The Salvation of All
Universal Reconciliation: the belief that God is ultimately going to save all men. The idea is probably new to most people; which makes it a bit shocking to discover that a fellow Christian holds such a position. I mean… the Bible is pretty clear that hell is eternal… right? I remember the first time that I encountered a Christian holding this view… I was confused to say the least. How could a Christian believe that? I was unaware at the time that I was responding out of a deep-rooted assumption that what I had been traditionallytaught my whole life – had to be true.
But my assumption was beginning to be exposed. I had just come across a booklet written by a super sweet elderly lady and out of nowhere she makes a claim that all of God’s judgments were corrective, not punitive! At first I couldn’t quite figure out what she was saying, but I had a gut feeling that I needed to figure it out. And when it finally and suddenly dawned on me I couldn’t quite believe it! “Is she saying what I think she is saying?!” And being the insatiably curious person that I am, I had to look into it. And so I did, and what I discovered astounded me.
Now before you judge me to be some kind of silly, frivolous, gullible, trend jumping, mindless Christian, you have to know that I am extremely logical, to a fault. I have many times been compared to Spock from Star Trek. For if I am guilty of anything, it is being toological, b/c many times spiritual matters require a person to put away cognitive powers and take something on faith, from the heart. And this I do, when I feel the Spirit nudging me.
But the rest of the time I am “studying to show my self approved,” (2 Timothy 2:15) so that I will always be, “ready to give a defense for the faith that is in [me].” (1 Peter 3:15) Which brings me to my next quirk… not only am I logical, I am also obsessed with details. As they say, “the devil is in the details.” If something is true, then it is going to be logical and the nitty gritty details are always going to prove it has an air tight case.
This blog is the culmination of 10 years’ worth of my nitty gritty research. I’ve examined this from every angle possible, questioning every argument and testing it on the best minds that I have contact with. Some disagree, most in fact, but the arguments that they’ve mustered against it seem to fall ever shorter and shorter of reason, compassion and Scriptural support.
But I don’t expect you to take my word for it, rather, I hope that you will be like the Bereans in Acts who were “more noble” than the rest for they eagerly listened to what was being taught and then would check those claims in Scripture to see whether they were true. If you disagree with what I say, don’t just assume you are correct, do some digging and prove to yourself why you hold the position you do. If you agree with me, then I hope that my research proves to be a great foundation for why you believe that God will save all men. And you won’t be alone, for you will have the majority of the Early Church Fathers keeping you company.
Is This Profitable?
Some might wonder, “why write about this? Isn’t there enough division in the Church already? Why does it matter?” And that is a valid query – does it matter? For when it comes to doctrine, the issue is – how important is it? Really? Where does it fit in the scale of important to not important? Or spiritually profitable to not really profitable? Or as a Church organization might secretly conspire… is it really profitable? ($$$) (I’m joking!)
Perhaps a better question is how can anything the Bible teaches be rated? If as Paul said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16) then how can any of it be less important than the rest? Perhaps we just don’t have the eyes to see how the minor aspects of Scripture are just as profitable as the major ones. If we did, we might just find ourselves far more motivated to study the entire Bible! We might even check out Leviticus or Ezekiel for a change!
The reason I bring this up is b/c Christians do tend to rate doctrine (or certain topics in Scripture). I’m sure you have probably heard, numerous times in your life, some version of the phrase, “It doesn’t really matter b/c it’s not a salvation issue.” It has become a stock response to brush other theological concepts/doctrines aside whenever a disagreement pops up. As it concerns the topic that we will investigate in this blog, I have personally been told many times, by people who disagree with me, that it ultimately doesn’t matter – because it’s “not a salvation issue.” Well… I have to disagree… completely. It IS a salvation issue, for it concerns the salvation of all mankind! In fact, it doesn’t get any more of a salvation issue than this – the ultimate state of every person who has or ever will exist!
You see… I believe that no matter how wicked a person was in this life, his wickedness will be refined out of him or her through God’s appointed judgment of the divine purifying fire of hell. Because of my beliefs I have been called a Universalist more times than I can count, and, unfortunately, a heretic far more times than I would wish. Now, I do not have a problem with being called Universalist in its normal sense, but most people incorrectly believe that Universalists don’t believe in hell, and by implication, therefore don’t see any need for the atoning work of Christ on the cross. It is further assumed that by Universalism we think that all roads and all religions lead to God/heaven, that people are basically good and don’t deserve to be judged, especially not a judgment so terrible as hell! The popular idea concerning Universalism very nearly condemns me (and others like me) to be New Agers!
Christian Universalism, however, affirms the truth of a future judgment of all men, where many will be cast into the lake of fire (otherwise known as hell); it just happens to be that hell is not endless. It also affirms that all men are absolutely depraved and incapable of saving themselves, and that the only way to be saved from our fallen state and restored to God is through Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the Cross. And I can assure you, without denying any Scriptures, that this can be held with utmost conviction along with the belief that God will save all men.
Therefore, because of such awful misconceptions surrounding the word Universalism I prefer the term Universal Reconciliation.
Outline of Blog
And that is why I chose that as the title for these blogs. It is my aim to give you all the crucial and substantial information on the subject of God’s plan to save all men. I plan on doing this through 5 sections or series. Each series will have a specific theme that we will explore. Each series will also build upon the previous until a clear and substantial case is presented.
The 1st series will address the fact that the words “Forever” and “Eternal” in Scripture do NOT actually mean endless.
The 2nd series will address misconceptions concerning Hell in Scripture. Mostly we will look at those areas of Scripture that are commonly assumed to reference Hell…but in actuality are speaking about something else.
The 3rd series will be an in depth look at the actual teachings in Scripture concerning judgment in the afterlife (hell).
The 4th series will examine, in detail, all the Scriptures that clearly address the fact that God will ultimately save all men. This will be my favorite series, b/c there are a LOT, and they are amazing! For those of you who may not believe me, or can’t wait till then, here are a few you can peruse on your own:
Romans 5:17,18; Acts 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Colossians 1:16-20; Ephesians 1:10; Revelation 21:1,5; Romans 8:21; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; 2 Peter 3:9; Titus 2:11; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2; Romans 11:32; Acts 10:9-16,28; Colossians 1:28; John 12:32; Isaiah 45:22-25; Philippians 2:10,11; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28,54; Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 5:13; Psalm 22:27, 86:9, 82:8, and Psalms 72, 67, 98. There is much much more, but that will have to wait.
The 5th series will wrap it all up with a look at the testimony of the Early Church Fathers. For the overwhelming majority of them (all except two) believed and taught that God was going to save all men. This doctrine was also never condemned as heresy in any Church Council. And it was the Roman Catholic Church that pushed the doctrine of endless torment into the majority position that it holds to this day.
I think that the information presented herein will be very enlightening (and quite astounding) to those who, either do not have the time to look into this subject but are curious nonetheless, or who do not have the desire to spend the time to look into it (b/c they disagree with the premise). Even if you are the latter I would recommend that you read at least the first few blogs because I think that you will be surprised by the information that I will be presenting. If nothing else you are probably at least curious why ‘crazy’ people such as myself go around blabbing that God is going to save everybody.
It was my intention to keep each topic as short as possible while still being concise. I will also give sources to support any claims I present, that way you can be assured of the information I present, as well as having the option of checking the information out for yourself.
I hope that the evidence speaks for itself, and speaks clearly. If the evidence is clear, I hope that you have the character and strength of will to accept it as truth even if it is not a popular truth (truth has never been popular). But most importantly, as with everything, let it be considered prayerfully. As Christ said, “If anyone is willing to do [God’s] will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.” (John 7:17)
I might add one more note, for the uninitiated – if what I present is true then it will affect many other areas of previously held doctrines. To have a big chunk of your belief system shaken can be very frightening. How will the other aspects of our system of faith incorporate with the new, etc…? This, however, is nothing to be anxious about, for truth is not fragmented, but a whole and will all fit together seamlessly in the end. The only thing necessary to see how it all fits together – is patience.
‘As the Bible says, that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ should all be made alive.”
As was the first, even so was the second.
The “all” in one case could not in fairness mean less than the “all” in the other.
I saw therefore that the remedy must necessarily be equal to the disease, the salvation must be as universal as the fall’
Hannah Whitall Smith
(read her testimony at the end of this page)
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.
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:
We will look in detail at every verse that positively teaches the concept that God will save all mankind.
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.
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!
God’s Will Regarding the Salvation of Mankind
What is God’s will regarding the salvation of mankind? Does He intend to save all people, or just a few?
According to the Christian church, God is only going to save a few and the rest will burn in a literal fiery hell for eternity. But this is clearly not in line with God’s stated will.
In 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul writes that God…
wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth.
Peter agrees when he writes in 2 Peter 3:9 that God
does not intend for any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
These verses reveal God’s will for the salvation of mankind. And God’s stated will is to save all mankind.
This point bears repeating. God’s stated will is to save all people. Not Christians only. Not 5% of humanity. But all. Every last person who has ever walked the earth.
The only questions are these:
- Is God powerful enough to accomplish His will? (Can He do it?)
- And if He is indeed powerful enough, will He in fact do it? (Will He do it?)
Most students of the Bible agree that God wants to save all mankind, but they don’t believe He will actually do it. Either they believe He is not able to save everyone (denying his omnipotence), or that he cannot do it because it would violate his character.
And so this is where many Bible students get stuck. They cling to the doctrine of free will and the idea that humans have the ability to accept or reject God’s salvation.
Let’s explore this idea for a moment…
If my free will determines my eternal fate, then that means my will is stronger than God’s will. I can reject Him or accept Him — and there is nothing He can do about it.
Furthermore, if my salvation is based on my free will — and my ability to accept or reject Jesus — then Jesus really hasn’t saved me. At best, he has almost saved me. But not quite. Because I’m not saved until I come to Him based on the strength of my own free will!
If this sounds a bit crazy to you, that’s because it is.
Clearly, we do not save ourselves — God saves us! Paul affirms this in Ephesians 2:8, 9 when he writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Our faith in Jesus is merely our response to God. It may appear that we are exercising free will, but in actuality we are merely responding to the Holy Spirit and God’s call on our lives.
This means our salvation is not of us in the least; it’s entirely of God. Therefore, none of us can boast that we were smarter or wiser than anybody else. We can only boast in the Lord.
God says his will is to save all mankind. I believe He can do it and He will do it — regardless of whether I or anybody else “rejects” Him in this lifetime. The truth is, there’s not a person on earth who can resist the overwhelming love of God.
God’s Plan to Save All Men (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9)
When presenting a Scriptural case for the ultimate reconciliation of all mankind…where is the best place to start? There are a l ot of verses to be sure, but which one (or ones) should usher the rest of them in? This is a difficult choice because 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 because 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.
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 because 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 because 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.
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.
What is God’s Will?
The belief that God cannot do some things, or that God is limited in His ability, is fairly common among Christians. Many think that God’s ability to act is limited by man’s “free will.” People often think that God either cannot override man’s will or that He is incapable of making man change his will to conform to the will of God.
But God would not be God at all, if He were so helpless in the face of billions of people, each restricting God in his own way by his free will. The collective restriction would be rather enormous, for each man has jurisdiction over his own piece of the earth, even if it is just his own body. Is God a mere bystander in human history? Is God merely a good counsellor to men? Does God wish that men would follow Him, but can do little or nothing about it? Is this how we are to define the meaning of “God”?
Some years ago some religious philosophers came to the conclusion that “God is dead.” What they meant was that God created all things and then left it all to fend for itself, to evolve into whatever men might make it. The bottom line is that they believed that God was indifferent and no longer concerned Himself with human history. This kind of thinking was a natural outgrowth of the idea that God was helpless to do anything in the face of man’s free will. But which is worse, to make God helpless or to make Him indifferent?
Those of us who have a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who see His hand in our lives every day do not subscribe to the idea of God’s helplessness nor to His indifference. The very fact that He sent Jesus Christ to die for the sin of the world shows how intensely interested He is in man. He is anything but indifferent.
The Bible also gives many examples to show that God is anything but helpless. He constantly takes the credit for the overthrow of whole nations, as well as the positive events, such as the redemption of Israel from Egypt. Isaiah 45 is the great “sovereignty” chapter in the Old Testament. God says that even a pagan king like Cyrus the Persian would do everything that God tells him to do. In Romans 9 Paul says that God raised up His own opposition in the person of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to show us that He was sovereign.
With the sovereignty of God in mind, then, what is it that prevents God from saving all mankind? Is He really under a self-imposed restriction that limits His ability to save all men? If so, by what law? What law makes it imperative for God to allow His children to use their free will to destroy themselves? Must I follow such a practice with my own children? Must I stand in the driveway and merely coax my child into leaving the street when a car approaches? Why do we think it is a moral imperative that God must do this with His children?
If God really is God and is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-knowing, as He claims to be, then how is it that He should lose the vast majority of humanity to the wiles of the devil or man’s wicked (but free) will? Is God really the loser in this cosmic battle between good and evil, light and darkness? When we come to the end of history, will God prove to be the sore loser by torturing all those who dared to defeat Him?
We do not think so.
The Bible does not teach that God is a loser. The Bible tells us clearly that God will be the ultimate winner, and that His plan for all of creation will be fulfilled. God’s intent and plan was clearly stated in a vow to Moses, saying in Num. 14:21, “as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.”
2 Peter 3:9 says, that He is not willing that any should be lost, or perish. Thus, if any are lost, it is not because it is the will of God.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:4 that God “will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This, too, defines the will of God for all men.
The problem is that evil men seem to thwart God’s will, and God seems to be powerless to do anything about it. How powerful is God, anyway? Let us begin at the beginning.
The Creator Owns All Things
The first verse in the Bible establishes that God is the Creator of all things. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Most people in the world believe this, but few people understand what this implies.
It means that God OWNS all things by right of creation. One owns what one creates.
This is why God told Moses in Lev. 25:23, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is Mine.” In other words, under Bible law, God holds the right of eminent domain. He had divided the land of Canaan among the tribes and families of Israel as their inheritance. However, they did not have the right to do as they pleased with their land. God retained sovereignty over the land. The people’s rights were limited by certain restrictions set down by law. This shows that God retained sovereignty over the land, even though He gave the people a certain level of authority.
One restriction was that they did not have the right to sell their property for ever, that is, in perpetuity. Their inheritance was non-transferable. If they incurred a debt, they were allowed to sell land only until the Year of Jubilee, which occurred every 49 years (Lev. 25:8). This meant that a family could not lose their inheritance for more than a generation. It ensured that every citizen would have land.
The land belonged to God, so no man had the ability or the right to lose his land for all time. He was only capable, by his own will, to “lose” it temporarily, because that was the extent of his authority. By law, under God’s sovereignty, a man could only lose (or sell) his land temporarily.
Now consider the fact that God created all men, both good and bad. In fact, He formed man of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). God used building material (dust of the ground) that He created—and therefore owned. This means that God owns all men as well as all material things in the universe. Man is part of the “land” that God owns by right of creation.
That means man does not have the authority, right, or even the ability to “sell his soul to the devil” for all time. His authority is limited by law. Hence, even if a man decides by his own “free will” to sell himself into bondage to sin or to the devil, he must inevitably return to his inheritance at the end of time when God decrees the Jubilee for all creation.
God is Responsible for All Creation
In the divine laws of liability God lays down the principle that a man is responsible for what he owns. For example, if a farmer digs a well and neglects to cover the pit, and if a neighbor’s ox falls into that pit and is killed, the owner of the pit is liable and must pay damages to his neighbor Ex. 21:33, 34 says,
33 And if a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his.
Again, if a man lights a fire and it gets out of hand and burns the neighbor’s field, the man who lit the fire is liable, because he created the fire and therefore is its owner. Ex. 22:6 says, “he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.” These are basic liability laws that define the will of God in areas of justice and responsibility between men.
This principle, when applied to the big picture, shows us that God is responsible for all of His creation—even for the bad things that happen. God is ultimately liable for all the evil that has occurred in the world. One cannot blame the devil, because the devil created nothing and owns nothing. One cannot ultimately blame bad men either, because the bad men did not create themselves.
In the case of the ox falling into the uncovered pit, the one who dug it cannot say in his defense, “That stupid ox fell into the pit by his own free will.” Such an argument makes no difference in the divine court. The only relevant fact in the case is that the one who dug the pit is responsible for it.
In the case of Adam and Eve, whether these are actual people or just prototype human beings, the Bible story makes it clear that God created them. The “tree” of the knowledge of good and evil (regardless of how men interpret the story) provoked the temptation, and the “serpent” was the tempter. God created both the tree and the serpent and is therefore ultimately responsible for both of them.
That means God, in effect, “dug a pit” and left it uncovered. That is, Adam and Eve—like the stupid ox—were told to stay away from the uncovered pit. Of course, they did not obey, and thus man “fell” into the pit and died (became mortal).
So who is legally liable in the divine court? Well, God is, of course. Adam and Eve did not dig the pit, nor did they create the serpent. They were just too ignorant to stay away from the pit. They fell, and they died. God’s own law, then, demanded that the Owner of the pit pay fully for the death of the ox (Ex.21:34).
In other words, God set up the law in such a way that He would make Himself liable for the fall of Adam and Eve. Did God know what He was doing? Of course He did. He knew from the beginning that the law would demand that He—the Creator and Owner of all—would have to pay the full penalty for sin. That is why Jesus came to earth to pay the full penalty for sin.
First of all, He loved His creation enough to do this (John 3:16). Secondly, He made it mandatory by law that He would have to do this.
In that sense, the law was prophetic, for it mandated that the Creator would have to take full responsibility for man’s fall—that is, for the ox falling into the pit. In fact, it prophesied that God would have to come to earth and be born as a man in order to be capable of dying for the sin of the world.
The Laws of Redemption
The land could not be sold in perpetuity, but there were times when men incurred debts that they could not pay. Jesus told a parable about this in Matt. 18:23-35. He told of a man who owed “ten thousand talents,” which, in today’s monetary terms, would be about $150 million. Verse 25 says that because he could not pay the debt, he and his wife and children had to be sold as bondservants in order to make payment on the debt.
Under biblical law, men were bondservants until their debts were paid or until the Year of Jubilee, whichever came first. At the Year of Jubilee all debts were cancelled purely by grace, no matter how much might still be owed. Bondservants were forced by law to work for their masters, but they also had rights. Slavery itself as practiced in most parts of the world was unlawful under biblical law.
A man and his family who had become bond-servants because of debt were supposed to work for their masters until the debt was paid. Then they were set free.
But there was another way that the debt could be paid. The bondservant could be redeemed by a relative.
Jesus is the Redeemer
Lev. 25:47-55 tells of the laws of redemption. It says that a relative has the right of redemption, as long as he has enough money to pay the debt of his relative. If a relative comes to the master of the slave and has the money to pay the debt that is owed, he may pay the debt and purchase the slave.
The slave master might prefer to keep the slave, because he is a good worker. But he has no choice in the matter, because the redeemer is a relative. The only time the slave master has the choice is if the would-be redeemer were a mere friend but not a relative. In such a case, he could allow it or not, according to his own “free will.”
Why? Because the right of redemption is given only to a relative. A relative has lawful rights; a mere friend does not.
The Bible story shows us how this law applied to the nation of Judah. The House of Judah had fallen into sin and thereby had incurred a huge debt that they could not pay. (All sin is reckoned as a debt in the Bible.) God was the Judge who had sold them as bondservants to the nation of Babylon (604 B.C.).
The debt note was later purchased in succession by Persia (537 B.C.), then Greece (332 B.C.), and finally by Rome (63 B.C.). In the days of Jesus, Rome held the debt note of Judah, or Judea. This was why Rome ruled Judea while Jesus ministered on the earth. Jesus came as their Redeemer, not to overthrow Rome by military conquest but by purchasing them in a lawful, peaceful manner. The nation rejected Him, however, because they wanted a great general that would obtain freedom by force.
The Bible says in Heb. 2:11-17 that Jesus Christ did not come to earth by taking the form of an angel. He came rather as a man, born of a woman, taking upon Himself the seed of Abraham in order to qualify as a relative to Israel and Judah. This gave Jesus the right of redemption.
But further, verse 14 tells us that Jesus Christ came in “flesh and blood,” in order to qualify as a relative to all men. This gave Jesus the right of redemption for all men all the way back to Adam.
This is why He was the redeemer of all men, not just the redeemer of Israel. He was related to all who were flesh and blood—without exception.
For this reason, the apostle John tells us in his letter, 1 John 2:2, “He has covered our sins, and not for ours only, but also those of the whole world.” Jesus gave His very life for the sins of the whole world. He paid the full penalty for every sin ever committed since Adam. Only His very life could pay the full debt for all mankind.
By the divine law, Jesus Christ came as a near relative to redeem all of mankind and his entire estate (the earth).
Those are lofty goals, some may say, but was He really capable of making such a huge payment?
The Bible makes it clear that His life and His blood was worth far more than the entire debt of the world from the beginning. So, yes, Jesus Christ was certainly “rich enough” to make such an expensive purchase.
So first we see that Jesus Christ had the lawful right of redemption, on the grounds that He was a near relative of all flesh and blood, including the House of Israel.
Secondly, we see that Jesus Christ was willing to pay the full price of redemption for the entire world—and He had the “cash” to do it.
The final question is this: Did Jesus Christ want to redeem all mankind?
This is really a question of how much He loves His creation. If He were an angry God that preferred to destroy most of His creation, then one might doubt that He really wanted to redeem all of mankind. But the Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Thus, we see that the law gave Jesus Christ the right of redemption; He had enough “money” and more to pay the full redemption price; and He certainly had the motive to do so.
So, if God COULD save all men, would He, in fact, do so? That is the big question. If you had the lawful right to redeem all men, and you had the cash to do so, and you loved them as much as God loves the world, what would YOU do?
Yes, God would indeed save all mankind if He were capable of doing so. And that is why He has actually done it.
What is Required of us?
There are many people today and throughout history who have not wanted to be redeemed by Jesus Christ, usually because they did not really understand their need of redemption or did not have faith that He could really set them free.
What about these people? Will they benefit from Jesus’ redemption payment in spite of their unbelief? Yes, they will—but not immediately. All will be held accountable for their actions, and every judgment will fit the crime.
Here is how it works. The law of redemption says that those who agree to be redeemed by their relative must serve their redeemer (Lev. 25:53). The difference is that he will be treated better with Jesus as his master than he was treated by the previous master, sin.
Those who accept Him as their Redeemer are obligated to declare Jesus Christ as their Master and to serve Him. Paul puts it this way in Romans 6:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were [or used to be] slaves of sin, you became obedient to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
In other words, those who are redeemed are not set free to do as they please. The redeemer has purchased their debt note, and therefore, they are still bondservants—but now they are bondservants of One who loves them and will treat them right. They are no longer slaves to sin. They are now slaves of righteousness and servants of God.
A person set free from sin does not mean that he suddenly becomes perfectly sinless. Paul is referring to sin as the old slave master. When we worked for the old slave master, who told us to sin, we were free from God and His righteousness. Conversely, when God purchased us through Jesus Christ, we are no longer bound to do what sin tells us to do, and we are free to do what is right in God’s eyes.
Paul calls himself “a bondservant of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1), because he understood the laws of redemption. That is why he told the Christians in Rome that Christ’s redemption did not mean they were free to continue in sin. They were only free from the old slave master who, in the past, had commanded them to sin.
But what about those who refuse to accept the provision God has made for us to be redeemed? Such people have the lawful right to refuse to be redeemed by their near relative, Jesus Christ. They may continue obeying the demands of the sin nature rather than be obedient to the law of God.
This is their right—for a while. The law says in Lev. 25:54 that “even if he is not redeemed in these years, he is still to go free in the year of Jubilee, both he and his children with him.”
In other words, the year of Jubilee will set all men free in the end, whether they were redeemed or not during those years.
To understand this, we need to explain a little about the old Hebrew calendar. God divided time into periods of seven days and seven years. Every seventh day was a Sabbath, a day of rest. But also, every seventh year they were to let the land lie fallow, for it was a land-rest year. In this land-rest year, no one had to make payments on their debts, because their main source of income was suspended.
After seven land-rest years was a Jubilee at the end of 49 years. Then ten days into the 50th year a trumpet was blown to signal the day of Jubilee. This was the specific day that all debts were cancelled, and every man was to return to his inheritance if he had lost it any time during the previous 49 years. Lev. 25:10 says,
10 You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.
Of course, this was only applicable to those who had been unable to work long enough to pay off their debt. They could have been released earlier if they had earned enough money to pay their debt and thus purchase their freedom.
It was also applicable only to those who did not have a redeemer—or if people had not accepted the redemption of a willing relative. Perhaps they did not trust him or know him well enough to trust his motives. Or perhaps they just thought that his commands would be too rigorous.
Whatever their reasons, even if they have not availed themselves of Jesus’ redemption in this age, they will still go free in the year of Jubilee. There is a limit on how much judgment and discipline that God dispenses upon His children. They may have a choice whether or not to be redeemed by their near relative, but the year of Jubilee is by God’s will.
The time of redemption was between Jubilees. Once the year of Jubilee arrived, redemption was irrelevant. In the case of all mankind, NOW is the day of redemption. Jesus has made the full payment for sin and asks that all men come under His lordship. But many do not submit to Jesus Christ. Such people will not be redeemed, but yet they will be set free from the enslavement of sin in the final Jubilee, when God sets all men free by His own will.
Endless Punishment is against the Law
With God, there is no such thing as never-ending punishment. The Bible verses that are usually quoted to prove never-ending punishment are actually mistranslations of the original text.
The word for “eternal” and “everlasting” in the New Testament is the Greek word, eonian, which means “pertaining to an EON (age).” In other words, God’s final judgments pertain to a specific age in the future. It is an age to come, where God will “sell” all unbelievers to the servants of Jesus Christ, so that they will be compelled by law to learn obedience to the divine law.
In this way the servants of Christ will “reign with Him” (Rev. 20:6). Rev. 5:10 says, “they will reign on the earth,” not in heaven. This would be meaningless, of course, unless they had people to reign over. The believers will be given various measures of authority, according to Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:12-27. Yet the purpose of this authority is to teach the unbelievers how to live in subjection to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
That age will eventually end at the final Jubilee, when all judgment ceases, and all men are brought fully into the glory of God, even as He promised by covenant.
Biblical law treats all sin as a debt, but it also treats all debt as temporary. All debt is limited by the law of Jubilee. With God there is no such thing as a perpetual debt. In fact, no man even has the authority to put himself under a perpetual debt. This goes back to the law where God says He owns all the land. No man can sell his land and lose it for all time. Since man is made of the land (dust of the ground) that God created, no man owns himself. God owns all men and has never given any man the ability to sell his soul forever.
Man is also God’s inheritance. God created the law of Jubilee to safeguard His own inheritance. God will never lose His inheritance, because He decreed this law from the beginning.
Another law also shows this principle of limited judgment. Deut. 25:1-3 is a law that deals with misdemeanors, where there is no restitution:
1 If there is a dispute between men, and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked [guilty party], 2 then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. 3 He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.
Here we see that the judgment is limited to a maximum of forty stripes. Thus, we see that divine judgment is merciful in that it limits judgment for both felonies and misdemeanors. Judgment for felonies are limited by the Jubilee; judgment for misdemeanors are limited by forty stripes.
In either case, there is no provision for torture such as we find in the modern idea of eternal torment in a literal fire. Such ideas came not from the Bible, but from other religions. The “fire” in the Bible is a symbol of divine law and was never meant to be taken in a literal sense.
Those who reject Jesus Christ will indeed be brought to judgment in the great resurrection. However, there is no reason to think that they will be lost forever. It would be unjust to punish men beyond the measure of their sin. And it would be unlawful to punish men beyond the prescribed penalties of divine law. God will judge the world, not by man’s law but by His own law, which is His perfect standard of measure.
So what will happen to the sinners in that day?
The Day of Judgment
The Bible speaks of a final day of judgment where all men will stand before the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15). Here is where God will foreclose on all debts from the beginning. Here is where all men will be held accountable for their actions that they did in their life on earth.
The Bible speaks of this judgment in terms of “fire.” Some think this “fire” is a literal torture pit. It is not. The divine law never once dispenses torture as a judgment for any sin.
Deut. 4:12 tells us that God manifests Himself as a fire. In the New Testament, we read in Heb. 12:29 that God Himself is a consuming fire. This simply means that the presence of God will consume whatever is not good. Further, His judgments are designed to correct men, not to destroy them. They are designed to restore the lawful order, so that whatever men have done to violate the rights of others will be righted.
The law’s purpose is to obtain justice for the wronged and forgiveness for the sinner who wronged those other people. The purpose of divine law is first to bring justice to those who have been wronged, and secondly to bring correction, forgiveness, and restoration to the sinners. Hence, in Isaiah 26:9 the prophet speaks to God saying,
9 For when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
The divine law itself is the “lake of fire” mentioned in Rev. 20:14, 15. Moses tells us in Deut. 33:2 that the law is a “fiery law” in His hand.
Daniel 7:9 also pictures that final judgment, where God judges the world, holding every man accountable for their actions committed during their life time. He says that the throne itself is a fire, out of which comes a “fiery stream” that judges all men. In ancient times, a throne symbolized the law, much like a modern judge now is said to “sit at the bench” when he presides over a trial. Hence, the throne is the fire—the law. It is simply a metaphoric way of saying that God’s fiery law will judge all men. But to know the nature of that fire, one must study the divine law itself. And not once does the divine law prescribe torture for any sin.
Thus, the “lake of fire” in the Bible was never meant to be taken as literally as some have done. God does not torture men for any sin. This is plainly evident to anyone who studies the divine law. In fact, this is in striking contrast to the laws of men and of other religions.
Death is the Penalty for Sin
Eternal torment is NOT the penalty for sin. Paul writes in Rom. 6:23,
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
From the beginning, Moses wrote that the penalty for the worst sins was death. Such was the penalty for open idolatry, witchcraft, murder, adultery, bestiality, kidnapping, and rape of a married or engaged woman.
There was no judgment of God’s law that even implied torture in a literal fire for any sin. The penalty was merely death. And positively the worst judgment for sin was for the sinner’s dead body to be burned (cremated) in order to prevent them from receiving an honorable burial (Lev. 21:9).
Jesus Christ came to pay the full penalty for our sin and for the sin of the whole world. This did not mean that Jesus would have to burn in the pit of hell. Not even for a moment—much less for eternity! He paid the full penalty for sin by dying on the cross, not by burning for eternity. If never-ending torture in hell were really the penalty for sin, then Jesus would still be there, burning for eternity! Yet we find that Jesus was only required to be dead for three days.
God is not so unjust as to torture people for disobeying Him. The nature of the “fire” is defined by the divine law itself, and the duration of the judgment is limited by the law of Jubilee.
Those who come into judgment at the Great White Throne will be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13-15). Their judgment will fit their crimes committed during their life time.
There is no way, of course, that any man will be able to actually pay the penalty for his own sins. For this reason, they will also be “sold” into bondage according to the law (Ex. 22:3). They will be put under the authority of the believers, the servants of Christ, in order that they may serve their sentence until the Jubilee sets all men free.
In the final analysis, the law says that if a man cannot pay a debt (which is incurred by sin), he is to work as a bondservant to pay the debt. If the debt is too great to be paid, he must work until the year of Jubilee sets him free.
The unbelievers at the Great White Throne will be sentenced to work as bondservants until the final Jubilee sets them free. The purpose of this is not so that their masters can act like tyrants over a bunch of slaves.
In other words, the purpose of putting bond-servants under masters is so that the sinners of the earth may learn the will of God and learn to follow Christ. Their “masters” will teach them and train them in the laws of God. What a happy time!
For this reason Psalm 130:4 says:
4 There is forgiveness with Thee [God], in order that You may be respected.
We respect those who have the ability to forgive, not those who perpetually refuse to forgive others. God has often been presented as One who either will not or cannot forgive sin, once a man has completed his life on earth. It is no wonder so many have no respect for God.
I believe that God has been misrepresented.
The Second Death
The sentence of the law upon the unbelievers is in itself the second death. The second death is not like the first death. The first death is mortality that ends with men being placed in a grave. The second death comes at a time when the first death itself is destroyed, as we read in Rev. 20:14,
14 And death and Hades [the grave] were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
He was telling the people that to violate God’s laws was the way of death. Ultimately, he was speaking of the “second death” that is mentioned in Rev. 20:14. There the “second death” is equated with the “lake of fire.” This “death” is different from the first kind of death (mortality and literal death), because in that day death itself will be destroyed. Men will no longer die after they have been raised from the dead, but they will have to remain separated from God until the great Jubilee.
Because of Adam’s sin, all men have become mortal. That in itself is a judgment for sin. But the final judgment is the “lake of fire, which is the second death” (Rev. 20:14). This type of death is of a different sort. It speaks of the future age when the unbelievers who did not avail themselves of Jesus’ offer of redemption will remain mortal and will have to learn right and wrong as servants of God.
They will not die, but will remain as servants of God, learning the ways of God in much the same manner as believers today are learning obedience. That age may last for thousands of years, with everyone experiencing a sort of immortality. Our bodies are designed to last forever, with old cells being replaced by new cells, so long as we have the proper nutrition and environment. This will be an age in which all men will experience that bodily renewal, and if anyone should happen to die by some accident, they could easily be raised from the dead immediately.
During this time that God rules the earth through Jesus Christ and the “Sons of God,” the nations will rejoice. Finally, there will be true justice and mercy in the courts. Psalm 67:4 says,
4 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the nations upon earth.
Psalm 72:11 says,
11 Yes, all kings shall bow down before Him; all nations shall serve Him.
Psalm 86:9, 10 says,
9 All nations that Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and they shall glorify Thy name. 10 For Thou art great and doest wondrous deeds; Thou alone art God.
The Final Outcome of God’s Will
In Gen. 9:9-17 God made a covenant (or contract) with the whole earth. It was a covenant that said He would never again destroy the earth. Many today mistakenly think that the earth is soon going to be destroyed, either by men or by God. This is not true. It may look like disaster is coming, and it is certain that man would destroy the earth if it were left to him. But God has promised to prevent it.
This is the first covenant that God made with anyone. The first time that the word “covenant” is used in the Bible is found here in Gen. 9:9. At earlier times, God made promises, not covenants.
Years later, in the story of how God brought Israel out of Egypt, we find that the Israelites were rather stubborn and disobedient to God, and they came near to stoning Moses more than once. Finally, after ten examples of direct disobedience, God told Moses in Num. 14:12, “I’m just going to destroy the whole nation and start over with you and your children.”
This was, of course, just a test, for God knew He would not do this. So did Moses. That is why Moses reminded God of His promise to Israel. He also said in Num. 14:15 and 16 that if He were to destroy the people, it would be admitting that He was not powerful enough to do what He had said He would do. The people of the other nations would say that it was because He “was not able to bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath.”
Here is the crux of the matter. Was God really able to fulfill His intent? Could His will be thwarted by man’s will? Is man’s free will more powerful than God’s sovereign will?
Nowadays, many people would say that God could not be blamed for the refusal of the people to be obedient to Him. But that is not the issue. The fact is, if God were unable to make Israel obedient, then God would be perceived as a failure. It is much like a disobedient child. If the parent is unable to turn the child into a productive citizen, then it is ultimately the failure of the parent, not of the child. The child is not the one in authority. Whoever is in the position of authority is responsible for those under him or her.
So God tempted Moses to see if he would take the bait. But Moses had no such ambitions to make his own family the chosen people. Moses then challenged God in an extraordinary manner, telling Him that the nations would think God is not able to perform His will—that man’s will was stronger than God’s will.
God’s response was to tell Moses in Num. 14:21,
21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.
Not only was God able to bring this one nation into the land God had promised, but He was also able to fill the whole earth with His glory. In other words, man may temporarily remain in bondage as a slave to sin and outside of His will, but ultimately, God’s will is that the whole earth would be filled with His glory. God’s will is to save all men (1 Tim. 2:4). There is nothing and no one on earth that can prevent this from taking place. Either men will consent to be redeemed in this age, or they will do so after the final judgment at the Great White Throne.
One may do this the easy way or the hard way. But either way, God is God, and His will shall ultimately prevail. By the time of the final Jubilee, when He sets all men free, they will be filled with His glory. The prophet echoes this verse in Hab. 2:14, saying,
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
How much of the sea is covered by water? One hundred percent of it.
How much of the earth will be covered by the knowledge of the Lord? One hundred percent.
That is how the prophet interpreted what God said to Moses. It means that all men will be saved, and God’s presence will fill the entire earth. Keep in mind that men were made with the dust of the ground. God intends to fill the whole earth, which includes every man’s body (dust).
God’s Promise to All
In Isaiah 45:23 God says,
23 I have sworn by Myself [by my own name] . . . that unto Me every knee will bow and every tonguewill swear allegiance to Me.
This is no idle boast. It is a statement of intent that God has the ability to fulfill. This verse is quoted by the apostle Paul in Phil. 2:10, 11, saying,
10 at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
The question is this: Is God able to fulfill this oath, or is it an idle boast? Col. 1:16 tells us that
16 by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created by Him and for Him.
Then a few verses later in verse 20, we read that Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, “has reconciled all things unto Himself . . . whether they are things in earth or things in heaven.”
In other words, Paul’s use of the term “all things” really does mean all things. He not only created all things, but He also has reconciled all things to Himself. His death on the cross was not merely effective for a few, but for the whole of creation. It is not slated for destruction, but to house the glory of God.
Paul speaks again in 1 Cor. 15:22-28 of the time when all men will be raised from the dead for judgment and to receive the rewards due them. Paul says that Jesus Christ must reign over the earth until all enemies have been subdued—that is, until no one disagrees with Him and His divine law. Everyone will ultimately come into agreement that God really is a good and a just God. To know Him is to love Him.
Then Paul says that the final enemy to be destroyed is death. Only then will mankind be able to enjoy fully the presence of God. Only then will all the earth be full of His glory.
Paul says in verse 28 that “God will be all in all.” His full presence will not be in just a few people, nor will He dispense just a little of His glory in all men. Rather, His full glory will radiate out of all men.
That is the plan. And God is indeed able to perform His will. Many are now unwilling to go along with the plan, because of ignorance, for if they knew the glory that God had prepared for them, they would not hesitate to avail themselves of the redemption that Jesus has provided by His death on the cross.
We close with John’s vision in Rev. 5:13,
13 and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and all that are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying, “Blessing and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb [Jesus] for the ages of the ages”.
This is a picture of the goal of history and the divine plan for His creation. No one will be grumbling that a tyrant has come to power and ought to be overthrown. All will know the love that God has for them and for all mankind. It is a happy scene. There are no tortured screams coming from an imagined pit of hell. God really is able to save all mankind—and He intends to do it.
Profound Biblical Proof for the Restoration of All Things
Before we begin the 1st series of blogs on the Greek and Hebrew words translated as “eternal, forever and everlasting,” I would like to present a small selection of Scriptures that defend my position on Universal Reconciliation. I do this because, like I did when I first encountered it, there are some who will judge it as having no support in Scripture. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. For there are so many verses about this that it would astound you. We simply do not notice them because of our presumption that hell is endless.
What follows is merely a small selection. I have to refrain from sharing all of them because it would simply take too long to read through. Nevertheless I hope that what little I share here blesses you as it has me.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce Christ’s birth, they said,
“Behold, I bring you Good News of great joy, which will be for all people.” (Luke 2:10)
This was the beginning of the Gospel and it truly was Good News (Gospel means Good News). Christ was going to pay our unimaginable sin debt!
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
And doing so Christ would become the Savior of mankind.
“The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)
And saving us from our sin, He reconciled the whole world to God.
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
I’m sure I don’t need to mention that these are all statements, they are not conditional. They are established fact (from Scripture’s point of view). Christ has taken away the sin of the whole world, He is the Savior of the whole world, God has reconciled the whole world to Himself! Think about that.
Unfortunately, this is the part of the Good News that is most often overlooked. Very few realize that Christ’s Atonement covers ALL men.
“He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
“God is the savior of all men, especially of believers.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
That word ‘especially’ does not mean it excludes the first group, it simply refers to a ‘special’ salvation for the second group. It is always used in this sense; for example,
“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Galatians 6:10; see also Acts 25:26; 1 Corinthians 14:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Philippians 4:22 and etc…)
“It is God’s will (Gr. Boulomai – to will, to choose) that none should perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
“God will have (Gr. – Thelo – to exercise the will) all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
And we know that
“God works all things after the council of His will (Gr. – Boule, a derivative of Boulomai).” (Ephesians 1:11; see also Isaiah 46:10; Psalm 135:6, etc…)
“the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” (Titus 2:11)
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
This is called a parallelism, where the second line is equal to the first line. It is a poetic form of connecting two concepts. Therefore the “all” who will be made alive in Christ is equal to the “all” who died in Adam (which was everybody).
And if that doesn’t sound convincing enough, Paul says it another way elsewhere,
“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, so also through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” (Romans 5:18; see also the surrounding verses 15-21)
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth…and it was the Father’s good pleasure…through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:16-20)
The “all things” that were reconciled through Christ are the same “all things” that were created through Him (which is everything – see John 1:3, etc…).
For Christ promised that,
“If I am lifted up from the earth (a term for death on a cross), I will draw all men unto Myself.” (John 12:32)
The word draw literally means “to drag” (Gr. – Helko). The Louw and Nida Greek Lexicon defines it this way, “to drag or pull by physical force, often implying resistance.” See James 2:6, Acts 16:9 and John 21:6,11 for good examples.
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).
This is a partial quote from Isaiah which says,
“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. (Isaiah 45:22-25)
This is not wishful thinking on God’s part, He swears by His holy character that this is going to happen! I have no doubt that we all believe God concerning this, but what is significant and what we sometimes overlook is that,
“…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9,10)
A couple verses later Paul concludes his remarks on salvation saying,
“…the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
You see, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord produces salvation, no matter what kind of person you were and no matter if it happens in this life, or the next. This is because,
“no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Therefore eventually EVERY tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord and be saved. That is why Paul says,
“to this end Christ both died and rose again, that He might be Lord both of the living and the dead.” (Romans 14:9)
But the appointed time for all men to confess Jesus Christ as Lord is yet waiting. For,
“heaven must receive [Jesus] until the period of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Acts 3:21)
And so it will be that,
“in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and in the earth.” (Ephesians 1:10)
“God is going to make all things new, both in heaven and in the earth.” (Revelation 21:1,5)
“creation will be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:21)
“The last enemy to be abolished is death (this would have to include the second death)…then all things will finally be subjected to God…and God will be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-28)
So even though there will be judgment and wrath,
“His wrath is but a moment, but His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 30:5, 103:9)
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)
“Men are not cast off by the Lord forever, for though He causes grief, yet He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.” (Lamentations 3:31,32)
“God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:32)
“For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him.” (2 Samuel 14:14)
“the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to the dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:6)
Praise God! The Gospel truly is Good News of great joy which will be for ALL people! And when all of creation are redeemed and free, they will have nothing but gratefulness and praise in their hearts toward God! And then,
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord. And all the families of the nations will worship before You.” (Psalm 22:27)
“And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen.’” (Revelation 5:13,14)
I hope that this small taste gives you an idea of just how prolific the Scriptures are on this issue. We will have many more verses like these to look at, but before we get there we must lay some foundation. And as we go on, I hope that you too will begin to see that all the evidence points toward this one conclusion; that God is going to save all mankind.
The Three Stages of Salvation
Before we begin any sort of inquiry into the nature and process of judgment in the afterlife, there are a few things that we need to understand. Things that, without which, will cause a bit of confusion. So even though this present blog wont necessarily be addressing judgment in the afterlife, it will set the stage for it.
That being said, we must understand firstly that the judgment of all men will take place in the next life – obviously that is why we call it the “afterlife.” That means that those who endure such judgment have already lived on earth, died and are being raised back to life in order to undergo judgment.
Resurrection of the Wicked
Because of our misunderstanding of hell, we assume that as soon as an unbelieving person dies they go straight to hell. But we have already looked at what happens when we die in the previous series (see the blogs on Sheol and Hades here). B/c of this misunderstanding we tend to forget that the unbelievers are also raised from the dead. Jesus Himself declared this when He said,
“an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28,29)
Paul and Daniel also mention this,
“having a hope in God…that there shall certainly be a resurrection of boththe righteous and the wicked.” (Acts 24:15)
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting (olam; age-long) life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting (olam; age-long) contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)
We overlook this fact because it doesn’t make logical sense in the context of the modern view of hell. The idea that a soul should suffer in hell after death but then at some point they are taken out of it given a new body and then once again thrown back into hell seems ridiculous. And for good reason.
First of all, we need to realize that the judgment in the afterlife begins after the resurrection of the wicked. You can find the whole scene in Revelation 20 where it deals with both the 1st and 2nd resurrections. The 2nd resurrection takes place 1000 years after the 1st resurrection (which exclusively raised followers of Christ). After this 2nd resurrection, the dead are judged according to their deeds in life. This is the Great White Throne Judgment that both Daniel and John describe. Those who are judged as wicked are then thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Every Tongue Will Confess Jesus Christ as Lord
But here is where we need to understand something, which happens to be the whole purpose of this specific blog: – namely that it is at the Great White Throne Judgment that all men will be saved. For when all the dead are raised (both good and bad) the Scriptures will be fulfilled that say,
“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22,23)
“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus ‘every knee will bow,’ of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
You have probably heard this statement many times, probably with an image of rebellious people spitting the words out in spite, being forced to bow and finally admit that God is God – before being cast away forever. Or perhaps you’ve imagined something more along the lines of these words being spoken by people who now know the truth and are full of regret, but its far too late for them. Their endless fate has been sealed, so they utter the words in stunned shock and resignation as they are carted off to their unending doom.
However, that is not the picture being painted here. They are not just finally admitting that God exists, they are uttering the words of salvation. For,
“…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9,10)
and couple verses later Paul concludes his remarks on salvation saying,
“…the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
You see, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord produces salvation, no matter when and no matter what kind of person you were. This is because,
“no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
So at the Great White Throne Judgment, when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, they are all saved and baptized into His Spirit.
This is the background to the judgment of the Lake of Fire. This is crucial to understanding what the Lake of Fire is and why it is necessary.
3 Stages of Salvation
In conjunction with that, we must also understand the Salvation process. Salvation is not what many think it is. Most have fallen prey to the assumption that salvation means to be rescued from an afterlife spent in the fires of hell. Or to put it positively – a ticket to heaven. But those who wrote the New Testament understood it to mean SO much more than that.
What most don’t know…is that salvation is a 3 stage process, which is accomplished through 2 works of Christ. I know that might sound confusing, but just bear with me a moment.
The 2 works of Christ are His Death and His Life. The fulfillment of both the Old and the New Covenant. Law and Grace. He accomplished a death work on the Cross, and He will accomplish a life work at His Return (with the Resurrection from the dead). For though He rose from the dead Himself, He has yet to accomplish this same life work in us (for we are still mortal and are going to die). It’s also interesting to notice how the New Testament always refers to the living half of Christ’s Work as a promise to be fulfilled sometime in the future. For instance,
“If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” (Romans 6:8)
“It is a trustworthy statement: for if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;” (2 Timothy 2:11).
Paul states the first as a fact, and the second as a hope. For more verses just like these; see Romans 5:9,10, 6:5; 2 Corinthians 4:10,11; 2 Tim. 2:11; 1 John 2:25, etc….
So these 2 works of Christ accomplish for us our entire salvation. But that salvation is worked out within us in 3 stages. For like God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and Creation (Time, Space, Matter) we are also a triune being – we have a spirit, soul and body. And each aspect of our being needs to be saved. That is why Paul speaks of a salvation of our entire being.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete,” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
This is what Paul means when he declares elsewhere,
“Therefore [Christ] is able to save to the uttermost.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Corresponding to this, the Bible refers to being “saved” in both past, present and future tenses.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Ephesians 2:8)
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Romans 8:24)
See also 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 3:5
“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.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
“For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;” (2 Corinthians 2:15)
“But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” (Romans 5:9)
“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15)
“But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
“[we] are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5)
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 3:20)
“For now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11)
These 3 salvations correspond to the spirit, soul and body. Our SPIRIT is saved when we believe in Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord (see Romans 10:9). This is by grace through faith and not by works. This is called “Justification” which is the Greek word that is also translated into “made righteous” or “righteousness.” We are justified/made righteous by faith. It is a legal standing, not an actual state of being. (I realize this is all very crude, volumes could be written on this aspect alone, but that is not our purpose.)
Next we begin the process whereby our SOUL is saved, which is a present work. This will span our entire earthly life. This is called “Sanctification” and it is also entirely by grace, by the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
This sanctification is through our baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). It is the Spirit who refines us and purifies us in the fires of affliction, trials and tribulations. It is the Spirit who writes the law upon our hearts. God’s law opposes our selfish nature and thus it feels like a fire as it consumes our flesh. For God Himself is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29), and His law and His word are both described as a fire (Deuteronomy 33:2; Jeremiah 23:29).
When I was disciplined as a child my behind would always feel like fire after a spanking! This is what discipline feels like and it is the process by which we are sanctified, whereby the old man is put to death and the new man grows more alive (2 Corinthians 4:16). For,
“Foolishness (rebellious/sinful nature) is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)
But I am getting ahead of myself here. We will look in detail at the refining process in a later blog.
And lastly our BODY will be saved in the future where Christ raises us from the dead into a state of incorruption; or immortality,
“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. … For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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.’” (1 Corinthians 15:50,53,54)
In the future we will receive transfigured bodies that will never die. This is called glorification. When our bodies shine forth the glory of God, which is the image of Christ.
“who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:21)
“when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed — for our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:10)
“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16,17)
“and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)
It is also referred to as the redemption of the body.
“And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23)
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness (salvation of spirit) and sanctification (salvation of soul), and redemption (salvation of body),” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Therefore, there is no theological inconsistency when the Scriptures speaks of all men being saved yet also enduring judgment (1 Corinthians 3:15 has both in one verse). For they will all be saved in their spirits when “every knee bows and every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord.” But then they begin their process of sanctification by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire – the Lake of fire (a.k.a – hell). This will ultimately end with their restoration and the transfiguration of their bodies, whereby they reflect the glory of God in the image of Christ.
This is all necessary to understand if we are to truly understand the judgment process in the next life. For it is the sanctification process for all those who did not undergo it in this life. That sanctification process is what we will be looking at. It is the Lake of Fire where all who were wicked in this life will be disciplined in the next life. But first we must have a proper understanding of God’s Righteousness, which is the basis of all Judgment/Justice. And that will be the subject of the next blog.
The Righteousness of God
If we are going to attempt to discover the true nature of judgment (as I hope to do with this series), we must first grasp the reason why there must be judgment in the first place. On top of this we must understand that all judgment is based upon God’s Character; it is an outworking of who He is. His Character, who He is in His being, is namely – Love and Righteousness. To put it another way, God is Love and God is Holy; and everything He does is an extension of BOTH of these qualities.
Righteousness AND Love
Most believers view God’s judgments as an extension of His holiness and righteousness. God is holy therefore He must judge sin. I absolutely agree with this. However, it is also an extension of His Love. Most people are either ignorant (unaware) of this and overlook it, or they deny it. Therefore, if we want to rightly discern the purpose of judgment we must balance any view of His judgments with both righteousness and love. It is not my intention to scope out the vast field of God’s love, I believe that there is already much great literature on this subject already, and therefore any attempt on my part would be unnecessary. On top of this I believe most Christians have at least an elementary grasp of God’s infinite unending unchanging unconditional love. It is probably the most popular concept in Christendom. Although I must admit there is a deficit to our grasp of His love; for if we truly grasped how great and magnificent His love was, we would positively retch at the idea of such a Lover allowing an endless hell.
Anyways, His great love will not be a subject I am going to tackle. But I do want us to remember that everything He does is from a heart of Love: even judgment. The purpose of this blog will be to focus specifically on His Righteousness; while also showing how that righteousness is inseparable from His love.
God’s judgments being an extension of His righteousness is widely accepted; unfortunately most of us do not understand the true nature of His righteousness. So let us take a minute to explore what true righteousness implies.
It is safe to say that all judgment is due to (the consequence of) sin; without sin there would be no need for judgment. And sin is defined by the Law for without Law there is no definition of right or wrong. Scripture says this plainly, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law…for apart from the Law sin is dead.” (Romans 7:7,8) And, “sin is a transgression of the Law.” (1 John 3:4)
“The Law is righteous and holy,” (Romans 7:12) because it is based upon God’s Righteousness. Righteousness is the standard to which we are all called; and falling short of that standard is sin; which incurs judgment. God is unconditional love and the perfect union we have with Him is broken when there is sin. All sin is a breach of love and trust; and true love cannot turn a blind eye to such a violation. To do so would be to approve the evil and accept the breach, but love seeks union and there can be no union where sin causes separation.
Therefore though God is unconditional love, that love demands righteousness. For God not only loves us despite our wretchedness, but He desires that we would partake of the fullness of His love, which necessarily requires unity (and thus righteousness in order to be in perfect union with Him to enjoy the fulness of His love).
Thus all unrighteousness must be condemned. True love requires such. But such condemnation/ judgment grieves Him as it would any good Father. Our sin grieves Him because He loves us and knows the pain that judgment brings and the sorrow that we must endure because of it.
I am utterly indebted to Andrew Jukes and his book The Names of God for this thought and I feel he is far more capable of expressing the truth of this matter than myself. So I want to quote him at length to complete this picture. He is sharing about how the Name Jehovah (Yahweh) reveals God’s Righteousness.
And yet with Israel, even as in Eden, and with the world before the Flood, while He most inflexibly inflicts judgment, we are shewn again and again, what so few think of, that sin grieves and wounds “Jehovah,” and that He also suffers, if His people are disobedient. He Himself is pained by the destructions which sin must bring with it. Unless we see this, we do not know “Jehovah.” But here, as throughout the whole record of “Jehovah,” the testimony is most clear. Again and again, when Israel sinned, “the anger of Jehovah was kindled against His people, and Jehovah sold them into the hands of their enemies;” but it is not Israel only that is “sore distressed;” for of “Jehovah” also it is written, “And His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel” (Judges 10:6,7,9,16). So, again the Prophet declares, “Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves” (Amos 2:13); that is, He is pressed and burdened, and goes groaning. So again the Psalmist says, “Forty years long was I grieved with this generation in the wilderness” (Psalm 95:10). “In all their afflictions He was afflicted” (Isa. 63:9). Who can measure the anguish of His words:—”How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together” (Hos. 11:8).
We are slow to see all this. And yet if Jesus Christ really reveals “Jehovah:” if He is indeed “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3): if He is, as the Apostle says, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15): then His cross and sufferings shew, not only that sin brings death and sorrow upon men, but (if we may say it) sorrow and trouble also on “Jehovah.” Christ’s cross is the witness of “Jehovah’s” cross, though by His cross He conquers all. “Surely He hath borne our griefs” (Isaiah 53:4). Was it no grief to Him that His people rejected Him? “When He was come near and beheld the city, He wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Was He not crossed? He makes a feast, and none will come but those who are compelled. He says, “Come, for all things are now ready; and they all with one consent began to make excuse” (Matthew 22:4,5; Luke 14:16-18). Can we misunderstand His oft repeated words:—”How often would I have gathered you, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34)? His complaint is, “All the day long have I stretched forth my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Isaiah 65:2; Romans 10:21). For a time at least His will is crossed. Oh wonder of all wonders! “Jehovah” suffers as only righteous Love can suffer.
But there is more even than this in the revelation of “Jehovah,” though the crowning glory of the revelation is only yet dimly seen by many of His people. Not only is He the God who requires righteousness; not only is He Himself affected by the destructions which sin has brought upon His creature; but still more, blessed be His name, His righteousness is not fully declared until He makes His creatures righteous with His own righteousness. What we first see in Him is law, and that, because He is righteous, He must condemn evil. But we should greatly err if we therefore concluded that this could be the end, for the new covenant of grace is His also (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-12). It is “Jehovah” who says, “This is the covenant that I will make after those days,”—(that is after law has done its work of condemnation,)—”I will put my law into their mind, and will write it in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Righteousness is not complete, if it only judges and condemns; for the devil also can condemn. The highest righteousness, while it judges sin, can never rest until it also makes the sinner righteous. The saints have always felt this, and that God’s righteousness is for them, not against them; saying, “I know, O Jehovah, that thy judgments are right, and that in very faithfulness thou hast afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75). “Quicken me, O Jehovah, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness sake bring my soul out of trouble” (Psalm 143:11). “In thy name shall thy people rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted” (Psalm 89:15,16). Because He is righteous, evil must be judged: the evil-doer must be punished. But the evil being thus judged, and the sinner condemned, the righteous God is no less righteous,—rather He is yet more righteous,—in making the judged creature a “partaker of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10)…Therefore he says again, that our “being made righteous freely by His grace” is “to declare God’s righteousness” (Romans 3:24,25)…For “Jehovah” is not content to be righteous Himself. Unlike the Pharisee, who thanks God that “he is not as other men” (Luke 18:11), “Jehovah” will have the creature made like Himself, by coming into its place, and making it sharer in His own righteousness. In a word, “He is just, and (therefore) the justifier” (Romans 3:26). “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). For to sum up all, as the Prophet says, “This is the name whereby He shall be called, The Lord, that is, Jehovah, our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).
This, and nothing less, is “the end of the Lord” (James 5:11). He condemns to justify; He kills to make alive; that is to make the creature righteous as He is righteous. (Pgs. 53-55)
Andrew Jukes continues his thoughts about Yahweh and His Righteousness later on in the book when He shows how Christ and His Church manifest the name of Yahweh.
Some of His elect may think, that, because they are elect, He will not judge them. But because He is the Truth, He must judge all wrong, and judge even more in those who know and are near Him, than in those who know Him not. For He reveals Him who said of old, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I punish you for your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2) He is indeed perfect love to those, who by confession shew that, though ruined, they are true; but He is no less unswerving truth and justice to such as would appear what they are not, and cover sin by a cloak of religiousness. Need I give examples from His words to Pharisees and Scribes (Matthew 23:13-33), and still more to the Churches, to whom He says, “I will give to every one of you according to your works”? (Revelation 2:23) To all He is the faithful and true witness, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and out of whose mouth goeth the sharp two edged sword, to smite the nations. (Revelation 2:11,12,18, 3:14, 19:15) And yet, with all this, His people’s sin and judgment pain Him. Like “Jehovah,” He suffers with, and grieves for, them. Again and again “He sighed,” (Mark 7:34, 8:12) and “groaned in spirit,” (John 11:33,38) and “wept over jerusalem, saying If thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace;” (Luke 19:41,42) and again, “How often would I have gathered you, but ye would not.” (Matthew 23:37) Still more did He suffer, when “He himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” (1 Peter 2:24) thus making atonement for sinners by giving Himself to be their righteousness.
In all such acts, He was revealing “Jehovah,” who, if there is evil, must judge and take it away, even if He Himself is pained and suffers through the judgment. (pgs 203-4)
This is the truest and highest standard of righteous judgment – that it suffers with those being judged and ultimately makes the sinner righteous with His own righteousness. This is because true righteousness, God’s Righteous, cannot be separated from His Love.
He loves the sinner, and therefore must judge his sin, but His judgment restores the sinner back into full communion with Him and makes him righteous as He is righteous.
I will leave you with that. I know it is not some grand exposition on the heights and depths of God’s Righteousness, but it gives us what we need to know concerning its relationship to Judgment. God’s righteousness does not simply condemn sin (as Andrew Jukes pointed out, even the Devil can do that) it also enters into the condemnation and lifts the sinner up into His own righteousness.
The following blogs in this series will bring great clarity concerning the purpose of Judgment. You will find how every instance and every description by which judgment or future judgment is addressed reveals that God will restore the sinner. Judgment corrects and refines, it does not abandon. The next blog will show how true justice is defined by God’s Law, and that His Laws establish judgments that fit the crime and that no crime deserves a never ending punishment.
Principles of Judgment – Part 1
Judgment. It doesn’t sound good, it never sounds good. When Christians think of judgment Hell is usually what comes to mind. We usually connect it to the lost who have rejected Christ (or at least never put their faith in Him). They have not possessed that special grace our Lord extended to us when He died on the cross for our sins, grace that moves us out from being under the condemnation of the law.
But Judgment is a large topic and is the special focus of this series of blogs. So we are going to begin to look at it in more detail. We have already seen some foundational things that are necessary to begin understanding God’s judgment – the 3 stages of salvation and a look at the righteousness (holiness) of God. Its now time to begin looking at Judgment.
Judgment Begins With God’s People
To begin, where does Scripture say Judgment begins? It might surprise you! Peter says that judgment must begin with the house of the Lord! As we noticed in the blog on God’s Righteousness, this is b/c a breach of love demands judgment in order to be restored to the purity of union it had before the breach. And though God loves the whole world His elect enjoy a far more special and intimate love with God than the rest. Thus ourrebellious ways and our failures demand judgment. That is why God says,
“Those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5,6; Proverbs 3:12)
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
We ought not to think that b/c we are saved and have communion with God that we are excluded from judgment. On the contrary, because of our close proximity to God we are judged all the more for our disobedience.
“You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)
This judgment of God’s chosen people can further be seen all through Scripture in every instance that God’s people forsook Him and followed after the idols of their hearts (we also have idols; success, possessions, relationships, self, etc…). Each time they failed God would judge them with disasters, plagues or captivity, until they repented and returned to Him with their whole heart.
God’s people have a high calling – to demonstrate to the lost the nature and character of God. Thus the shortcomings of any saint demands discipline in order to prevent them from being an evil witness of God. And God accomplishes this through making us take up our cross daily in order to truly follow Him (Luke 9:23). Suffering/discipline is part of God’s process of growing us up, maturing us into His image.
“…[do not] be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3)
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” (Philippians 1:29)
And so Paul says,
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:26-32)
Lets take a minute to ponder that section of verses. While it is not my intention to expound on the great mystery that communion is (in a word it is the fellowship of His sufferings), I would like to take note of some aspects of communion that apply to the topic at hand.
Firstly, communion “proclaims the Lord’s death, until He comes.” This is to say that when Christ returns and raises His elect from the dead they will no longer need to proclaim His death, b/c they will now be proclaiming His life. So how do we proclaim His death? By following His example of crucifying the flesh (see Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:1-51 and Peter 2:21). We must die to our self and in so doing we are seen to be imitators of Christ. Communion symbolizes this because it is a partaking of His body – which was broken for us – and His blood – which was poured out for us (1 Corinthians 10:16,17; Luke 22:19). We are now that body which must be broken (Romans 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:12-20; Ephesians 2:16, 4:4; Colossians 3:15, etc…) and it is our blood (life) that now must be poured out (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6). This is the fellowship of His sufferings that Paul spoke about (Philippians 3:7-11).
Secondly, we must “examine” ourselves. That is why we must not fear the exposure of those areas of our lives that are selfish and carnal. Paul said elsewhere that we must test (or examine) ourselves to see whether we are truly in the faith – 2 Corinthians 13:5. He employs the same Greek word in both cases. This examination, this testing is to prove what areas are of Christ’s character and what are not. And in so doing we are to then “judge the body,” that is judge our fleshly nature. In doing so we will avoid being judged by God against our will. For Paul says, “if we judged ourselves we would not be judged by God.”
And lastly, if we judge ourselves “we will not be condemned along with the world.” That Greek word translated “along with” means “together with” or “to accompany.” In other words it does not mean that we will avoid condemnation if we judge ourselves now, it means that we will avoid receiving our judgment at the same time that the unbelieving world receives their judgment (see also Luke 12:46 for the same principle). This will be more clearly seen when we look at the Lake of Fire and the 2 resurrections. To say it another way, we wont receive the humiliation of our corrective judgment at the same time that the unbelieving rebellious world receives their corrective judgment – IF we endure it now. We have the chance to grow up first through discipline. To abort such discipline now will be to prove ourselves no more mature than the unbelieving, rebellious world.
There must be judgment, whether we are of God’s household or not. Those who put themselves in the position of being judged, of having their sinful nature exposed and crucified, will endure it humbly and with grace. Those who refuse to accept that they must be judged will have to endure their judgment with angst and hostility. The latter will be suffering against their will, they will therefore have the added horror of that pain being an inescapable and unrelenting violation of their will and desire. Their will being overridden like this will produce the added discomfort of confusion, such people will be unable to understand why they are suffering such a hard (and seemingly harsh) judgment.
Those who understand the cross and that judgment IS necessary will be able to accept and receive its violence and fire with much more tolerance and grace. They will know that it is for their good. There will be love seen in it. Those who do not – will feel it is something hostile towards them (and indeed it is, hostile towards our selfish nature/flesh that is). They will have a much more difficult time enduring it than those who understand the purpose and necessity of the cross.
This makes Peter’s statement make much more sense when he says,
“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
Thus, the first thing we ought to understand is that Judgment begins with God’s people.
The second thing we should know is that Judgment is corrective not punitive – this will become much clearer as we look at the various descriptions of judgment in Scripture in the next few blogs. Judgment corrects; God’s heart is to restore the sinner, not damn them. He restores through corrective discipline which we understand as judgment. Scripture confirms this many times,
“You have appointed them for judgment, You have marked them for correction.” (Habakkuk 1:12)
“When the earth experiences Your judgments, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)
“It was good that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)
“Your judgments are right…in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75)
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
“Happy is the man whom God corrects, therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises but He binds up, He wounds but His hands make whole.” (Job 5:17-18)
Judgment produces repentance, it makes us painfully aware of our faults and failures. Many times we become confused when we suffer trials and afflictions, we cannot understand why this is happening to us. But when our eyes are opened to see where we were wrong and that God was bringing discipline to correct us and to train us – we repent. When you train up a child to be obedient and good, you must teach them through discipline (spanking). Once they begin to understand the purpose of their discipline they stop their foolishness/disobedience. In effect discipline causes children to repent.
Repentance by the way doesn’t mean to say your sorry, it means to turn around 180 degrees. So that where you were going one way before, now you are going the opposite way. When we repent we are turning away from that which we were doing (or the way we were going) and we turn our backs to it and walk towards what is right.
When a child learns through discipline to stop being naughty, they in effect are displaying true repentance. We too learn correction and repent (turn around) through discipline/judgment. And though it seems harsh and even opposed to grace (or our flawed idea of grace as a free ticket out of punishment), it is actually “God’s kindness (grace) that leads us to repentance.” (Romans 2:4)
True Justice Demands a Finite Judgment
The third thing we ought to discern about judgment is that it has a limit. God demanded a limit on every punishment prescribed for sin in the Law. I believe that the “Spirit of the Law” as Paul referenced reveals that true justice for a crime has a limit. Even in our horrifyingly perverted justice system, if someone were to be given a life sentence, or worse yet a death sentence, for stealing a cell phone – we would consider that unjust. To punish someone severely for such a minor offense is not true justice. So it is with God’s Law.
True Justice Demands Restoration of both the Victim and the Criminal.
The fourth thing we desperately need to learn is that true justice restores the victim and the criminal. This is a topic far too broad for me to detail in full, but suffice it to say that the judgments in the Law for each transgression had a unique process by which the transgressor was reformed. The only example I am going to highlight is the law concerning theft. (There are a multitude of other examples in the Law, I simply do not have the time or space to teach this. But anyone who is willing to brave the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy will be able to discover them easy enough.)
The Law prescribes that a thief had to pay double what he stole. Most likely he stole b/c he couldn’t afford the item himself, so there was no way he could pay back double. And so the Law prescribed that a man who could not pay double was to be sold for his transgression in order to pay it off. But this wasn’t permanent, the Law of the Jubilee demanded that he would only be able to work until the Jubilee set him free from all his debts (we will look at the prophetic significance of that in the next series). What happened was a criminal would be sold into servitude to whoever had the most generous bid. So say someone said, “I will pay off his double debt and he only has to work for me for two years.” This not only restored the victim, but it also taught the thief a trade by which to make an honest living so he could afford the things that before he would have had to steal. The same principle is found in all the rest of the laws and their penalties.
Therefore it is clear to me that the Spirit of the Law is concerned not only for the victim but also the sinner. And I do not think this is overstepping what we know of God’s heart towards the lost and depraved. And if every sin is to be judged by God’s Law, God’s standard, then looking at the other principles of Judgment we have looked at I am convinced that the idea of sending a sinner away to be tormented for eternity is NOT true justice. Rather it is a monstrous perversion of not only God’s heart, but His Law, which is what all true justice and judgment are based upon. The idea of endless hell will provide neither restoration of the victim nor the sinner.
Justice is impartial and unbiased, it attributes equal value to all people. The reason forgiveness is such an important issue with God is b/c according to His Law the criminal will eventually be rehabilitated and the victim will cross paths with him again. In such a case forgiveness is crucial.
When I see people punished for certain mistakes, I have a lot compassion for them especially if they feel remorse for their mistake. I believe that true discipline only works if the one being punished is comforted after said punishment. Otherwise it just breeds resentment. To comfort after discipline establishes that it came from a heart of love and not hatred. And I know that the compassion in my heart is a million times smaller than the compassion in God’s heart. Perhaps this is why God reminds us in the Law that the sinner should still be treated with dignity.
“He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes. (Deuteronomy 25:3)
For those with ears to hear the Spirit of the Law declares that endless punishment is anything but just.
Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
The last thing I want us to walk away with concerning God’s judgment, is that even though,
“Judgment will be merciless to those who show no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13).
God is a God of love and grace, and though He judges, He will not judge forever, and His judgment is to correct us from a heart of love. So that no matter how severe the judgment is, He will eventually have mercy on the suffering soul. And compared to His mercy, His wrath will be but a moment.
“His wrath is but a moment, but His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 30:5)
He cannot deny His nature and He is the all wise Father; He knows what judgments will be most effective in turning His wayward children’s hearts back to Him. Judgment is and always will be His tool for doing so.
I hope that what we have looked at so far gives you a much clearer idea that judgment will not be endless (even in the afterlife), but will be used to restore the sinner back to God. We will look at more principles concerning Judgment (Part 2) at the end of this series, but before we do there are a few items we must look at first. If God’s Word truly is perfect, and I believe it is, then this concept should be confirmed by the imagery and language used to describe judgment in the after life – and that is exactly what we will find. In the next blogwe will look at “The Lake of Fire,” the one actual description of what we could call Hell.
Principles of Judgement – Part 2
In this series on judgement we have looked at every description of judgement Scripture gives us; and we have seen how in every instance it points towards restoration and life. Judgement 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 judgement; namely that, 1 – judgement Begins with the House of God, 2 – Judgement Corrects, 3 – True Justice demands a Finite judgement (there is a limit to all judgement), 4 – Judgement restores the victim and corrects the sinner, and finally 5 – Mercy triumphs over judgement. We also saw in the last blog another principle: 6 – the Law upon which all judgement 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 judgement to conclude the series. In this blog we will look at the fact that; 7 – judgement 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 judgement will be administered cannot trump the New Covenant and its promises of restoration). So lets get right into it.
Judgement is Good
We have seen previously how God’s judgements are based upon His Law; and His Law demands mercy to be administered in judgement and protects the rights of both the victims and the criminals. This is because God is Good, He is not vengeful nor is He cruel. He is compassionate and extremely merciful to all His creatures. So His judgements 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 because 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. Let’s 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 it is quite simple. The Law is good, giving us the right way to live and act towards God and our neighbour. 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 because 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 neighbour – therefore the Law is good because 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 the 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 judgements (which are based upon His Law) are also good. His judgements, which are the outworking of His Law, puts our sin to death. His judgements 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 judgements 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 judgement falling upon them…at least for now. All judgement for unbelievers will begin at the Great White Throne judgement; and it just so happens that their judgement 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 judgements 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 judgement 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; because “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 because of our sin debt, more accurately, due to Adam’s sin. There is a parable in Scripture concerning Adam and how because 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 because 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 judgements 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 because 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 judgement 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)
The Law is Good. The Law has mercy built directly into it with the Law of the Jubilee which trumps all judgement. 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 judgement, 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.
The Lake of Fire, Part 1
We saw in the previous series what Hell is not. This left us with very little in Scripture to base the doctrine of a ‘fiery hell’ upon. However, the Lake of Fire (found in the book of Revelation) is a straight forward declaration concerning an existence of punishment (torment even) for those who are disobedient to God in this life. Hell, it appears, is founded upon truth, unfortunately that truth has been distorted.
So let’s take a closer look at the Lake of Fire.
To begin with, the Lake of Fire is found in the Book of Revelation; in chapters 19:17-21 and 20:10-15 (with a very similar description found in 14:9-13). The Lake of Fire is most clearly described in the section of Revelation that talks about the Great White Throne Judgment. This Great White Throne comes immediately after the Millennial Kingdom, which is the 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth (along with His overcomers – those that are worthy to attain to the first resurrection). During this Great White Throne Judgment all the dead are resurrected, whether good or bad (see also John 5:28,29 and Acts 24:15). Following this certain books are opened and anyone not found in the book of life is cast into the Lake of Fire. Revelation describes this as “the Second Death,” which we will look at more closely later (the connection will become very clear).
I am sure that we have all read this scene in Revelation before, probably many times. But what most do not realize, is that this is a continuation of a scene Daniel saw in hisApocalypse (apocalypse means ‘vision of the end times’). You can find the whole scene in Daniel chapter 7, but for our purposes we need only look at verses 9-14. In it (as in Revelation) we see the Great White Throne, where the Ancient of Days sits to judge the earth, and certain “books are opened!” Interestingly enough, the Throne is described as being ablaze with fire and there is a River of Fire flowing from this flaming throne! John apparently saw this same scene and described it with almost identical language. However, where Daniel saw a River of Fire flowing from the Throne, John saw this River culminating in a giant Lake – a Lake of Fire.
The first thing that we need to notice is that this Fire comes from the Throne. A throne is where a King sits to pass judgment; the throne room is where the King settles disputes and criminals are sentenced. The throne room is also where the court meets to determine legal issues, with the King presiding over the hearing. And every court determines its judgments based upon the Laws of the Kingdom (or at least it ought to).
This is the picture God is giving us to help us understand what is happening in the spirit (heaven). You see, these are earthly descriptions of the heavenly court where God sits on His throne to rule His Kingdom and pass judgment (see also Ephesians 1:20). All His judgments are based upon His Law. This Law is the fire coming from the Throne.
This is further confirmed by the fact that Scripture refers to the Law as, “the fiery Law.” (Deuteronomy 33:2,3) God Himself also declares, “Is not My Word like fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29) So we see that the fire engulfing the Heavenly Throne is His Law, and the River of Fire flowing from the Throne, culminating in the Lake of Fire – is the outworking (or judgment) of that Law!
One of the prophecies concerning the Millennial Kingdom declares that all nations will come to the mountain of the LORD to learn His ways; and at that time,
“The Law will go forth from Zion, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3)
Zion was the headquarters for David’s Kingdom; it was the ruling name for Jerusalem where his throne was. Of course this is all poetic language concerning the Heavenly Kingdom, New Jerusalem, where Christ sits to rule His Kingdom (see Galatians 4:25,26; Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 3:12, 21:2,10).
But we see from this and many other pictures in Scripture that God’s Law is what He will judge all people with and this judgment is pictured as a fire.
The Nature and Purpose of Fire
In order to better understand the Lake of Fire as an outworking of God’s Law we need to see what Scripture has to say concerning fire. If fire is the picture of the judgment of the Law then what exactly does this fire do? What principles can we find in Scripture concerning fire? The answer to that will clue us in on the purpose of the Lake of Fire.
First off, God likens Himself to a “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29) and His love is likened unto a violent flame that nothing can quench (Song 8:6,7). God is love and the nature of love is that it must possess its beloved – ENTIRELY! Therefore God is described as, “a consuming fire, a jealous God.” He is jealous b/c He is not satisfied with possessing only part of us, He wants all of us for Himself. So He consumes every part of us that is selfish and self-centered and un-Christ-like in order to have us all to Himself.
His love burns up all that is not of Him and it is painful to be sure but it is for our good. Thus Jesus encourages us that,
“Those whom [He] loves [He] reproves and disciplines.” (Revelation 3:19)
The Apostle Paul declares the same saying,
“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. … For [our earthly parents] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but [our heavenly Father] disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:6, 10)
God uses discipline to put our rebellious and fallen nature to death in order to make us more holy. His discipline makes us partakers of His holiness! That is our calling, to be holy even as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15; Leviticus 11:45). So God uses the fire of discipline to change us and make us like Himself. Because God is just all of His discipline is based upon His Law; discipline is God applying His Law to our life.
Therefore the Psalmist declares that,
“You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined…We went through fire, but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” (66:10-12)
And Job states that,
“When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (23:10)
Isaiah also says,
“the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion…by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning.” (Isaiah 4:4)
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)
Thus Peter encourages us saying,
“do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…for it is time for judgment to begin with the house of God.” (1 Pt. 4:12,17)
For God says,
“[I] will be a refiner’s fire. [I] will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and [I] will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.” (Malachi 3:3)
“I refined you, but not as silver, I tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)
When silver is refined and purified, it is heated to a very high temperature whereby any impurities within the silver separate and float to the surface. The refiner then scoops the impurities away leaving only the silver. As the temperature is raised higher and higher more and more impurities begin to come to the surface. Eventually all the impurities are exposed and subsequently removed. What is interesting is that impurities cloud the reflectivity of silver, and in the old days the purifier knew the silver was pure when he could clearly see his face reflected in the silver!
All this is an earthly witness of God’s ways. For God will turn up the heat in our lives in order to bring all of our faults and shortcomings to the surface. But He does this in order to remove them, and when He has fully removed them…His image will be perfectly reflected in us!
And so it is for this reason that we are,
“…distressed by various trials, so that the proof of [our] faith…even though tested by fire, may result in praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6,7)
This is the nature of fire; it purifies us and removes our old nature, conforming us into His image. This is the purpose of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire” that Christ baptizes us with (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). And that is the exact picture that the Lake of Fire presents, a baptism of fire. The imagery is identical, they are both a fire in the form of water (a lake and baptism are both pictures of water). It is also interesting to note that in the Law all things were cleansed (washed pure) by either water or fire (Numbers 31:23). This is the spiritual picture being presented to us in earthly imagery – a purifying, cleansing fire that washes away our filth. It is this picture the Psalmist references when he describes his own afflictions,
“We went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into abundance.” (66:12)
God is this consuming fire, therefore it is no wonder that He brings us through the fire, for He desires to make us like Himself. That is why Scripture declares that He,“makes His ministers a flame of fire.” (Hebrews 1:7; see also 2 Thessalonians 1:7) The end goal of His refining fire is to make us like Himself. We stand through the fire till it no longer hurts and everything that could be consumed is burned away and we conform to the very nature of God Himself and become a Divine and pure and holy fire ourselves.
This is why we are encouraged to,
“…exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Fire, therefore, is Scripture’s emblem of the Law, which comes upon us in the form of trials and tribulations; which are ordained by God to refine us and purify us and make us more like Him. Fire is discipline, a judgment designed to expose and eliminate the sinful nature within us, and it is always administered out of a heart of love. Everything He does is out of His nature of love, even judgment. Therefore it is for our good – to conform us unto His image!
We will continue to look in detail at fire as a future judgment in the next blog and see that it is this process by which God “makes all things new.”
The Lake of Fire, Part 2
In the previous blog we saw that the nature of fire is the Law and the purpose of this fire is to discipline and correct us, refining us until we are righteous and holy – as God is. To clarify, we are actually imputed holiness and righteousness through faith in Christ and His righteousness, but while this is a legal standing before God we are still sinners and we are still imperfect. In a word the old man, our rebellious nature is still alive and well. The baptism of the Spirit and fire that follows our justification by faith is what begins to make us actually righteous by killing the flesh; this process is called sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 1). What we own by faith, we then begin to possess by experience (Hebrews 11:1).
There is much more that must be examined concerning salvation and other related issues in order to fully understand the process by which God will save all men, but that must wait until the next series. For now, we must focus on the Lake of Fire and other judgments that take place in the after life.
Fire as a Future Judgment
Since the picture of fire throughout Scripture is almost universally God’s emblem for a purifying judgment, it becomes clear that the judgment of fire in the next life is also a purifying fire. This explains the curious passage in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 that says,
“…every man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Have you ever stopped and considered this statement? Those whose works were un-Christ-like in this life will watch everything they lived for get burned away…and yet they themselves will still be saved! And their salvation will be wrought “through fire!” This fire is very clearly and obviously referring to the Lake of Fire in the next life, where all men will be sanctified. You will be amazed at how clear Scripture is on this point…and even more amazed that we have been blind to it for so many years!
2 Peter 3:9-13 is also unusual, notice all the similarities,
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance (ahem… ). But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved…regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”
Notice all the themes we find here: 1 – God’s will for all men to be saved; 2 – God’s patience by which that will be accomplished; 3 – the destruction of the heavens, the earth and its works through fire; 4 – new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells! Its very similar to the previous passage we looked at where a man’s works will be burned up yet he will be saved through that very fire.
It is the fire by which the old heavens and the old earth are changed into new heavens and a new earth. Thus as Scripture says elsewhere,
“the heavens will perish…and be changed!” (Hebrews 1:10-12)
The world will be burned with intense heat and fire because fire is the appointed means of delivering this present nature from its fallen state. It is the fire that changes us.
Nature (which is a witness of God’s various truths – Romans 1:20) confirms this, for fire transforms whatever it touches into a higher form (from solid to vapor, the first state being material and of the earth, the latter state being immaterial [in a sense] and of the heavens [atmosphere]).
And so bringing it all back to the Lake of Fire – notice the same connection of themes as seen above,
“This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into 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 20:14-21:1)
The new heaven and new earth are seen immediately following the Lake of Fire! For it is in the fire that the first heaven and earth “pass away.” And in the passing of the Old the New emerges,
“And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26-29)
Notice the context with which Scripture declares God to be a consuming fire!?! It is in the removing of the old, fallen creation that the unshakable kingdom of heaven emerges – the new heaven and the new earth! This is the purpose of God’s consuming fire – to transform the old and fallen into the new and holy.
It ought to begin to be clear to us that the overarching context of “fire” in Scripture is that it is a refining and purifying agent – making all things new. Consuming what is not of God, until all that remains is the character and image of Christ. And there is not one soul who will skip this process for, “All men must be salted with fire!” (Mark 9:49) All will undergo that “baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16)
As I pointed out in the last blog the Lake of Fire is the same imagery as the baptism of fire. They both involve water and fire. Those who don’t receive the baptism of the Spirit and fire in this life will endure it in the next life. Even followers of God must go through the fire in the next life if they refuse that fire in this present life. For Jesus declared of His servants that if they know His will and do not obey Him then they will receive their portion with the unbelievers (lake of fire) and be beaten with many stripes which He then describes as a fire! (Luke 12:46-49)
The Baptism of the Spirit is also described as a fire because it is how God conforms us to His Law. Did you ever notice that in one of the descriptions of the New Covenant God declares,
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:26,27)
Statutes and ordinances are both synonymous with His Law and it is by His Spirit within us that we become obedient to His righteous standard – a.k.a the Law. Therefore God declares concerning the New Covenant that,
“I will put My Laws upon your heart and write them upon your mind.” (Hebrews 10:16; Jeremiah 31:33)
Be assured that this process is painful, as our old man comes under the judgment of the Law and our New Man grows and matures into a fulfillment of that Law. That is why fire is the main picture of the Law – it hurts but transforms. Therefore when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost we see that tongues of fire appeared over each person! (Acts 2:1-4) That was when the Holy Spirit came to dwell within man and begin the process of writing His Laws upon our hearts and minds.
Fire also appeared at the original Pentecost that Israel observed when they came out of Egypt.
“Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace,” (Exodus 19:18)
Sounds a little bit like the description of the Lake of Fire doesn’t it? And guess what happened when God came down as fire? The 10 commandments were given! (Exodus 20:1-17) It was the beginning of the revelation of His Law! And how did the people react? After hearing the first 10 commandments,
“they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’”
They were afraid to hear His Law because the Law puts our old man to death and they didn’t want their flesh put to death. That is why it is a fire and that is why the Lake of Fire is also called “the Second Death.” The Law kills our flesh in order to conform us to God’s holy character. That is why the Spirit is constantly at war with the flesh (Galatians 5:17).
And, as if there wasn’t enough in Scripture confirming all this, that section of Hebrews that I referenced earlier (about the destruction of the old creation and God being a consuming fire) actually begins by saying,
“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire…” (Hebrews 12:18)
The author of Hebrews then goes on to describe the events of that original Pentecost where the Law was given (compare Hebrews 12:18-21 with Exodus 19:10-21).
I believe that the force of Scripture on this issue is clear. God’s Law is a fire, and it puts our flesh (old man, sin nature) to death, but in that death we are made righteous and holy, for that is the process by which the New Man matures. And all this is done by His Spirit dwelling within us.
At this point some of you might be thinking, “that may be so, but if people being cast into the Lake of Fire don’t believe in Christ, then they don’t have a New Man and therefore they would just be extinguished…” This objection is the reason why some believe in Annihilation vs. Endless Torment. But those who believe such only see half of the picture; the problem is solved with a simple reference to Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10,11 which states,
“that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It is at the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation that everybody will bow their knee and confess Jesus Christ is Lord. And then they are cast into the Lake of Fire. But at this point they are saved and beginning their baptism of the Spirit and Fire (their sanctification process). For Scripture declares that,
“If you confess Jesus Christ is Lord…you will be saved!” (Romans 10:9)
“no one can confess ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit!” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Thus they are saved before being cast into their baptism of fire, and through it they will be made righteous, even as He is righteous.
Praise God! The Gospel truly is Good News of Great Joy, which will be for ALL People! (Luke 2:10)
God’s Law is a fire, and it is administered by His Spirit. And this law condemns our old man and puts him to death, but in his death the New Man is renewed and grows up into the fullness of the image of the One who created Him! (Colossians 3:10)
In the next blog we will take a look at what Scripture has to declare concerning Death. This will help us understand what the “2nd Death” is, which will further confirm what we have noticed concerning the Lake of Fire (which is the 2nd Death).
The Lake of Fire – Addendum
There are a few noteworthy details that are related to the Lake of Fire that I wanted to mention before we move on. This blog is not complete by any means and I plan on expanding it at a later date, but for now I would like to just offer a few more thoughts.
#1 – The word “brimstone” used in describing the Lake of Fire, “these…were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone,” (Revelation 19:20, 20:10, 21:8) is the Greek word Theion. Theion happens to also be the Greek word for Divine! As in the Divine Nature! It is another way of saying God (theos). One of its definitions is, “the nature or state of being God.” (Louw and Nida English Greek Lexicon) (!!!) The verb derived from Theion is the word Theioo; which means “to make holy, divine, to devote to a God.” (Liddel and Scott Greek English Lexicon, 1897 Edition)
In other words it conveys sanctification. After what we saw in the previous two blogs on the Lake of Fire it is far too much of a “coincidence” that this word “brimstone,” used to describe the Lake of Fire, conveys sanctification – to make one like God (divine).
Charles H. Pridgeon explains that,
“Sulpher or Brimstone was sacred to the diety among the ancient Greeks and was used to fumigate, to purify and to cleanse and to consecrate to the diety: for this purpose they burned it in their incense … To any Greek, or to any trained in the Greek language, a ‘lake of fire and brimstone’ would mean a ‘lake of divine purification.’” (Is Hell Eternal, quoted by G.R. Hawtin, The Restitution of All Things, Artisan Publishers,1994, pp 26,27)
#2 – Each of the Feasts of Israel are prophetic of not only the various stages in History by which God is working out His plan to save man, but also the various phases by which the process of salvation is worked out (accomplished) within each individual. Everyone must pass through 3 different phases of salvation (salvation of spirit, soul and body – see my blog about it here).
The Feast of Pentecost is the second feast and details the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. The Church began on the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago and perfectly fulfilled the original Pentecost that took place when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. But the “harvest” taken in during that feast was to be offered to God with fire. It was leavened and baked with fire. Leaven is a type and shadow of sin (which is why the sacrifices were forbidden to have leaven in them, because they were types and shadows of Christ our Ultimate Sacrifice who was sinless).
The Church is leavened, we are all racked with sin in some fashion or other. Leaven causes the dough to puff up and basically makes it empty inside and full of hot air. It has no substance, just like us when we are full of sin. The only way to stop the leavening action is with fire. One of Pentecost’s main themes is fire. Pentecost was when the Spirit was poured out within us; the Holy Spirit who writes the Law upon our hearts and minds and that law is pictured as fire (as we saw in the previous Lake of Fire blogs). This is why tongues of fire were seen at the outpouring of the Spirit during Pentecost in Acts. Its also why there was a blazing fire seen at the first Pentecost when the Law was given.
This fire is the Law being worked out within us by the Holy Spirit, and is the purpose of the second stage of Salvation. The Feast of Pentecost has many more details concering this, but I have not been able to take the time to detail it at this point. I will update this blog at a later date.
#3 – the sacrifices were all burned with fire. Fire was the process by which the flesh was not only consumed but transformed into smoke which rises to heaven. God demanded that the flesh be burned (consumed) b/c sin had been imputed into it. It was a substitutionary sacrifice and as such had to be fully destroyed (consumed) because it represented sin. But in its consumption it was transformed into a “soothing aroma” which ascended to God and heaven in an acceptable form.
There is a lot more to all this that needs to be expounded, which I dont have the time to do at this point but I will do so at a later date. What I want to point out is that it was through fire (destruction) that the sinful flesh was transformed into an acceptable form before God.
In conclusion, there is a wealth of evidence in Scripture that demonstrates fire as a consuming and purifying and transforming agent.
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 fantasises 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 judgement of death. Thanks to the judgement 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 judgement, 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.)
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” symbolises. 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” 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. 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.
The Second Death – Part 2
by Luke Kessler
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” because 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 lifeand 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 because 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 because 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 day. For 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 because 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). Because 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/ecause 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, because 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.
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.
Destruction – Part 1
by Luke Kessler
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.”
- 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.
“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 because He was raised from the dead.
Now lets take a look at this word as it is used concerning a future judgment.
“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.
Destruction – Part 2
by Luke Kessler
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!
Next 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.”
Punishment – Greek – Kolasis
So far we have looked at 4 terms used in Scripture to convey judgement 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 Universal Reconciliation 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 Universal Reconciliation.
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; because 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 Tormentors, 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 judgements 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.” (Rhetoric. 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 timoriaas a punishment only serves to appease the sense of revenge in the victim.
Philo, who was a contemporary of 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 offence 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 summarising 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 a 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 Universal Reconciliation 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. It’s as illogical as saying that, “If the adjective ‘tall’ is used to describe both basketball players and skyscrapers then they must both be the same size. Either the basketball player is thousands of feet tall, or the skyscraper 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 basketball players or skyscrapers 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. Our 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 judgement 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 issues to look at concerning judgement. The next blog will deal with God’s Wrath.
Putting His Enemies Under His Feet
by Luke Kessler
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, because 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 troddenoutside 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 because 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 buildingGod’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! Because 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)
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.
“the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive.”
1 Corinthians 15:22
All Will Be Made Alive
(1 Cor. 15; Rom. 5)
by Luke Kessler
All Made Alive
In the last blog we saw how clear it is that God’s will and plan is to save all men. It is not just wishful thinking, He actually intends to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat. Just like us, even Christ’s disciples once questioned whether this was possible. They remarked,
“’Then who can be saved?’ Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:26,27)
There is nobody for whom salvation is impossible. God can accomplish anything because nothing is too difficult for Him (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17,27).
What we need to find now are some clear statements in Scripture that support this plan of His. Ignoring the fact that “no purpose of God’s can be thwarted,” (Job 42:2) does Scripture confirm/prophecy about this plan of His being accomplished? And the answer is an emphatic “YES!”
1 Corinthians 15
In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 there is an unimaginably profound and clear discourse on this exact issue. It concerns the plan by which “all things will be subjected to God in Christ.” At the “end” of which “God will be all in all.” We will look in more detail at all that that entails in a later blog, for now we want to focus on Paul’s statement that begins this little section of Scripture. He states,
“[Just] as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive. But each in his own order (Greek = squadron).” (vs. 22)
There is a specific language device being used here by Paul. It is called a Parallelism. Parallelisms are used all throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New. A parallelism is where two lines are compared with each other. Sometimes 1 statement or idea is repeated a second time with different wording as a kind of poetic form of emphasis; sometimes 2 related ideas or statements are compared with each other; and sometimes 2 opposing ideas are contrasted with each other. There are literally thousands of instances of this in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, we don’t have time or space to examine them in depth, but I’ll give you one as an example in order to better understand what we are working with.
“Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
Let the Sons of Zion rejoice in their King.” (Psalm 149:2)
In this instance “Israel” and “the Sons of Zion” are referring to the same group, they are synonymous; and “his Maker” and “their King” are also synonymous. This is one of the ways that the Hebrew culture expressed themselves and their mind poetically.
Paul, and indeed anyone who was from that culture or familiar with the Old Testament, would have been acutely aware of this type of poetic form. Therefore when Paul compared Adam to Christ and the “all” who were affected by them, he would have presumed that everyone would understood instantly that both groups were synonymous, equal.
Unfortunately this is not true of our culture or mindset. So for clarity’s sake I will point out the parallels. Here in 1 Corinthians we have 2 items in the 1st line that are compared with 2 items in the 2nd line. In the first line we have the 2 items of “Adam” and “all.” In the second line we have “Christ” and “all.” The first item of each line is paralleled; which would be “Adam” and “Christ;” and the second item of each line is also paralleled; which would be “all” and “all.” So what Paul is communicating is that just exactly as all mankind died in Adam, in that same way all mankind will be made alive in Christ. Christ is equal to Adam and the all in Christ is equal to the all in Adam.
So how many died in Adam? All. How many will be made alive in Christ? All. Its the same group of “all.” “BUT,” as Paul clarifies, “each in his own squadron.” Not all men will be made alive at the same time, they will be made alive according to the grouping that God has designated them for. Some are being made alive now, some in the age to come, and some at the end of the ages. Which is why Paul ends this section here in 1 Corinthians with the prophecy that “at the end…God will be all in all.”
Unfortunately, the English wording here in vs. 22 is a tiny bit ambiguous. To be clear the Greek IS clear, its our english translation that is slightly ambiguous. B/c of this there will obviously be some who would try to contest this statement by claiming that it is only those who are in Christ who will be made alive instead of all mankind being made alive in Christ. Can you see the potential ambiguity? But to claim that the “all being made alive” only refer to those Christians who are presently in Christ contradicts the Greek grammar. The statement is future tense – it refers to something yet to come. But believers are made alive presently, so it cannot be referring to a future time when believers will be given life, b/c we have already received that life.
The ambiguity in the English also contradicts the extremely blatant parallelism device being used. A clearer translation, and one which highlights the Greek conjunction being used, would be,
“Just as every person died in Adam, in the exact proportion will every person be made alive in Christ.”
Furthermore (and perhaps most importantly) it contradicts the whole context of the surrounding passage of Scripture. The context, grammar and language device all confirm that the all who will be made alive in Christ is everybody; the same group of everybody who died in Adam.
The only other thing that would seal it’s clarity and dispel all doubt is if Scripture repeated this declaration elsewhere. Well…guess what? (I’m sure you saw this coming) that is exactly what we find! What’s more, Scripture not only repeats it elsewhere, it repeats it 7 times in one section! There is an entire discourse by Paul in the book of Romans dedicated to this exact subject. Lets take a look!
Of all the manifold verses in Scripture concerning God’s plan to save all men, perhaps the most clear statement/statements is/are in Romans Chapter 5. Paul has just finished the most eloquent presentation of the gospel in all of history, having concluded that we all stand condemned by the Law and yet by the grace of God we will be saved (justified) by faith and can now have peace with God through Christ (Romans 5:1)! Why? Because while we were sinners and enemies of God Christ died for us! (Romans 5:6-8)
Paul then proceeds here in Chapter 5 of Romans to clarify exactly what it means that Christ died for all men. In verses 12-21 Paul compares Adam’s fall to Christ’s restoration – just as he did in 1 Corinthians. However, unlike 1 Corinthians, Paul says it multiple times here in Romans, using several different descriptions to say the same thing. The gist of it is that since Adam (the First Adam) brought this horrid condition to all men, Christ (the Second Adam) has come to reverse it. Christ’s effect on all men is exactly paralleled with Adam’s effect on all men…except in an opposite manner. Lets take a look, I’m going to highlight some areas that we will need to examine afterwards.
“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. “ (5:15)
This is an incredible verse and needs a bit of unpacking.
Paul speaks about how this free gift of Christ applies to “the many.” So what exactly does “the many” refer to? Some will try to argue that b/c Paul says “the many” instead of “all” that it’s proof that not all men will be saved. In fact, there are even a few who have used this verse to argue that not everyone CAN be saved! They try to explain this by stating that God created some men without souls and therefore they are incapable of receiving salvation. This is held by a select few Calvinists in a poor attempt to make their “double predestination” doctrine not make God out to be so cruel and evil. (Double predestination is the idea that irregardless of man’s choice God chooses some to be saved and chooses others to be damned)
That is NOT what Paul is saying here! Its clear from our sister verse in 1 Corinthians that Paul is referring to “all.” Nevertheless, lets see if the context here in Romans also supports this. There are 2 ways to go about this.
First: notice that “the many” applies to those who died in Adam. How many died in Adam? All; just as 1 Corinthians said. Paul had just previously declared that “there is none righteous…there is none who does good, no not even one.” (Romans 3:10-18) Paul then declares that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” There is not a single soul who was not affected by Adam’s fall. Therefore “the many” who were affected by Adam’s fall equals everybody – all.
Second: Paul reiterates in verse 18 what he says about “the many” in verse 15; and in his reiteration he qualifies it with the term “all.” Lets compare them,
“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.” (5:15)
“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resultedjustification of life to all men.” (5:18)
In the very next verse Paul switches back and refers again to them as “the many.”
“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (5:19)
So we see that he uses them interchangeably. Therefore “the many” means “all.” This might seem somewhat confusing at first, but the key to understanding it lies in the fact that there are a LOT of people who have existed. The force of the language here is that “everybody” is not a small number of people, but rather a large number of people, the world has become quite NUMEROUS; a.k.a – “many.”
Hebrew Parallelism and Repetition
Next we need to recognize that Paul is again employing a parallelism as he did in 1 Corinthians. Paul’s statement about the many/all applies equally to both those who died in Adam and those that will receive God’s grace and free gift of life. So how many died in Adam? The answer is obviously – everyone. Therefore IF Adam’s sin affected everybody in a negative manner, THEN God’s gift will affect everybody in a positive manner.
In an interesting side note; the Hebrew and Greek languages did not have italicization or bold fonts; when they wanted to EMPHASIZE something they simply REPEATED IT, often using various ways of saying the same thing. Paul does this here in Romans chapter 5 by repeating this concept SEVEN times! Everybody died in Adam and everybody is going to be made alive in Christ!
So we have a devise called a parallelism used to connect the 2 concepts as equal, and then we have a device of repetition used to emphasize the main point that Paul is trying to communicate. He is trying very hard to make sure we don’t miss what he is saying.
Greek Logic Formula
There is another devise being employed here that is much harder for the lay person to catch…unless you have been trained in Greek logic. When Paul says, “the free gift is not like the transgression” he is employing a specific formula of Greek logic. Its hard to even notice with the NASB’s translation here. In the Greek it says, “the free gift is equal to the transgression but opposite.” That is what the “not” means in that sentence. The King James translates it in a way that makes it somewhat easier to catch, “not as the offense, so also is the free gift.” Can you see it yet? “Not as…so also” The free gift is equal to what the offense isn’t. Confusing I know…but bear with me, perhaps I can make it clearer.
The Greek logic formula goes something like this, “X is equal to Y in an opposite form.” Or, X is equal in an opposite way to Y. Very few people have need for such specialized logic, so we tend to miss its significance. What Paul is saying here is that the “free gift” (X) is equal to the transgression (Y) but in a completely opposite way.
The equality is that 1 act by 1 man affects ALL MEN. Adam’s disobedience (sin) affects all men and Christ’s obedience (righteousness) affects all men. Paul had said in the previous verse that Adam was a type of Christ (5:14), and in other epistles he refers to Christ as the “Last Adam” or Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-47). Christ is a type of Adam b/c His act affects all men just as Adam’s act did.
But Christ’s act is equal in an opposite way b/c while Adam’s act affects all men negatively, Christ’s act affects all men positively. Adam brings/brought death to all men, Christ brings/brought life to all men. Adam = bad for all, Christ = good for all.
Abounds Much More
Finally, what I want to point out here is that Paul heavily emphasizes that Christ’s work affects MORE than Adam’s! If Adam’s sin affected all men, Christ’s work will affect more than all men! (Hows that possible!?) Or perhaps Paul is emphasizing that the grace brought to us through Christ is far greater than the sin and death that Adam brought. Where Adam brought sin which increased, Christ brought grace which abounds MUCH MORE! (see 5:15,17,20)
Paul isn’t just giving us a mysterious off hand remark that leaves what he is saying open for debate; no, he is declaring it over and over and over in order to make absolutely sure that it gets through our thick, stubborn skulls! Christ = FAR MORE than Adam! God wasn’t joking when He called the Gospel Good News!
Lets look at the verses one more time,
“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.” (5:15)
“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” (5:18)
“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (5:19)
The many WILL BE MADE righteous! It’s not conditional. There is no “if” you want to. It’s a statement, a fact, a declaration – a done deal! Either our theologians know something that Paul didn’t know, or Scripture really is declaring that all men will be made righteous!
On a quick side note, the “gift” that God says will abound to the many is the same “free gift” that Paul tells us just one chapter later is eternal life in Christ. (6:22) It’s pretty cut and dry what Paul is teaching – this eternal life will not only equal what sin accomplished; it will accomplish MUCH MORE than what Adam’s sin accomplished! Which is why Paul says at the end of all this that “where sin abounds…grace abounds MUCH MORE!” (5:20) That truly is amazing grace!
So there we have it. 2 sections of Scripture in which the context, grammar and language devices prophesy that all men will be made alive in Christ. So far we have seen that Scripture teaches that God intends to save all men; and now we see that it also prophesies that in the end all men will be made alive. If as Christ said, “the Scriptures cannot be broken,” then we are off to a good start!
In the next blog we will look at God’s oath He swore to save all men.
Every Knee Will Bow and Every Tongue Confess
(Phil.2; Isa. 45)
by Luke Kessler
So far we have seen that it is God’s plan and intention to save all men; and in the last blog we saw that there are Scriptures that prophecy about God actually accomplishing this glorious plan of His! In this blog we are going to look at THE most blatant and clear Scripture in the Bible concerning the salvation of all mankind. It’s actually found twice in Scripture, once in the Old Testament and then quoted again in the New. I will start with Paul’s quote in Philippians,
“…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)
Despite the clarity of what is being prophesied here, there is still some confusion concerning its actual meaning. This is mostly due to the fact it is not crossed examined with the Old Testament verse that it originates from, as well as failing to connect it to certain other scriptures concerning “confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.” When one examines this verse in relation to both of these things an amazing picture begins to take form.
But before we start getting into that, lets do a quick recap.
In the previous 2 blogs we saw how Scripture reveals that #1 – it is God’s will, intention and plan to save all men and #2 – that Scripture prophesies that all mankind will be made alive in Christ even as all mankind died in Adam. We know that Christ Himself declared that “the Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and it is recorded 5 times in the Gospels that “heaven and earth will not pass away until every jot and tittle of Scripture (every Word of God) is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18, 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 16:17, 21:32). Therefore we can be confident that God will accomplish this great plan of His to reconcile and save all mankind.
But God doesn’t stop there, He wants to make absolutely sure that we don’t miss what He is saying. So even though His direct Word on a subject ought to be enough for us to believe, God yet knows that we are extremely opinionated creatures and impossibly stubborn (not to mention a little bit blind). Therefore God, in His infinite humility and mercy, chooses to further bind Himself to an oath in order to give us more confidence in trusting that – what He says He will do – HE WILL ACTUALLY DO!
So as you can probably guess, the verse in question that we are looking at in this blog involves a vow that God took (an oath He swore) to save all mankind! Seems drastic for God to have to do something like that, I know, but He has to get it through our hardened hearts somehow! Here is the verse in the Old Testament that Paul was quoting above,
“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22-23)
What an incredible statement! This comes on the heels of a chapter that is replete with statements about God being the one and only God, the creator of heaven and earth, the only One who is sovereign over all of creation. And then He declares that all the ends of the earth will turn to Him and be saved! That phrase “turn” means “to repent.” So all the ends of the earth will repent and return to God and be saved, just as we have seen, is indeed, His intention. So after making this amazing declaration, God THEN swears by Himself that this will be accomplished!
Principles of Swearing an Oath/Making a Vow
In order to truly understand the weight of this statement we need to understand exactly what Scripture has to say about making vows, or swearing an oath, especially as it pertains to God swearing an oath.
“For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by 2 unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:17)
It says here that if a man promises to do something, that an oath is all he needs to prove, to the one he makes the promise to, that he will actually make good on his promise. The difference between God and man is that God cannot and will not lie; God doesn’t need to promise anything. If God says it, then its going to happen. He is not afflicted with our fallen nature, He doesn’t suffer from the character flaws that mankind does. He therefore doesn’t need to promise us that He will do what He says. And yet, mystery of mysteries, He does! God subjects Himself to man’s standards in order to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we CAN trust Him! It reveals such a humility and mercy and love about God that it boggles the mind!
Paul declares here in the book of Hebrews that when humans make a vow/promise (swear an oath) that they swear by someone greater than themselves – usually God. Kind of like how when we want to convince someone that we are telling the truth we say, “I swear to God!” In the Hebrew culture they would say, “As the Lord lives…” It is how they bind themselves to fulfill a promise/vow.
“And although they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ surely they swear falsely.” (Jeremiah 5:2)
“Though you, Israel, play the harlot, do not let Judah become guilty; also do not go to Gilgal, or go up to Beth-aven and take the oath: ‘As the LORD lives!’” (Hosea 4:15)
There are literally dozens of examples of this phrase being used to swear oaths in the Old Testament. We don’t have the time or space to look at them all, but one could very easily look them up if they were so inclined. I can however give you a couple of examples for clarities sake. One instance is when Boaz had promised Ruth that he would redeem her: Boaz used this phrase saying, “As the Lord lives, I will redeem you.” (Ruth 3:13) Also, when King Saul’s son Jonathan was guilty of breaking a foolish rule that Saul himself had previously made, Saul makes a vow to spare Jonathan saying, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” (1 Samuel 19:6).
So men swear by God b/c He is greater than them, and so bind themselves to fulfill their vow. But since God has no one greater than Himself to swear by He must swear by Himself. That is why Paul says in Hebrews,
“since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.” (Hebrews 6:13)
All this is further compounded when you consider God’s Law concerning vows,
“If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:2)
“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you.” (Deuteronomy 23:21)
“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vowthan that you should vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4,5)
According to God’s own standard, as He has revealed in His Law, if He does not fulfill His vow it would be a sin in Him. The Bible says that in Him there is no sin (1 John 3:5) so He MUST fulfill His vow. And by His Law he MUST “do according to all that proceeds out of His mouth.” We could almost say that by 3 things God is obligated to fulfill His promises: 1 – the fact that He spoke it means that He will do it b/c He cannot lie, 2 – that when He makes a promise He is swearing an oath and therefore must accomplish His Word, 3 – that He is bound by His own Law to fulfill any oaths/vows He makes. We could also give a 4th reason being that b/c it is recorded in Scripture it must also surely come to pass.
So we see that Scripture declares that when God swears an oath, makes a promise or vows to do something, etc.. that we have 4 solid pillars upon which to rest our faith. 4 firm bedrocks upon which to trust that God will do what He says. 4 things in which it is impossible to be deceived by! It seems like God really wants us to get it when He swears an oath! One of the most wonderful studies in all of the Bible is looking at the few things that God has sworn an oath about! We will be looking at a few of them later on in this series b/c they almost all involve Universal Reconciliation, but for now we are just focusing on the one.
Every Tongue Will Swear Allegiance
Having seen all that concerns swearing an oath, lets look at those verses in Isaiah one more time,
“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22-23)
So here we actually have two oaths being sworn. One by God and one by man. The oath sworn by man is one of allegiance to God, but greater than this is God’s oath that He will be the One who brings this about. This is highly reminiscent of the New Covenant, where God promises that HE WILL change our heart, He will cause us to obey, He will cause us to fear Him, and He will make us love Him with our whole heart (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:38-40; Hebrews 10:15-17; Ezekiel 11:19-20). The New Covenant is pretty amazing! But more on that in a later blog.
Here God has sworn that every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to Him. This isn’t just saying that people will pay lip service to Him before they are cast into hell. No! This is saying that they will swear allegiance, they will take an oath to align themselves with Him and Him only. Allegiance means to be on someone’s side. These people, all people, will eventually come over to God’s side and serve Him and Him only. They will acknowledge Him as their Lord by bowing their knee, and they will promise to serve Him alone by swearing their allegiance to Him with their own tongues!
Even though the New Testament translates the Hebrew “swear allegiance” as “confess” the word still means the same. Louw and Nida Lexicon has this to say about this word “confess,”
“It is often extremely difficult, if not impossible, to translate ὁμολογέωa, ὁμολογία, and ἐξομολογέομαιa by the usual expression for ‘confess,’ since this would usually imply that one has done something wrong. It is [p. 420] normally necessary, therefore, to employ quite a different type of relationship, usually involving a public utterance and an expression of confidence or allegiance. For example, in Mt 10:32 it may be necessary to translate ‘whoever tells people publicly that he is loyal to me, I will tell my Father that I am loyal to that person.’”
To confess Jesus Christ as Lord is to publicly declare your loyalty to Him! This certainly gives us a very different concept than people uttering words in spite.
Now lets take a look again at this verse as Paul quotes it in the New Testament.
“so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)
Paul obviously expands what Isaiah declares in order to make is absolutely certain that we grasp what is being said here. Paul defines what exactly “every knee” means. He says that it applies to 1 – everyone who is in heaven, 2 – everyone who is on earth and 3 – everyone who is under the earth. That really doesn’t leave much wiggle room! When he refers to those who are in heaven he means the angels, the principalities and powers, the spiritual forces of wickedness. When he refers to those on earth he is referring to those of who are alive. And when he refers to those under the earth he is referring to those who have previously died and are buried in the grave (a.k.a under the earth).
Confessing Jesus as Lord
We have now seen the context in which this verse originates, which ought to be enough to establish its veracity. But for the sake of argument lets take a look at the second aspect of this verse that is often overlooked – what Scripture has revealed elsewhere about “confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.” Most people, I admit, agree that every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord. However, what many fail to realize is that Scripture also declares that,
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord…you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
This is the Scriptural context with which we ought to read the verses in question. This is how all the ends of the earth will be saved, by confessing Jesus as Lord. And the Bible does not give a deadline for this as so many believe. Instead it says,
“All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
What’s even more interesting is the fact that Scripture also says,
“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Are you hearing what the Spirit is saying?!!! I get flabbergasted when I contemplate this! Aside from all the evidence we have looked at in the previous blogs in the previous 3 series (41 in total) which give a solid foundation for Biblical Universal Reconciliation, these few verses we are looking at in this single blog ought to be enough to convince us that All Mankind will be saved!
Lets just highlight what we’re looking at here; #1 – no one can confess Jesus as Lord except by the Spirit; #2 – if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord you will be saved; #3 – God has sworn that Every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as their Lord (and swear allegiance to Him). It seems that all men will turn to God (repent) receive the Holy Spirit and confess Jesus as Lord and be saved and serve Him and His Kingdom alone! Sounds a lot like a conversion experience to me.
All To the Glory of God the Father
The last thing that I want to point out is that when all people confess Jesus as their Lord it will be “to the glory of God the Father.” In other words, it will bring Him glory. I have heard some people speculate that people will be forced by angels to confess Jesus as Lord against their will, spitting the words out in spite and bitterness before they are hauled off cursing and fighting to be thrown into the never ending furnace of hell. I have also heard some people speculate that the great mass of humanity will confess Jesus as Lord in a sort of state of shock as they finally realize that they were wrong their whole lives after which they are then carted off in silent horror to burn forever in unimaginable agony; as it heart wrenching-ly dawns upon them the unimaginable ramifications of rejecting God during their earthly life.
Neither of those scenarios sound very “glorifying” to God. You see, when someone has an enemy, he does not get glory by overpowering his enemy. Nobody has ever truly praised strength, because power violates, it can take what it wants and therefore has nothing worthy of worshiping. People want to be on the side of power, for sure, but it doesn’t inspire praise, it inspires fear. Wisdom and love, however, are praised. So when an enemy is won over by love such that the enemy is no longer an enemy but a friend; when an enemy is converted by love into being a friend, then the humility and love by which the enemy was won over is praised. When you cause your enemy to repent and come over to your side without the use of force, it inspires admiration. God is glorified by making his enemies into His friends! He loves them to death and they end up agreeing with Him and coming over to His side.
This is exactly the sense of what God’s statement means about “every tongue swearing allegiance.” He converts His enemies into friends by His wisdom and love! THAT is how every tongue confessing Jesus as Lord will bring God glory.
There is another section of Scripture very much related to what we have looked at here that deals specifically with God being glorified in the end, and ‘coincidentally enough’ (wink) it has to do not only with Him swearing another oath but it also involves “all the earth.” But that must wait for another blog.
Due to the weakness of our flesh and the slowness of our hearts to believe all that God has spoken in His Word, God swears an oath that He will save all mankind. He does this to convince us of His heart and intention. We therefore can take much comfort and stand in confidence that Universal Reconciliation is a well founded and established Biblical truth.
In the next blog we will look at the timing of all of this; for I am sure anyone reading this would be asking themselves at this point, “If God is going to save everybody, why hasn’t He done it already? What is the point of believing in God in this life and/or evangelising?”
by Luke Kessler
What we have looked at in the previous 3 blogs concerning Universal Reconciliation as it is revealed in Scripture is quite a power house of support. We still have a massive number of other verses to look at that directly bear on this subject of U.R. But instead of continuing to work our way through them (which we will continue to do after this blog) I thought it would be prudent to address an issue that might be beginning to form in your mind.
“If God has promised to save everyone, why do we only see a small fraction of the world being saved?”
The answer to that, is timing. God’s timing to be precise. He has always had a weird sense of timing things, as I’m sure every Christian can attest to from their own personal experience. His timing is strange to us b/c we do not understand His ways. Paul, at the climax of his theological treatise to the Romans, before he settles down into encouragement concerning practical matters, finishes his comprehensive discourse with the exclamation,
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33)
God’s ways, it appears, are past finding out.
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8,9)
I wish His timing was more easy to discern. But for those of us who aren’t blessed with such a gift we simply have to trust that He knows what He is doing. I don’t presume to know why His timing is what it is, but I do hope to share with you what His timing is, at least as I have come to understand it.
To begin, Peter, shortly after that great day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out in power upon the disciples, was on his way to the temple to pray where he encounters a beggar who is lame. The beggar asks for money, but Peter gives him something better – healing. This miracle draws so much attention that Peter begins to preach to the crowd, telling them about Jesus by Whom the beggar was healed. In that sermon Peter makes a curious statement saying,
“that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period (chronos) of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Acts 3:20,21)
Notice that Peter says that Jesus has to wait in heaven UNTIL a certain time period; and this timing He is waiting for will begin the time of the restoration of all things. This obviously concerns what we have been looking at – Universal Reconciliation where all people will be restored. Scripture uses a plethora of language to describe UR, restoration being the emphasis here in this specific verse.
The word “period” used here is the Greek word Chronos and it literally means “time.” In fact it is normally translated as “time” and in the NASB is only translated as “period” a mere 2 times. The Louw and Nida Lexicon defines it as, “an indefinite period of time.” In other words it means a season. So the Holy Spirit is conveying to us that that there is a season of waiting that will last until Jesus returns, at which point there will begin a new season where all things will begin to be restored! That to me sounds extremely exciting!
One last thing I want to point out concerning this verse is that Peter declares that this “restoration of all things” has been declared by God through His prophets since ancient time! The phrase “ancient time” is literally the phrase, “a long age.” It is referring to a the previous age, the Jewish age, or the age of Law. And yet Peter is telling us that God spoke through all the Old Testament prophets and writings concerning how He would restore all things! That is an incredible statement! The New Testament is very clear on this issue, however it is somewhat obscure in the Old Testament. It is veiled. It is very similar to what Jesus said about how the Old Testament spoke about His death and resurrection.
“And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27)
I don’t know about you, but it was very difficult for me to find even a few references in the Old Testament that declared that Christ must suffer and die and be raised from the dead! At least until my eyes were opened and I began to discern types and shadows. For most everything in the Old Testament is a “type and shadow” of things to come (see Hebrews 10:1 and Colossians 2:17). God spoke about a lot of prophetic issues in the O.T., but its hidden behind a veil of types and shadows – aka symbols.
I cannot pursue this further at this time, but suffice it to say that this “restoration of all things” is found in all God’s prophets in the Old Testament as Peter says here in Acts. This is an amazing detail that has been unfortunately overlooked. We will be looking at some of those Old Testament references in later blogs; for now we need to get back to the issue of the “timing” of all of this.
Each In His Own Squadron
Connected to Peter’s statement about the “period (season) of the restoration of all things” there is a statement in 1 Corinthians 15 that we have already examined in some detail previously (see my blog here). Part of this statement concerns timing. The Apostle Paul is giving a very short discourse to the Corinthians on the Redemption of All Things and he says near the beginning that,
“As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive, but each in his own order.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
The word “order” used there is the Greek word Tagma (Strong’s Greek 5001) and it means “that which has been arranged in order, specifically a division, rank.” It is also defined as “a series, a succession.” It is the word used to describe a specific division or squadron of troops, with the implication that there are multiple squadrons that come in a succession; which implies a specific order. So what Paul is saying here is that all who died in Adam (which was everybody) will be made alive in Christ, but not all together, nor at the same time. They will all be made alive in Christ in a certain order; according to the squadron that they belong to. “Each in his own squadron.” The implication is that some will be part of a group that is first in line and others will be part of groups that are arranged to arrive after or later.
In fact, the very next verse in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that after this, “then comes the end.” When the last squadron of souls are made alive in Christ “then comes the end” where finally “God is all in all!” (see the whole section from 1 Corinthians 15:20-28)
So what might that order be? I will have to defer that question until the next blog, where we will look at the 3 feast days of Israel, which concern 3 harvests; each of which is a prophetic “shadow” of the 3 harvests of souls that God will bring into His kingdom.
The Fullness of Time
Years ago, before I ever had even heard of the idea that God might save everybody, I began to struggle with the unimaginable gravity of hell (you can read about it here). It was so dark and heavy that I finally got to the point where I could not bear it anymore. I told God that I needed Him to help me bear it somehow. I cannot remember exactly how long it was after I asked God for relief, but one day, out of the blue God spoke to me and said, “Don’t worry Luke, ‘All Things will be summed up in Christ!‘”
The phrase, “all things will be summed up in Christ” is from the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. At the time, I did not have the slightest clue as to what it meant, but it brought a supernatural peace to my heart and lifted my awful burden. I had SOO much peace in fact that I began to wonder what on earth God could possibly mean by it? All I was able to glean was that it meant something good. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand exactly what God meant by that. It’s significance directly concerns the timing that we are looking at in this blog.
To set it up, let me just say that Ephesians chapter 1 is one of the richest chapters in the entire Bible…and that is an understatement! It’s so deep and heavenly that I can’t even begin to touch it in a small article like this. One could teach an entire semester’s class just on this one chapter! If you want to know what I’m talking about, just read Ephesians 1 and see for yourself. Anyways, I only want to highlight verses 9 and 10.
“[God has] made known to us the mystery of His will…with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. (Ephesians 1:9,10 – NASB)
What exactly does it mean for all things to be summed up in Christ? The New King James Version words it a little more clearly,
“[God has] made known unto us the mystery of His will…which is that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He would gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.”
Lets break that down; first of all Paul is saying that God has finally revealed His will, which has remained a mystery until this point. This ought to excite us, we are finally, and unequivocally going to see what God’s will is! At the time in history that this was written, it was extremely exciting. God was beginning something new; it was the dawn of a whole new era. Mysteries which had been hidden beforehand were being revealed. It was a very exciting, albeit dangerous time. But what exactly was/is this great mystery that has now been revealed?
Paul gives us the answer, but the first part is slightly confusing, at least for those of us who do not think from a Hebrew mindset. He refers to, “the dispensation of the fullness of times…” Or as the NASB puts it, “an administration.” A dispensation is simply an older term that refers to a structured system during a certain time period – a.k.a an administration. Kind of like how we would refer to the “Clinton administration,” or the “Bush administration.” It’s a set time period where a certain system of structure is in place. And this administration that Paul is referring to concerns the “fullness of times,” or it belongs to/pertains to the fullness of times. That basically means the end point, the goal, the culmination of all of the ages (history/time). When the purpose of history will be completed. The plan that God has ordained for the very end. It’s the final administration that ushers in the completion of God’s Kingdom!
So what kind of administration is God going to implement? Well Paul continues saying that God will, “gather together IN ONE all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth!” Paul is saying that God has finally revealed His plan to us concerning the end of time and His plan is to bring all things together into unity with and in Christ!! This includes things which are in heaven and things which are on earth. This is almost the exact imagery we saw above concerning 1 Corinthians 15.
There is one more detail involved here in Ephesians chapter 1, namely in verse 12, where Paul mentions “we who are first to hope in Christ.” Having just mentioned how all things would be gathered together in one in Christ, he declares that we who are “first” to be gathered to Him will result in a special praise and glorifying of God. A “first” implies that there will be more groups that will arrive later on and fits in with the context of what Paul is saying here about God’s various administrations. Much like the various “squadrons” Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15.
This is a very fascinating aspect, which I would like to get into as it relates to everything we have touched on so far, but I will have to defer it until the next blog due to the amount of details it involves. Getting back to the subject at hand.
Timing and Universal Reconciliation
Peter declared that there would be a “period” where “the Restoration of all things” begins, namely at the return of Christ. Paul declared that “all men would be made alive in Christ, but each in his own squadron,” after which “then comes the end…where God is all in all.” Paul also declared that God has finally revealed His will which was previously a mystery – namely that “at the fullness of time God will gather together in one all things in Christ.”
Did you happen to notice that each of these references concerning the “timing” of God as it concerns His end goal, each directly and specifically also address the issue of the salvation of all men? That is His end goal. God is just going to do it in different waves, or stages. A remnant is being saved presently while Christ is waiting in heaven, and when Christ finally returns He will begin the season of restoring everything else. So that at the end all will be one in Christ and God will be all in all.
God truly is brilliant, and He likes happy endings (wink). And there truly couldn’t be a happier ending than this. This, however, begs a further question…why do most Christians not understand this? Paul gives us the answer in 1 Timothy.
A Testimony Reserved For The Proper Timing
In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul gives us his declaration concerning God’s will/plan/intention to save all men. Paul then qualifies this statement by saying that this, “testimony will be given at the proper season.” (vs. 6) In other words the witness of God’s plan to save all men, though we just saw that it is a mystery and that has been hidden in past ages but has now been revealed, is actually, paradoxically, still being hidden until the proper season.
The reason it is “revealed” is because we have dozens upon dozens of clear statements in the New Testament directly addressing this truth. However, this truth still remains “veiled” because God’s people don’t have the eyes to see it…yet. Its a sort of paradox. Though it is clear and plain and open for all to see in God’s revealed Word, there yet remains a veil on His children that blinds them from recognizing it.
“But their minds were hardened for until this very day at the reading of the Old Covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2 Corinthians 3:14-16)
It is much like Christ, when He came He was a direct revelation of God and yet God’s own people were blinded from recognizing Him. Even Christ’s disciples after His resurrection didn’t recognize Him even when He was explaining the Scriptures to them! (see Luke 24) And Christ is the Word (John 1:1-4). The Word is an incarnation, it is God given to us through a physical form. Therefore what applies to Christ, applies to the Word. Christ’s own disciples did not understand Him, and Christ’s disciples still do not understand all that He has spoken to us through His Word.
Getting back to 1 Timothy, Paul declares that this testimony, or witness of God’s plan to save all men is reserved for a certain season. Lets take a closer look.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men…This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
Lets look at exactly what Paul is communicating here.
First off notice that Paul strongly urges that “entreaties, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men.” Paul then declares that this action of praying for all men is “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” And that the reason that God is so pleased with us praying for all men is because He Himself “will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth!”
It delights God because you are agreeing with His plan and purposes! You are acknowledging that His ways are good. One of the hardest things for us to do is to “love our enemies and pray for those who treat us wrong.” (Matthew 5:44). So when we offer up prayers for all men, especially those who have treated us badly, we are denying our selfish nature that wants to see those people punished. We are exercising forgiveness even when we have the legal right to press charges for justice. Just as Christ did when He was being crucified and He said,
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
And it is this that God will do when it comes to the ultimate reconciliation of all men. He will forgive their trespasses and conform them unto His image (through the refining fire of the cross). So when we agree with Him in His purpose (will) for all of creation, that they will be saved and reconciled and restored, we are denying our old man’s natural tendency to harbour unforgiveness. It is in effect saying, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)
And that is exactly what Christ did when He yielded up His will to the Father and died on the cross, redeeming humanity; and praying for their forgiveness. That is exactly why Paul concludes his little statement in 1 Timothy by reminding us that Christ “gave Himself a Ransom for all.”
But, as we saw this testimony/witness is being reserved (hidden) for the proper season. I believe that season will be at or near the Return of Christ as Peter mentioned, when the “period of the restoration of all things” begins. I believe we are getting nearer in our day, b/c Universal Reconciliation is beginning to gain a much wider audience than it ever has in the past (at least since Augustine).
Christians who believe in Universal Reconciliation are misunderstood and somewhat ostracised. Their view is largely discredited b/c there yet remains a veil over the eyes of God’s people. But this is all part of God’s plan. Soon, very soon God will begin to open all of His children’s eyes to see the glorious truth concerning His heart and will for all His fallen creatures. May God hasten that day!
In the next blog we will explore the 3 harvests, or in-gatherings prophesied in Scripture that concern people being ushered into God’s kingdom!
The First, Firstborn, Firstfruits, Tithe
by Luke Kessler
In the last blog we noticed several texts regarding God’s Timing as it pertains to the Restoration of All Things. This answered the question concerning why, if it God is going to save everyone, do we not see everyone saved yet? The answer was God is going to do it in multiple stages. In this blog we will look more specifically at those stages in order to give us a clearer picture of how and why God is working it out in this way.
We will start with a statement Paul made just after his declaration that at “the fullness of times” God would “gather together in one all things in Christ,” which we looked at in the previous blog. Paul, having mentioned an administration where all things are finally brought together in Christ (vs. 9,10), proceeds here in Ephesians saying,
“In [Christ] we also have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the council of His will, to the end that we who are the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:11,12)
First to Hope in Christ
Aside from the painfully obvious, and shameless, declaration of God’s Sovereignty over all (an issue that concerns free will), a very controversial topic which I will avoid for now, Paul makes a point concerning “we who are the first to hope in Christ.” After what we saw in the previous blog, it becomes clear here what Paul is referencing. He is mentioning that those of us who are chosen to be part of that “first squadron” will be part of bringing praise and glory to God.
Paul is NOT saying that for some odd reason the first century believers will bring more glory to God than the rest of us believers who lived later on in history. Nor is Paul saying that the first century believers will somehow stand out among the rest of us.
Obviously the Apostles will have a much greater honor than most Christians, for they are part of the foundation stones (Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone) of the spiritual temple that God is building (see Ephesians 2:19-22). But the rest of the believers are all equal living stones which together make up this temple, each one of us being a crucial part of God’s house (see 1 Peter 2:4-8).
The temptation is to read this as referring to first century believers. But Paul is really referencing those of us who become part of God’s temple in this life. This is confirmed by the context shortly following this when Paul declares that God saved us and raised us up in order that,
“…in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Who is He going to show? Certainly not us, we will already be aware of it, for we will be the ones who were beneficiaries of and partakers of His grace and kindness. Those whom we will demonstrate the glory of His grace and kindness to will be all those who did not believe in this life.
Those of us this side of death who make up “Abraham’s seed” will eventually become a “blessing to all peoples.” So when Paul says, “we who were the first to hope in Christ,” he is referring to those of us who are part of that first harvest of souls who make up the forefront “squadron” that are “made alive in Christ” (as we saw in the previous blog where we looked at 1 Corinthians 15). Paul is saying that in God’s plan to ultimately “gather together all things in one in Christ” (vs. 10), we who are part of that “first” (vs. 12) ingathering (a term for harvest) will bring Him a special glory. All Christians in this life are part of that group who are “first to hope in Christ.”
This confirms that there will be more groups to hope in Christ! A first implies more to come. Even as Scripture mentions that Christ is the “first born out of death.” (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5) It implies and promises that more will be raised from the dead as Christ was. Christ was also the “firstborn of all creation,” (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:6) as well as the “firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29).
Christ is the firstborn among many brethren because being the firstborn implies that there will be more to come. He is the firstborn of those of us who are part of His body, His brethren. But He is not the only firstborn…we also happen to be considered a firstborn!
“We have come…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,” (Hebrews 12:23)
Christ is the firstborn of the Church and those of us who make up the Church are the firstborn of all the rest of humanity.
Not only is Christ referred to as the “first born” but He is similarly referred to as the “first fruits.” These two terms (first fruits and first born) are almost synonymous. Though they are different pictures, they are giving us multiple viewpoints of the same scene and thus provide us with extra details to paint a clearer over all picture. Just as the term “firstborn”was used to describe Christ in relation to the dead and being raised from the dead, so also is the term “first fruits” used as such a description.
“Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
The term first fruits is a very large theme in Scripture (see Nehemiah 10:35; Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 2:12, 23:10; Deuteronomy 18:4; Ezekiel 44:30, etc…). It concerns the 3 harvests that we mentioned earlier. Each Feast of Israel corresponded to a specific food harvest that was gathered at different seasons. Barley was gathered at Passover, Wheat at Pentecost and Grapes at Tabernacles. At each of these harvests the first ripe fruit was offered to the Lord as a gift (Exodus 34:26; Numbers 13:20, 18:12); in turn the Lord would bless the rest of the harvest. The first fruits sanctified the corresponding harvest.
When Scripture refers to Christ as a first fruits, it is teaching us that He was offered to God to sanctify the coming ingathering or harvest.
If the first fruits is holy, the lump (harvest) is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. (Romans 11:16)
Those of us who believe in this life are the ingathering of which Christ is the first fruits.
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
(That verse is not exactly saying what it looks like on the surface, we will be looking at it in greater detail in the next blog).
Christ is the first fruits of those of us who believe in this life. But it doesn’t stop there. Just as with the firstborn, not only is Christ the first fruits of us, but we are the first fruits of the rest!
“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you as first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” (James 1:18)
“These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4)
The first fruits always imply a future ingathering, a coming harvest that far exceeds the first fruits. For instance, Scripture uses this term in reference to God giving us His Spirit,
“…we ourselves, have the first fruits of the Spirit,” (Romans 8:23)
But Scripture also uses another term to describe this very thing,
“…you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance,” (Ephesians 1:13,14)
“He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 1:21,22, see also 5:5)
Sometimes this “pledge” is translated as “an earnest” or “a downpayment” depending upon your translation. The Greek word for “pledge” is Arrabon and the Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines it as,
“A pledge, i.e. part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest: — earnest.”
The Louw and Nida Lexicon defines it as,
“The first or initial payment of money or assets, as a guarantee for the completion of a transaction.”
The term “pledge” and “first fruits” are synonymous. And they only ever refer to a portion, not the fullness. We are only given a “portion” of the Holy Spirit in this life, a down payment, a small pledge of the fullness of the Spirit that is to come. One day we will have the fullness of the Spirit as Jesus had (John 3:34), but for now we only have a small portion. But if we have a small portion now, it is to assure us (as in a promise) that we will have a much larger portion, i.e. the rest, the fullness, later.
The first fruits, therefore, are a pledge of a much larger harvest to come.
The first fruits were usually a tithe, a tenth of the harvest (2 Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:37, 12:44). The law of tithing in the Old Testament always concerned food (Leviticus 27:30). God asked for the first tenth of any harvest or animal herd to be devoted to Him (Deuteronomy 14:22). In this way the rest of the harvest was sanctified and blessed. The tenth was a token that God owned it all but that He wants to share it with us, to bless us, b/c His heart is to generously provide for us. So the tithe gave God the respect and gratitude that He deserves for providing such a bountiful harvest.
This tithe was the first fruits. We are the first fruits of all creation! We are the tithe! The first 10% to be harvested, we are the portion that is devoted to God to sanctify the rest! It is no small coincidence to notice that Christianity makes up right around 10% of earth’s population. This is what Paul was picturing when he mentioned that we are the “first to hope in Christ.”
The vernacular used by Paul as well as many various picture metaphors used in the New Testament teach that those who are “being saved” in this life are but one group of many. Those of us who are conformed unto Christ in this age are the first to be harvested with the promise that there will be a much larger harvest and/or more harvests to come. We are a tenth, a downpayment, the first fruits and the firstborn of those to come. We are that “seed of Abraham that will be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.”
In the next blog we will look more closely at the 3 harvests that Scripture details in order to give us a better picture of how God is working this salvation of all men out in history.
3 Harvests (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles)
by Luke Kessler
3 Harvests of Souls
We have already seen multiple times how the Law is “a type and shadow of good things to come.” Within the Law there are details concerning 3 specific harvests, which I mentioned in the previous blogs. Paul even references the festivals associated with these harvests as “shadows of what is to come,” adding that the substance of those shadows was Christ (Colossians 2:16,17).
These harvests are prophetic of certain groups of souls that will be harvested by the Gospel. Amazingly, the Bible uses this imagery quite prolifically. These harvests are symbols of various souls being ushered into the Kingdom.
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”(Matthew 9:36,37)
“And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” (Revelation 14:15)
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?’Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)
Each of these verses specifically connect our earthly harvests of – fruit/grain/vegetables being gathered into the community – to in-gatherings of souls into the Kingdom. Jesus also gives us many more teachings that involved seeds and harvests as representing people in His parables. He also gave His disciples the keys to interpret those parables saying,
“And His disciples came to Him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ And He said, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.‘” (Matthew 13:36-39)
There are many other verses in the New Testament where this imagery is used. I need not point them all out, if you desire to read them all they would be found easily enough with a concordance. What I have presented so far gives us a pretty clear view that a harvest speaks prophetically of people. Therefore the type and shadow of the 3 harvests detailed in the Law concern 3 different harvests of people being brought into the Kingdom.
Each harvest involved a different food. The feast of Passover concerned the harvest of Barley; the feast of Pentecost involved the harvest of Wheat; and the feast of Tabernacles deals with the harvest of grapes. These harvests each represent a different group of people being gathered into God’s Kingdom. I believe that these three groups are referenced in a verse that we have looked at now from several different perspectives; but lets look at it one more time, this time with a focus on the three harvests of souls,
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order (squadron/harvest): Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet…When all things are subjected to Him, then…God will be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)
The three harvests (or squadrons) mentioned above might not seem as clear cut on the surface so let me explain. Firstly, when it refers to the first “squadron” it says, “Christ the first fruits;” but what we don’t realize is that Christ means “anointed.” For Christ was the “Anointed one;” which is what the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ meant. Christ is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. The word for Christ is many times in the New Testament translated simply as “anointed.” When the word for Christ is used in the reference above it is in the nominative case, which means it ought to be translated “the anointed.” It literally should read,
“But each in his own order (squadron/harvest): the anointed first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end,”
The Anointed First Fruits
Every other time the word “Christ” is found in those verses it is in the genitive case, and is properly referring to the person of Jesus Christ. But here it is used in connection with “First fruits” and signifies that the first fruits were ‘anointed.’
Without understanding this, it would almost seem as if Christ is a group or “squadron/harvest” all by Himself. While He certainly is a category unto Himself, being the very first who rose from the dead (as Paul had just mentioned previously), the connection here to “squadrons” would seem confusing if it applies to Christ alone. Furthermore the context precludes this, for Paul is declaring that all of humanity is dead b/c of Adam’s sin but that they likewise will all be made alive through Christ’s work of redemption – Christ of course being excluded from this list. Christ neither had Adam’s old fallen nature of sin (though He did have our fleshly body and did take our sin and curse upon Himself), nor did He need to be redeemed from that fallen nature and curse. It would be absurd to think that Christ needed redemption from Adam’s curse and therefore became the first squadron/harvest of fallen souls to be made alive in Himself (!??!).
The context and Greek grammar both relate that the first group is a “specially anointed” group referred to in many other places in Scripture as “the first fruits.”
Those Who Are Alive At His Coming
So then the second group is referred to as “those who are Christ’s at His Coming.” At first glance that would almost seem to be a redundancy? Aren’t the “anointed first fruits” that body of believers known as the Church? Certainly Scripture refers to us as the first fruits, so why would God’s people be divided into two groups? The answer to this could fill a volume all on its own, and we have neither the time nor the space to get in depth about it. But I can point this out, within Scripture and within the history of the Old Testament there is much reference to a “remnant.” A group within this main body of God’s people who seem to stand out amongst the others in their dedication and devotion and obedience to God. The New Testament refers to them as “overcomers.”
Within all of Israel were the Levites, who were especially and solely concerned about the things of God. Within Christ’s own disciples there was an inner circle who saw and heard things that none of the others saw. Within the Law there are more stringent rules and special provisions for leadership in contrast to those for the lay person. Paul himself seemed to indicate that all would finish the race, but only a few would “win” (the crown) and therefore he seemed far more willing to pay more of a cost than others in order to gain that reward. There are rulers in a Kingdom and there are citizens.
There are many many more such examples and clues that indicate a group within the main body of Christ that are given special privileges, who at the same time have a lot more required of them than the normal believer. It is my position that the first group to be made alive (resurrected into the glorified and perfected life of Christ) will be that remnant and that, “those who are Christ’s at His Coming” will be the second group to be made alive (resurrected into Christ’s perfect glorified image). I understand that this brings with it a host of other questions, but I am going to pass over dealing with such for now.
Then Comes The End
The next thing we tend to miss is that the third harvest falls under the category concerning, “then comes the end.” It doesn’t sound too much like a category, I agree, but it must be connected with the context of what follows; namely the “placing of all His enemies under His feet,” and “all things being subjected to Him.” We looked at putting His enemies under His feet in much more detail in a previous blog so we do not need to unpack that except to say that it refers to the last harvest of souls that will be converted into Christ’s footstool which is His Temple (His Body, where He dwells/finds rest)
That is why Paul wraps it all up with the declaration that “God will be all in all.” The last harvest concerns the enemies of Christ being harvested and processed until they are fully a part of His kingdom. So when it says, “then comes the end” it is referring to that last in-gathering of souls and the process by which that last group (who are Christ’s enemies) are brought into subjection to Him.
Therefore we see 3 harvests; 1 – the anointed first fruits (remnant within God’s people), 2 – those who are Christ’s at His coming (the main body of believers), 3 – the enemies who will become His servants and bring about the end (conclusion of God’s plan in history). Now lets look at those three groups as they connect to the 3 harvests.
#1 – The Passover/Barley Harvest refers to the anointed first fruits, the Remnant (for Passover speaks of Christ’s death on the cross, and the Remnant is obedient unto death and are daily being changed more and more into Christ’s image as they take up their cross daily). Scripture says that Christ is our Passover, and that He was unleavened (leaven refers to sin) and that we ought to be unleavened as He was (See 1 Corinthians 5:7). The remnant have a special anointing/calling that requires much more from them than God requires from the rest of His people.
#2 – The Pentecost/Wheat Harvest refers to the Church at large for the Church began on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1). Unfortunately many within the Church are yet rebellious, as children naturally tend to be rebellious. This is because unlike Passover, the Feast of Pentecost was to be “leavened.” This is a type and shadow that is prophetic of the sin that is within the Church. It is part of all of us, and it will be “baked with fire” in order to remove it from us (Leviticus 23:15-27 – the 50 days they were to count refers to Pentecost, which means “50”).
The Tabernacles/Grape harvest refers to the enemies of Christ, all those who refused Him in this life and lived according to their own lusts and the depravity of the world.
Processing Each Harvest
On top of this each harvest had a specific procedure by which it was processed and refined.
The Barley needed only to be thrown into the air where the wind stripped it of its outer shell, its husk. This is prophetic of that first company, the Remnant, who only need the moving of the Spirit (wind) to have their flesh (outer man) stripped away. (The word for “Spirit” in both Hebrew and Greek is also the word used for “wind,” and Jesus even uses wind as an illustration of the moving of the Spirit.)
The Wheat needed to be beaten or threshed in order to have its outer shell removed. This is prophetic of the second company, who even though they are followers of God are yet stubborn and somewhat more selfish than the Remnant, refusing to give up their own will and ways and life. Such souls will need discipline and spankings in order to die to their old man.
The Grapes were crushed under foot. This is prophetic of the final company of souls, the enemies of Christ, who need to be trampled under His feet in order to have their carnal mind and heart broken and removed. They will receive the fiercest processing. This is how Christ will “put all His enemies under His feet.” Which is the context for that last squadron/harvest who brings about “the end” as we noted above (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
It is no coincidence that this is the same imagery of crushing grapes; a crushing which produces wine that will ultimately cheer the heart of God and man (Judges 9:13). The crushing of grapes is awful to be sure, but it will ultimately produce a lasting fruit.
“’Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was troddenoutside the city,” (Revelation 14:8-20)
“From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)
There are, actually, quite a lot of fascinating and amazing details related to these 3 harvests of souls; unfortunately we don’t have the time or space in this blog to pursue them all. However, one can easily do a word search to discover all the instances that Barley, Wheat, or Grapes are mentioned in Scripture. Each reference being a “type and shadow” that gives us further clues concerning the details about each harvest of people. Here is a link to two booklets that might help you understand the prophetic significance of the first two harvests more clearly (Stephen Jones)
In the next blog we will be looking at how believers are given a “special salvation.” Though it is special it does not preclude others from being saved, in fact, it is special because it is unique and distinct from the general salvation which all will partake of.
(1 Timothy 4; 1 John. 2)
by Luke Kessler
1 Timothy 4
The last few blogs focused on the “timing” of God’s plan to save all men – i.e. how He plans to do it through several squadrons or harvests (distinct groups if you will). I hope that this helps alleviate some of the questions that must be burning within anyone who does not have the time to search these things out for themselves. Understanding that God isn’t going to accomplish His plan of Universal Reconciliation all at once gives us a little bit of clarity moving forward. We can now begin to open up more and more sections of Scripture that detail this glorious plan of His without being bogged down with uncertainty about how it will all work out.
In this blog we will be looking at 1 Timothy 4:10 which describes the fact that though God is the savior of all men, believers receive a “special” salvation. In this letter Paul is speaking with Timothy (his understudy), who was put in charge of the Church at Ephesus; a place of hostile dynamics concerning spiritual warfare (see the book of Ephesians). Paul gives much practical advice in his letter to Timothy, not the least of which is a bit of advice given in Chapter 2 which we have already looked at – that God’s plan (which will not fail) is to save all men, b/c Jesus gave His life as a ransom for all. In light of this fact Paul encourages us to be generous in our prayers for all men (see 1 Timothy 2:1-6).
But fast forward a few chapters and Paul begins to warn Timothy that the Spirit prophecies that in the latter (end) times some will fall away from the faith by running after demonic and deceitful doctrines (4:1). Some (many in fact) have used this very verse to condemn Universal Reconciliation, claiming that it is a deceiving and demonic doctrine. But Paul details the doctrines that he is referring to in verse 3 saying,
“men who forbid marriage and advocate the abstaining from foods…”
Paul clearly is not referring to Universal Reconciliation, which if he was would absurdly contradict not only what he wrote in chapter 2, but what he is about to write here in chapter 4. I do not mean to be a tattletale, but the doctrine of forbidding marriage has been adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in regards to the office of a priest. Basically if you want to be a minister of Christ in the Catholic Church you have to be single. This doctrine alone has led to the monstrous perversion and abuse that has finally come out into the light in recent years, scandalising the Catholic Church. And the abstaining from certain foods, though not explicitly an expressed doctrine, is certainly dogmatized by the 7th Day Adventists.
But Paul declares that such things have been,
“created [by God] to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” (4:3-5)
We will have much more to say about this in a later blog as it relates to Peter’s vision in Acts 10 where God demolished the Jewish preconception that the clean and unclean food laws actually concerned people (Gentiles). God told Peter that what He has cleansed was to no longer be considered unclean. Peter then declares that God told him not to consider any “man” unclean anymore. This has massive Universal Reconciliation implications – all men have been cleansed by Christ’s sacrifice!
But getting back to the topic at hand, Paul says that God created all things to be received with thanksgiving, and that prayer sanctifies it. In the same manner God Himself will receive all men back onto Himself with great rejoicing and giving of thanks, for they will all be sanctified through the prayers, which Paul told us earlier to lavish on all men!
Paul then comments a few verses later,
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” (4:9,10)
This is the specific point of this blog – that though God is definitely the savior of believers that salvation is not exclusive to believers. Although believers receive a unique salvation in this life that does not mean that the rest will not also partake of salvation. This truth might not seem 100% obvious with just a quick glance at this verse, but lets look at it again with some details highlighted.
The first part should be pretty obvious, but how exactly does the second part relate to the first? The word “especially” used here is simply an adverb form of the word “special.” Thus this verse states that all men will be saved, but believers get a special salvation! I don’t know about you, but that absolutely fascinates and excites me!
It is possible, however, that some might accuse me of jumping to conclusions here, and that I’m incorrectly reading into what Paul is saying here. Some might say that Paul is mentioning that God is mankind’s only savior, and only believers will actually be saved. However, the context of chapter 2 and how it connects to the beginning of chapter 4 here would discredit such an interpretation. On top of this Paul employs this exact term in another verse, which gives us a very obvious context by which to better understand how this word is employed. He says,
“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, ESPECIALLY to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
Paul is not saying that we should do good ONLY to the household of faith, rather he is saying that we should do good to all men, and while we are doing good to all we should reserve a “special” goodness to give to fellow believers. The same goes for the verse in 1 Timothy; Paul is not stating that God is going to save ONLY the believers, but rather that He is going to save ALL men, but believers in this life will receive a “special” salvation.
It is “special” b/c as we saw in the previous blogs on timing we are the,
“first to hope in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:12)
“God has chosen [us] as first fruits of salvation.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
“if the first fruits are holy, the lump (harvest) is also.” (Romans 11:16)
Our salvation is “special” because we sanctify the rest of the harvest. We prepare the REST for salvation. The “rest” includes the whole world. We get to usher in all the rest, we will get to participate in their deliverance!
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing (revelation) of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
We will be part of setting all creation free! We will set them free from their slavery/bondage to corruption, which is sin and death. What greater privilege could there be than that! But to be a good Bible expositor, we ought to apply the principle that, “every truth is to be confirmed by two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1) Therefore, is there another verse in Scripture that declares something similar to what Paul has mentioned above in 1 Timothy? I’m pretty sure that you have probably guessed that there is.
1 John 2
There just happens to be other verse that is uniquely similar to 1 Timothy 4:10 as it also contains a statement about the propitiation of not only believers, but of all men. It is found in 1 John 2:2,
“[Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
Like Paul, John is declaring that Jesus’ death and atonement for our sins doesn’t just cover those who accept and receive it; it covers the sins of the whole world! So it becomes apparent that there is a distinction between believers in this life, and those who will come to the Lord later. God’s intent is not to cause our head to swell, as if we were better than everybody else; no, His intention is to help us realise that we will have responsibility, that we will be involved with bringing the rest into the Kingdom. We will be uniquely situated to assist in bringing the rest of the world to Christ!
God is the Saviour of all men with believers receiving a special salvation. This is b/c we are the ones who will help prepare the rest in recognizing that which has already been accomplished for them. He is not only the propitiation for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Christ Will Drag All Men To Himself
One of the Scriptures concerning the ultimate reconciliation of all men that seems to fly under the radar is one that Christ Himself uttered and is recorded in the book of John. It specifically concerns His death and the results (or fruit) of it. It is found in John chapter 12. The Scriptures leading up to this statement involve the resurrection of Lazarus and the subsequent decision by the pharisaical authorities to put Jesus to death b/c “the whole world is going after Him.” (vs. 19). The timing of this statement occurs in the week leading up to His death. Each of the Gospels make a distinction at this point in Jesus’ life; the week leading up to Christ’s death begins the climax of each of the Gospels. Chapter 12 of John is where this begins; all the Jews are travelling to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and Jesus begins to change the focus of His teaching to that of His upcoming suffering on the Cross.
Within this context and immediately before the passage in question, Jesus stated that,
“unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies it bears much fruit.” (vs. 24)
He is revealing here how His death will bring about “much fruit,” that is, A LOT of fruit. He then follows this with a confession that His upcoming death is distressing to be sure, but He wont let that deter Him because it was for this very purpose that He was sent and His death will both glorify the Father’s name and glorify the Son (vs. 23,27,28). The question to ask here is how will Christ’s death bring glory to both the Father and the Son? I believe the answer lies in the “much fruit” that His death will bring forth.
It is in this context that Jesus makes the peculiar statement I want to focus on. He said,
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” (John 12:32,33)
It is plainly stated here that His being “lifted up from the earth” is a reference to His being lifted up to die by hanging on a cross. His previous picture of being a seed that must fall to the earth and die is very much connected to this. Seeds hang on trees (and/or plants) and when they are ripe they fall to the earth and are buried whereby they begin to grow and bear fruit. Scripture says of Jesus that He was “hung on a tree” (Acts 5:30 and Galatians 3:3) and when He died He was buried in the earth in a tomb (like a seed being planted). Therefore according to His mini parable He will rise up out of the earth (as a seed does) and begin to bear much fruit.
The “much fruit” that His death will bring is here defined as the “all men” that He will draw to Himself! This is part of why I believe this passage speaks of Universal Reconciliation. He will draw all men to Himself as a result of His death on the cross. “All Men” is the “Much Fruit.”
To me it is very simple to connect this statement in John with Isaiah’s and Paul’s declaration describing His death and the subsequent fruit of it, as well as the glory that it will bring. Notice also the subtle picture of Christ becoming like a seed and falling to the earth to die.
“Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)
These two sections of Scripture complement each other. They both speak of Christ emptying Himself of His power and coming down to earth in the tiny and weak form of a man to die, the result of which highly exalts Him and brings about “much fruit” to the glory of God. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul even refers to our bodies as a seed that is to be planted
“But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.” (1 Corinthians 15:35-38)
Thus Christ humbled Himself and became a seed and then fell to the earth and sowed His body in death even as a tree empties itself of its grandness and strength in order to become a seed that falls to the earth to die in order to grow up into magnificence again and bear much fruit. That “much fruit” will be the “all men” that will confess Jesus Christ as Lord thus bringing glory to the Father and the Son.
A Conditional Prediction
If you haven’t already noticed there is a further element to Christ’s statement; it was conditional. Therefore, if Christ made a conditional prediction like that, then surely if the condition was met He will make good on His promise and it will come to pass. We have already seen how God cannot fail to keep His promises, or else it would become sin in Him (see my blog here). So if Christ was crucified, which He was, then we can have full confidence that He will keep His promise and draw all men unto Himself!
Dragging All Men Unto Himself
The last thing we need to notice about this statement is the word “draw.” In our English language it could imply that Christ will only try to attract our attention, but it will be up to the individual to respond. I have no problem with this; unfortunately that is not what the Greek says. The Greek word “draw” used here does not mean ‘to attract.’ In fact, the word draw literally means “to drag” (helko – Gr. 1670). The Louw and Nida Greek Lexicon Defines it this way, “to drag or pull by physical force, often implying resistance.”
If Christ was lifted up, then He WILL drag all men to Himself, even if He has to use force! And in all probability He will use force to do this b/c there is a lot of resistance within us. It is even found within those of us who truly and sincerely try to follow Christ with all our hearts. I am certain that we all can prove this by our own experience.
This promise of Christ was made irrespective of our desire to draw near to Him, He is going to take matters into His own hands and drag us to Himself! Why? Because He knows what is best for us, and He ultimately refuses to allow even a single sheep to be lost. When sheep are disobedient and wander off the Shepherd has no choice but to break its legs and carry it Himself. It might violate the sheep’s will, but the Shepherd knows what is best. And the Good Shepherd knows that in many cases He will need to drag people against their will in order to bring them to Himself.
This becomes even clearer when we take a look at how this word is used elsewhere in the New Testament. The apostle James uses it to describe a situation where one person exerts his will upon another,
“Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag (helko) you into court?” (James 2:6)
When you are being sued, or summoned to court, you have no choice in the matter. You can run, but you will be caught and when you are caught you will be dragged into court to face your judgement. This is what was happening in James’ time, the rich with all their influence were dragging poor people into court because they had the power and influence to do so.
Luke also uses this word several times in the book of Acts to describe a similar situation,
“They seized Paul and Silas and dragged (helko) them into the market place before the authorities…” (Acts 16:19)
“Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged (helko) him out of the temple…” (Acts 21:30; see also 17:6, 14:19)
I’m pretty sure that Paul was not a willing partner in the matter of his being “dragged.” It’s quite a unique word study and the fact that Christ would employ this adverb, over and against other choices He might have had, is quite telling.
Finally, to drive this point home, in John 21 there is a scene where the Disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Jesus shows up, unbeknownst to them and yells across the lake for them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, the Disciples do so and immediately catch an unbelievable amount of fish. Peter then realises that it is Jesus, so they all return to shore where,
“Simon Peter went up and dragged (helko) the net to land, full of large fish…”
The fish had no choice in the matter, they were caught and “dragged” to shore whether they wanted it or not. The only choice that mattered was the choice of the fisherman. The fish in this scene are a type and shadow of people. Jesus had given parables previously in His earthly ministry about the Kingdom of Heaven being likened unto a net that catches good and bad fish (Matthew 13:47-50). The fish were symbols of people. And Christ promised Peter that He would make him a fisher of men (Matthew 4:9; Mark 1:17). In fact in Luke chapter 5 there is a scene very similar to this one here, where Christ uses the situation as a lesson to teach Peter that from now on he would be catching men rather than fish.
This is part of the reason why the Church has universally used the sign of the fish as a symbol for Christians. The “type and shadow” of this scene symbolises people who will be caught in that dragnet of the Gospel (Matthew 13:47); and although the fish may think they have a choice in the matter, they are actually being hauled in according to another’s will – the Fisherman’s.
This is what Christ was signifying when He declared that He would drag all men unto Himself. It appears that ALL the fish in the “sea of humanity” are eventually going to get caught in the net and dragged ashore!
And its all founded upon Christ’s suffering on the cross. It appears that His work on the cross was universal in scope and universal in application. And since the condition of His promise has been met, His only course is to keep His word!
Furthermore, we have a perfect example of someone being “dragged” to Christ (against his will!). The Apostle Paul! And coincidentally…Paul says his conversion is a pattern for those who will follow afterwards!
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as a pattern for those who will hereafter (Gr. – in the future, end) believe in Him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
Lets stop and look at that for a moment.
First – Paul is the pattern for those who will believe in the future.
Second – He is the foremost sinner (!!!), which is a bold statement! It’s bold b/c some of us have to accept this statement as true! Well, at least those of us who believe that Scripture is inerrant (which this writer does); and those of us who truly believe that every single word was inspired (breathed) by God (which this writer does). If we didn’t believe that then we could easily contest the veracity of such a statement. We could point to Hitler, or Stalin, or Caesars, past Popes, barbarians or any number of others like these as being far worse examples of sinners.
Nevertheless God decided that Paul was the chief of sinners, the worst, the epitome of rebellion against God; and b/c of this reason God chose to make him an example of how much He loves even the vilest of sinners and that He has no problem overriding even the most rebellious and stubborn will. Paul was “a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” (vs. 13)
Third – it is for this reason that he received mercy! B/c Paul was the foremost sinner he received mercy! And this is why he is a PATTERN for those who will believe later! For if he was given mercy BECAUSE he was the foremost, how much more will everyone else be given mercy?!!!
God in His sovereignty decided to save Paul despite the fact that Paul was against that very thing happening. Paul had obviously encountered and heard the gospel through Stephen’s famous sermon in Acts chapter 7, when the Jewish Council of high priests decided to stone Stephen to death for his preaching of the gospel. (Not to mention many times previous when he encountered Jesus and other Apostles). Paul was not merely a passerby on the sidelines; he was the one who was in charge of the stoning (Acts 7:58-8:1). Paul had heard the gospel, but he had rejected it. Yet God decided to save him anyways, even as God will do so with all the rest of humanity.
That is why Paul declares in Romans 11:32 that,
“God has shut up ALL in disobedience (sin) so that He may show mercy to ALL!”
The words “show mercy” used right there are actually the same Greek word (eleeo) that Paul uses in 1 Timothy 1:16 above, “yet for this reason I found mercy (eleeo)…”
There isn’t a worse sinner than Paul and he was given mercy as evidence (a sign) that God will save even the worst of the worst. It didn’t matter how much Paul resisted and rebelled against God and against the Gospel message – God’s plan was to drag Paul to Himself. And God used Paul as an example, a pattern, for everyone else who resists Him. God will give us all the chance to choose, but in the end, He is going to drag us all to Himself and save us anyways!
Christ promised that if died on a cross, as a seed falls to the earth and dies, that He would drag all men to Himself, as a seed bears much fruit. And we know that His dragging is not dependent upon our will, but upon God’s choice and mercy as Paul exemplifies for us.
It has taken me more than six months to write this letter.
Why so long?
Because it discusses my beliefs and how they’ve changed over the last five years. Beliefs are a sensitive subject, both for me and most of the people of the world.
Recognizing this sensitivity, I have done my best to write what follows in a spirit of love. Nevertheless, I imagine that what you read here will polarize you. After reading it, you may be angry. You may be shocked. You may even be…
More Excited Than You’ve Ever Been In Your Life!
Let’s start at the beginning…
One holiday night five years ago, I was talking with Ed, my uncle-in-law. Perhaps the wine had loosened Ed’s tongue, or perhaps he had sensed an opportunity. Whatever the case, he began to talk about his spiritual beliefs.
First, he suggested to me that God would eventually save everyone. Not just a few, but all the people who have ever walked the earth.
As if that wasn’t enough, Ed also suggested that the modern concept of hell was wrong… that “hell” didn’t actually exist.
At first, it sounded ridiculous. After all, I had been raised as a Protestant Christian–a Southern Baptist, to be specific. I knew most everybody was going to hell for eternity.
But Ed then began to quote verses from the Bible to support his position. I did not know how to refute them. Fact is, I was a little shaken. Did the Bible really say what Ed was claiming?
One reason I had believed in the concept of hell was because of what I thought I had read in the Bible.
You see, I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. And it seemed to me that it clearly spoke of salvation for the few and damnation for everybody else.
So I told Ed what I thought and quoted a few verses. I thought I had him cornered.
And yet Ed wasn’t phased at all. He seemed to have an explanation for everything.
Up to that point, I had never met anybody like Ed. He knew scripture. And he never got defensive about his beliefs. He just shared what he believed and left it at that.
Needless to say, I couldn’t stop thinking about the things Ed had shared. Lord knows I tried! It was far easier to go on believing what I had always believed… to ignore these new ideas.
But I simply couldn’t. So I bought a few books and started digging. Pretty soon, I was deep into the rabbit hole. There was no turning back.
The First Page of the First Chapter Pulled at My Heartstrings
At Ed’s suggestion, I bought a book by A.E. Knoch called All in All. It was written nearly a hundred years ago.
As I read the first page of the first chapter, I was hooked. It expressed a latent idea I had thought of before, but had never been able to Biblically support. Here is what Knoch says…
The grand truth concerning the eonian times, now recovered from Scriptures, will relieve the minds of many noble men. So said a trained theologian, after having spent seventy years of his life without ever hearing it mentioned. No normal human being desires to believe in everlasting torment, even for his worst enemy. Some of its strongest and noblest advocates have expressed their profound sorrow that they were compelled to teach it, and declared that God Himself would have it otherwise, were it in His power. Those who gloat in it and enjoy preaching it, expose the baseness of their own hearts. The fact that the Bible teaches it may demand acquiescence, but it cannot command heartfelt accord.
The fact that everlasting torment is contrary to God’s revealed character and clashes with every human instinct does not disprove it. If God’s Word teaches it, it’s true. But the fact that it is repugnant, not merely to the nature we have by creation, but especially to the spirit we receive as a seal of God’s salvation, should lead us to investigate the grounds on which it rests. The original Scriptures are infallible, but the Bible we have is only a translation, into which a measure of human fallibility is mixed. Does the Original teach endless punishment?
Long story short, after reading thousands of pages and studying scores of Bible passages, I concluded the Bible does not teach endless punishment. In fact, it teaches something grander and more magnificent than I could have ever imagined.
Let us begin by examining some verses to see what they say.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
How many times have we read this simple verse and yet failed to realize its full implications? Notice the reason God gave his Son. The verse says God loved the WORLD. It does not say, “For God so loved Christians…” No. He sent his Son for everyone.
This is supported by many other verses, as we will soon see.
What is God’s Will Regarding the Salvation of Mankind?
Because of the writings in the Old Testament, some Bible students have concluded that God is angry and He’s out to punish evil people. But this assumption is made without a full understanding of Scripture or the story it tells.
In 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul writes that God “wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth.”
Even Peter agrees when he writes that God “does not intend for any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
These are interesting verses. They reveal God’s will for man. And God’s stated will is to save ALL mankind.
Not Christians only. Not 5% of humanity. But all. Every last person who has ever walked the earth.
Most students of the Bible agree that God wants to save all mankind, but they don’t believe He will actually do it. Either they believe He is not able to save everyone (denying his omnipotence), or that he cannot do it because it would violate his character.
It has often been said that were God to save everyone, it would violate his sense of justice. Most Bible teachers believe that temporary sins on earth deserve an eternity of suffering. If this is God’s sense of justice, it is twisted justice indeed.
After all, does not 1 John 4:8 teach us that “God is love.” And if God is love, would it not be a violation of his character to torture the majority of people in a fiery hell?
These observations raise an important question…
If God’s Stated Will Is to Save All Mankind, Will He Actually Do It?
Let’s dig deeper.
There are many places in the Bible that speak about future events. One particular event is particularly significant. It is repeated in multiple times in Scripture.
“[…] but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.” Numbers 14:21
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
Both of these verses suggest there is a time that is yet future in which the glory of the Lord will fill the earth. The verse in Habakkuk gives us a simile for picturing how much of the earth will be filled.
How much of the sea is covered by water? Naturally, ALL of the sea is covered by water.
Therefore, we can conclude that ALL of the earth will be filled with God’s glory–no exceptions.
Here are a couple more passages that speak of these future events.
“I have sworn by Myself… that unto Me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to Me.” Isaiah 45:23
“at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10,11
I believe these verses speak clearly about what is to come. All the people of the earth will confess Jesus as Lord. All will swear allegiance to God. I don’t believe they will do this at gunpoint. I believe they will do it out of love.
Will some be burning in “hell” when this happens? I don’t believe so. The idea defies logic.
Will some confess Jesus as Lord and then be cast into “hell” for “eternity” immediately thereafter? Again, I don’t believe so. If this were true, it would be like threatening a man with death to “persuade” him to convert… and then killing him anyway after he has “converted.”
Now, some will ask, “But what about all those passages in the Bible that talk about hell? You can’t just ignore them.”
You are right. These verses can’t be ignored. I will address them in a moment. But first, let us examine…
The Purpose of God’s Judgments
If your son or daughter lied to you, would you sentence them to burn alive for eternity?
This is not a trick question.
What if they stole a car? Would you do it then?
What would your child have to do for you to condemn them to an eternity of fiery torment?
As of yet, I have not found a parent who is willing to send their child to hell for eternity. Discipline, yes. Eternal punishment, no.
I believe God established the family to mirror His relationship with us. For instance, God is my true Father. I am a child of God even as I have children of my own.
This is why I believe God’s judgments have purpose. They are not senseless or vengeful as some Christians seem to believe. Rather, they are corrective in nature.
In Isaiah 26:9, the prophet says, “For when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”
Would a person burning in “hell” learn righteousness? Probably not. They’d probably learn bitterness. And yet the Bible says God’s judgments lead to righteousness.
Consider also that…
The Penalty For Sin Is Death. (Not Eternal Torment.)
Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When Adam sinned, he reaped death (Genesis 3:19). He did not reap eternal punishment. The Bible never says that.
What’s more, if the penalty for sin was eternal torment, would not Jesus still be burning in “hell” to pay for our sins?
Of course, Jesus is not still burning in hell. He rose on the third day. He overcame death, ascended to heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). Jesus lives!
Now I’m going to make an assertion some readers will find hard to swallow, even though the Bible supports it. That is…
Hell Does Not Exist!
…at least not in the way you think it does.
Let me say this: I believe the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God. I also happen to believe man is fallible. He is capable of making mistakes, and he does.
Which is to say, man’s TRANSLATION of Scripture can be flawed!
My belief is not uncommon. Anybody who has become a translator understands the difficulties of translating from one language to another. Consider, for a moment, another religious text: the Qur’an.
Three years ago, my brother enlisted in the Army. He became a linguist, specializing in Arabic. He speaks and reads the language fluently. He has also spent months listening to Arabic and translating it for the Army.
According to him and other sources (like Wikipedia), Muslims argue that the Qur’an cannot be reproduced in any other language except the original. They believe this because one word in Arabic may have a range of meanings depending on the context. This makes an accurate translation nearly impossible.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped translators from translating the Qur’an. Neither has it stopped translators from translating the Bible, even though they face the same translation difficulties with Hebrew and Greek as with Arabic.
Am I saying we should not translate the Bible? No. I believe we should translate it so it is accessible to as many different people groups as possible. But when we make a translation, we must be careful not to alter the meaning conveyed in the original inspired language.
Let’s compare some verses from two different popular translations, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and The Message. The following passage is Proverbs 3:19-24. First, the NASB:
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up and the skies drip with dew. My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck. Then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Now here is The Message:
With Lady Wisdom, God formed Earth; with Madame Insight, he raised Heaven. They knew when to signal rivers and springs to the surface, and dew to descend from the night skies. Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don’t for a minute lose sight of them. They’ll keep your soul alive and well, they’ll keep you fit and attractive. You’ll travel safely, you’ll neither tire nor trip. You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry, you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep.
If you read each version critically, you will see there are quite a few differences. Some of these differences significantly alter the meaning of the passage. Which version is right? Which one is wrong?
I do not intend to answer the question, but I bring it up to illustrate the problem of translation.
Thou Shalt Commit Adultery?
In addition to translation issues, Bible readers may sometimes encounter typos. This is far less common today, but it has happened more often than you may think.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Sinner’s Bible” printed in 1631. It says, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” (They forgot the word not.)
Then there’s the “Sin On” Bible. It reversed two letters and mistakenly made Jesus say, “Go and sin on more.” (On should have been no.)
Perhaps the worst of all was the “Fools Bible,” which accidentally printed, “the fool hath said in his heart there is a God.” (They replaced the word no with a.)
Of course, it is easy to see these errors. You might say they are “glaringly obvious.” (For a complete list of famous errors, see Wikipedia’s article about Bible errata.)
But some errors are not so obvious. They only become apparent after diligent study.
Is it such a stretch to believe that our modern concept of “hell” has been caused by mistranslation?
Let’s Take a Look…
There are three different words in the Greek, all of which have been translated as “hell” in the KJV and NIV Bibles.
These three words are Geenna, Tartaroo, and hades.
The first two are places. Properly translated into English, these would read Gehenna and Tartarus. (Gehenna is the place name for the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem. You can find it on a map.)
Hades, on the other hand, simply means “unseen.” The first part of the word, [h]a, means “un” (a is the Greek negative–and ours as well, as in “asymmetrical”). The second part of the word, ades, means “perceived.”
Hades, then, is anything outside of our five senses. The author Martin Zender explains the concept well…
Our English word hell is derived from the Anglo-Saxon helan, which means “to cover, conceal, or hide.” This is the precise meaning of the Greek hades, as well as its Hebrew counterpart, sheol. […] The words hell, heel, hole, hull, helmet, cell, cellar, holster, and hold (as of a ship) are all derived from the same root, helan. Examine these words individually and see how the idea of being covered, concealed, or hidden fits them all. (Martin Zender Goes to Hell, pp. 63-65)
If this is true, you might wonder…
“Where Did the Modern Concept of Hell Come From?”
Books have been written to answer this question. Nevertheless, I will introduce you to one major cause for the idea of eternal torment in a fiery hell. His name was Augustine of Hippo. He lived 354-430 A.D.
Prior to his conversion to Christianity, Augustine had been a Manichaean for eight or nine years. Manichaean theology is based on dualism. Manichaeans believe there are two equal powers in the world: good and evil, light and darkness. There is no supreme deity who is all good or all loving. What’s more, the religion’s doctrine says non-Manichaeans are condemned to hell. According to a New Advent article about Manichaeism…
Sinners, however, must, after death wander about in torment and anguish, surrounded by demons, and condemned by the angels, till the end of the world, when they are, body and soul, thrown into hell.
As you might imagine, Augustine was an ardent proponent of hell and eternal damnation for unbelievers, even after his conversion to Christianity. This was, at the time, an unpopular view. In the first 300 years following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, most Christians believed that God would restore all men in the end. In his book At the End of the Ages… the Abolition of Hell, Bob Evely writes…
[…] most average people in the first few centuries A.D., and many (if not most) of the “Church Fathers” (leaders within the church) believed in the ultimate salvation of all. Furthermore, we will see from many direct quotations that this belief came directly from a study of God’s Word. (p. 101, emphasis in the original)
Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Didymus, Gregory of Nyassa, John Cassian, and Gregory of Nazianzus are among some of the notable teachers of early Christendom who taught universal restoration and salvation for all. In fact, Augustine was familiar with their belief that all men would be saved, and recognized he himself was in the minority. He said as much when he wrote…
There are very many who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments. (Enchiria, ad Laurent, c. 29 and Evely p. 125)
Why then did Augustine become so hot for hell when so many other teachers believed otherwise?
As we have already seen, Augustine carried over some of his beliefs from Manachaeism into Christianity. This influenced his thinking and interpretation of Scriptures. It also didn’t help that he favored the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. In fact, Augustine knew very little Greek and said he hated the language. Unfortunately, the Latin Vulgate had many mistranslations that only encouraged Augustine’s belief in eternal torment for non-believers.
Furthermore, as carnal men came into power within the church, they used the threat of eternal punishment to coerce people into submission. They did not like the idea of universal restoration because it eliminated their primary means of controlling people. Finally, in 553 A.D., the Fifth General Council (which included 151 bishops from the Greek and African churches) declared…
Whoever says or thinks that the torments of the demons and of impious men are temporal, so that they will, at length, come to an end, or whoever holds a restoration either of the demons or of the impious, let him be anathema.
This decree silenced the teaching of universal restoration and set the course of Christian orthodoxy to the present day.
So, having examined the original language of Scripture as well as early church history, we see that hades means only “unperceived,” or anything that cannot be perceived through our senses. The word does not carry with it any sense of burning, torture, or endless torment. Since we now know the real meaning of hades, let us examine…
What God Says About Who Will Be Saved
Will God save only a fraction of mankind, as modern Christians say? Or will He save ALL? Here’s what the Bible says:
“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22
Notice in these two passages the obvious parallel. How many of us die? All of us. How many will be made alive? All of us.
When you were born, did you have a choice about whether you would die or not? No. You inherited death and you had no say in the matter. Likewise, Jesus will raise you up and give you life. You will not have a choice about this either.
Despite the logical structure of these verses, modern Christian teachers attempt to bend these Scriptures to say what they want. They believe the verse in Corinthians says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all [Christians] will be made alive.” Obviously, this is not what it says.
Here’s another verse to consider:
“All things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16b
I would like to point out here that this verse says all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus. It does not say all things were created for Him and satan. You see, in modern Christianity, satan is the real winner. He gets the bulk of all the people who have ever lived, while Jesus gets the leftovers. If this is true, it is NOT good news!
“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:19-20
“For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” 1 Timothy 4:10
“For it is written, ‘As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’” Romans 14:11
The verse in 1 Timothy is one of the most interesting in the above list. It says God is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. This implies there is a special reward for believers that unbelievers do not receive.
Whatever the special reward is, it cannot be salvation. Because the verse clearly states that God is already the Savior of all mankind. The reward must be something beyond or in addition to salvation.
Probably the most powerful verse in the entire Bible that speaks of Universal Restoration was spoken by Jesus Himself in John 12:32-33. He said:
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
The word draw here is helkuo in the Greek, which literally means to drag.
Was Jesus lifted up on the cross? Yes! Then, He says, I will drag all men to Myself. Your “will” doesn’t matter here. Jesus is going to drag you to Him sooner or later.
John 6:44 also uses the word helkuo. It says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
We do not drag ourselves to Jesus. We do not “bootstrap” our way to salvation. Rather, God drags us to the foot of the cross! Paul goes on to affirm this when he says our salvation is from God, and not of ourselves, so that no man can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
For some, the dragging will be easy. They will respond quickly. But for others, it will be harder. And that’s where judgment comes in…
How Long Does Judgment Last?
To be completely clear, I believe God will judge people. The question then is 1) What is the purpose of that judgment? and 2) How long will that judgment last?
The first question we’ve already answered. As we saw in Isaiah 26:9, the purpose of judgment is to lead us to righteousness. Said another way, the purpose of discipline is to correct. But what about the duration of this judgment? How long will it last?
If you pick up a King James Bible (or just about any Bible for that matter), you’ll see dozens of verses that use the words “eternal” and “everlasting,” as well as phrases like “forever and ever.” Take Matthew 25:46 for example…
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
The word translated “eternal” and “everlasting” comes from the Greek word aion. Do we have an English equivalent? Yes. It is the word “eon.” Look it up in your dictionary. You will see that the word “eon” derives from the word aion.
But does “eon” mean “everlasting?”
No. “Eon” means a finite, but indeterminate length of time. In other words, an unknown period of time that has a beginning and end.
So why did the translators choose to use “everlasting” for the Greek word “aion?”
In the case of Matthew 25:46, the word “aion” appears twice. The translators assumed the verse had to mean eternal life (“Why would someone receive life for the eon?”); which meant the preceding portion of the verse had to be translated in a similar fashion.
A lack of understanding influenced the translators’ word choices. Because they could not understand, they rendered the words according to their own (flawed) understanding.
With that in mind, a proper translation of Matthew 25:46 would read as follows (quoting from the Concordant Literal Translation):
And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.
What this means is simply this: the judgment (or “chastening”) lasts only for an eon… or an unknown period of time with a beginning and end.
There are many more scriptures like this in the Bible. A surface-level reading may lead you to conclude that judgment lasts forever. But closer inspection reveals otherwise.
Now, because there is an end to the judgment… and we know the purpose is to bring about righteousness… it becomes much easier to believe what the Bible actually says–that Jesus is the Savior of ALL mankind!
But perhaps in light of all this, you will say, “Well, the New Testament may talk about Universal Restoration, but certainly the Old Testament does not.” At one point in my journey, I thought the same thing. Fortunately, through some in-depth study I discovered…
Forgotten Laws of the Old Testament Reveal God’s Plan to Save All Men!
Not many people read the Bible. Those who do read primarily the New Testament. Which means the Old Testament is an unpopular volume.
Because of this, much of God’s law has been forgotten. And I’m not even talking about The 10 Commandments. I’m talking about all the other laws in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that nobody likes to read.
First things first: in the Bible, all sin is reckoned as debt. If a man sins, he is said to be indebted to the Law. This is why we pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
Another example can be found in Colossians 2:13-14 (emphasis mine):
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Having established that sin is reckoned as debt, we can now look to the Old Testament with new eyes…
Sabbath Years & The Jubilee
The number “7” is an important number. For instance, every seventh day is called a Sabbath, or a day of rest. Most readers will be familiar with this concept.
Every seventh year is called a Sabbatic Year, a year of rest. Not only does God command a year of rest for the land during which no crops should be planted, He also commands the suspension of debts during the Sabbatic Year (Deuteronomy 15:1). This means creditors are not supposed to collect payment on debts during the Sabbatic Year. This is important because it plays out on an even grander cycle.
The third manifestation of the Sabbath concept is seven times seven years, or 49 years total. Every 49 years marks what is called “The Jubilee.” It is a year of release in which all debts are canceled. All men go free and return to their inheritance.
In a Sabbatic Year, there is only remission of debts. It’s like hitting the “Pause” button. After the Sabbatic Year is over, the debtor must continue to make payments against his debt.
A Jubilee Year is different because it’s a year in which all debts are canceled. It makes no difference how much a man owes. Every last penny of debt is forgiven, and he starts afresh during the new Jubilee cycle.
The savvy reader will have already put two and two together. Basically, the Law of Jubilee establishes the legal precedent for the forgiveness of all sins!
What’s more, it does not matter one iota whether the debtor wants his debts to be canceled or not. He has no say in the matter. Only the creditor has the authority to cancel the debt, and he does it of his own prerogative.
Who is the creditor? God, the creator of the Law, of course. Who is the debtor? Man is. Who came to cancel all debt? Jesus, God’s own son.
There is much more that could be said on this topic, but the purpose of this letter is to make you think and inspire you to search out the truth on your own.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”
–King Solomon in Proverbs 25:2
Eat, Drink & Be Merry?
Based on what I’ve written so far, some will say I’m encouraging those who don’t know Jesus to remain apart from Jesus. That I’m encouraging them to “eat, drink, and be merry.” After all, everybody gets saved, right?
But this is not what I’m saying at all. When standing before the high priest Annas, Peter declared…
He [Jesus] is the “STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.” And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:11,12)
The only way we may be saved is by professing Jesus as our Lord and Savior. There is no other way.
I can’t tell you how many times my agnostic and atheistic friends have told me, “I refuse to follow a God who sends people to hell for eternity.” If you feel this way, then the good news is you don’t have to follow a God like that. God is love, and “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Since coming to an understanding that God is saving all men, I find my relationship with God has changed for the better. It turns out God is just and merciful after all.
It is much easier for me to love God when I know that God is love–and that He is demonstrating that love to us. It is also much easier for me to love others (even my enemies) when I know that God loves them just as much as He loves me.
So how do we follow Jesus? It is actually quite simple. 1 John 4:14,15 says…
We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
On the other hand, if we only confess God–but deny that Jesus is the Son of God–then we do not have God at all. 1 John 2:22,23 says…
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
If you would like to know Jesus, you must profess that he is the Son of God and rose from the dead. It requires no scripted prayer. Simply ask Jesus to be a part of your life. Paul says in Romans 10:9-10…
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
If you decide to do this, you will be amazed by the changes that happen in your heart and in your life. I am a testament to that.
Is This Too Much Good News?
I’m always amazed by Christians who respond vehemently when I suggest that God intends to save (and will save!) everyone. It’s as if they can accept only so much good news; too much good news sends them over the edge.
I hope this isn’t the case with you.
You see, the real good news is that Jesus’s death on the cross paid the full penalty of sin for all people who ever lived. All men will receive life through Jesus. All men will stand before Almighty God and worship Him. This is when God will truly become “All in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28)
I believe this is “the greatest love story never told.”
Let me end with this:
If this letter speaks to you, it is God who speaks and not me. Only God can open your eyes and ears to the truth. May God grant you the ability to see and hear.
Just How Great Is God’s Love?
The Bible does not lack for verses that tell of the love of God. There are hundreds of them.
Of course, the most famous of these is probably John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
In fact, the famous Christian author Max Lucado has written an entire book about this one verse. (The title of the book is simply 3:16.)
But here are the big questions:
- How great is God’s love really?
- Did He send his Son to save the world (as the Bible says)… or just part of the world?
- Is His love big enough to save all people or only some people?
The book of 1 John has one of greatest passages about love in the entire Bible. It starts in chapter four. I quote it here in part.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is begotten of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7,8)
Here the author writes that love is from God. He then goes further by saying God is love.
This is important because John is defining love for us. Where does love come from? Love comes from God. What is love? God is love.
Picking up where we left off, we read
“By this the love of God was manifested in our case, that God has sent His Only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. […] We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:9,10,14-16)
The fact that God sent His only Son Jesus is proof of God’s love for us. God did this of His own prerogative as an expression of His love. Our love, then, is a response to God’s love for us.
What is interesting is that John is the author of both the Gospel of John and the Epistles of John. In both books, he expresses the idea that Jesus is the savior of the world.
In John 3:16, he says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son.” And then in 1 John 4:14, he says, “The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” — and that sending the Son was an expression of God’s love.
So we have established a few things:
- God is love.
- God first loved us by sending His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
- God so loved the world, that He sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world.
Some who have been schooled in church doctrine may argue that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world, but that people can reject Jesus… somewhat like a drowning man who rejects a life preserver.
This argument, in my opinion, fails. It reduces Jesus to a “magic potion” that can be used or not, depending on the whim of the individual. Jesus is much more than a life-saving elixir; He is the Savior of the world.
So the question becomes: If Jesus is the Savior of the world, will he save all people?
Let us examine what the Scriptures say. Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:18
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”
This is an interesting verse. First, it says that Jesus died “once for all.” He did not die once for some. He died once for all people.
This means that no further animal sacrifice is needed to atone for sin. Jesus truly was the final sacrifice. It also means that Jesus’s death on the cross is for everyone, and not just a few.
John confirms this in 1 John 2:1,2
“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
Jesus died once for all people, and He is the propitiation for the sins of the entire world. Praise God!
Pay close attention to the language Peter uses. He says Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Peter does NOT say Jesus could be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, if only everybody would accept Him.
If we are to truly understand what Jesus has done, we must not start with any preconceived ideas and then attempt to find Biblical support for them. Rather, we must look carefully at what the Bible says and earnestly seek to know what God is really saying — no matter whether it fits into church doctrine or not.
Returning to Peter, we read in 2 Peter 3:9
“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.”
The promise Peter is referring to is the promise of Jesus’s second coming. God does not wish any to perish, and so He is patient toward us so that we may have opportunity to repent of our sins and be drawn to Jesus.
Paul agrees with Peter when he writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-4
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Here Paul encourages us to pray for “all men” — not just our family and friends, but our enemies also. He says to pray specifically for “kings and all who are in authority.” Since no qualification is given, this applies equally to rulers who are good as it does to rulers who are evil.
Why should we pray for “all men” as Paul urges?
There are two reasons. First, because we may lead a quiet life, at peace with our neighbors and all those in authority. Second, because God wants all men to be saved! And if we are in agreement with God, then we must also pray for all men.
Now some have argued that God wants to save all men, but that He can’t because each person has to choose to accept Jesus on his own. If a person rejects Jesus, there is simply nothing God can do. In other words, man’s will overrules God’s desire to save all men.
Clearly, I disagree with this view.
First, we do not choose God; God chooses us. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8,9
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Paul makes it very plain that we do not save ourselves by choosing Jesus. Rather, we are saved by God’s gift of grace so that no one can boast of making a better decision than another person.
Just so there is no doubt of what Paul is saying, he writes in 1 Corinthians 1:30,31
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.‘”
Paul states that it is by God’s doing that we are in Jesus — not our own doing. He then quotes the prophet Jeremiah who says if we boast, then we ought to boast in the Lord.
In other words, if we know Jesus, it is not because of anything we’ve done. So we have nothing to boast about other than God’s love, grace, and mercy. We know Jesus only because of God, and so we boast in the Lord.
Jesus Himself says in John 6:44
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
So Jesus says that no person can come to Him unless God the Father draws that person to Him. It is God’s doing and not our own.
I can’t make this point strongly enough, which is why I have quoted three different passages to prove the point.
Now, if God chooses us and draws us to Jesus in the first place, what is stopping God from choosing all people and bringing all of them to Jesus?
In fact, in John 12:32 Jesus made a bold claim by saying He would draw all men to Himself. His exact words are:
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
Was Jesus lifted up from the earth on the cross? Yes. As a result, He will draw all men to Himself.
This is how much God loves us. He is not willing to leave us in our sin, or allow us to perish apart from Him. And so he draws each of us to Him, at different times, so we are able to confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
But what of those who have already died? Will they receive a second chance to repent, acknowledge Jesus, and receive life? I believe so. In 1 Peter 4:6 we read
“For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
Peter says the gospel has been preached to those who are dead so that, ultimately, they may live in the spirit — even if they are judged in the flesh as men.
God is patient, indeed!
Now let us return for a moment to the subject of love. When people get married, they often read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 because it is such a beautiful picture of love.
Keep in mind that “God is love,” so these attributes also apply to God. In fact, if you’ve ever read the story of Jesus, you will see a perfect description of Jesus in these words.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
Question: If God is love, and love never fails, how can God fail to save all men as He has stated He desires to do?
The answer is, God cannot fail. And he WILL save all men, just as He has said He will.
Many have argued (Christians included) that death can permanently separate us from God; that our own stubborn wills can permanently separate us from God; that “hell” can permanently separate us from God; etc.
But is this really true?
Paul writes in Romans 8:38,39
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here’s good news…
- What we do in this life can’t separate us from the love of God.
- Death can’t separate us from the love of God.
- Nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can separate us from the love of God.
- Neither height nor depth (hades) can separate us from the love of God.
There is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God. This love is IN Christ Jesus our Lord. And love never fails!
This is how great God’s love really is.
Peace be with you, in the name of Jesus, the Savior of All Mankind.
Hannah Whitall Smith’s Testimony
Hannah Whitall Smith published the book ‘The Unselfishness of God And How I Discovered It’ in 1903.
As Wikipedia points out, many editions of the book omit three chapters in which Smith explains how she came to believe God saves all.
Here is a post from Dr. Stephen Jones’s blog that includes an excerpt from one of these “lost” chapters.
This testimony is the partial text of chapter 27 of her book, The Unselfishness of God, in the original publication. It was edited out of later editions when published by Littlebrook Publishing, Inc. in Princeton, N. J., because they did not agree with her discovery that, in the end, God had made provision to save all mankind.
One day I was riding on a tram-car along Market Street, Philadelphia, when I saw two men come in and seat themselves opposite to me. I saw them dimly through my veil, but congratulated myself that it was only dimly, as I was thus spared the wave of anguish that had so often swept over me at the full sight of a strange face.
The conductor came for his fare, and I was obliged to raise my veil in order to count it out. As I raised it, I got a sight of the faces of those two men, and with an overwhelming flood of anguish, I seemed to catch a fresh and clearer revelation of the misery that had been caused to human beings by sin. It was more than I could bear. I clenched my hands and cried out in my soul, “Oh God! How canst Thou bear it? Thou mightest have prevented it, but Thou didst not. Thou mightest even now change it, but Thou dost not. I do not see how Thou canst go on living and endure it.” I upbraided God. And I felt justified in doing so.
Then suddenly God seemed to answer me. An inward voice said, in tones of infinite love and tenderness, “He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” “Satisfied!” I cried in my heart. “Christ is to be satisfied! He will be able to look at the world’s misery and then at the travail through which He has passed because of it, and will be satisfied with the result! If I were Christ, nothing could satisfy me but that every human being should in the end be saved, and therefore I am sure that nothing less will satisfy Him!”
With this, a veil seemed to be withdrawn from before the plans of the universe, and I saw that it was true, as the Bible says, that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ should all be made alive.” As was the first, even so was the second. The “all” in one case could not in fairness mean less than the “all” in the other. I saw therefore that the remedy must necessarily be equal to the disease, the salvation must be as universal as the fall.
I saw all this that day on the tram-car on Market Street, Philadelphia — not only thought it, or hoped it, or even believed it, but knew it! It was a Divine fact. And from that moment I have never had one questing thought as to the final destiny of the human race. God is the Creator of every human being; therefore He is the Father of each one and they are all His children; and Christ died for every one, and is declared to be “the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). However great the ignorance, therefore, or however grievous the sin, the promise of salvation is positive and without limitations.
It is true that “by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation,” it is equally true that, “by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” To limit the last “all men” is also to limit the first. The salvation is absolutely equal to the fall. There is to be a final “Restitution of all things, when, at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee, every tongue — words could not be more all-embracing.
The how and the when I could not see; but the one essential fact was all I needed — somewhere, and somehow God was going to make everything right for all the creatures He had created. My heart was at rest about it forever.
I hurried home to get hold of my Bible to see if the magnificent fact I had discovered could possibly have been all this time in the Bible and I had not seen it, and the moment I entered the house, I did not wait to take off my bonnet, but rushed at once to the table where I always kept my Bible and Concordance ready for use, and began my search.
Immediately the whole Book seemed to be illuminated. On every page the truth concerning the “times of restitution of all things,” of which the Apostle Peter says “God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began,” shone forth and no room was left for questioning. I turned greedily from page to page of my Bible, fairly laughing aloud for joy at the blaze of light that illuminated it all. It became a new Book. Another skin seemed to have been peeled off every text, and my Bible fairly shone with new meaning. I do not say with a different meaning, for in no sense did the new meaning contradict the old, but a deeper meaning, the true meaning hidden behind the outward form of words. The words did not need to be changed; they only needed to be understood; and now at last I began to understand them.