In the last blog we saw how the Greek word Apollumi not only means “utter destruction” (and is used in such a sense not only concerning past things, but also to describe future judgments) but also that it means “lost.” We further saw that one must “lose (apollumi) his life in order to save it” and that Christ never ceases to “seek and to save that which was lost (apollumi).” And we looked at 1 parable that directly addresses this issue – the parable of the lost sheep. God will leave the 99% who have been saved, restored and made righteous to find that 1 last soul who yet remains lost.
And interestingly enough, in case that point is hard to accept, Christ gives us 2 more parables immediately following that one which repeat the same truth. They are the parable of the Woman who lost 1 of her 10 coins and the parable of the Prodigal Son (whom the Father lost). Both of these parables, along with the parable of the lost sheep, repeat and reiterate the same principle: that God will not cease to seek out and save that which was lost (destroyed).
Andrew Jukes (this writer’s favorite author) directly comments on this concept concerning Apollumi (destruction) in his magnificent book The Names of God. He says,
Our Lord’s own teaching only repeats the selfsame truth, in those blessed words, even yet so little understood, to Pharisees and Scribes, who objected that He “received sinners.” “What man of you,” He says, fallen and wretched as you are, would be content to lose even a sheep, which had strayed and wandered from him? Or what woman would be content to lose a piece of silver? Would they not seek their lost until they found it? Is God’s love for His creature less than a man’s is for a sheep? Is not the lost creature really God’s loss? Can He rest, when it is lost, until He find it? And when it is found, is it not His joy even more than the recovered creature’s? For it is not the joy of the recovered sheep, nor of the silver, nor of the once lost son, that our Lord declares in these Parables, but the joy of the Shepherd, and of the Woman, and of the Father, each of whom exclaims, “Rejoice with me, for I have found that which I had lost.” (pgs 32-33, emphasis mine).
As Andrew Jukes points out, we ought to notice 2 things: 1 – that God will not cease to seek for the lost (destroyed) for that is His nature; and 2 – that God’s joy at finding and restoring the lost is the emphasis, not the creature’s joy at being found and restored. We may be content to let all those sad, wretched sinners be forever separated from us and God, engulfed in endless misery; but their heavenly Father is nothing like us, He is a God of endless love and will not tolerate even 1 of His creatures being forever cut off from Him.
The Prodigal Son
In Luke 15 where these parables are found Christ moves immediately into the parable of the prodigal son to further emphasize and illustrate this truth. I am certain that we are all very well acquainted with the story of the prodigal son; it concerns a wayward son, who squanders his inheritance (calling and gifts) and when he finally realizes the error of his ways, he returns to the Father who warmly welcomes him with open arms.
Among other things, this signifies the great mass of humanity who have fallen away from God through Adam’s sin. And when we finally, “come to our senses” (Luke 15:17) we will repent and joyfully return to our Heavenly Father. And notice the wording that Jesus uses to describe our state when we finally return.
“But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet…and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost (apollumi) and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:22-24)
It is no mistake that Christ describes the lost son as “dead and has come to life again,” and “lost and has been found.” These are descriptions of mankind in our fallen state, and especially when we suffer that 2nd Death through the Lake (Baptism) of Fire. We will suffer the Destruction (apollumi) of our old Adamic nature, either in this life or the next, but afterwards Christ will raise us from that death to a new and higher life.
In fact it is through this destruction that our glorious transformation is wrought! We are changed from glory to glory through the death and destruction of our old man.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
“The heavens are the works of your hands; they will perish (apollumi), but you remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle you will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not come to an end. (Hebrews 1:10-12)
The heavens will be destroyed and changed through that destruction! They will not just cease to exist, they will be changed! This is the process by which the heavens and all of creation are made new!
“This is the Second Death, the Lake of Fire…Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away,” (Revelation 21:1; see also 2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17,22)
The New heavens and the New earth immediately follow the Lake of Fire, that baptism of Fire by which all things will be refined and purified!
But getting back to the Parable of the Prodigal Son; it is further interesting to note that one of the Father’s sons grumbles about this! The son who stayed by the Father’s side his whole life, serving Him in obedience. He did not like the fact that his rebellious kin was welcomed back so quickly and warmly! Its reminiscent of the story of Jonah, who grumbled that God would be so merciful to his enemies. Sounds a bit like many of us who don’t like the idea that God might save all our lost brethren. But that is our Father’s heart, He cannot help but celebrate. And so he chastises his other son saying,
“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost (apollumi) and has been found.” (Luke 15:32)
This rejoicing will be the atmosphere in heaven in the next age as all men are finally and fully restored to fellowship with the Father through Christ and His work on the Cross. Let us not be like the embittered son, or Jonah, who did not want God to show mercy to those poor souls. Let us rejoice in this – that though man has lost his way and must suffer the judgment of destruction, the destruction of his old, fallen, selfish way – God will yet receive back unto Himself all and through that destruction restore all again to full fellowship with Himself.
Truly, the Gospel is Good News of great joy which will be for All people! (Luke 2:10)
Devoted to God (Destruction)
To wrap this all up I would like to touch on the Hebrew concept of Destruction – Cherem (Strong’s Hebrew Number 2763a and 2764a). Although it is never used to describe a judgment in the afterlife, it is very much related to what we have seen concerning Apollumi. The Hebrew word Cherem was used to describe the utter annihilation of goods, people and/or nations. For instance it was used to describe the annihilation of the Canaanite people,
The LORD heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed (Charam) them and their cities. Thus the name of the place was called Hormah. (Chormah in Hebrew, related to Charam; Strongs Hebrew Number 2767 – Numbers 21:3; see also Judges 1:17)
Daniel also uses it to describe a future destruction that will come upon the world,
“But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate (charam) many.” (Daniel 11:44)
This word is used as “utter destruction” over 45 times. For more instances see Numbers 21:3; Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:17; Joshua 11:20; Judges 21:11; 1 Samuel 15:3,18; Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 25:9, etc…
But again, here is where it gets interesting b/c, Cherem is also used to describe the things that God “sets apart” for Himself! In fact that is how it is translated many times – “set apart.” When God sets something apart, He is consecrating it, which means that He is devoting it fully to Himself. It can be used for no other purpose than His. Thus it is “utterly destroyed” for any use other than God’s.
This is what happened when the Israelites conquered Jericho. God demanded that all of Jericho be consecrated or devoted (cherem) to Him alone. God had previously given them a commandment concerning the taking of certain cities saying,
“…you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying (charam) it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword. Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever.” (Deuteronomy 13:15,16)
A quick note on whole burnt offerings; they were commanded to be consumed in their entirety by fire in order that no one but God would be able to partake of it (see Leviticus chapter 1 for the laws of burnt offerings). Not only that, but they are a type and shadow of Christ b/c He was 100% devoted to God, and did ONLY what God led Him to do. Though Christ was never burned with a physical fire, He was fully consumed by God (baptism of fire) so that there was nothing He did or said that wasn’t in full subjection to God’s will. He was truly devoted to destruction.
But getting back to Jericho, God said,
“[Jericho] shall be under the ban (cherem), it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD…But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD…[Israel] utterly destroyed (charam) everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword…They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. (Joshua 6:17-24)
You can see that anything “devoted” to God is destroyed in order that it can no longer be used by anyone other than God. It thus becomes worthless to the world.
“If a man consecrates to the LORD part of the fields of his own property… the field shall be holy to the LORD, like a field set apart (cherem); it shall be for the priest as his property…anything which a man sets apart (cherem) to the LORD out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted (cherem) to destruction (charam) is most holy to the LORD. No one who may have been set apart (charam) among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.’” (Leviticus 27:16-29)
This is all symbolic of how we are called to be fully devoted to God.
“This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:35)
One day we will be so fully consumed by God’s divine fire that there will be nothing left of self, we will be given up entirely to God and we will experience the bliss and pleasure of living to please Him alone. For,
“When all things are subjected to Him, God will be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28)
The Bible’s description of “utter destruction” is the precursor to such a state. So let us not fear judgment, but rejoice that it will lead us to a higher life!
In the next blog we will look at the the Greek word Kolasis that is translated as “punishment” in Matthew 25:46. We will find that it means “correction” and not “punishment.”