in Christ” (vs. 10), we who are part of that “first” (vs. 12) ingathering (a term for harvest) will bring Him a special glory.  All Christians in this life are part of that group who are “first to hope in Christ.

Firstborn

This confirms that there will be more groups to hope in Christ!  A first implies more to come.  Even as Scripture mentions that Christ is the “first born out of death.” (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5)  It implies and promises that more will be raised from the dead as Christ was.  Christ was also the “firstborn of all creation,” (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:6) as well as the “firstborn among many brethren.”  (Romans 8:29).

Christ is the firstborn among many brethren b/c being the firstborn implies that there will be more to come.  He is the firstborn of those of us who are part of His body, His brethren.  But He is not the only firstborn…we also happen to be considered a firstborn!

“We have come…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,” (Hebrews 12:23)

Christ is the firstborn of the Church and those of us who make up the Church are the firstborn of all the rest of humanity.

First Fruits

Not only is Christ referred to as the “first born” but He is similarly referred to as the “first fruits.”  These two terms (first fruits and first born) are almost synonymous.  Though they are different pictures, they are giving us multiple viewpoints of the same scene and thus provide us with extra details to paint a clearer over all picture.  Just as the term “firstborn” was used to describe Christ in relation to the dead and being raised from the dead, so also is the term “first fruits” used as such a description.

“Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)

The term first fruits is a very large theme in Scripture (see Nehemiah 10:35; Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 2:12, 23:10; Deuteronomy 18:4; Ezekiel 44:30, etc…).  It concerns the 3 harvests that we mentioned earlier.  Each Feast of Israel corresponded to a specific food harvest that was gathered at different seasons.  Barley was gathered at Passover, Wheat at Pentecost and Grapes at Tabernacles.  At each of these harvests the first ripe fruit was offered to the Lord as a gift (Exodus 34:26; Numbers 13:20, 18:12); in turn the Lord would bless the rest of the harvest.  The first fruits sanctified the corresponding harvest.

When Scripture refers to Christ as a first fruits, it is teaching us that He was offered to God to sanctify the coming ingathering or harvest.

If the first fruits is holy, the lump (harvest) is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. (Romans 11:16)

Those of us who believe in this life are the ingathering of which Christ is the first fruits.

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.   For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.   For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

(That verse is not exactly saying what it looks like on the surface, we will be looking at it in greater detail in the next blog).

Christ is the first fruits of those of us who believe in this life.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Just as with the firstborn, not only is Christ the first fruits of us, but we are the first fruits of the rest!

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you as first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”  (James 1:18)

“These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”  (Revelation 14:4)

The Downpayment

The first fruits always imply a future ingathering, a coming harvest that far exceeds the first fruits.  For instance, Scripture uses this term in reference to God giving us His Spirit,

“…we ourselves, have the first fruits of the Spirit,” (Romans 8:23)

But Scripture also uses another term to describe this very thing,

“…you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance,” (Ephesians 1:13,14)

“He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 1:21,22, see also 5:5)

Sometimes this “pledge” is translated as “an earnest” or “a downpayment” depending upon your translation.  The Greek word for “pledge” is Arrabon and the Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines it as,

“A pledge, i.e. part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest: — earnest.

The Louw and Nida Lexicon defines it as,

“The first or initial payment of money or assets, as a guarantee for the completion of a transaction.”

The term “pledge” and “first fruits” are synonymous.  And they only ever refer to a portion, not the fullness.  We are only given a “portion” of the Holy Spirit in this life, a down payment, a small pledge of the fullness of the Spirit that is to come.  One day we will have the fullness of the Spirit as Jesus had (John 3:34), but for now we only have a small portion.  But if we have a small portion now, it is to assure us (as in a promise) that we will have a much larger portion, i.e. the rest, the fullness, later.

The first fruits, therefore, are a pledge of a much larger harvest to come.

The Tithe

The first fruits were usually a tithe, a tenth of the harvest (2 Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:37, 12:44).  The law of tithing in the Old Testament always concerned food (Leviticus 27:30).  God asked for the first tenth of any harvest or animal herd to be devoted to Him (Deuteronomy 14:22).  In this way the rest of the harvest was sanctified and blessed.  The tenth was a token that God owned it all but that He wants to share it with us, to bless us, b/c His heart is to generously provide for us.  So the tithe gave God the respect and gratitude that He deserves for providing such a bountiful harvest.

This tithe was the first fruits.  We are the first fruits of all creation!  We are the tithe!  The first 10% to be harvested, we are the portion that is devoted to God to sanctify the rest!  It is no small coincidence to notice that Christianity makes up right around 10% of earth’s population.  This is what Paul was picturing when he mentioned that we are the “first to hope in Christ.

Conclusion:

The vernacular used by Paul as well as many various picture metaphors used in the New Testament teach that those who are “being saved” in this life are but one group of many.  Those of us who are conformed unto Christ in this age are the first to be harvested with the promise that there will be a much larger harvest and/or more harvests to come.  We are a tenth, a downpayment, the first fruits and the firstborn of those to come.  We are that “seed of Abraham that will be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.

In the next blog we will look more closely at the 3 harvests that Scripture details in order to give us a better picture of how God is working this salvation of all men out in history.

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#46 – Timing

What we have looked at in the previous 3 blogs concerning Universal Reconciliation as it is revealed in Scripture is quite a power house of support.  We still have a massive number of other verses to look at that directly bear on this subject of U.R.  But instead of continuing to work our way through them (which we will continue to do after this blog) I thought it would be prudent to address an issue that might be beginning to form in your mind.  “If God has promised to save everyone, why do we only see a small fraction of the world being saved?

The answer to that, is timing.  God’s timing to be precise.  He has always had a weird sense of timing things, as I’m sure every Christian can attest to from their own personal experience.  His timing is strange to us b/c we do not understand His ways.  Paul, at the climax of his theological treatise to the Romans, before he settles down into encouragement concerning practical matters, finishes his comprehensive discourse with the exclamation,

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”  (Romans 11:33)

God’s ways, it appears, are past finding out.

“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8,9)

I wish His timing was more easy to discern.  But for those of us who aren’t blessed with such a gift we simply have to trust that He knows what He is doing.  I don’t presume to know why His timing is what it is, but I do hope to share with you what His timing is, at least as I have come to understand it.

To begin, Peter, shortly after that great day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out in power upon the disciples, was on his way to the temple to pray where he encounters a beggar who is lame.  The beggar asks for money, but Peter gives him something better – healing.  This miracle draws so much attention that Peter begins to preach to the crowd, telling them about Jesus by Whom the beggar was healed.  In that sermon Peter makes a curious statement saying,

“that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period (chronos) of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Acts 3:20,21)

Notice that Peter says that Jesus has to wait in heaven UNTIL a certain time period; and this timing He is waiting for will begin the time of the restoration of all things.  This obviously concerns what we have been looking at – Universal Reconciliation where all people will be restored.  Scripture uses a plethora of language to describe UR, restoration being the emphasis here in this specific verse.

The word “period” used here is the Greek word Chronos and it literally means “time.”  In fact it is normally translated as “time” and in the NASB is only translated as “period” a mere 2 times.   The Louw and Nida Lexicon defines it as, “an indefinite period of time.”  In other words it means a season.   So the Holy Spirit is conveying to us that that there is a season of waiting that will last until Jesus returns, at which point there will begin a new season where all things will begin to be restored!  That to me sounds extremely exciting!

One last thing I want to point out concerning this verse is that Peter declares that this “restoration of all things” has been declared by God through His prophets since ancient time!  The phrase “ancient time” is literally the phrase, “a long age.”  It is referring to a the previous age, the Jewish age, or the age of Law.  And yet Peter is telling us that God spoke through all the Old Testament prophets and writings concerning how He would restore all things!  That is an incredible statement!  The New Testament is very clear on this issue, however it is somewhat obscure in the Old Testament.  It is veiled.  It is very similar to what Jesus said about how the Old Testament spoke about His death and resurrection.

“And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27)

I don’t know about you, but it was very difficult for me to find even a few references in the Old Testament that declared that Christ must suffer and die and be raised from the dead!  At least until my eyes were opened and I began to discern types and shadows.  For most everything in the Old Testament is a “type and shadow” of things to come (see Hebrews 10:1 and Colossians 2:17).  God spoke about a lot of prophetic issues in the O.T., but its hidden behind a veil of types and shadows – aka symbols.

I cannot pursue this further at this time, but suffice it to say that this “restoration of all things” is found in all God’s prophets in the Old Testament as Peter says here in Acts.  This is an amazing detail that has been unfortunately overlooked.  We will be looking at some of those Old Testament references in later blogs; for now we need to get back to the issue of the “timing” of all of this.

Each In His Own Squadron

Connected to Peter’s statement about the “period (season) of the restoration of all things” there is a statement in 1 Corinthians 15 that we have already examined in some detail previously (see my blog here).  Part of this statement concerns timing.   The Apostle Paul is giving a very short discourse to the Corinthians on the Redemption of All Things and he says near the beginning that,

“As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive, but each in his own order.”  (1 Corinthians 15:22)

The word “order” used there is the Greek word Tagma (Strong’s Greek 5001) and it means “that which has been arranged in order, specifically a division, rank.”  It is also defined as “a series, a succession.”  It is the word used to describe a specific division or squadron of troops, with the implication that there are multiple squadrons that come in a succession; which implies a specific order.  So what Paul is saying here is that all who died in Adam (which was everybody) will be made alive in Christ, but not all together, nor at the same time.  They will all be made alive in Christ in a certain order; according to the squadron that they belong to.  “Each in his own squadron.”  The implication is that some will be part of a group that is first in line and others will be part of groups that are arranged to arrive after or later.

In fact, the very next verse in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that after this, “then comes the end.”  When the last squadron of souls are made alive in Christ “then comes the end” where finally “God is all in all!”  (see the whole section from 1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

So what might that order be?  I will have to defer that question until the next blog, where we will look at the 3 feast days of Israel, which concern 3 harvests; each of which is a prophetic “shadow” of the 3 harvests of souls that God will bring into His kingdom.

The Fullness of Time

Years ago, before I ever had even heard of the idea that God might save everybody, I began to struggle with the unimaginable gravity of hell (you can read about it here).  It was so dark and heavy that I finally got to the point where I could not bear it anymore.  I told God that I needed Him to help me bear it somehow.  I cannot remember exactly how long it was after I asked God for relief, but one day, out of the blue God spoke to me and said, “Don’t worry Luke, ‘All Things will be summed up in Christ!‘”

The phrase, “all things will be summed up in Christ” is from the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  At the time, I did not have the slightest clue as to what it meant, but it brought a supernatural peace to my heart and lifted my awful burden.  I had SOO much peace in fact that I began to wonder what on earth God could possibly mean by it?  All I was able to glean was that it meant something good.  It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand exactly what God meant by that.  It’s significance directly concerns the timing that we are looking at in this blog.

To set it up, let me just say that Ephesians chapter 1 is one of the richest chapters in the entire Bible…and that is an understatement!  It’s so deep and heavenly that I can’t even begin to touch it in a small article like this.   One could teach an entire semester’s class just on this one chapter!  If you want to know what I’m talking about, just read Ephesians 1 and see for yourself.  Anyways, I only want to highlight verses 9 and 10.

“[God has] made known to us the mystery of His will…with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.  (Ephesians 1:9,10 – NASB)

What exactly does it mean for all things to be summed up in Christ?  The New King James Version words it a little more clearly,

“[God has] made known unto us the mystery of His will…which is that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He would gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.”

Lets break that down; first of all Paul is saying that God has finally revealed His will, which has remained a mystery until this point.  This ought to excite us, we are finally, and unequivocally going to see what God’s will is!  At the time in history that this was written, it was extremely exciting.  God was beginning something new; it was the dawn of a whole new era.  Mysteries which had been hidden beforehand were being revealed.  It was a very exciting, albeit dangerous time.  But what exactly was/is this great mystery that has now been revealed?

Paul gives us the answer, but the first part is slightly confusing, at least for those of us who do not think from a Hebrew mindset.  He refers to, “the dispensation of the fullness of times…”  Or as the NASB puts it, “an administration.”  A dispensation is simply an older term that refers to a structured system during a certain time period – a.k.a an administration.  Kind of like how we would refer to the “Clinton administration,” or the “Bush administration.”  It’s a set time period where a certain system of structure is in place.  And this administration that Paul is referring to concerns the “fullness of times,” or it belongs to/pertains to the fullness of times.  That basically means the end point, the goal, the culmination of all of the ages (history/time).  When the purpose of history will be completed.  The plan that God has ordained for the very end.  It’s the final administration that ushers in the completion of God’s Kingdom!

So what kind of administration is God going to implement?  Well Paul continues saying that God will, “gather together IN ONE all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth!”  Paul is saying that God has finally revealed His plan to us concerning the end of time and His plan is to bring all things together into unity with and in Christ!!  This includes things which are in heaven and things which are on earth.  This is almost the exact imagery we saw above concerning 1 Corinthians 15.

There is one more detail involved here in Ephesians chapter 1, namely in verse 12, where Paul mentions “we who are first to hope in Christ.”  Having just mentioned how all things would be gathered together in one in Christ, he declares that we who are “first” to be gathered to Him will result in a special praise and glorifying of God.   A “first” implies that there will be more groups that will arrive later on and fits in with the context of what Paul is saying here about God’s various administrations.  Much like the various “squadrons” Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15.

This is a very fascinating aspect, which I would like to get into as it relates to everything we have touched on so far, but I will have to defer it until the next blog due to the amount of details it involves.  Getting back to the subject at hand.

Timing and U.R.

Peter declared that there would be a “period” where “the Restoration of all things” begins, namely at the return of Christ.  Paul declared that “all men would be made alive in Christ, but each in his own squadron,” after which “then comes the end…where God is all in all.”  Paul also declared that God has finally revealed His will which was previously a mystery – namely that “at the fullness of time God will gather together in one all things in Christ.

Did you happen to notice that each of these references concerning the “timing” of God as it concerns His end goal, each directly and specifically also address the issue of the salvation of all men?  That is His end goal.  God is just going to do it in different waves, or stages.  A remnant is being saved presently while Christ is waiting in heaven, and when Christ finally returns He will begin the season of restoring everything else.  So that at the end all will be one in Christ and God will be all in all.

God truly is brilliant, and He likes happy endings (wink).   And there truly couldn’t be a happier ending than this.  This, however, begs a further question…why do most Christians not understand this?  Paul gives us the answer in 1 Timothy.

A Testimony Reserved For The Proper Timing

In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul gives us his declaration concerning God’s will/plan/intention to save all men (as we looked at in a previous blog, which you can view here).  Paul then qualifies this statement by saying that this, “testimony will be given at the proper season.” (vs. 6)  In other words the witness of God’s plan to save all men, though we just saw that it is a mystery and that has been hidden in past ages but has now been revealed, is actually, paradoxically, still being hidden until the proper season.

The reason it is “revealed” is b/c we have dozens upon dozens of clear statements in the New Testament directly addressing this truth.  However, this truth still remains “veiled” b/c God’s people don’t have the eyes to see it…yet.  Its a sort of paradox.  Though it is clear and plain and open for all to see in God’s revealed Word, there yet remains a veil on His children that blinds them from recognizing it.

“But their minds were hardened for until this very day at the reading of the Old Covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.  But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”  (2 Corinthians 3:14-16)

It is much like Christ, when He came He was a direct revelation of God and yet God’s own people were blinded from recognizing Him.  Even Christ’s disciples after His resurrection didn’t recognize Him even when He was explaining the Scriptures to them!  (see Luke 24)  And Christ is the Word (John 1:1-4).  The Word is an incarnation, it is God given to us through a physical form.  Therefore what applies to Christ, applies to the Word.  Christ’s own disciples did not understand Him, and Christ’s disciples still do not understand all that He has spoken to us through His Word.

Getting back to 1 Timothy, Paul declares that this testimony, or witness of God’s plan to save all men is reserved for a certain season.  Lets take a closer look.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men…This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

Lets look at exactly what Paul is communicating here.

First off notice that Paul strongly urges that “entreaties, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men.”  Paul then declares that this action of praying for all men is “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”  And that the reason that God is so pleased with us praying for all men is because He Himself “will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth!

It delights God because you are agreeing with His plan and purposes!  You are acknowledging that His ways are good.  One of the hardest things for us to do is to “love our enemies and pray for those who treat us wrong.” (Matthew 5:44).  So when we offer up prayers for all men, especially those who have treated us badly, we are denying our selfish nature that wants to see those people punished.  We are exercising forgiveness even when we have the legal right to press charges for justice.  Just as Christ did when He was being crucified and He said,

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

And it is this that God will do when it comes to the ultimate reconciliation of all men.  He will forgive their trespasses and conform them unto His image (through the refining fire of the cross).   So when we agree with Him in His purpose (will) for all of creation, that they will be saved and reconciled and restored, we are denying our old man’s natural tendency to harbor un-forgiveness.  It is in effect saying, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”  (Luke 22:42)

And that is exactly what Christ did when He yielded up His will to the Father and died on the cross, redeeming humanity; and praying for their forgiveness.  That is exactly why Paul concludes his little statement in 1 Timothy by reminding us that Christ “gave Himself a Ransom for all.

But, as we saw this testimony/witness is being reserved (hidden) for a the proper season.  I believe that season will be at or near the Return of Christ as Peter mentioned, when the “period of the restoration of all things” begins.  I believe we are getting nearer in our day, b/c Universal Reconciliation is beginning to gain a much wider audience than it ever has in the past (at least since Augustine).

Conclusion:

Christians who believe in Universal Reconciliation are misunderstood and somewhat ostracized.  Their view is largely discredited b/c there yet remains a veil over the eyes of God’s people.  But this is all part of God’s plan.  Soon, very soon God will begin to open all of His children’s eyes to see the glorious truth concerning His heart and will for all His fallen creatures.  May God hasten that day!

In the next blog we will explore the 3 harvests, or in-gatherings prophesied in Scripture that concern people being ushered into God’s kingdom!

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#45 – Every Knee Will Bow and Every Tongue Confess (Phil.2; Isa. 45)

So far we have seen that it is God’s plan and intention to save all men; and in the last blog we saw that there are Scriptures that prophecy about God actually accomplishing this glorious plan of His!  In this blog we are going to look at THE most blatant and clear Scripture in the Bible concerning the salvation of all mankind.  It’s actually found twice in Scripture, once in the Old Testament and then quoted again in the New.  I will start with Paul’s quote in Philippians,

“…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)

Despite the clarity of what is being prophesied here, there is still some confusion concerning its actual meaning.  This is mostly due to the fact it is not crossed examined with the Old Testament verse that it originates from, as well as failing to connect it to certain other scriptures concerning “confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.”   When one examines this verse in relation to both of these things an amazing picture begins to take form.

But before we start getting into that, lets do a quick recap.

In the previous 2 blogs we saw how Scripture reveals that #1 – it is God’s will, intention and plan to save all men and #2 – that Scripture prophesies that all mankind will be made alive in Christ even as all mankind died in Adam.  We know that Christ Himself declared that “the Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and it is recorded 5 times in the Gospels that “heaven and earth will not pass away until every jot and tittle of Scripture (every Word of God) is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18, 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 16:17, 21:32).  Therefore we can be confident that God will accomplish this great plan of His to reconcile and save all mankind.

But God doesn’t stop there, He wants to make absolutely sure that we don’t miss what He is saying.  So even though His direct Word on a subject ought to be enough for us to believe, God yet knows that we are extremely opinionated creatures and impossibly stubborn (not to mention a little bit blind).  Therefore God, in His infinite humility and mercy, chooses to further bind Himself to an oath in order to give us more confidence in trusting that – what He says He will do – HE WILL ACTUALLY DO!

So as you can probably guess, the verse in question that we are looking at in this blog involves a vow that God took (an oath He swore) to save all mankind!  Seems drastic for God to have to do something like that, I know, but He has to get it through our hardened hearts somehow!  Here is the verse in the Old Testament that Paul was quoting above,

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22-23)

What an incredible statement!  This comes on the heels of a chapter that is replete with statements about God being the one and only God, the creator of heaven and earth, the only One who is sovereign over all of creation.  And then He declares that all the ends of the earth will turn to Him and be saved!  That phrase “turn” means “to repent.”  So all the ends of the earth will repent and return to God and be saved, just as we have seen, is indeed, His intention.  So after making this amazing declaration, God THEN swears by Himself that this will be accomplished!

Principles of Swearing an Oath/Making a Vow

In order to truly understand the weight of this statement we need to understand exactly what Scripture has to say about making vows, or swearing an oath, especially as it pertains to God swearing an oath.

“For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.  In the same way God, desiring even more to show the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by 2 unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”  (Hebrews 6:17)

It says here that if a man promises to do something, that an oath is all he needs to prove, to the one he makes the promise to, that he will actually make good on his promise.  The difference between God and man is that God cannot and will not lie; God doesn’t need to promise anything.  If God says it, then its going to happen.  He is not afflicted with our fallen nature, He doesn’t suffer from the character flaws that mankind does.  He therefore doesn’t need to promise us that He will do what He says.  And yet, mystery of mysteries, He does!  God subjects Himself to man’s standards in order to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we CAN trust Him!  It reveals such a humility and mercy and love about God that it boggles the mind!

Paul declares here in the book of Hebrews that when humans make a vow/promise (swear an oath) that they swear by someone greater than themselves – usually God.  Kind of like how when we want to convince someone that we are telling the truth we say, “I swear to God!”  In the Hebrew culture they would say, “As the Lord lives…” It is how they bind themselves to fulfill a promise/vow.

“And although they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ surely they swear falsely.” (Jeremiah 5:2)

“Though you, Israel, play the harlot, do not let Judah become guilty; also do not go to  Gilgal, or go up to Beth-aven and take the oath: ‘As the LORD lives!’” (Hosea 4:15)

There are literally dozens of examples of this phrase being used to swear oaths in the Old Testament.  We don’t have the time or space to look at them all, but one could very easily look them up if they were so inclined.  I can however give you a couple of examples for clarities sake.  One instance is when Boaz had promised Ruth that he would redeem her: Boaz used this phrase saying, “As the Lord lives, I will redeem you.” (Ruth 3:13)  Also, when King Saul’s son Jonathan was guilty of breaking a foolish rule that Saul himself had previously made, Saul makes a vow to spare Jonathan saying, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.”  (1 Samuel 19:6).

So men swear by God b/c He is greater than them, and so bind themselves to fulfill their vow.  But since God has no one greater than Himself to swear by He must swear by Himself.  That is why Paul says in Hebrews,

“since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.”  (Hebrews 6:13)

All this is further compounded when you consider God’s Law concerning vows,

“If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  (Numbers 30:2)

“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you.” (Deuteronomy 23:21)

“When you  make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools.  Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:4,5)

According to God’s own standard, as He has revealed in His Law, if He does not fulfill His vow it would be a sin in Him.  The Bible says that in Him there is no sin (1 John 3:5) so He MUST fulfill His vow.  And by His Law he MUST “do according to all that proceeds out of His mouth.”  We could almost say that by 3 things God is obligated to fulfill His promises: 1 – the fact that He spoke it means that He will do it b/c He cannot lie, 2 – that when He makes a promise He is swearing an oath and therefore must accomplish His Word, 3 – that He is bound by His own Law to fulfill any oaths/vows He makes.  We could also give a 4th reason being that b/c it is recorded in Scripture it must also surely come to pass.

So we see that Scripture declares that when God swears an oath, makes a promise or vows to do something, etc.. that we have 4 solid pillars upon which to rest our faith.  4 firm bedrocks upon which to trust that God will do what He says.  4 things in which it is impossible to be deceived by!  It seems like God really wants us to get it when He swears an oath!  One of the most wonderful studies in all of the Bible is looking at the few things that God has sworn an oath about!  We will be looking at a few of them later on in this series b/c they almost all involve Universal Reconciliation, but for now we are just focusing on the one.

Every Tongue Will Swear Allegiance

Having seen all that concerns swearing an oath, lets look at those verses in Isaiah one more time,

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22-23)

So here we actually have two oaths being sworn.  One by God and one by man.  The oath sworn by man is one of allegiance to God, but greater than this is God’s oath that He will be the One who brings this about.  This is highly reminiscent of the New Covenant, where God promises that HE WILL change our heart, He will cause us to obey, He will cause us to fear Him, and He will make us love Him with our whole heart (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:38-40; Hebrews 10:15-17; Ezekiel 11:19-20).  The New Covenant is pretty amazing!  But more on that in a later blog.

Here God has sworn that every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to Him.  This isn’t just saying that people will pay lip service to Him before they are cast into hell.  No!  This is saying that they will swear allegiance, they will take an oath to align themselves with Him and Him only.  Allegiance means to be on someone’s side.  These people, all people, will eventually come over to God’s side and serve Him and Him only.  They will acknowledge Him as their Lord by bowing their knee, and they will promise to serve Him alone by swearing their allegiance to Him with their own tongues!

Even though the New Testament translates the Hebrew “swear allegiance” as “confess” the word still means the same. Louw and Nida Lexicon has this to say about this word “confess,”

It is often extremely difficult, if not impossible, to translate ὁμολογέωa, ὁμολογία, and ἐξομολογέομαιa by the usual expression for ‘confess,’ since this would usually imply that one has done something wrong. It is [p. 420] normally necessary, therefore, to employ quite a different type of relationship, usually involving a public utterance and an expression of confidence or allegiance. For example, in Mt 10:32 it may be necessary to translate ‘whoever tells people publicly that he is loyal to me, I will tell my Father that I am loyal to that person.’”

To confess Jesus Christ as Lord is to publicly declare your loyalty to Him! This certainly gives us a very different concept than people uttering words in spite.

Now lets take a look again at this verse as Paul quotes it in the New Testament.

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)

Paul obviously expands what Isaiah declares in order to make is absolutely certain that we grasp what is being said here.  Paul defines what exactly “every knee” means.  He says that it applies to 1 – everyone who is in heaven, 2 – everyone who is on earth and 3 – everyone who is under the earth.  That really doesn’t leave much wiggle room!  When he refers to those who are in heaven he means the angels, the principalities and powers, the spiritual forces of wickedness.  When he refers to those on earth he is referring to those of who are alive.  And when he refers to those under the earth he is referring to those who have previously died and are buried in the grave (a.k.a under the earth).

Confessing Jesus as Lord

We have now seen the context in which this verse originates, which ought to be enough to establish its veracity.  But for the sake of argument lets take a look at the second aspect of this verse that is often overlooked – what Scripture has revealed elsewhere about “confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.”  Most people, I admit, agree that every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord.  However, what many fail to realize is that Scripture also declares that,

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord…you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)

This is the Scriptural context with which we ought to read the verses in question.  This is how all the ends of the earth will be saved, by confessing Jesus as Lord.  And the Bible does not give a deadline for this as so many believe.  Instead it says,

“All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

What’s even more interesting is the fact that Scripture also says,

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

Are you hearing what the Spirit is saying?!!!  I get flabbergasted when I contemplate this!  Aside from all the evidence we have looked at in the previous blogs in the previous 3 series (41 in total) which give a solid foundation for Biblical Universal Reconciliation, these few verses we are looking at in this single blog ought to be enough to convince us that All Mankind will be saved!

Lets just highlight what we’re looking at here; #1 – no one can confess Jesus as Lord except by the Spirit; #2 – if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord you will be saved; #3 – God has sworn that Every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as their Lord (and swear allegiance to Him).  It seems that all men will turn to God (repent) receive the Holy Spirit and confess Jesus as Lord and be saved and serve Him and His Kingdom alone!  Sounds a lot like a conversion experience to me.

All To the Glory of God the Father

The last thing that I want to point out is that when all people confess Jesus as their Lord it will be “to the glory of God the Father.” In other words, it will bring Him glory.  I have heard some people speculate that people will be forced by angels to confess Jesus as Lord against their will, spitting the words out in spite and bitterness before they are hauled off cursing and fighting to be thrown into the never ending furnace of hell.  I have also heard some people speculate that the great mass of humanity will confess Jesus as Lord in a sort of state of shock as they finally realize that they were wrong their whole lives after which they are then carted off in silent horror to burn forever in unimaginable agony; as it heart wrenching-ly dawns upon them the unimaginable ramifications of rejecting God during their earthly life.

Neither of those scenarios sound very “glorifying” to God.  You see, when someone has an enemy, he does not get glory by overpowering his enemy.  Nobody has ever truly praised strength, b/c power violates, it can take what it wants and therefore has nothing worthy of worshiping.  People want to be on the side of power, for sure, but it doesn’t inspire praise, it inspires fear.  Wisdom and love, however, are praised.  So when an enemy is won over by love such that the enemy is no longer an enemy but a friend; when an enemy is converted by love into being a friend, then the humility and love by which the enemy was won over is praised.  When you cause your enemy to repent and come over to your side without the use of force, it inspires admiration.  God is glorified by making his enemies into His friends!  He loves them to death and they end up agreeing with Him and coming over to His side.

This is exactly the sense of what God’s statement means about “every tongue swearing allegiance.”  He converts His enemies into friends by His wisdom and love!  THAT is how every tongue confessing Jesus as Lord will bring God glory.

There is another section of Scripture very much related to what we have looked at here that deals specifically with God being glorified in the end, and ‘coincidentally enough’ (wink) it has to do not only with Him swearing another oath but it also involves “all the earth.”  But that must wait for another blog.

Conclusion:

Due to the weakness of our flesh and the slowness of our hearts to believe all that God has spoken in His Word, God swears an oath that He will save all mankind.  He does this to convince us of His heart and intention.  We therefore can take much comfort and stand in confidence that Universal Reconciliation is a well founded and established Biblical truth.

In the next blog we will look at the timing of all of this; for I am sure anyone reading this would be asking themselves at this point, “If God is going to save everybody, why hasn’t He done it already?  What is the point of believing in God in this life and/or evangelizing?”

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#44 – All Will Be Made Alive (1 Cor. 15; Rom. 5)

All Made Alive

In the last blog we saw how clear it is that God’s will and plan is to save all men.  It is not just wishful thinking, He actually intends to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat.  Just like us, even Christ’s disciples once questioned whether this was possible.  They remarked,

“’Then who can be saved?’  Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:26,27)

There is nobody for whom salvation is impossible.  God can accomplish anything b/c nothing is too difficult for Him (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17,27).

What we need to find now are some clear statements in Scripture that support this plan of His.  Ignoring the fact that “no purpose of God’s can be thwarted,” (Job 42:2) does Scripture confirm/prophecy about this plan of His being accomplished?  And the answer is an emphatic “YES!”

1 Corinthians 15

In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 there is an unimaginably profound and clear discourse on this exact issue.  It concerns the plan by which “all things will be subjected to God in Christ.”  At the “end” of which “God will be all in all.”  We will look in more detail at all that that entails in a later blog, for now we want to focus on Paul’s statement that begins this little section of Scripture.  He states,

“[Just] as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive.  But each in his own order (Greek = squadron).”  (vs. 22)

There is a specific language device being used here by Paul.  It is called a Parallelism.  Parallelisms are used all throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New.  A parallelism is where two lines are compared with each other.  Sometimes 1 statement or idea is repeated a second time with different wording as a kind of poetic form of emphasis; sometimes 2 related ideas or statements are compared with each other; and sometimes 2 opposing ideas are contrasted with each other.  There are literally thousands of instances of this in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, we don’t have time or space to examine them in depth, but I’ll give you one as an example in order to better understand what we are working with.

“Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
Let the Sons of Zion rejoice in their King.” (Psalm 149:2)

In this instance “Israel” and “the Sons of Zion” are referring to the same group, they are synonymous; and “his Maker” and “their King” are also synonymous.  This is one of the ways that the Hebrew culture expressed themselves and their mind poetically.

Paul, and indeed anyone who was from that culture or familiar with the Old Testament, would have been acutely aware of this type of poetic form.  Therefore when Paul compared Adam to Christ and the “all” who were affected by them, he would have presumed that everyone would understood instantly that both groups were synonymous, equal.

Unfortunately this is not true of our culture or mindset.  So for clarity’s sake I will point out the parallels.   Here in 1 Corinthians we have 2 items in the 1st line that are compared with 2 items in the 2nd line.  In the first line we have the 2 items of “Adam” and “all.”  In the second line we have “Christ” and “all.”  The first item of each line is paralleled; which would be “Adam” and “Christ;” and the second item of each line is also paralleled; which would be “all” and “all.”   So what Paul is communicating is that just exactly as all mankind died in Adam, in that same way all mankind will be made alive in Christ.  Christ is equal to Adam and the all in Christ is equal to the all in Adam.

So how many died in Adam? All.  How many will be made alive in Christ?  All.  Its the same group of “all.”  “BUT,” as Paul clarifies, “each in his own squadron.”  Not all men will be made alive at the same time, they will be made alive according to the grouping that God has designated them for.  Some are being made alive now, some in the age to come, and some at the end of the ages.  Which is why Paul ends this section here in 1 Corinthians with the prophecy that “at the end…God will be all in all.”

Unfortunately, the English wording here in vs. 22 is a tiny bit ambiguous.  To be clear the Greek IS clear, its our english translation that is slightly ambiguous.  B/c of this there will obviously be some who would try to contest this statement by claiming that it is only those who are in Christ who will be made alive instead of all mankind being made alive in Christ.  Can you see the potential ambiguity?  But to claim that the “all being made alive” only refer to those Christians who are presently in Christ contradicts the Greek grammar.   The statement is future tense – it refers to something yet to come.  But believers are made alive presently, so it cannot be referring to a future time when believers will be given life, b/c we have already received that life.

The ambiguity in the English also contradicts the extremely blatant parallelism device being used.    A clearer translation, and one which highlights the Greek conjunction being used, would be,

Just as every person died in Adam, in the exact proportion will every person be made alive in Christ.

Furthermore (and perhaps most importantly) it contradicts the whole context of the surrounding passage of Scripture.  The context, grammar and language device all confirm that the all who will be made alive in Christ is everybody; the same group of everybody who died in Adam.

The only other thing that would seal it’s clarity and dispel all doubt is if Scripture repeated this declaration elsewhere.  Well…guess what? (I’m sure you saw this coming) that is exactly what we find!  What’s more, Scripture not only repeats it elsewhere, it repeats it 7 times in one section! There is an entire discourse by Paul in the book of Romans dedicated to this exact subject.  Lets take a look!

Romans 5

Of all the manifold verses in Scripture concerning God’s plan to save all men, perhaps the most clear statement/statements is/are in Romans Chapter 5.  Paul has just finished the most eloquent presentation of the gospel in all of history, having concluded that we all stand condemned by the Law and yet by the grace of God we will be saved (justified) by faith and can now have peace with God through Christ (Romans 5:1)!  Why?  B/c while we were sinners and enemies of God Christ died for us! (Romans 5:6-8)

Paul then proceeds here in Chapter 5 of Romans to clarify exactly what it means that Christ died for all men.  In verses 12-21 Paul compares Adam’s fall to Christ’s restoration – just as he did in 1 Corinthians.  However, unlike 1 Corinthians, Paul says it multiple times here in Romans, using several different descriptions to say the same thing.  The gist of it is that since Adam (the First Adam) brought this horrid condition to all men, Christ (the Second Adam) has come to reverse it.  Christ’s effect on all men is exactly paralleled with Adam’s effect on all men…except in an opposite manner.  Lets take a look, I’m going to highlight some areas that we will need to examine afterwards.

“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. “ (5:15)

This is an incredible verse and needs a bit of unpacking.

The Many

Paul speaks about how this free gift of Christ applies to “the many.”  So what exactly does “the many” refer to?  Some will try to argue that b/c Paul says “the many” instead of “all” that it’s proof that not all men will be saved.  In fact, there are even a few who have used this verse to argue that not everyone CAN be saved!  They try to explain this by stating that God created some men without souls and therefore they are incapable of receiving salvation.  This is held by a select few Calvinists in a poor attempt to make their “double predestination” doctrine not make God out to be so cruel and evil.  (Double predestination is the idea that irregardless of man’s choice God chooses some to be saved and chooses others to be damned)

That is NOT what Paul is saying here!  Its clear from our sister verse in 1 Corinthians that Paul is referring to “all.”  Nevertheless, lets see if the context here in Romans also supports this.  There are 2 ways to go about this.

First: notice that “the many” applies to those who died in Adam.  How many died in Adam?  All; just as 1 Corinthians said.  Paul had just previously declared that “there is none righteous…there is none who does good, no not even one.” (Romans 3:10-18)   Paul then declares that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  There is not a single soul who was not affected by Adam’s fall.  Therefore “the many” who were affected by Adam’s fall equals everybody – all.

Second: Paul reiterates in verse 18 what he says about “the many” in verse 15; and in his reiteration he qualifies it with the term “all.”  Lets compare them,

“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.” (5:15)

“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”  (5:18)

In the very next verse Paul switches back and refers again to them as “the many.”

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (5:19)

So we see that he uses them interchangeably.  Therefore “the many” means “all.”  This might seem somewhat confusing at first, but the key to understanding it lies in the fact that there are a LOT of people who have existed.  The force of the language here is that “everybody” is not a small number of people, but rather a large number of people, the world has become quite NUMEROUS;  a.k.a – “many.

Hebrew Parallelism and Repetition

Next we need to recognize that Paul is again employing a parallelism as he did in 1 Corinthians.  Paul’s statement about the many/all applies equally to both those who died in Adam and those that will receive God’s grace and free gift of life.  So how many died in Adam?  The answer is obviously – everyone.  Therefore IF Adam’s sin affected everybody in a negative manner, THEN God’s gift will affect everybody in a positive manner.

In an interesting side note; the Hebrew and Greek languages did not have italicization or bold fonts; when they wanted to EMPHASIZE something they simply REPEATED IT, often using various ways of saying the same thing.  Paul does this here in Romans chapter 5 by repeating this concept SEVEN times!  Everybody died in Adam and everybody is going to be made alive in Christ!

So we have a devise called a parallelism used to connect the 2 concepts as equal, and then we have a device of repetition used to emphasize the main point that Paul is trying to communicate.  He is trying very hard to make sure we don’t miss what he is saying.

Greek Logic Formula

There is another devise being employed here that is much harder for the lay person to catch…unless you have been trained in Greek logic.  When Paul says, “the free gift is not like the transgression” he is employing a specific formula of Greek logic.  Its hard to even notice with the NASB’s translation here.  In the Greek it says, “the free gift is equal to the transgression but opposite.”  That is what the “not” means in that sentence.   The King James translates it in a way that makes it somewhat easier to catch, “not as the offense, so also is the free gift.”  Can you see it yet?  “Not as…so also”  The free gift is equal to what the offense isn’t.  Confusing I know…but bear with me, perhaps I can make it clearer.

The Greek logic formula goes something like this, “X is equal to Y in an opposite form.”  Or, X is equal in an opposite way to Y.  Very few people have need for such specialized logic, so we tend to miss its significance.   What Paul is saying here is that the “free gift” (X) is equal to the transgression (Y) but in a completely opposite way.

The equality is that 1 act by 1 man affects ALL MEN.  Adam’s disobedience (sin) affects all men and Christ’s obedience (righteousness) affects all men.  Paul had said in the previous verse that Adam was a type of Christ (5:14), and in other epistles he refers to Christ as the “Last Adam” or Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-47).   Christ is a type of Adam b/c His act affects all men just as Adam’s act did.

But Christ’s act is equal in an opposite way b/c while Adam’s act affects all men negatively, Christ’s act affects all men positively.  Adam brings/brought death to all men, Christ brings/brought life to all men.   Adam = bad for all, Christ = good for all.

Abounds Much More

Finally, what I want to point out here is that Paul heavily emphasizes that Christ’s work affects MORE than Adam’s!  If Adam’s sin affected all men, Christ’s work will affect more than all men!  (Hows that possible!?)  Or perhaps Paul is emphasizing that the grace brought to us through Christ is far greater than the sin and death that Adam brought.  Where Adam brought sin which increased, Christ brought grace which abounds MUCH MORE! (see 5:15,17,20)

Paul isn’t just giving us a mysterious off hand remark that leaves what he is saying open for debate; no, he is declaring it over and over and over in order to make absolutely sure that it gets through our thick, stubborn skulls!  Christ = FAR MORE than Adam!   God wasn’t joking when He called the Gospel Good News!

Lets look at the verses one more time,

“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.” (5:15)

“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”  (5:18)

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (5:19)

The many WILL BE MADE righteous!  It’s not conditional.   There is no “if” you want to.  It’s a statement, a fact, a declaration – a done deal!  Either our theologians know something that Paul didn’t know, or Scripture really is declaring that all men will be made righteous!

On a quick side note, the “gift” that God says will abound to the many is the same “free gift” that Paul tells us just one chapter later is eternal life in Christ. (6:22)  It’s pretty cut and dry what Paul is teaching  – this eternal life will not only equal what sin accomplished; it will accomplish MUCH MORE than what Adam’s sin accomplished!  Which is why Paul says at the end of all this that “where sin abounds…grace abounds MUCH MORE!” (5:20)  That truly is amazing grace!

Conclusion

So there we have it.  2 sections of Scripture in which the context, grammar and language devices prophesy that all men will be made alive in Christ.  So far we have seen that Scripture teaches that God intends to save all men; and now we see that it also prophesies that in the end all men will be made alive.  If as Christ said, “the Scriptures cannot be broken,” then we are off to a good start!

In the next blog we will look at God’s oath He swore to save all men.

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