#43 – God’s Plan to Save All Men (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pt. 3:9)

When presenting a Scriptural case for the ultimate reconciliation of all mankind…where is the best place to start?  There are a lot of verses to be sure, but which one (or ones) should usher the rest of them in?  This is a difficult choice b/c there are sooo many good ones.  But I think I know where we ought to begin.

I feel that the first thing we need to make sure of is whether or not it’s God’s will to save all mankind.  Seems kind of obvious right?  But for arguments sake, lets presuppose nothing.  I mean, hypothetically speaking, if it could be shown that God doesn’t want all of His creation to be saved, then I would have a big problem concerning my viewpoint.  I’m being facetious of course, and I do so b/c absurd exaggeration has a way of making the obvious apparent.  That being said, Scripture does emphatically confirm that yes, it is God’s will to save everyone!

I am sure that most people have heard the verse that states,

[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Most people have probably also heard its sister verse that says,

“the Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)

The only problem is that these verses are so direct about God’s will to save all of humanity that translators have had to soften the wording in order to prevent confusion.  (yes, translators are biased and many times translate certain verses in ways that better support their doctrinal position or the position of those that they hope will purchase their specific translation).  I know that probably sounds offensive, but we are a gullible generation.  And nobody likes the idea that ideas they have put their trust in might possibly be wrong.  I am not saying that the Scriptures are wrong, but that some of our english translations of the Scriptures are not entirely accurate.

But don’t worry…I wont expect you to take my word for it, I’m actually going to show you how the Greek in these verses actually communicates something very different.  To begin with when we read these verses what we hear is  – “God wishes that all men would be saved…but that probably is not actually going to happen.”  The way we perceive these verses is as a kind of wishful thinking; a nice way of letting us know that He truly does want to help all those poor, lost, helpless souls out there, but His hands are tied.  He cant help us b/c He’s left it all up to us…right?  Fortunately that is NOT true.

You see, translating that word as “desire” makes it sound passive.  In English it is employed as a noun, but the Greek word is actually a verb.  The difference between a noun and a verb is that one is passive, one is active.  Verbs convey action, that is their fundamental definition.  The Greek definition of that word “desire” (thelo) is, “to purpose, generally based upon a preference and desire — ‘to purpose.’”

It denotes action, purpose – intention.  It is NOT wishful thinking.  A better translation is,

[God] INTENDS to save all men and to bring them to a knowledge of the truth.”

or better yet as the King James more accurately translates it,

[God] WILL HAVE all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

This, obviously, leads into the issue of exactly how sovereign God’s will is and definitely is something that we need to address, but before we get into that lets take a look at the other verse found in 2 Peter.

Peter declares that the Lord does not “wish (boulomai) that any would perish, but for all to come to repentance.”  Again, the force it conveys in our English is very weak.  The Greek word ‘boulomai’ means “to think, with the purpose of planning or deciding on a course of action — ‘to purpose, to plan, to intend.’”  Once again we have the same issue; our english translation softening the force of the Greek.  The Greek word boulomai, like thelo, is also a verb – denoting action.  It also carries with it the implication of a plan by which to accomplish that will (Lou and Nida Lexicon).

So a possible translation could be something along the lines of this,

“the Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, His plan is that none will perish but that all will to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)

We looked in the last series at how the word “perish” used here conveys the destruction necessary for salvation.  I will not comment on it further other than to say that if you haven’t already read those 2 blogs I highly recommend it – you can find them here.

God’s slowness about His promise and His patience towards wayward man is part of His plan by which He will bring all mankind to repentance.  (His sworn oath/promise is to save all men – see Isaiah 45:22,23.)  God’s patience in accomplishing things obviously annoys us b/c we see things from a very limited time span.  But God sees the beginning from the end so He alone knows the wisdom in waiting so long.  One thing is clear from this Scripture; His patience is a crucial part of His plan.  And thus following this statement Peter almost immediately encourages his readers to, “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation!” (2 Peter 3:15)

God seems slow due to His unusual patience, but that patience will be mankind’s salvation.  His patience is what will bring about the salvation of all men.  Some ponder that rebellious men can’t be saved b/c they will be so stubborn in their rebellion that they will forever refuse God’s grace.  I see a kernel of logic in this, but it still fails to incorporate God’s patience into the equation; God’s love can and will outlast even the most stubborn human will!  Man only has a finite amount of energy to hate and rebel, God has infinite energy to love and forgive…I’m pretty sure He’s going to win that stand off.  I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll place my bet on God…every time.   His heart will never cease pursuing those last few lost souls.  And b/c He holds all the cards, He will always win…eventually.

I will write more about this later when we get into the theological case for U.R.  Suffice it to say, no man is a match for God.  Sin was beaten, death has been swallowed up, stubbornness…well, that will be a walk in the park for God.

So we have these 2 verses, that clearly show God’s will/plan/intention to save all men.  So that’s settled.  Unfortunately we now have the issue of “free will” vs. “God’s Sovereignty” to grapple with.  This is a very taboo topic within Christendom, its a sacred cow that I do not intend to disrupt.  But I will expose some items that bear on the issue at hand.

First, I am not arguing against free will, I believe that fallen man has a will that makes choices that have consequences; however I also believe that God has authority over all men and therefore He alone has the moral right to act according to His own desires and His own will without such actions being a violation.  Just as a master has the right to exert his will over a servant, so God has the right to exert His will over ours if He so chooses.  He is after all Lord of all Creation, and reserves all sovereignty and authority for Himself (see Psalm 103:19; 1 Timothy 6:15).  God is not bound by man’s free will nor does He limit Himself or restrict Himself to man’s choices.

My position is just that – God is not limited by man’s will, but has the right and authority to exert His own will as He sees fit.  And since He is pure unadulterated self sacrificing Love, everything He does is out of that love and for our good – even if what He does overrides our fallen will.  So in my mind there is no question about it being morally wrong.

That being said, the 1 and only issue should always be, “what saith the Scriptures?”  Does Scripture support a God who retains the right to do according to His own will even if it means others will be crossed?  I believe it does.  There are many very clear verses that directly state it; as well as a plethora of verses that imply it.  Here is but a sampling,

“[God] works all things after the council of His own will.”  (Ephesians 1:11)

“My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:10)

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in the earth, in the seas and in all the deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand.” (Daniel 4:35)

God is Sovereign.  To Him we are no better than unreasoning beasts.  If He wants to violate our choices, He is more than logically and morally justified in doing so.  Not only that He also directly declares that He has the right to do so in His Word.

Conclusion

I God declares in His own Word that His will/plan is to save all men and He declares that He works all things out according to the council of His own will – then we can be absolutely certain that that is exactly what is going to happen.  Especially in light of His sworn oath to save all men (see Isaiah 45:22,23 – we will examine this verse in a later blog).

We see therefore that God has a plan to save all men, the next thing we need to determine is if Scripture contains actual prophecies about Him accomplishing this plan.   That is exactly what we will be looking at in the next blog.

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#42 – Restoration Intro

The Salvation of all men!  Sounds too good to be true, right?  I mean, the Gospel (Good News) is already too good to be true; God took our fallen nature upon Himself and became sin so that we would be the righteousness of God!  He didn’t just take a few people’s sins, He abolished sin for the whole world!  Anyone and everyone who has or ever will exist!  In our fallen state we were hostile to God and yet He loved us (and still loves us) so much that He went through all of that…just to heal us and set us free!  But it gets even better; we also get to know and experience our Creator!  A majestic King favoring a worm!  How can this be?

It truly is great news if you think about it.  No, not just great, too good to be true!  And yet it is true.  So with how absolutely unbelievable this good news is, and with how absolutely unbelievably good and loving God is to do all this for us…why are so many so adamantly against God figuring out a way to apply this grace to everyone?  I mean, if the Good News is too good to be true, then it should really be too good to be true!  Right?

It is my perception that a shadow has been cast over the Good News.  A shadow so deep and dark that it almost completely swallows up the joy and light found in the Good News!  “Yes, God has made a way for man to be saved from his wretchedness…but…it will only be given to a few.  And if you’re not one of those few, well…lets just say it would have been better if God had never created you in the first place.”  And that “few” really means around 5% or less of all human beings (and that’s being generous!)  (Some people claim that 25% of the world are Christians, but a simple application of intellectual honesty exposes this as erroneous)

A mere 5% will be redeemed!?  Its a miracle that anyone can see the light for how immense the darkness is!  No wonder the number one reason people reject Christianity is b/c they cannot believe that a “Good” God would actually be so cruel.  Its amazing really, they are bearing witness that if there truly is a God then He would be Good; and infinite torment would NOT be good.  And I agree!

The Good News is Good News and it is Good News for All; as the angel declared when Christ was born,

“Behold, I bring you Good News of great joy which will be for ALL people.”  (Luke 2:10)

And that is what this series will be about, all the instances and various ways in which Scripture declares this aspect of the Good News.  That it is for ALL!  There is no darkness here, only light.  And unfortunately this light cannot be found in the Church.  Its a shame that one has to go outside of the Church to find the light.

There is a famous Church Sign that many of you have probably seen at one time or other.  It says, “Ch__ch…what’s missing?  You are!”  Its sort of clever, right?  But more than clever its ironic, b/c   what’s truly missing from the Ch__ch is UR.  The word for “light” in Hebrew is UR! (Strong’s Hebrew 216)  The light is missing from the Church due to this awful shadow they cast over the Good News with their man made doctrine of Endless Torment!  On another ironic note, UR is Universal Reconciliation!   The “light” (UR) that is missing in the Church is the light of Universal Reconciliation!  Every time I see that sign I cannot help but laugh at how brilliant and funny God is b/c He always “catches the clever in their cleverness.”  He manages to find ways for all of us who darken His Gospel to still betray the truth!

That’s all I will rant about concerning His Church, I’m not trying to slander God’s anointed.  But I do feel justified in challenging us where I feel we err.  My judgments don’t apply to all Christians, but, practically speaking, it does apply to the majority.

Outline:

This series will be about all the ways in which Scripture declares God’s glorious plan to save all men.  We are going to be looking at not only a large quantity but also a large variety of Scriptures.  I guarantee that you will be astounded at how much of the light of Universal Reconciliation (U.R.) shines out in the Bible.  This series will be the longest one yet, for the simple reason that there is ALOT of material to handle.

There are; #1 – over 40 direct statements about the salvation of all men; #2 – a multitude of theological principles/concepts that confirm and support this; and #3 – dozens of types and shadows in Scripture that prophesy about the reconciliation/restoration of all men (at least that I have discovered so far, there are probably many many more that I simply have not had my eyes opened to yet).

The only other thing is that I probably wont be able to post one a week as I have been doing for the past year.  I will be posting them around once every 2 or 3 weeks.

This series will thus be divided into these 3 categories.  I will title them simply:

Plain Statements:

We will look in detail at every verse that positively teaches the concept that God will save all mankind.

Theological Support:

We will explore all the ways that theology blatantly and shamelessly confirms and supports the concept that God will save all mankind.

We will also explore all the ways that Eternal Torment Theology falls apart and contradicts itself.

Types and Shadows:

We will be exploring topics that range from the Feast of Tabernacles, to the life of Jonah, to Moses’ intercession for God’s glory, to the priesthood of Melchizedek, to the 5 Covenants found in Scripture, to God’s promise to Sodom, to the 2nd Passover, to the Jubilee, to Peter’s vision in Acts, to the song of Creation in Revelation to the river of life flowing from the throne in Ezekiel; and much much more.

Conclusion:

Needless to say we have a lot to cover.  For a lot of people this is the meat of Universal Reconciliation.  I personally find what we will look at in this series to be the most important reason why I or anyone should believe that God will save all mankind.  What we have looked at so far in the previous 3 series has merely given us the foundation upon which to firmly and confidently receive these Scriptural references as testifying about the truth.  Those previous series were merely the icing on the cake, giving us further confirmation that U.R. is truly the position taken in God’s Word.

This series will reveal the most glorious promise in Scripture – that, no matter how fallen we are or how violently we oppose and rebel against our Creator, He has sworn that He will redeem us; He has sworn that He will not rest until He has found and rescued every single lost soul; He has sworn that no matter what obstacles are in His way He will eventually win every one of us over to His unfathomable love!

May God bless you as you read!

Posted in Salvation | Leave a comment

#41 – Putting His Enemies Under His Feet

This is the last blog I have that will fall under the Judgment theme.  So far we have looked at Death (and the 2nd Death), the Lake of Fire, Destruction, Punishment, Wrath, Judgment and various other related issues.  To my knowledge there is only one more theme that needs to be addressed – Christ putting all His enemies under His feet.

The reason I saved this topic for last is, b/c as much as the other themes we have already looked at dealt with Ultimate Restoration, this one does so far more blatantly.  It ties into Restoration so directly that I wasn’t sure whether I should save it for the next series on Restoration.  In the end I decided that since it clearly deals with Judgment it needed to be included here, however, I left it for last so that it would be a sort of bridge between the two; it will be a fitting end to our series on Judgment and a fitting transition into the next series concerning the Restoration of All Things.

Until I Make Your Enemies a Footstool

This subject concerns a certain Old Testament passage that is quoted in the New Testament.  In fact, of all the Old Testament passages that are quoted in the New Testament this one is quoted a total of 8 times!  Far more than any other Old Testament verse.  This is highly significant, it tells us that we ought to pay very close attention to what God is trying to teach us.  The passage is as follows,

“The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’” (Psalm 110:1)

This passage is quoted in Matthew 22:42; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:43, Acts 2:35; 1 Corinthians 15:22-28; and Hebrews 1:13 and 10:13.

What we will focus specifically on in this blog is what it means to make an enemy into a footstool.  A footstool, obviously, is what you use to rest your feet on and the passage in question concerns the feet, as the following alternate quote renders it,

“…until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet.” (Matthew 22:42)

The concept of putting Christ’s enemies under His feet is found several more times (Ephesians 1:22, Philippians 3:21 and 1 Peter 3:22) on top of the 8 direct quotes of the Old Testament verse in question.  This leaves us with a total of 11 direct references to this theme.  All in all this seems to be a very big and important concept in Scripture.  And there is more!  There are dozens upon dozens of passages in the Bible that concern this theme of subduing enemies under the feet.

This might come as a surprise to some, but WE are considered to be God’s enemies!  At least, the wicked/evil, fallen nature within us is.  The Old Man that is lawless and “hostile to God” (Romans 8:7) is God’s enemy.  That part of humanity that is dead in our trespasses and sins is considered to be God’s enemy,

“For although we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son,”  (Romans 5:10)

Putting Enemies Under His Feet

The idea of putting an enemy under one’s feet is referring to a Ruler conquering those who oppose or resist said Rulership.  The Bible has many pictures of the wicked being put under the feet of the righteous.

“A great King over all the earth.  He subdues peoples under us and nations under our feet.” (Psalm 47:2,3)

One of the terms of putting an enemy under one’s feet is the term “tread” or “treading down.

“’You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,’ says the LORD of hosts.”  (Malachi 4:3; see also Romans 16:20; Job 40:12; Psalm 18:37,38, 44:5, 60:12; 91:13, 108:13; Zechariah 10:5; Lk. 10:19 and 2 Kings 9:33)

Now although the term “treading down” seems like it is referring to destruction, it is more specifically referring to the subjugation of an enemy.  For in war there are certainly casualties, but in the end the victor wins the subjugation of the nation/people he is battling.  Whenever this happened in Scripture the losing nation would become the “servants” of the winning nation.

“[David] defeated Moab…and the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute.” (2 Samuel 8:2,6,14; 17:3, etc…)

Putting someone under your feet concerned bringing them under your authority.  They were now part of your kingdom.  That was how nations expanded, when they became powerful enough they would invade and conquer neighboring nations.  And those who came under their subjection came under their authority – a.k.a kingdom.  This is what it means when Scripture refers to all of Christ’s enemies being put in subjection under His feet.

“[God] seated [Jesus] at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:20-22)

Notice that it says Jesus is at God’s right hand; which is a position of rulership (see Matthew 20:20-28).  Also note that the terms rule, authority, power and dominion are references to the evil spirits that rule the kingdom of this earthly realm (see Ephesians 6:10-17, 2:2, 2 Corinthians 4:4).  But Christ is above them, He has authority over them b/c they have been conquered and are part of the “all things” which have been put in subjection under His feet.  However, we do not yet see that as a reality.  For though Christ has obtained victory over them, His enemies are still fighting.  St. Paul addresses this specifically,

“You have put all things in subjection under His feet. For in subjecting all things to [Christ], [God] left nothing that is not subject to Him. However (right) NOW we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” (Hebrews 1:8)

Paul wants to make absolutely sure we understand that all things have been subjected under Christ’s feet so he says it a second time in an opposite contrast, take a look at it again,

“for in subjecting all things to Christ God left nothing that is not subject to Him.”

It doesn’t get any clearer than that.  However, Paul then clarifies that at this present time (and from our earthly perspective) we are unable to see that reality.  Which is why the Scriptures testify that,

“[Christ] must reign UNTIL He has put all His enemies under His feet.”  (1 Corinthians 15:25)

even though Christ has obtained victory over His enemies, and has authority over them, they are not yet under His subjection.  But they will be, its only a matter of time.

Treading Grapes Under Foot

Related to this is the concept of crushing grapes, or the treading grapes.  There are 3 feasts in the Law that Israel was commanded to observe; and like all the rest of the Law they are “a type and shadow of good things to come.” (Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:16,17)  Each feast concerned a specific harvest: Passover concerned the harvest of Barley, Pentecost concerned the harvest of Wheat, and Tabernacles concerned the harvest of Grapes.

Each of these harvests concerns a harvest of souls that will be brought into the kingdom.  We will look at this in much more detail in the next series.  But suffice it for now to say that each harvest required a specific labor necessary to process it.  The Grape harvest required that it be “trodden underfoot.

“I have made the wine to cease from the wine presses; no one will tread them with shouting,” (Jeremiah 48:33; see also Amos 9:13; Micah 6:15)

The treading of grapes was used many times by God as a description of trodding down His enemies – a.k.a subjecting them under His feet.

“The Lord has trodden as in a wine press the virgin daughter of Judah.” (Lamentations 1:15; see also Isaiah 63:1-6; Jeremiah 25:30-38; Joel 3:9-14; Micah 7:19)

The book of Revelation has one of the clearest pictures of treading grapes as a judgment of God upon His enemies and even connects it to “God’s Wrath” which we looked at a few blogs previous.

“’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)

The Grape connection is very enlightening, not to mention fascinating, unfortunately we don’t have enough space to pursue it further, but we will in a later blog for there is a lot of great information/insight connected with it.  I merely add what I have for the sake of further connecting the subjection of one’s enemies with the concept of being put under one’s feet.  In other words the treading of the Grape harvest is symbolic of the process of subjecting one’s enemies under one’s feet.

The Temple of God

It is very curious that God would describe the triumph of His enemies, putting them under His feet, as making them into a footstool.  As I mentioned above, a footstool is where you rest your feet.  What does it mean that God will find a resting place in His enemies?  It becomes even more fascinating when we realize that the temple of God was also called His footstool!

“Let us go into His dwelling place; let us worship at His footstool.” (Psalm 132:7)

God’s Temple is where He dwells, where He is able to rest.  And yet, does God actually dwell or find rest in earthly sanctuaries?

“David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.  But it was Solomon who built a house for Him.  However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands;” (Acts 7:46-50; see also Matthew 5:34,35)

In Isaiah God sarcastically makes fun of this foolish idea.

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me?  And where is a place that I may rest?’” (Isaiah 66:1)

Some people have a hard time grasping that God doesn’t dwell in temples made of stone.  He never actually intended to.  The reason God ordained the building of Temples in previous ages is b/c He was teaching us in type and shadow about the true temple.

“…who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the Tabernacle; for, ‘see,’ he says, ‘that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.’”  (Hebrews 8:5)

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;” (Hebrews 9:24)

The true temple as we all ought to know is the Body of Christ – US!  The New Testament makes it very clear that WE are the true Temple of God, not some building of stone.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them;’” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

God dwells in His people and (as with His enemies) He is slowly bringing everything within us (everything that resists Him) into subjection until He can truly rest in us.  Even more amazing is that we are not only individual temples of the living God, but together we make up a corporate temple, a building made without hands, a temple made up of living stones.

“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4,5)

You…are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2:19-22)

God is removing all opposition within His corporate Body as well, so that one day we will be a perfect resting place for His Spirit.  But here is the connection I am trying to make: we are the temple of God, and the temple is God’s footstool where He finds rest – therefore when it says that Christ’s enemies are being made into a footstool for His feet it is telling us that they will be temples of the living God!

Christ And Warfare

If that isn’t convincing enough, listen to the Old Testament’s description of building God’s temple and how it is connected to putting His enemies under His feet.

“Then King David rose to his feet and said, ‘Listen to me, my brethren and my people; I had intended to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and for the footstool of our God. So I had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, “You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood.”’” (1 Chronicles 28:2,3)

“Then Solomon sent word to Hiram, saying, ‘You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the wars which surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet.  But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune.  Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spoke to David my father, saying, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he will build the house for My name.”’” (1 Kings 5:2-5)

So God couldn’t build His Temple, where His Spirit could dwell until He had put all His enemies under His feet.  The temple is His footstool b/c He can rest upon it and there is no rest in war.  God is waiting until all the warfare is accomplished before He can rest.  He cannot rest while there is anything that is at enmity with Him.  He has no peace as long as there are still enemies that need to be reconciled.   But once they have been subjected to Him then He can rest; and so He makes His enemies into a footstool by placing them under His feet, by subjecting them.  They become His servants through subjection and are no longer working against Him b/c now they are working for Him.

We are being made into a footstool of God, a holy dwelling place, and we wont be fully completed until Christ’s enemies are brought into subjection and also made part of His footstool.  They too will be part of this holy temple in which holiness and righteousness dwell!

All those verses we just looked at, concerning David not being able to build a temple for God until all his enemies had been put under his feet, are “types and Shadows of the good things to come.”  For David is a type of Christ in His spiritual warfare to subject all His enemies under His feet.  Christ must be a warrior before He can be a prince of peace.  He must subdue all things before He can institute an age of rest (sabbath means rest and was required every 7 days, 7 years, and 7 sets of 7 years – and the 7th millenium from Creation will also be an age of rest, after Christ has put all His enemies under His feet).

God will convert all of His enemies into His friends by loving them to death!  So before the Body of Christ can be completed as a Divine Temple, a footstool, a place where God can dwell and rest, He must finish His warfare against His enemies.  But once the warfare is accomplished this temple will be finished!  That is the end game!  Listen to one last reference to putting all things under His feet!

“…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…For He has put all things in subjection under His feet…When all things are subjected to Him, then…God will be all in all.”  (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

God will be All in All when His enemies are put under His feet!  B/c they will be part of His Temple where He dwells!  He will fill all with all of Himself!  And so Scripture declares,

“A man’s enemies will become the members of His household.”  (Matthew 10:36; and Micah 7:6)

Can you hear it?  Its beautiful and glorious and a thousand other words that the human voice cannot articulate.  All I can do is echo what the Angels said when Christ was born and they declared that the Gospel truly was Good News of Great Joy which would be for All people (Luke 2:10),

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

Conclusion:

Almost without exception any time there is a reference to judgment it is not without hope.  Every warning and threat of judgment comes with a promise of restoration.  God will make His enemies a footstool for His feet, but His footstool is His Temple, where He will rest, for His enemies will become part of His dwelling place.

In the next series we will begin looking at all of the Scriptures that positively and clearly declare God’s plan to save all mankind.  I find it to be the most exciting and convincing proof of Universal Reconciliation.  If you have enjoyed anything I have written so far, then you are really REALLY going to enjoy the next series!  🙂

Thank you for reading.

Posted in Hell, Judgment, Salvation | 2 Comments

#40 – Principles of Judgment – Part 2

In this series on Judgment we have looked at every description of judgment Scripture gives us; and we have seen how in every instance it points towards restoration and life.  Judgment is never final, it is never the end.  The end is always life; the very life of Christ.

We also saw at the beginning of this series some principles concerning Judgment; namely that, 1 – Judgment Begins with the House of God, 2 – Judgment Corrects, 3 – True Justice demands a Finite Judgment (there is a limit to all judgment), 4 – Judgment restores the victim and corrects the sinner, and finally 5 – Mercy triumphs over judgment.  We also saw in the last blog another principle: 6 – the Law upon which all judgment is founded will one day pass away.

This blog will be a continuation of those principles and will present a few final ones related to Judgment to conclude the series.  In this blog we will look at the fact that; 7 – Judgment is Good, 8 – Mercy is built into the Law (especially as it concerns the Law of the Jubilee), and 9 – that the Law cannot override the Promises of God (a.k.a the Old Covenant upon which all judgment will be administered cannot trump the New Covenant and its promises of restoration).  So lets get right into it.

Judgment is Good

We have seen previously how God’s Judgments are based upon His Law; and His Law demands mercy to be administered in judgment and protects the rights of both the victims and the criminals.  This is b/c God is Good, He is not vengeful nor is He cruel.  He is compassionate and extremely merciful to all His creatures.  So His Judgments are designed to bring restoration to the victim and correction to the sinner.  This is why Paul says of the Law,

“So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good…For we know that the Law is spiritual,” (Romans 7:12,14)

Have you ever noticed that before?  The Law is Good!  Even though the Law is the source of so much condemnation and death; it is still Good!  The reason it is good is b/c it condemns sin, and therefore condemns our old fallen nature.  And the sentence it gives our old man is death.  And the remedy to our fallen, broken situation is the death of all that is corrupt within us.  Lets look at a bit more of that passage above,

“What shall we say then?  Is the Law sin?  May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law…for apart from the Law sin is dead…and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.  So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.  Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me?  May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.  For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” (Romans 7:7-14)

That passage can be very confusing and is hard for some people to wrap their minds around.  But its quite simple.  The Law is good, giving us the right way to live and act towards God and our neighbor.  But any failure/sin results in the penalty of death.  This is why Paul rhetorically asks, “If the Law results in me paying the penalty of death…how is the Law still good?”  The answer as Paul shows is b/c the only thing that fails to keep the law is a sinful nature, therefore the Law puts SIN to death.  Sin does not have our best interests in mind, nor the interests of our neighbor – therefore the Law is good b/c it condemns sin in the flesh.  It demands that that old man/nature must be put to death; and its death will liberate us from its bondage so that we are free to live to God in newness of life and His Spirit.  So even though we are fallen, sinful creatures with a wicked nature within us the Law is still spiritual and good.

Seeing that God’s Law is good we can infer that His judgments (which are based upon His Law) are also good.  His Judgments, which are the outworking of His Law, puts our sin to death.  His Judgments kill that old, fallen, wicked nature within us.  And it is ONLY the old nature within us that is put to death.  That part of us that is created in God’s image remains.

For God is Good and Loving and Merciful and therefore He begets His nature in us before He kills our old man.  This is in order that as the Old Man passes away by the judgments of the Law, the New Man comes to life and grows within us; even as Christ was begotten and grew within Mary.

Some may say, “well the lost do not have Christ growing in them.”  And I will agree that they do not… at least for now.  What they also don’t have is the fullness of God’s judgment falling upon them…at least for now.   All Judgment for unbelievers will begin at the Great White Throne Judgment; and it just so happens that their judgment will take place after,

“Every knee bows and every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord.”  (Philippians 2:10,11)

And since Scripture says that “if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord you will be saved,” (Romans 10:9) the great mass of unbelievers will have God’s nature begotten within them before they are subjected to the Judgments of the Law.  Therefore as they endure the refining fires of God’s Law this Scripture will be fulfilled in them,

“though [their] outer (old) man is decaying (passing away), yet [their] inner (new) man is being renewed day by day.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16)

So in the end all Judgment is Good.  It will bring an end to our wayward ways.  And leave only that very image of God within us which is created in righteousness.

The Law of the Jubilee

The Law also has, built right into it, the liberation of all who incur its wrath.  For no matter how awful the crime and no matter how awful the punishment, the Law of Jubilee trumps it all.  For in the Law no punishment could extend beyond the Jubilee, where every man was set free from his debt to return to his inheritance.  In the Law all sinners were to make restitution to those they wronged.  If they were unable to pay the penalty they were sold for their iniquity in order to pay it off; a.k.a – they were sold into slavery, bondage.  Remember what we just saw Paul mention above, about how we are carnal?

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin?”

He also says that,

“we are enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:6,14,20; see also John 8:34)

Therefore the Law is prophesying of something spiritual; b/c “the Law is spiritual.”  This is actually a very extensive study, one which we don’t have time to look at in detail;  however, for now, I will just mention that in Scripture all sin is reckoned as a debt.

“forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4; compare with Matthew 6:12)

“Behold, you were sold for your iniquities,” (Isaiah 50:1; see also Exodus 22:1-15)

All mankind has been sold into bondage b/c of our sin debt, more accurately, due to Adam’s sin.  There is a parable in Scripture concerning Adam and how b/c of his sin he owed an impossible debt; and,

“since he (Adam) did not have the means to repay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had.”  (Matthew 18:25)

Adam had dominion over all the earth, and now all creation along with all mankind (his offspring) are all in bondage to corruption.  BUT!!!  Since the Law is spiritual, the Law of Jubilee therefore applies to all mankind and even all of creation; for,

“The Law is a shadow of good things to come.” (Hebrews 10:1)

The Law of Jubilee is speaking of something far greater than liberation from earthly slavery, it speaks of the liberation of our bondage to sin.  Within the Law of Jubilee is the Law of the Kinsman Redeemer.  Any one who was sold into slavery had the right to be redeemed before the Jubilee by a near Kinsman.  Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer.  He came in the flesh that He might be called our Kinsman (a.k.a – related to us in our humanity; see Hebrews 2:14-17; John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 John 7).  And He paid the debt we owed and redeemed us (see Colossians 2:14, 1:14; Ephesians 1:7; 1Peter 1:18,19; 1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 5:9, Acts 20:28, etc…).

We are all now His property.  He just hasn’t come to collect on all of us yet…but He will.  But even if He didn’t (which we know He will b/c He came to seek and to save the lost and He will not rest until He has found and rescued every last lost soul); but again, even if He didn’t in the law of the Jubilee it says,

“Even if he is not redeemed by [a kinsman redeemer], he shall still go out [free] in the year of jubilee, he and his sons with him.”  (Leviticus 25:54)

The Law of Jubilee trumps all the Judgments of the Law.  There is no way around it, which is why Scripture declares that,

All creation will be set free from its slavery to corruption (sin and death) into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

The Law cannot override God’s Promise

Finally; the Law, as just and strict as it is, can never override God’s promises.  This is a principle that is often overlooked.  God’s promises came before the Law and therefore will always trump the Law.  The Law came after the Promises and therefore cannot annul what God had previously promised.  Even though the Old Covenant sounds like it came before the New Covenant, the New Covenant was actually prophesied and promised by God to Abraham (as well as Noah) before the Old Covenant was enacted.  Paul explains this in his letter to the Galatians,

“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘all the nations will be blessed in you.‘…What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.” (Galatians 3:8,17)

The covenant previously ratified by God with Abraham was the New Covenant in type and shadow.  For the Old Covenant was dependent upon man’s ability to obey, thus it says, “if you will do…then I will do etc…” (Exodus 19:5-8) But the New Covenant only says of God, “I will do etc…” (see Hebrews 8:7-13).  This is a massive topic indeed, one which we will look at in more detail in the next series, but suffice it for now to notice that where the Old covenant was dependent upon man, the New is dependent entirely (and I mean ENTIRELY) upon God.  We just have to believe that He is going to do it all for us. 🙂

This is seen in His covenant with Abraham.  For whenever two people made a covenant – a sacrifice would be made (slaughtered) and both would swear an oath saying, “may God do so to me and worse if I do not keep my end of the bargain.”  This was how the Old Covenant was made, all the people swore to keep God’s Laws as their end of the bargain (Exodus 19:5-8), and if they failed, then they would be put to death.  This is why the Law brings death b/c it is impossible for the Old Man to obey and keep God’s Law (see Romans 8:3).

But in God’s covenant with Abraham, God put Abraham to sleep and made the covenant one sided (as is the New Covenant).  Abraham was prevented from taking part in the covenant.  It was and is entirely dependent upon God’s ability to keep it.  Man has nothing to do with it, its all on God and thus can be more accurately referred to as a promise.  Man can and will ONLY be the beneficiary, whether he wants it or not.  Thus as Paul mentioned in Galatians, God made a covenant with Abraham to “bless ALL the families of the earth.”  (Genesis 12:3)

My whole point is that this is a promise of God, which the Law in its demand for justice and judgment and death cannot nullify.  THEREFORE, even if the Law were merciless, which we have seen that it is NOT, it would still be unable to override the previous covenant and promises of God to bless all the families of the earth.

And in case you are wondering what exactly it means for all the families of the earth to be blessed, Scripture gives us an answer,

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  (Galatians 3:13,14)

“God raised up His Servant (Jesus) and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways (iniquities).” (Acts 3:26)

The word “turn” means “repent” and this is how God is going to bless every one of us, by causing all of us to repent from our iniquities and be saved!

Praise God!  The Gospel truly is Good News of Great Joy which will be for All People.  (Luke 2:10)

Conclusion:

The Law is Good.  The Law has mercy built directly into it with the Law of the Jubilee which trumps all Judgment.  Even still, the Law cannot trump the New Covenant/Gospel which was established beforehand.  I am ever more and more convinced that all of Scripture confirms and bears witness of this beautiful truth – that God will save all mankind according to His promises.

In the next blog, we will see how all of Christ’s enemies will be put under His feet, a term of judgment, and that being put under His feet refers to being made into a holy dwelling place for His Spirit.  A temple where God can find rest.

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#39 – Wrath

The Problem

Having looked at every description used to convey God’s judgment upon the lost and disobedient, we have only to explore one last term – Wrath.

But here lies a problem, at least for me.  I desire truth, I seek it with all my heart.  But as of yet the concept of God’s wrath escapes me.  So b/c of my strict standard for truth I spurn the idea of trying to project my beliefs into Scripture (I’m sure I am guilty of it on some level, as I believe we all are).  I have spent much time pondering the verses concerning God’s wrath and I have to admit that they do not seem to portray that brilliance of hope that shines out so brightly in all the other terms for judgment – at least on the surface level.

I have to admit that the verses describing God’s wrath seem to paint a somewhat darker picture than the other terms for judgment.  Take a look for yourself,

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” (Romans 1:8)

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” (Romans 2:5)

“…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who  does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

There seems to be a distinct division between those who believe and obey Christ and those who do not.  Unfortunately for me this is at odds with the overarching concept I see with the rest of the terms of judgment in Scripture.  The concept that I have been exploring in this series on judgment involves all men, including believers, enduring judgment – namely the judgment of their old man.   This has very clearly been the case with the terms; the Baptism of Fire (a.k.a the Lake of Fire), Death (the Second Death), Destruction, Judgment and Discipline.  But it seems that believers will escape whatever “the wrath of God” is.  (Wrath is the Greek word Orge, and literally means “desire, passion;” and by implication punishment or vengeance taken out of anger – a.k.a – wrath)

I have tried to communicate throughout this series on judgment the overarching concept that we all have a wicked nature in us, and it is this wicked man within us who is put to death, judged, destroyed, etc… until he is no more; thus leaving us with only the New Man, the image of Christ in us.  But the wrath of God doesn’t seem to fit with this principle.  I am, therefore, very hesitant to include it as proof of Universal Reconciliation.

However, that does NOT mean that everything we have looked at thus far is null and void.  In fact, if Wrath could somehow be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it did in fact refer to a hopeless judgment, and if I was forced to choose a side, I would not hesitate to side with UR.  Wrath would simply be far too outnumbered and it doesn’t take a genius to see which side all the evidence stacked upon.

Anyways, that is neither here nor there; it is simply a hypothetical situation, the kind that rubs me the wrong way.  I don’t like it b/c I am a firm believer that truth will ALWAYS be confirmed by ALL the evidence.  So I believe that its really just a matter of time.  Perhaps in time God will open my eyes to understand exactly how His Wrath plays into all of what we have seen so far and it will no longer “seem” like a contradiction.

His Wrath is But a Moment

Having said all that, there is still ample evidence that God’s Wrath does NOT portray any sort of endless damnation.  In fact, what we find is the opposite.  Scripture says that,

“His wrath is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime;” (Psalm 30:5)

So His wrath is not forever, its only for a moment; and this is in contrast with God’s love and mercy which never come to an end.

“The LORD’S love indeed never ceases, for His mercy never comes to an end.”  (Lamentations 3:22)

In addition to this, the book of Revelation says that at some point God’s wrath will be finished.  In looking at His wrath it seems clear that it concerns the time of Christ’s return and we find God’s wrath being poured out upon the world at or very near the time of Christ being revealed from heaven (see verses above),

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.”  (Revelation 15:1)

The Law is Passing Away

Another insight that is encouraging concerns Wrath’s connection to the Law.

“By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

“…for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.” (Romans 4:15)

Wrath is part of the outworking of the Law upon sin.  But what is encouraging is that the Law (the Old Covenant) is passing away; the Gospel (the New Covenant) which is replacing it will remain.

“When He said, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first (the Old Covenant) obsolete.  But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13 – parenthesis mine)

“But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones (the Old Covenant), came with glory…how will the ministry of the Spirit (New Covenant) fail to be even more with glory?  For if the ministry of condemnation (Old Covenant) has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness  (New Covenant) abound in glory…For if that which fades away (Old Covenant) was with glory, much more that which remains (New Covenant) is in glory.”  (2 Corinthians 3:7-11 – parenthesis mine)

So if the Law is going to pass away (be done away with, disappear, etc…) that means that it is no longer needed for judgment.  Therefore if Judgment and God’s Wrath are dependent upon the Law, then both of those things will also be finished when the Law disappears.

We also find this principle in the concept of Death, which we have looked at previously; for Death is the penalty of the Law upon those who sin (the wages of sin is death) and yet Death will eventually be abolished.

“For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. When all things are subjected to Him, then…God may be all in all.”  (1 Corinthians 15:25-28)

This is why Scripture says that His wrath will only last a moment; in comparison with His Mercy, which will endure forever.

Conclusion:

God’s Wrath may apply only to the disobedient and unrepentant, it may not carry with it the sense of restoration as the other terms for judgment do, but it is not forever.  This side note concerning the Law leads perfectly into the next blog, which concerns more principles of the Law as it relates to judgment.

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#38 – Punishment – Gr. Kolasis

So far we have looked at 4 terms used in Scripture to convey judgment in the afterlife.  In this blog we will look at the term that is found in the most notorious reference to supposed “eternal damnation.”  This reference is by far the most well known in Scripture and it is almost universally seized upon as the counterpoint to Universal Reconciliation.  I know when I first heard about UR this was the first argument that came out of my mouth.

The verse in question is found in Matthew 25:46 and comes at the end of the parable of the sheep and the goats.  Jesus sums up each one’s fate saying,

“These (the goats) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We have already seen in the 1st series that this word “eternal” does not normally convey the idea of eternity.  In fact it rarely, if ever, carries that sense of eternity and if it does it is an exception to the rule.  Therefore we already have an issue with this passage being used to condemn U.R. (see my blogs on that issue here)

But there is more.  The word “punishment” is the Greek word Kolasis which means to prune.  Literally it refers to a pruning in order to cause proper growth in order to produce better fruit.  This is highly reminiscent of Jesus’ famous teaching on the Vine and the Branches,

“Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b)

Jesus was obviously not referring to the wicked in this passage about vines and branches; b/c in this parable He is the Vine and we are the branches that receive the pruning.  However, the principle is clearly seen; pruning is a method that produces greater fruit.  That is what this word means in its literal sense.

Figuratively Kolasis refers to correction in order to produce a change in character.  It certainly doesn’t carry the connotation of punishment for the sake of punishment as is so popularly thought.  In fact, this verse would be better translated in the following way,

“These will go away into character forming discipline for the duration of that Age, but the righteous will enter into the glorified immortal life during that Age.”

Though this Scripture is the banner verse for Endless Tormenters, it does not carry the thought of some horrifying place of unending torment, in fact it presents just the opposite – a place of hope.  As we have seen, God is merciful and His judgments are for our good.

Of course I am very adamant about supporting any assertion I may make, whether for the sake of my own statements withstanding scrutiny, or for those who desire to see the proof in order to believe.  So I  offer the following as support for my assertion that Kolasis means “character forming correction” rather than “punishment.”

The first thing we need to understand is that this word Kolasis is only found this one time in Scripture.  So we have no other passages and contexts by which to discern how Scripture applies this word.  So we have to look outside of Scripture where it is found in Greek Literature.

To begin, Aristotle used it as correction when he plainly and clearly stated,

“Kolasis aims at correction.” (Rhetric. i. 10.)

He also says later in the same work,

“There is a difference between revenge (timoria) and punishment (kolasis); the latter (kolasis) is inflicted in the interest of the sufferer, the former in the interest of him who inflicts it, that he may obtain satisfaction.”  (Rhetoric 1369b,13,)

In other words, Kolasis as a punishment is meant to reform the criminal, whereas timoria as a punishment only serves to appease the sense of revenge in the victim.

Philo, who was a contemporary with Christ, also used the word in this sense.

“It is better not to promise than not to give prompt assistance, for no blame follows in the former case, but in the latter there is dissatisfaction from the weaker class, and a deep hatred and æonian punishment (kolasis) from such as are more powerful.” (De Præmiis and Poenis Tom. II, pp. 19-20. Mangey’s edition. Dollinger quoted by Beecher)

Philo uses the same exact phrase that Christ used here in Matthew 25:46 – aionian kolasis.  Yet Philo’s use of it is applied to those who have power and authority in this life (governmental) to exact punishment on those who make a promise and fail to keep it.  It is a physical, earthly, temporal  chastisement to make sure that such people will be more prompt to keep their promises.  It certainly is not referring to a state of endless torment for the petty offense of breaking a promise!

Plato also uses it in this fashion,

“For the natural or accidental evils of others no one gets angry, or admonishes, or teaches, or punishes (kolazei) them, but we pity those afflicted with such misfortune for if, O Socrates, if you will consider what is the design of punishing (kolazein) the wicked, this of itself will show you that men think virtue something that may be acquired; for no one punishes (kolazei) the wicked, looking to the past only simply for the wrong he has done–that is, no one does this thing who does not act like a wild beast; desiring only revenge (timoria), without thought. Hence, he who seeks to punish (kolazein) with reason does not punish for the sake of the past wrong deed, but for the sake of the future, that neither the man himself who is punished may do wrong again, nor any other who has seen him chastised. And he who entertains this thought must believe that virtue may be taught, and he punishes (kolazei) for the purpose of deterring from wickedness.” (Protagoras 323 E) (emphasis mine)

Plato is arguing our very point!  That Kolasis is not simply a revenge for wrong done in the past, but a method of correction by which we change the evil doer so that he will not do wrong again!

Finally I want to quote from William Barklay, who is a world renown Greek scholar and translator.  After summarizing some of the Greek writings I have quoted above He continues saying,

Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis 4.24; 7.16) defines kolasis as pure discipline, and timoria as the return of evil for evil. Aulus Gellius says that kolasis is given that a man may be corrected; timoria is given that dignity and authority may be vindicated (The Attic Nights 7.14). The difference is quite clear in Greek and it is always observed. Timoria is retributive punishment. Kolasis is always given to amend and to cure.  (The Apostles’ Creed)

So there we have it.  Eternal Punishment as we have translated in Matthew 25:46 is neither eternal, nor retributive.  It is remedial, corrective, character forming; and it will only last for the duration of that age to which it belongs.

A Popular Argument

Not only is the verse in question (Matthew 25:46) incorrectly thought to prove an endless punishment for evil doers, but it is also used as a platform for another argument against U.R.  The logic (faulty) goes like this, “Since the same adjective (aionios) is used to describe both life and punishment, if eternal punishment isn’t forever, then eternal life also isn’t forever.  But if eternal life is forever, then eternal punishment must also be forever.”

I have found this argument  lacking, to say the least.  Its as illogical as saying that, “If the adjective ‘tall’ is used to describe both basket ball players and sky scrapers then they must both be the same size.  Either the basket ball player is thousands of feet tall, or the sky scraper is only 6-7 feet tall.”   The fault with such logic is clear.

However, I can somewhat understand why such a logical error is made in our time.  For if another culture which had no understanding of either the adjective “tall” nor of what basket ball players or sky scrapers were…they might also form the idea that they were equal.  This I think is a good representation of our situation today.  We in our modern western mindset are ignorant of both the fact that aionios does not mean endless, as well as what life and punishment really signify.

Dr. Alford Plumer, in his book An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, pp. 351-352 also comments on this issue saying,

It is often pointed out that “eternal” (aionios) in “eternal punishment” must have the same meaning as in “eternal life.” No doubt, but that does not give us the right to say that “eternal” in both cases means “endless.”  ”Then eternal life is not endless, for the same Greek adjective qualifies life and punishment.” This does not follow, for the word is used in Greek (Septuagint) in different senses in the same sentence; as Hab. 3:6, “And the everlasting (aionion) mountains were scattered –his ways are everlasting (aionion).” Suppose we apply the popular argument here. The mountains and God must be of equal duration, for the same word is applied to both. Both are temporal or both are endless. But the mountains are expressly stated to be temporal –they “were scattered,” –therefore God is not eternal. Or God is eternal and therefore the mountains must be. But they cannot be, for they were scattered. The argument does not hold water. The aiónion mountains are all to be destroyed. Hence the word may denote both limited and unlimited duration in the same passage, the different meanings to be determined by the subject treated.

I hope that this helps further clarify that we are not dealing with a concept of hell that concerns endless torment.  We are finding at every turn that Scripture promotes a temporal judgment that is designed to reform the sinner.  I myself find this exceedingly joyous, for the love and greatness of God far exceeds anything that I could ever have hoped or dreamed of.

And if in reading these blogs you have begun to feel a glimmer of hope that God just might actually be THAT GOOD…then you are really going to love the next series!  But before we begin that series we have two more issue to look at concerning Judgment.  The next blog will deal with God’s Wrath.

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#37 – Destruction – Part 2

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.”

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#36 – Destruction – Part 1

In the last 2 blogs we saw how death leads to life.  We saw that death is the one appointed way for man to rise to a higher form of life through the loss of his old fallen life.  We also saw that this death must be experienced both physically and more importantly – soulishly.  Previous to that we saw how this death is accomplished via a baptism of fire – a.k.a the Lake of Fire which is the 2nd Death.

We have thus far covered 3 very significant terms that Scripture uses to describe both judgment for sin and judgment in the afterlife.  And each one has confirmed yet again that Judgment will not be endless, but the very process by which we are all transformed into God’s image through Christ.  But there still remain a few terms for judgment that we need to look at.

The next related term that we need to explore, and the one that we will be looking at in this blog and the next, is “destruction.”

“But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for  fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)

“These will pay the penalty of eternal (age-long) destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,”  (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

The main word that we will be exploring here is the Greek word Apollumi; which the Strong’s Concordance defines as “to destroy, destroy utterly” and the Louw and Nida Lexicon defines it as “to destroy…”  with a sense of, “to cease to exist…to no longer exist, to come to an end, to disappear.

Along with Apollumi, there are 2 other words used to denote destruction; Apoleia and Olethros.  Both of these words come from the same root word that Apollumi comes from – Ollumi; which simply means “to destroy.

684. ἀπώλεια – apoleia; from 622.  622 ἀπ-όλλυμι – apollumi; from 575 ἀπό – apo; and the same root as 3639b.  3639b. Ὄλεθρος – olethros; from ὄλλυμι – ollumi (to destroy).

Indeed, for the majority of times that these words are used in Scripture this is the sense of the word – utter destruction.  You will notice how it carries the force of ceasing to exist or coming to an end.  This certainly aligns with what we have seen so far concerning refining fire and death; how it brings to an end the old man – our selfish, evil, sinful nature.  In Scripture judgment, death or destruction does not imply a never ending state.  Rather it refers to bringing something to an end; it is the absolute and final end for what God condemns and judges.

This Greek word Apollumi is one of the main reasons why annihilation theology rejects the idea that hell is never ending.  As I have shown in previous blogs, I agree in part with annihilation, b/c God certainly does bring our wicked nature to an end; but Annihilationists only see 1 side of the coin.  The other side is resurrection and restoration which especially connects with this concept of destruction as we will see shortly.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves.  In order to get an accurate view that destruction certainly means annihilation, or ceasing to exist in the sense of death, lets look at some references.

Past Destruction

“the earth was  formed out of water and by water, through which  the world at that time was destroyed (apollumi), being flooded with water.” (2Pet. 3:5,6)

“They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed (apollumi) them all. It was the same as happened in  the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed (apollumi) them all.” (Luke 17:27-29)

“Now I desire to  remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed (apollumi) those who did not believe.”  (Jude 5)

“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as  they also craved.  Do not be idolaters, as some of them were…Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed (apollumi) by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed (apollumi) by the destroyer (olothreutes; derivative of olethros).  Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)

“But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death (apollumi).” (Matt. 27:20)

“from  the blood of Abel to  the blood of Zechariah, who was killed (apollumi) between the altar and the house of God;” (Luke 11:51)

Now these are all historical references to people who died.  The wicked in the days of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, Egyptians, disobedient Israelites, the prophet Zechariah and even Jesus Himself.  This makes it clear that we are certainly dealing with a concept that concerns the end of life.  Those who perished all ceased to exist in this physical realm; Jesus being somewhat of an exception b/c He was raised from the dead.

Now lets take a look at this word as it is used concerning a future judgment.

Future Destruction

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (apoleia)?” (Romans 9:22)

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction (apoleia), and there are many who enter through it.” (Matt. 7:13)

“and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction (apoleia) is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3)

“But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction (apoleia) of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy (apollumi).” (James 4:12)

“For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction (olethros) will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:2,3)

“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (olethros), away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

From the above selection we can especially see the 3 related words that all stem from the root word Ollumi – to destroy.  And we can see that it certainly refers to a future destruction that will come upon all those who were disobedient in this life.

There are certainly more instances of this word found in Scripture, but we simply don’t have the time or space to look at them all.  One can find them easily enough with a Concordance, or a simple Bible Software program.  This word is also many times translated as “perish” but you can also easily find those instances yourself if you are so inclined.  What I have given here is sufficient to get a good grasp of how this word and its relatives are used.

Destroyed and Lost

But this is where it gets interesting.  For having seen how prolifically this word is used to denote a state of utter destruction, it is also curiously used in the context of being lost.

“But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost (apollumi) sheep of the house of Israel.’”  (Matthew 15:24; see also 10:6)

“What woman, if she has 10 silver coins and loses (apollumi) 1 coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost (apollumi)!’”  (Luke 15:8,9)

This is highly significant b/c that means that utter destruction, though being an end, is not final.  On top of this, Jesus Himself declares that,

“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (apollumi).” (Luke 19:10 and Matthew 18:11)

It is the lost that Jesus comes to seek and to save!  It is those who have been utterly destroyed through judgment that He will seek out and save!  Again, even though it certainly means an end of some form of life, it is these that Jesus comes to seek out and to save!

And it gets better.  Jesus actually makes utter destruction the prerequisite for salvation!

“For whoever wishes to save his life (psuche – soul) will lose (apollumi) it, but whoever loses (apollumi) his life (psuche – soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

And that statement is made 4 more times in Scripture!  See Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35 and John 12:25.  As we saw in the previous blog, it is one of the only statements that is recorded in all 4 gospels!  In order to attain salvation, you must have your old life utterly destroyed, wiped out, no longer existing!  Paul the apostle affirms this same truth when referring to a certain rebellious member of the church in Corinth, saying,

“I decided to deliver such a one over to Satan for the destruction (olethros) of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of judgment.” (1 Cor. 5:5)

The destruction of your old, fallen, sinful, evil nature is the prerequisite for complete salvation!  No wonder it is the lost (destroyed) that Jesus comes to seek and to save!  It does not matter when a person is lost (suffering the penalty of destruction) or how badly a person is lost Jesus will not cease seeking them out until He has saved every last one of them.

“So He told them this parable, saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost (apollumi) one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost (apollumi) until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost (apollumi)!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’”  (Luke 15:3-7)

This is obviously a parable, and as such, open to interpretation.  In fact parables are perfect for conveying truth that can have multiple levels of interpretation/application.  I am convinced that one the highest truths that Christ is teaching us through this parable is that even when 99% of all humanity has be found, saved and restored to righteousness, God will refuse to rest until He has found and saved every last person.

There is a great and wonderful truth to this parable and the ones following it in Luke as it concerns this word apollumi.  But there remains more that we still need to examine.  The next blog will focus on the parable of the prodigal son as an example of mankind being “lost (destroyed) and then found; dead and come back to life.” (Luke 15:32)  We will also look at the Hebrew concept of Destruction conveying the sense of full devotion to God.

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#35 – The Second Death – Part 2

We saw in the last blog that death is the penalty for sin and that though Christ suffered that penalty of death for us, we still have to follow His example and die to sin and our selfish nature even as He did.  The point being is that this is what the Lake of Fire which is also called the Second Death portrays – a death of the soul or evil self nature (vs. the body).  But that is only half of the story; the other half is that after death comes resurrection.  Lets take a look.

Death and the 1st Resurrection

Jesus makes a very peculiar statement related to this, He said,

“The sons of this age (aion) marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that (next) age (aion) and the resurrection from the dead (the 1st resurrection), neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”  (Luke 20:34-36)

Jesus refers here to those who attain to the 1st resurrection as those who “cannot die anymore,” this is b/c they have already died!  For years I have always jokingly pointed out that one cannot be raised from the dead if they haven’t died!  But Jesus isn’t just referring to a physical death, for we will all die physically.  He is referring to those who died to their old man, the selfish nature – the soul as we looked at in the last blog.  That is why Jesus clarifies that those who will get this privilege must be “worthy” to attain to that resurrection.  They are “worthy” b/c they suffered the death of their soul (the self and its will) as well as their body.

Paul confirms this in his epistle to the Philippians when he declared that,

“…whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…and know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection out from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

Paul says here that he must be conformed unto Christ’s death in order to attain to the resurrection.  Paul does not merely mean that he has to die on a cross, b/c he didn’t die on a cross, he was beheaded.  Rather, he is referring to that “denying yourself and taking up your cross daily” that Christ told us was the qualification for following Him (Matthew 10:38,39, 16:24,25; Mark 8:34,35; Luke 9:23,24, 14:27, 17:33; John 12:25).  Obviously the cross that Christ refers to here is not a literal one, but a mystical one.  Nevertheless, as you can see Christ mentioned it quite a bit!  Therefore it must be important.  In fact, it is the only teaching that is found in all 4 gospels!  So we would do well to pay attention to it.

Getting back to Paul’s declaration; he also says that he counts all things as loss for this purpose of attaining to the resurrection.  He is dying to himself in order to be “worthy” to attain to that first resurrection that Jesus spoke of.  He is referring to the 1st resurrection b/c he qualifies it as being “out from among the dead.”  In other words he is not referring to the general resurrection where everybody is raised; this is also called the 2nd Resurrection.  So this death to self is the qualification for resurrection.

This is why Paul elsewhere states,

“I affirm brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:31)

Notice how he once again connects death to self with the resurrection?  He is obviously referring to a daily death to self, b/c you cannot physically die daily!  Therefore Paul is referring to that daily taking up of his cross and the denial of himself as Jesus said we must do if we would follow Him.  It is that obedience which puts the soul to death.

This is further confirmed in the book of Revelation where John wrote,

“I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God…and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the First Resurrection; over these the Second Death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6)

This is not merely referring to those who lost their heads for Christ, it means much more than that.  It is symbolic of those who gave up the life of their old man by denying themselves, taking up their cross and becoming obedient; even onto death.  Doing so is what it means to follow Christ and walk the same path that He walked.

It further says that the Second Death has no power over such people.  This is b/c they have already endured that death.  Once you have died, death has no more power over you – you are free.  In fact we will see here shortly how it is through death that death is rendered powerless.  But first we need to see how death leads to new life.

Death is the Birthing Process to New Life

You see, Christ became a man in order to die to our nature and in doing so raise it to a newer and highly life.  Paul words it marvelously in his epistle to the Philippians saying,

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in 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 (raised Him from the dead)…”  (Philippians 2:3-9)

As we have been noticing all along this is all about dying to self and being obedient to God’s will rather than our own – even unto death.  For that is the point of obedience, it puts our will to death b/c we are denying it in order to do God’s will.

But doing so leads us to a higher and newer and better life than we could ever have in our fallen nature.  It is a Resurrection Life!  Which is why Paul says at the end of that section of verses that “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him.”  It was b/c Christ was obedient onto death that He was raised to a higher life.  Scripture communicates this very truth many times over,

“For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”  (2 Corinthians 4:11)

The Lord kills and makes alive, He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” (1 Samuel 2:6)

“Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  (John 12:24)

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…So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural (Psuche – soul) body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  (1 Corinthians 15:36,37,42-44)

Death is the process by which we are born into new life!  We die to this life and to our sinful, selfish fallen souls and we are born into a perfect, glorified life!  Jesus’ humanity was only perfected through death, and so is ours.

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him out of death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned  obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made  perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation”  (Hebrews 5:7-9)

Jesus was saved “out of death” or “through death” not from it.  It was b/c He suffered that He was made perfect.  Peter addresses this same idea from a different angle.  He was preaching to the crowds on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out and he said,

“this Man (Jesus), delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God,  you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the birthing pains of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”  (Acts 2:23,24)

Notice that it refers to death as “birthing pains.”  The reason, as is becoming redundantly clear, is b/c death leads to life.  We sow this fallen earthly life in death and through it we are born into a better world, a heavenly world.  Thus the death process is a birthing process.  Even as an unborn child must pass through that dark narrow channel called a birth canal in order to enter a new world, so we too must pass through the dark and constrictive channel of death in order to be born into a new world – a heavenly and spiritual world.

It is also curious to note that this relates to Jesus Christ as being the Head and we the Body.  In birth, the head always comes out first, and then the body follows.  So Christ was the first one to be resurrected from the dead, to come out of that birthing process of death.  And His Body will naturally follow!  Its just a matter of time!  Paul mentions this in Colossians saying,

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,” (Colossians 1:18)

It is also mentioned elsewhere,

“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead,” (Revelation 1:5)

A firstborn, (obviously) implies more to follow.  He is the Head, we are the many membered Body!

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become  conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” (Romans 8:29)

The Wisdom of the Cross

This process of being born into a New Life through death is considered a mystery in Scripture.  It is a mystery b/c dying in order to rise to a higher life seems foolish to our fallen nature, to our carnal minds, which are blinded by our instincts for self preservation.  But it is not foolish it is genius; it is the secret, mysterious wisdom of God.

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…[so] we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God… [For] we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…” (1 Corinthians 1:18,23,24, 2:6-8)

Mankind is on a mission to find a way to live as long as possible, b/c we don’t want to die.  We view death as weakness, loss, humiliation.  B/c we are weak, we are drawn to strength, we think it is the solution to our failing state.  We fear and loathe weakness.  We think enough strength will keep us from death, but it is weakness and weakness alone that will conquer death!  That is the wisdom of God, that is the wisdom of the Cross.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by dayFor momentary, light affliction is PRODUCING for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:16,17)

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed IN us.” (Romans 8:18)

Death is the one appointed way out of the bondage and darkness of this present fallen age/life.

“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless (Katargeo – destroy) him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”  (Hebrews 2:14,15)

It is through death, that death loses its power!    This is the wisdom of the Cross!  It’s terrible and beautiful at the same time; and it will set us free.  Once this is accomplished, death will be no more!

The End of Death

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54,55)

It is through death that death is defeated!  The sting of death is destroyed b/c death leads us to New life.  When this is accomplished in all men then death itself will be done away.

“For He must reign until He has put ALL His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be abolished (Katargeo – destroyed) is death.  For [God] has put all things in subjection under [Christ’s] feet…and when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.”  (1 Corinthians 15:25-28)

When Paul says here that, “the last enemy that will be abolished (katargeo) is death;” he is using the same word (katargeo) that he used when he mentioned that it was “through death that he who had the power of death was destroyed (katargeo).”  (Hebrews 2:14,15)  It is through death that the last enemy (death) is destroyed, (rendered powerless, abolished, done away with).  B/c once the last person is dead there will be no more death.  Death is not a constant, it is an end; so once its finished with the last living thing it will cease to exist and that will be left is life.

Therefore, the end of death is life and life more abundantly (John 10:10)!  And this will be for all men, for all will endure the 2nd Death, the Lake of Fire.  And through it they will be delivered from the bondage of their sin; b/c sin will not survive past death.

“Sin reigns unto death,” (Rom. 5:21)

“the sting of death is sin,” (1 Corinthians 15:56)

he who has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7)

“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” (1 Peter 4:1)

I need not point out that the phrase “suffered in the flesh” is referring to death, b/c it is used to describe Christ’s suffering – which was death on the cross.

Though this may not yet be our experience, we have the certainty that it eventually will be.  And not just those who follow Christ in this life; but all men.  For Scripture declares that,

One died for ALL, therefore ALL died.”  (2 Corinthians 5:14)

All mankind died in Christ when He died in our place.  This process of death will eventually become everyone’s experience when they receive that baptism of the Spirit and fire.  Some will experience it in this life, the rest will experience it when they receive their part in the Lake of Fire, which is the Second Death.

Conclusion:

Death is simply another picture of that process by which we are delivered from this present bondage to sin and our evil self nature.  Death is both the judgment for sin and its remedy.  The Second Death is therefore not referring to a state of endless living torment, but an end of the old man within us and the process by which the new man is birthed.

In the next blog we will look at “destruction,” and how like fire and death, it is yet another picture of the way to full salvation and new life.

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#34 – The Second Death – Part 1

We saw in the previous 3 blogs that the Lake of Fire portrays that cleansing, purifying and refining fire that comes from the Law as it puts our old, fallen, selfish nature to death and conforms us to God’s standard of righteousness.  The aspect of it putting our evil self nature to death is why the Lake of Fire is also called “the Second Death.” (Revelation 20:14, 21:8)  This I hope will become clear shortly.  For this reason it behooves us to take another look at what Scripture has to say about death; b/c if what we saw concerning “fire” is correct then “death” should also confirm it.

In order to understand the “Second Death” we must first agree on what exactly “death” is.  The Oxford American Dictionaries describes death as follows, “the end of the life of a person or organism.”  I’m sure that this isn’t anything new to you; the usual understanding of death is that it means something living is no longer alive; it has come to an end.  But oddly enough…when it comes to the Second Death most presume it refers to a state of unending living torment!?!

The most widely held mindset concerning death as a punishment for sin is that it is an endless death.  But death is not endless, rather it is an end.  The death of our body is the end of our existence in this physical world.  No matter how much the modern world fantasizes about a Zombie Apocalypse, when we die we don’t continue on forever in some sort of zombie like state of existence!

Nevertheless, Scripture declares that, “the wages of sin is death.”  (Romans 6:23 When Adam and Eve sinned in the beginning God told them that the consequence would be death .  He said,

“for in the day you eat of [the forbidden fruit], you will die.”  (Genesis 2:17)

God also tells us in the book of Ezekiel that,

“the soul that sins, will die.” (18:4)

When Adam and Eve sinned their spirit died immediately and they fell into a state of mortality that ultimately led to the death of their body.  Death was and is the penalty for sin.

Therefore when Christ bore the judgment for the sins of all mankind He didn’t suffer in endless torment…He died!  As a child I didn’t understand this.  I had been taught that the penalty for sin was endless torment.  So when people told me that Christ paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind I believed that meant He had to suffer in hell for all eternity!  This actually really bummed me out b/c I thought I would never get to meet Him when I went to heaven.  But as I grew up and learned that He had risen to heaven…I was relieved, but I just couldn’t make sense of it.  It wasn’t logical to me that He didn’t have to suffer in Hell for eternity if that was the penalty for sin.  It wasn’t until after I graduated Bible College that I finally put it together in my own studies that the penalty for sin wasn’t endless torment in Hell, it was death!

Death was the penalty and death is what Christ endured.  The following is an excellent quote from an author I have yet been unable to discover.

“The scriptures speak of eternal punishment and eternal life, everlasting punishment and everlasting life, therefore many conclude that those being punished must live and endure punishment as long as the saints live and enjoy eternal life.  But this is as illogical as it is unscriptural, the word eternal (aionios) is an adjective used to describe the word it modifies.  In one case it describes life and means that the life is fixed, Age-abiding or final.  In the other case it describes the effect of the punishment, for the penalty is not punishing, but punishment and the punishment is death.  Therefore “eternal” has to do with death, not the means of bringing about that death.  Were the punishment some kind of spiritual suffering, or physical pain that did not destroy or bring death, we might conclude that this punishing could go on and on forever.  But the Scripture precludes any such idea.  First in the plain statements that the punishment is death, not life under miserable conditions; second in all the types of the Old Testament that make it plain that death is the penalty (the wages of sin is death); and third by the fact that Christ in taking the punishment suffered death not perpetual punishing.” (Parenthesis and emphasis mine.)

Jesus’ death, however, encompassed more than just His physical death. Generally when we refer to people dying, we are referring to the body dying.  When that happens the body ceases to operate.  It begins decaying and eventually decomposes entirely.  However, when God’s Word refers to the wages of sin being death it is not just referring to the death of the body, but more so of the soul.

Our body is already under the judgment of death.  Thanks to the judgment passed on to us through Adam, we are born mortal.  Our body is already dead before we even have a chance to sin.  Once you’re conceived – you’re dead(!) – its only a matter of time.

And though our body is under judgment, it is not our body that sins.  Our body is just the vessel, it is our soul that moves and controls the body.  It is the soul that lusts for all kinds of evil, it is the soul that hates, it is the soul that rebels; not the body.  It is our soul that directs our body into sinful actions.  Jesus mentioned this when He said,

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”  (Matthew 15:19)

And so when the Bible talks about the wages of sin being death, it is not just referring to the wages of Adam’s sin being passed onto us through mortality, but also to the death of the soul as a penalty for its sin.  This is why Ezekiel said, “the soul that sins, will die.” (18:4)  And just like the body, the soul will cease to function when it dies, at least until it is resurrected from the dead (just like the body will be).  (This might scare some people, but let me reassure you that through all of this the spirit that has been made alive in Christ does not die, it returns to be with the Father b/c it is made of His very life – see Ecclesiastes 12:7 and Luke 23:46.)

2 Deaths

The reason that our soul must die is b/c it is wicked, fallen, depraved.  God has no desire to keep something so foul and unclean alive.  This means that we really have 2 deaths to endure.  The death of our body and the death of our soul.  Most of us are terrified of dying once…but twice!  But we need not fret about this b/c we have a great example of what this looks like – Jesus!  Jesus endured these 2 deaths therefore so can we!  After all, it is His Spirit that dwells within us.

“For if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —  for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  (Romans 8:11-13)

We will see more of that in the next blog, but getting back to the 2 types of death: first of all – Christ endured the death of His body.  Colossians 2:20 says that Christ died to the “elements of this world,” which is the Greek way of referring to the physical 3 dimensional world.  This therefore is a physical death, a death of the body.  Christ died to this earthly existence when His body died on the cross.

Secondly; Christ endured the death of His soul.  Romans 6:10 says that Christ “died to sin.”  It is our soul that is in a sinful fallen state.  We saw above that all the evils come out of the heart.  I’m sure that we don’t actually believe that our physical heart produces evil.  No, rather it is our mind will and emotions which the term “heart” symbolizes.  Our heart is a reference to our soul.  And our soul is inherently sinful.  In Scripture it is also referred to as “the old man,” “old self,” “natural man” or “outer man.”

“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old man, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” (Ephesians 4:22)

“…knowing this, that our  old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Romans 6:6)

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,” (Colossians 3:9)

“But  the  natural (Gr. Psuche – soulish) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Christ lived His whole life denying His human soul and it’s self concerned will and instead obeyed God’s will.  This was a death to His soul.  When it refers to Christ “dying to sin” it does not necessarily mean that He refrained from sinful temptations (although I am sure that it included this) but more so it refers to His denying His own will.  For instance, if there occurred a time where it was late at night and Christ (being tired) wanted to sleep, but God told Him to stay up and pray, and Christ went to sleep anyways, that would be a sin, even though sleeping is not necessarily sinful.  It would be disobedience and disobedience is sin.  But we know that Christ lived ONLY to do His Father’s will.  And He ultimately sealed this death to His soul when He obeyed God’s will for Him to die on the cross.  Christ’s human soul will did not want to die, but Christ denied Himself saying in the Garden of Gethsemane,

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”   (Luke 22:42)

 

Misunderstanding the Doctrine of Substitution

Christ died for our sins; He died on our behalf, this is true b/c only a perfect and spotless (sinless – holy) sacrifice could atone for us.  But despite the common opinion, that does NOT mean that we ourselves don’t have to die to sin as well.  We are righteous IN Him, but we too must die to our self nature; even as we have to die physically.  Like Christ our example, we must also endure these 2 deaths.  The Good News is that we now have the power to obey God’s will, even as Jesus did.  He is our example, and He has given us His Spirit to do this.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:18)

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life (Psuche –  soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”   (Matthew 16:24,25)

That word “life” used there is literally the word soul in Greek (Strong’s Greek 5590).  On top of that, the word “lose” there literally means, “utter destruction.” (Apollumi – Strongs Greek 622)  We will have much more to say about this word in a later blog but for now suffice it to say that it refers to annihilation/death.  Therefore unless you deny your self nature and suffer the death of your soul, you CANNOT be saved!  Are you getting this?  We must have our soul put to death if we want to be fully saved.

This soulish death is accomplished by that process of refining that the Lake of Fire portrays (which we looked at in the last blog).  We are refined by enduring trials and circumstances that we do not like, that we do not want/will to happen.  We must suffer the denial of our own will and desires, which consequently puts it to death.  The Lake of Fire will kill the sinful selfish soul.  This is why it is called the 2nd Death (Revelation 20:14, 21:8).

Therefore we can conclude; 1 – that everybody will die physically (this is the 1st death).  2 – that everybody will eventually die soulishly, that is, a death to their soul and its selfish, evil desires (this is the 2nd Death, it is named thus b/c they have already died in the body).  And 3 – it is the Old Adamic nature within us who dies.

We must (and will) all go through this death, this baptism of the Spirit and fire.  But those who endure it in this life will get to take part in the 1st Resurrection and reign with Christ over the world during the Millennial Kingdom (for more info about this see my blog here).  But even though the rest of the world will not endure this fate until the next life, it will still lead them to new life even as it does for us.

And that will be the topic of the next blog.

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