God's Love Towards All (original articles found in ARISE Journal)
God's Love Towards All - Part I
These lessons, entitled Christianity 101 are intended to be basic, entry level teachings which can be used to understand the instruction of our Lord. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has spoken into our very own hearts. So now meditate on these things, watching the seed of Christ spring up to produce His very image and reality.
To get the most out of Christianity 101, actively participate by reviewing chapter and verse, always asking the Spirit of Truth to open your mind. I am sure you'll be able to see much more than I am capable of sharing here. And now the lesson......
God's Love Towards All
This subject has received much ridicule and mockery over the ages, yet it is also a subject which must be understood and embraced if you are to truly see the nature of our Heavenly Father. There have been many good books written on this topic, and upon request, I would be more than happy to list for you those in which I am familiar. Through this series of lessons, verse upon verse will be rightly aligned to better see God's Love Towards All.
We not only believe that God's love is towards all and will
be ultimately proven and demonstrated, but
we are believing to now practice and exhibit this very same love in our hearts and minds towards those in our lives today. I trust that these lessons will relieve some of certain doctrines and traditions taught by religion and will help see that God's love is far greater than we have ever imagined.
These truths are of vast importance and are foundational to every professing Christian. I do not apologize for rubbing against the main theme of traditional teachings for we are not called to be men pleasers, but are called to command and teach all the principles of Christ. ( ref. I Tim 4:10-11).
So lets first look at life as having some eternal purpose, with a well thought out plan, and an ultimate goal in mind. Strange thought to some perhaps. How is it that God's thoughts and ways are much higher than ours, yet even we as men take on most projects of significant importance with a plan of some sort. I hold a computer science degree and have worked in building telephony-related software products for nearly a decade. Projects which were successful have always had a well-thought out plan, having specific tasks, deliverables and milestones throughout the duration of the project. Each project had participants assigned to their various tasks, all working together towards the same goal, a successful completed product as specified in the plan.
It may come as a surprise to some, but God also has a plan. His plan is right on course, meeting every objective and delivering the exact quality components of an expected-end product all along the way, all on schedule down throughout the ages of time. And you my friend, believe it or not, are part of that plan! God is very active in your life, working towards His expected-end product.
Religion would have us believe that God's original plan was foiled by the devil, and with some stroke of luck, at best, one percent of all creation will be saved and spend eternity with God while the remaining ninety-nine percent will spend it in endless torment. But does the Bible really teach such a thing? Does such a hideous thought lend itself to the very nature of God? Let's reason together.
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion...." (Gen 1:26). God said from the beginning that man would be in the image of God and that man would have dominion over the entire universe. If God decreed such a thing, then His word will not return void or empty. It will accomplish the very thing it was sent to do. In the wonderful words of George Hawtin - "The answer to the eternal question, "What is man that Thou art mindful of him," is twofold, because the question is two-fold. What is man? The answer by example is JESUS CHRIST highly exalted. His name being above every name. He is the first man and the last man. He is the beginning of the creation of God and He is the end of the creation of God. We are His younger brothers, all members of the same family, first being sons of men and secondly sons of God. What He is we are becoming, to which the scripture clearly attests, saying "As He is, so are we in this world." (I Jhn 4:17). Every creature, whether of beasts or birds or fish or any plant or insect, brings forth seed after his kind, and shall it be different with God? Shall He not bring forth after His kind? Shall not he who is begotten of God be a son of God and a member of His family? Did not Jesus settle the contention forever when He said, "If He called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God?" (Jhn 10:35-36). Jesus Christ was the son of God, and we too, are sons of God because we are members of the family of God.
The first part of the question is, "What is man?" The second part of the question is, "That Thou art mindful of him?" Or, "What hast thou in mind for man?" The answer is that man will be given dominion, when his perfection comes and his Christ-likeness is complete, over fish, over birds, and over the beasts and creeping things of the earth. (Gen 1:26). The fish represent the things beneath. The birds represent the things in the heavens above. The beasts and creeping things represent things on the earth. That is what God decreed in the beginning, and that is His immutable intention now and in the ages to come - man in God's image, ruler and lord of the universe." - endquote.
I know that ruling the universe is a mind-boggling thought, even though it shall be true. However, before you or I can ever attain to such great feats in God, we must first rule over our own little universe. This brings things a little closer to home, somewhat more attainable and meaningful for our very NOW, to rule over our own thoughts, words and acts or deeds. "...and he that ruleth his spirit (is better) than he that taketh a city" (Pro. 6:32).
I cannot explain why God didn't just create man from the very start in His image, although I think something would have been lost if He did it that way. There is an element of appreciation and understanding that comes with experiences, hard as some may be a times. Certainly, our night experiences are essential to reveal His brightness and shining, for without the dark background the light cannot be discerned as light. Yet, God chose to lower man to be ineffective, useless or futile. You or I did not have a say in the matter. The apostle Paul has made it very clear to us - "For creation was not rendered futile by its own choice, but by the will of Him who thus made it subject, the hope being that creation as well as man would one day be freed from its thraldom to decay and gain the glorious freedom of God's children" (Rom. 8:20-21 Moffatt). And again, "for to vanity was the creation made subject - not of its will, but because of Him who did subject it in hope, that also the creation itself shall be set free from the servitude of the corruption to the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Young's Literal). And another, "For to vanity was the creation subjected, not voluntarily, but because of Him Who subjects it, in expectation that the creation itself, also, shall be freed from the slavery of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Concordant Literal). And last, "For the creation was made subject to frailty, not voluntarily, but by Him who placed it under; in hope that even the creation itself will be emancipated from the slavery of corruption...." (Diaglott).
"Rendered futile, made subject to vanity or frailty! Not by its own choice, not of its own will, not voluntarily, but rather placed under it, under the slavery of corruption, a realm of death and decay". Such phrases clearly indicate that Adam was not deceived, he did not make the wrong decision, the wrong choice. Adam was lowered into the realm of death, not willingly!
In a way, Adam's fall was a result of being PUSHED! It reminds me of when one night after wrestling practice in junior high school, someone snuck up behind me as I was sitting on the staircase rail and shoved me from behind. I fell over head first into a large garbage barrel with my feet sticking out. I had to be helped out, while my chin bled as it hit the metal sides as I went down. To this day I have a scar on my chin (due to the several stitches) to remind me that I was pushed! I was plunged into the garbage can, not willingly!!
Likewise, man was lowered into the realm of death and carnality, not by his own choosing, but rather by DIVINE CHOICE. And all of creation, including you and I were lowered with him. Yet, it was not without specific purpose and plan. "Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men" (Ps. 90:3 KJV). And again, "Thou turnest man unto a bruised thing, And sayest, Turn back, ye sons of men" (Young's Literal). Also, "Thou crumblest man away, summoning men back ...." (Moffatt).
God knew what He was doing as He lowered His creation to a realm lower than Himself. Yet, He also decreed TURN BACK, RETURN. God has set in motion that return, that return to love, that return to the One who lowered us having a specific purpose in mind. Men and women have taken heed to that inner call, to journey back to the Father. Each are coming in their own rank and order, not breaking rank. We cannot condemn those who are not now returning for we know that God must bid the call, God must initiate the draw, for it is not man's decision but rather Our Heavenly Father's selection.
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jhn 1:12-13). Job even testified when "Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee" (Job 14:15). "You see, it is not a question of human will or effort but of the divine mercy" (Rom. 9:16 Moffatt). And again, "Hath not the potter power over the clay" (Rom. 9:21), "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy" (Rom. 9:18).
It is difficult to see God's love toward all without first understanding God's love toward you. In fact, His love is so great for you, He controls your very own life, He controls what can and what cannot happen to you, all working together for your good, according to His divine purpose and will. All of our ups and downs, our successes and failures, have been in the hands of God, working and molding us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Now, I am not suggesting that He causes us in each facet of our life to succeed and fail as if we were robots without any ability whatsoever to make decisions. After all, we are being made into the image of Him and He "chose us", therefore He has instilled within us the ability to "CHOOSE HIM BACK". Yet it is a divine choosing back, initiated and guided by the One who created us.
I have personally given a great deal of time and energy considering the sovereignty of God, especially these past few years. It is indeed a subject most difficult, yes even impossible, for the natural mind to grasp. However, the spiritual mind understands all things, and with this same mind I will now share some of the truths discovered during my search regarding God's sovereignty.
The word "sovereignty", although not found in holy script, is revealed time and time again. It carries the meaning of having absolute, unrestricted, self-governed power and authority, not limited by any other. It would be stated of a person who has supreme power or rank, the greatest in degree. Another closely related word, omnipotent, has similar meaning of being unrestricted, unlimited in power and authority. It is found ten times in the new testament, nine translated as "Almighty" and once as omnipotent - "For the Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth" (Rev. 19:6). By the definition above, it should become apparent that God has total authority over all His creation. Scripture also bears witness that God is in control of His creation as Paul writes to the saints at Ephesus "Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will". And without any doubt, you beloved, are part of His creation. And may I add, it is good to know that He loves us enough to curb, direct and control our lives. "I will bless the Lord who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons" (Ps. 16:17). And, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in Himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer 10:23). Again, "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee" (Ps. 65:4). And, "Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way" (Pro 20:24).
Even Daniel knew of God's rule over the affairs of men as found in such statements as "....He removeth kings and setteth up kings: He giveth wisdom unto the wise and knowledge to them that know understanding"; and, "the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever He will". Proverbs also bears the same idea that "The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will". (Pro 21:1).
Please give ample thought to some of the statements our friend Job made and how it relates to the Lord ruling over his life. This perfect and upright man, who feared God and stayed away from every evil, was delivered into the hand of the adversary to experience the night time of death with its fire of purification to come forth as shining gold. His experience was a divine appointment, all purposed by our Divine Creator and God. His outcome was a blessing and a lesson for all to learn from. Yet it was his seeing God in control of the events in his life that I am most impressed. I'll quote a few verses, leaving it to your own study and seeking of the Lord to reveal His control of the events in your life. (If you are not familiar with the story, please take time to read the first nine chapters to find most of these quotes). "The Lord gave and the Lord taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord"; " What, shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil"; "For He maketh sore and bindeth up, He woundeth and His hands make whole"; "For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terror of God do set themselves in array against me"; "....that He would loose His hand"; "For He breaketh me with a tempest and multiplieth my wounds without cause" and, "...over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon Him". (ref. Book of Job).
To grasp that there is purpose, divine purpose in everything that touches your life is a thought to cherish. As Job stated, God hast appointest our bounds that we cannot pass. God has placed our bounds in order that we be exercised therein. He has placed His sovereign will over our own will for us to become willing and aligned to His will. It is as a "will within a Will". Even Joseph saw purpose in his terrible misfortune, tossed into a pit by his own brothers, left to die. He saw God in control of the events, saying to his brothers "So it was not you that sent me hither, but God".
Once again, this is not to suggest that we have excuse to sin, God forbid. His sovereign way has given us principles, which if disobeyed, will reap to that which it was sown, namely flesh. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". (Gal 6:7-9). Yet, He will also use your own wickedness to correct you and your backslidings to reprove you" (Jer 2:19). So the Lord wins out in the end, for "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and holy in all His doings" (Ps. 145:17) and "Faithful is He that calleth you who also will do it" (I Thes 5:24).
To conclude, we must first believe that God loves us and is working at a very close and personal level to burn all our impurities in order for the Christ to shine forth as pure gold. Once we see purpose in what God is doing in us, we can proceed to see His plan and great love for all, as the next lesson will continue to explore.
God's Love Towards All - Part II
These lessons are intended to be basic, elementary, entry level, teachings to better understand the instruction of our Lord. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has already spoken into our very hearts.
God's Love Towards All - con't
How great is God's love? Is it limited to only you and perhaps a few others? Is His love capable of reaching the worst of sinners, swallowing up the darkest of holes or filling the deepest of pits? What is your conception of God and His love? Have you ever considered that your image of Him is in error? Our notion of God and how we see His love towards ourselves and His entire creation determines the place we have of Him in our hearts. Consequently, we measure others with this same amount of love.
I prefer not to get into endless discussions and engage in arguments regarding doctrine. For some, I'd rather simply provide them with scriptural facts, answer their questions to the best of my ability, and suggest that they ask the Spirit of Truth to show them whether the teaching is true or false. I have the utmost confidence that if they are seeking truth, the Spirit will gladly unfold holy script and it will be as a mirror to that light already shining deep within their prepared hearts.
Before we begin our study, I cannot emphasize enough that the revelation of God's love towards all, when understood correctly, ought to cause a person to fall more in love with Jesus Christ and to surrender their entire heart to Him, thus causing a walk of obedience and righteousness. Indeed, we learn to "KEEP thy heart will ALL DILIGENCE; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). It is not a question of keeping our external affairs in right standing before God, for we often change the outward conduct time and time again, only to find that the inward is still corrupt, unchanged, even rotten! "...for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, THAT THE OUTSIDE OF THEM MAY BE CLEAN ALSO." (Matt. 23: 25-26).
A simple, yet vital lesson which Christians constantly forget is; if the core of the heart is right, the outside will automatically take care of itself for it can do no other but follow its center. So, it is rather the condition of the heart in which we are most concerned. "Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts, and see if a grievous way be in me, and lead me in a way age-during." (Ps. 139: 23-24 YLT). The heavy burden of do's and don'ts imposed on Christians are of no value to the realm of eternity. But if the heart has been changed, then the outside will also be clean. Your outward expression reveals or is a reflection of your inward condition and is usually most obvious when under pressure. "For as he (a man) thinketh in his heart, SO IS HE" (Prov. 23:7).
Yet, as we learn to have an inner experience and knowledge of our Lord, we see every kind of sin put away from our lives. And to this I say, take your eyes off your sin, off your circumstances and look to Jesus. If you fall, condemn not yourself, but rather turn (repent) to Jesus, keep your eye single to Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes you free from the law of sin and death. Did you catch the idea in what makes you free? It is not dealing with the flesh head-on, it is not fighting and duking it out blow for blow with the carnal nature. Rather, we are to reckon it dead! The Spirit of Life will automatically conquer, and win every time. He is the true champion of the universe. Such a simple principle, yet how often do we miss it or forget it. I think it would be quite beneficial for us all to give ample thought to this principle. By minding this law of liberty and remembering to put it into practice, we would all do well.
Now I ask, how big is the love of God? How far does it surpass our understanding? Has your heart been hardened to condemn creation to endless suffering and torment, doomed to the horrors of hell for eternity, an everlasting damnation with no deliverance, no salvation, no saviour! But you ask, doesn't the bible teach us these things? Nay, for His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are man's doctrines His doctrine. There is abundant scriptural backing, that God would never cast away His creation to an everlasting fire of torture and condemnation. NOWHERE does holy script teach such pagan thoughts!
More and more people are beginning to embrace the good news of God's love towards all mankind. Contrary to popular doctrines, the love of our heavenly Father is far greater than we have ever imagined. Without any doubt, and holy script bears this true, Jesus Christ is the answer for ALL of humanity. As such, we have fixed our hope, we have "locked-in" our sight and expectation on the living God. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, suggested to us this same thought and continued on with the undisputed statement, "who is the Saviour of all men - especially of those believing. Charge these things, and teach" (I Tim 4:10-11 YLT). And so, we happily command and teach these truths.
Religion has led people into thinking that God will send most of His creation to a place of torment without end. Many reading these lines may still be of that persuasion. Yet I can confidently say that such a hideous doctrine contradicts both the very character of God and the salvation brought to us by Christ. Those who teach the idea of "eternal damnation" differ little from those of old about whom Peter wrote, "the ignorant and unsteady twist to their ruin, as they do the rest of the scriptures" (II Pet 3:16 Williams).
If per chance you are of the "popular opinion" due to tradition and mis-translation of scripture, yet deep within your heart you want to believe that Christ was victorious for all, then rest assure God has chosen this day to begin the opening of the eyes of your understanding to see His great love towards all of creation. Yea, all of us who have been enlightened to see these glorious truths must now practice and exhibit His love else we are worst than those who still walk in darkness!
Jesus "is the Saviour of all men - especially of those believing". Now, don't you find it somewhat interesting that Paul would add the words "especially of those believing". The word "especially" comes from a greek word, malista, which means - most of all, especially, particularly, in a greater degree or chiefly. Is it so difficult to believe what Paul said? We are to know that for those who believe, the Lord Jesus is most of all or in particular, saviour. And to this we say, amen, for both you and I have been influenced by the Divine Himself, graced or enabled to experience salvation. And so He is chiefly our saviour, because we have received of His saving grace. Now what did the first part of our text say? "who is the saviour of ALL men...". Paul could have stopped there with those words, but he did not and thus continued to let us know that for those believing, Jesus is to a greater degree, saviour. Now from a positional or judicial viewpoint, all have the security that Jesus is their saviour, yet from an experiential standpoint, Jesus is only saviour to those who have been saved. Yet, the wonderful fact remains that He is saviour of ALL, ransom for all, yet in due time, each in his own order. Therefore, ALL must ultimately come to be delivered and set free!!
Paul connects the idea of all men and salvation by stating "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; WHO WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.........Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time". (I Tim 2:1-6 KJV). Crystal clear - the Lord WILLS that all mankind be saved and come into the realization of the truth. This is not simply a flimsy "wish" as some would imagine for God needs not to wish as a child would "wish upon a star" or "make a birthday wish".
The original shows the word "will" - thelo, to mean - as being inclined, determined, choosing, preferring, desire, to be about to, to delight in or to be willing. To even think that if man wills, God Himself cannot withstand him, is a childish notion and should be discarded from our very thoughts. Such have a very small God and their thinking is aligned with humanism. Wouldn't you say that if God Almighty is inclined or determined, it would come to pass? I pray so. Wouldn't you agree that if God Omnipotent chooses or prefers, it will come into existence? I pray so. Wouldn't you think that if the God of absolute and unrestricted power has a desire towards anything, it would be fulfilled? I pray so. Tell me, if the God of unlimited authority, subject to none other, is to be about, or delights in, or is to be willing to perform a task, wouldn't you pray He is capable of fulfilling it? I think so! So if God is inclined to save all of humanity, if God delights in saving all of humanity, if God desires to save all of humanity, if God be willing to save all of humanity, will all of humanity be delivered? Will humanity be delivered from the bondage of corruption? Wouldn't you think the Will of God is greater then the puny, little, stubborn will of man?
Again, Paul provides us with the statement that "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order:" (I Cor 15:22-23 KJV). In endeavoring to make the translation of the bible as nearly perfect in point of accuracy as possible, one translation proceeds with this same statement, "For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified. Yet each in his own class". Moffatt gives us "as all die in Adam, so shall all be made alive in Christ. But each in his own division". Dr. Robert Young writes "for even as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive, and each in his proper order". Again, "for as by Adam all die, so by the anointed also, will all be restored to life. But each one in his own rank;" (Diaglott). And yet others, "Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: (Jerusalem bible), and "As members of a sinful race all men die; as members of Christ all men shall be raised to life, each in his proper order" (Phillips translation).
It is self evident that as a result of being in Adam, all have experienced that state of death, from cradle to grave, "For since, in fact, through a man came death, through a man, also, comes the resurrection of the dead" (I Cor 15:21). I think I would be correct to suggest that not only has all mankind tasted this realm of death because of this one man, but also all of creation fell victim to the sting of death. Not man only, but ALL of the universe. And as ALL have tasted of this death, so shall this SAME ALL be made alive because of a man. Praise the Lord! And likewise, it will not stop with mankind, but the love of God will embrace ALL, including His whole creation. We reject the idea of those who would try to twist these scriptures to mean 'only those in Christ' to simply fit their doctrine. The evidence of scripture is clear and the facts are before us, let not your ignorance blind you from one of the most wonderful truths of God.
To quote a wonderful teacher - J. Preston Eby, "Just what does it mean for ALL to be "made alive"? First we must understand what it means for ALL to "die". I will speak very plainly about that condition or state of being that we call death. Who are the dead? Of course some one will say that is a foolish question because it is so obvious that the dead are those who have departed this life, their bodies lie buried in the earth. But far more than our decease was brought in by Adam, and something which affects our souls much more than the sleep which ends our earth consciousness. God did not say to Adam, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen 1:27). If He had, Adam would have fallen over dead in the very day he sinned. He would then have had no progeny of sinners. In the precise language of the Hebrew He said, "And dying, you shall die." That is, there would be a process of dying as well as a condition of death. As we now know, there is a long process of disintegration, with which we are all acquainted, even though we are accustomed to calling it life! Ever since Adam sinned, he and his descendants have been dying. It isn't that death "catches up with us." Death is apart of us, from the very moment of conception until the day it triumphs over us. Like ripe fruit plucked from the tree, our bloom soon passes away. In Adam, all are dying, even while they walk about on two feet. That is the "life" that we inherited from our disobedient parent.
But death is much more than this! No more precise definition of death can be given than the one provided by God Himself: "For to be carnally minded IS DEATH; but to be spiritually minded IS LIFE and peace" (Rom. 8:6). This is the process of death, descending from the purity of the realm of the spiritual, thus to awaken to the realm of the flesh, to mind the things of the flesh. And as long as we remain carnally minded, we remain in the state of death. It is not speaking of dead bodies, but of a dead-consciousness of God. Those who are not in any sense conscious of God, or His life, or what God is doing about them. They know not God or His will or His work, it is foreign to them as though they were far away in some other part of God's universe. The sad part of it is that many of the dead are professing Christians. The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said, "Awake thou that sleepest, and ARISE FROM THE DEAD, and Christ shall give thee light." Were these words directed to bodies in the cemetery? How foolish! It was written to professed Christians in the Church at Ephesus. Can we not see that in God's sight, death is not so much concerned with the fleshly body as with the consciousness of God's life............. Anybody apart from God in Christ is dead, whether in this life, or in any other. "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (I Jhn. 5:12). Physical death is only one of the results of a previous spiritual death. When Adam sinned, fellowship was broken between himself and the realm of God. It was not merely his physical demise after 930 years that constituted his death, but his separation from God on the very day he sinned was the inner reality of his death. That is the real death! And all the sorrows, frustrations, heartaches, pains, sicknesses, sufferings, disappointments, tragedies, and torments of this poor mortal existence are all part and parcel of the realm of death -- truly the condition and state of being of all men "in Adam".
Let us now see how it is that "in Christ" all shall be MADE ALIVE. The verse under consideration is found in I Cor. 15:22, and this whole chapter deals with resurrection.............. The contrast is not between corpses and walking bodies, but between the dying process and the life process of God. The Greek text actually reads, "As in Adam all are dying, so in the Christ shall all be made alive." The terms "are dying" and "shall be made alive" are in the incomplete tense in the original, which denotes an action in progress. The long drawn out activity of death in dragging men down to sin, death, and the grave is put in contrast with the endless activity of life imparting holiness, power, incorruption, and glory. All who endured the first shall enjoy the second............. To be "made alive" is more than some instantaneous event to take place sometime in the distant future. "Made alive" is not a blasting open of graves and the coming forth of the bodies that have been buried in them. "Made alive" does not point to some event when people will go soaring off into the heavens. When Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus, He rebuked Martha for looking for some manner of event in the far distant future and told her that the resurrection and the life was standing there before them." "I am the resurrection and the life." Oh, saints of God, do you not see that the eternal Father within the Christ was and is the resurrection? "I live by the Father", Jesus declared. The resurrection was not some thing that happened to Jesus, not some event of which He was a partaker, not some day marked by the calendar. The resurrection was and is A MAN! "I AM" - there it is! "I AM the resurrection and the life." To possess the Man, to put on the Man, to come into union with the Man is to have resurrection, for the Man IS the resurrection. "In Christ shall all be made alive.".............. Our alienation and separation from God, with all the dreadful attending sorrows, are already beginning to end in this life as through Christ we ARE MADE ALIVE! And, blessed be his name, in Christ shall ALL be made alive!" - endquote.
We rejoice in the fact "that 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" (Phil 2:10-11). I can tell you that it would not be to the glory of God if one of His creatures were damned to a hell for all of eternity, but rather it would be to His disappointment.
Granted, given the short time and amount of space to write, only a few scriptures have been brought to light and there may be many questions regarding several other bible verses and their lending to a doctrine of eternal damnation. Suffice it to say, that in articles to come, many will be properly aligned. In the meantime, feel free to send in questions and I'll do my best to answer them. There are also several very good books clearly presenting both viewpoints, rightly dividing the word. Words like everlasting, eternal, hell and damnation and stories like that of Lazarus have been poorly represented by religion.
So, we rest in the fact that the fate of those unsaved, loved ones who have passed on are not subject to a state of death for all of eternity. Every man will be made alive in his own time, his own rank or order in God's wonderful plan. Yet, we wisely remember to point out that we do ourselves much harm when we only look to those scriptures which state the reconciliation of all things and avoid the judgment of the wicked. We would not want to spend one day, one hour, one minute, one second anywhere without Christ and therefore preach to all men everywhere to repent.
He is not subject to the creature's final say
Hasn't the potter power over the clay?
And for all of mankind, a saviour He has become
That we be cleansed of our sins and live as one
So be ye reconciled to the One that sits on the throne
For he has bought you with his blood, to make you his own
God's Love Towards All - Part III
These lessons are intended to be basic, elementary, entry level teachings to better understand the instruction of our Lord. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has already spoken into our very hearts.
God's Love Towards All - con't
In the last two issues of ARISE we began to explore the love of God and how it relates to the destiny of man. We started our study with the idea that God has a well thought out plan for His creation. The wonderful truth was considered that God is to have man to be in the image of Himself and will give him dominion over the entire universe. Our attention was brought to our present state and condition of life rather than pondering too long on what "will be in the future", thus making it a little more meaningful and perhaps realistic for today. It was suggested that before such great feats in God are experienced, we must first rule over our own little universe by governing our thoughts, words and actions or as Proverbs states "he that ruleth his spirit (is better) than he that taketh a city".
We learned that man was lowered by the divine choosing of God to be ineffective, useless or futile, yet not without having a specific purpose and ultimate goal in mind. He set in motion man's return, charging every man, woman and child to turn back, "Thou turnest man unto a bruised thing, And sayest, Return, ye children of men" (Ps. 90:3 YLT). So we rest in the fact that everyone will respond to that call when God decides to turn them back, to draw them so they can run after Him, to quicken their spirit as deep would call unto deep. Job reminds us of this very same principle, "Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee..." (Job 14:15). Jeremiah confirms the same idea with "Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned..." (Lam. 5:21). And how can we miss to see our dependency upon God as the Psalmist writes "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statues; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way. Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear. Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness" (Ps. 119:32-40).
We have been assured over and over again by several inspired ones throughout the ages that God is sovereign and in complete, total control of His creation. Our brother Paul reminds us that God "as the potter has power over the clay, making of the same lump one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour" (Rom. 9:21). His servant John put it this way, "Our Lord God omnipotent reigneth". Job said "But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me..." (Job 23:13-14). Can we not believe that He is unrestricted and governed by none other, unlimited, supreme power and having rank over His entire creation! His plan will not fail or be delayed because of the puny, little, stubborn will of man. How can an Almighty God and Creator be subject to his creature?
And yet perhaps one of the most wonderful truths spoken out of the realm of spirit and recorded in holy script are the words of Paul that it is "God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). The Williams translation reads as follows, "for it is God Himself who is at work in you to help you desire it as well as to do it". I think that to whatever amount of divine influence is upon our hearts, we owe to God and share the same thought as did Paul that by the grace of God I am what I am.....yet not I, but the grace of God....with me. And again, the thought which is often overlooked by most, "To Him WHO BY HIS POWER that is at work within us can do surpassingly more than all we ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20 Williams). To this we see the words of Jesus, "I can of mine own self do nothing". So we see that it is God Himself motivating and curbing our desires. It is God Himself that is at work within us, empowering us to do that which we would not have done, not have asked, not ever have imagined! Yea, it is God Himself working all things after the counsel of His own will, turning hearts as rivers of water, whithersoever He will.
Our second study began to bring to light God's love and ultimate intention towards His creation. Disregarding "popular teachings" of today, several scriptures were rightly aligned to support the good news taught by the apostles and our Lord Jesus. The thoughts of endless suffering, torment and damnation contradict the very nature of God and the salvation brought to us by Christ. The idea that He created anything to be "damned for eternity" is a product of the carnal mind and should be discarded from the Christian vocabulary. Those that teach such ideas are unskillful in using the word of God. It matters not that the "mainstream" believe and teach such doctrines. We join good company with the apostles and even Jesus himself in preaching in opposition to the majority. I think it is vital and paramount for us to learn of His great love towards all for I am convinced that our very own concept of God and how we see His love determines the place we have of Him in our hearts, and consequently, we measure others with this same amount of love.
Indeed, we "labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men - especially of those believing. " (I Tim 4:10 YLT). We shared the good news that God our Saviour is determined and delights in the fact that ALL men are to ultimately be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (ref. I Tim 2:1-6). We clearly proved that "for even as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive, and each in his proper order" (I Cor 15:22-23 YLT). All have certainly tasted of death and it shall be THE SAME ALL that will be made alive!
So we'll begin our third study on this wonderful subject with the words of one of our Christian fathers, Clemens Alexandrinus, who said around the year 190 Anno Domini, "The Lord does good unto all, and delights in all; as God, he forgives our transgressions, and as man, he teaches and instructs us that we may not sin. Man is, indeed, necessarily dear to God, because he is his workmanship. Other things he made only by his order; but man he formed by his own hand, and breathed into him his distinguishing properties. Now, whatever was created by him, especially in his own image, must have been created because it was, in itself, desirable to God, or else desirable from some other consideration. If man was made because he was in himself desirable, then God loved him on account of his being good; and there certainly is in man that lovely principle, called the breath or inspiration of God." There are some, says Clemens, who deny that the Lord is good, because he inflicts punishments and enjoins fear. He adds that God's "justice is, of itself, nothing but goodness; for it rewards the virtuous with blessings, and conduces to the improvement of the sinful. There are many evil affections which are to be cured only by suffering. Punishment is, in its operation, like medicine: it dissolves the hard heart, purges away the filth of uncleanness, and reduces the swellings of pride and haughtiness, thus restoring its subject to a sound and healthful state. It is not from hatred, therefore, that the Lord rebukes mankind." Clemens says in another place, "How is he Saviour and Lord, unless he is the Saviour and Lord of all? He is certainly the Saviour of those who have believed; and of those who have not believed, he is the Lord, until by being brought to confess him, they shall receive the proper and well adapted blessing for themselves. The Lord is the propitiation, not only for our sins, that is, of the faithful, but also for the whole world (I Jhn 2:2): therefore he indeed saves all; but converts some by punishments, and others by gaining their free will; so that he has the high honor, that unto him every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth....". - end quote.
We agree with the words of the apostle John that Jesus Christ is the 'propitiation' for our sins, that is, he is the satisfaction, atonement, amendment, conciliation or expiation for our sins, which is the definition of the greek word hilasmos. It is also used when John tells us, "herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (I Jhn 4:10-11). A similar word, hilaskomai, brings to mind that we are justified because of God's mercy; not of our own self righteousness and many religious acts, nor even our ability to trust in ourselves. We share the parable of the pharisee and the publican as Jesus spoke these words to those who trusted in themselves to be righteous, while despising others. "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful, (hilaskomai) to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14). This same word was also used in the book of Hebrews, "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation (satisfaction, amends, mercy) for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). And again, a similar word in the greek, hilasterion, is translated as 'mercyseat' and 'propitiation' to support our teaching (Heb. 9:5 and Rom. 3:25, respectively).
So we rejoice and should be comforted in the fact that He is the satisfaction FOR OUR SINS. To me, this boggles the mind at times and is perhaps forgotten, yet the fact remains that HE IS! The fact remains that His blood is our satisfaction and when this understanding is grasped, when we come to realize and believe that through faith in His blood we have already been amended, we then openly declare his righteousness for the remission of sins! Now to complete the remaining portion of John's statement, "he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, BUT ALSO FOR THE WHOLE WORLD". For whom? Read it again! The whole world!! So, I ask, is God satisfied with the blood offered by His Son for both us and the whole world? You can either believe it or be as the Pharisee, despising others and only seeing yourself amended?
Now this is not to imply that the whole world will right away experience the same things promised to the believer or the one who overcomes in this present age. Scripture is clear that certain promises are only for the overcomer (ref. Rev. chapter 2). Nor is it to suggest that all are of the household of God. Only those born of the Spirit have been placed into the family of God and share the position as "brethren" of Jesus Christ. However, it is a matter of timing and election on God's part as to when the "whole world" will come into the grace and glory of our Lord. And yet, I think that even their part in God's great drama as "vessels of dishonour" is one of timing and divine election. Here I am reminded of two men, Cyrus and Judas Iscariot. The first was the king of Persia, a heathen rather than one of the nation of Israel. Yet God stirred this man's spirit to perform the task the Lord had for him in the earth. Isaiah even tells us that the Lord regarded Cyrus as His "shepherd" and "anointed" (ref. Isa. 44:28 - 45:1). The second man was Judas Iscariot who went unto the chief priests of his day to deliver the Christ in return for thirty pieces of silver. Yet Jesus chose him from the beginning knowing full well he was a devil. In fact, holy script says the devil was PUT INTO THE HEART OF JUDAS ISCARIOT, Simon's son, to betray the Christ. And let me ask, was it any different for Judas as with Herod, Pontius Pilate and the people of Israel TO DO WHATSOEVER the hand and counsel of God determined before to be done?
So back to my subject. God will prepare the heart of the unbeliever and draw them out of darkness and into His marvelous light when He decides it to be so. Often, He will send or use one of the "brethren", one of His instruments of salvation to inform or rather "share Christ". Religion would try to tell them that first they are sinners, then they are to repent and accept Christ as their personal saviour in order for their sins to be removed from God. What blasphemy I say! Their sins have already been dealt with by Jesus! They cannot do something, make a sacrifice, etc. to make amends with God. His Son already paid the price. Furthermore, they cannot repent and then accept God. Holy script tells us "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). And repentance, my friend, is turning your mind and making it right regarding God.
When we, as sons of God, declare His righteousness, it should cause a person to behold the true and living God. They will correctly regard God's goodness. We should be telling them that there has already been One in whom God is completely satisfied with and that He is not imputing their sins against them. They will then realize through a turned mind, regarding God in His exactness and wonderful mercy, and awaken unto a new life. From God's point of view, the blood already covers them, from man's vantage, we are to believe and be transformed in our mind and way of thinking to EXPERIENCE what God has already done. From God's position, their 'standing' is one of not guilty, He is not holding them in their sins. Now, if they truly believe it, they will confess with their mouth and believe in their heart unto salvation. A renewing or transformation will take place in their minds and they will start to experience this new life and become the righteousness of God. This is good news. This is coming to the knowledge of the truth. Do we impute their sins against them or do we tell them to be reconciled to God? We have all been shut up in unbelief, both we and the whole world. Yet Paul reminds us "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have HAVE MERCY UPON ALL", yes the whole world!
So, it is true that God will ultimately restore all into His glorious kingdom. David himself wrote "The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps. 110:1). And Paul confirms the same of Christ, "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under His feet" (I Cor. 15:25). And what are the 'all enemies to be put under his feet'? Paul gives us the answer that "....all things shall be subdued unto him...that God may be all in all". What then, is that subjection with which all things are subdued? Can it be none other than 'salvation' to be subjected to Christ? Even David said "stilled (subjected) is my soul, for from Him is my salvation" (Ps. 62:1-2 CV). And again, the idea that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.....to the GLORY of God the Father", denotes a subjection to Jesus.
Man's final outcome (e.g., his "eternal" resting place or abode) is NOT solely based on the decisions he makes while in this "land of the living". Religion would want us to think that the ultimate condition of man after a physical death is settled forever, etched in stone, never to be changed or altered. Yet I remind you that our Lord is much greater than man's stubborn will and our Almighty God is not limited to only reaching souls on this side of the grave. The servant and apostle Peter showed this to be true as Christ went and preached to those spirits in prison which were disobedient in the days of Noah (ref. I Pet. 3:20). We reject the idea of any who would try to twist this verse to regard any others than whom Peter refers, THOSE WHICH WERE DISOBEDIENT IN THE DAYS OF NOAH. And I ask the simple question, what do you think He preached? Could it be that He paid the price and He came to set the captives free!
Let us now turn our attention to words and phrases which have been poorly represented by religion and make it difficult to see God's Love Towards All. The remaining portion of this article will focus on the word eternal and everlasting. Future articles will rightly align the concepts of damnation, hell and stories such as that of Lazarus.
There are numerous scriptures which use the words 'eternal' and 'everlasting'. A few common verses will be quoted, along with a few less popular, to demonstrate our theme to be true. Our challenge begins with 20th century usage of these words. Today these words take on the meaning of unending, perpetual, surpassing all time and space. But this was not how they were used by the early Christians. In fact, it is quite interesting in readings of the early church fathers, that although there were difference of opinions regarding the fate of the unbeliever, most of them carried the expressions 'eternal' and 'everlasting' to mean a duration of time having a specific end. Origen, perhaps one of the greatest of all early church fathers, freely used such expressions without any further explanation as is needed today. In fact, he was clearly a teacher of ultimate salvation and found it to be one of his more favorite lessons. It is not recorded whether common orthodoxy of his day opposed or agreed with him on ultimate salvation, however, Origen did not have to defend his position with them. It is also said of him to believe that the doctrine is to be "regarded as a mystery and it should not be divulged everywhere upon the imperfect and those of less capacity", yet he often taught the subject.
Our English words 'eternal' and 'everlasting' are mostly found in the Greek as either aion or aionios. The word aidios is also used in two places but will not be discussed in this article. Since most of the early Christians used the Septuagint for their preaching and study, we will stay with the Greek word and its meaning rather than the Hebrew word. For those unfamiliar with the name, the Septuagint was the translation of the Hebrew holy scripture into Greek and served as the scriptures for vast numbers whose native tongue was Greek. For example, Jesus and his disciples would have used the Greek word aion rather than the original Hebrew word owlam , yet carrying the same meaning. Our first word aion means a term, interval or period of time, an age or an epoch. (An epoch is a particular period of time marked by distinctive features, events, etc.). The word 'eon' has been translated into English from aion. Scripture clearly taught that this word meant a period of time having a specific end to it. So let the usage of the word in the context of scripture determine the meaning of these words.
Jonah was in affliction and cried out of the fish's belly. Yet Jonah said that the earth with her bars was about me for ever or owlam. This word is the exact same as 'eon' and means a duration of time. The story proves this to be true since the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. We are told that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. So Jonah used the word owlam to mean a period of time having an end. The Septuagint uses the word aion, and our English translation uses 'for ever'; all three meaning the same thing! The same word has been translated in the old testament as: perpetual, everlasting, the world, elam, ancient, of old, and eternal. We find several references of the Aaronic priesthood as an 'everlasting' priesthood having an 'everlasting' covenant, yet the new testament tells us that it ended since a better covenant and more excellent ministry was established. God Himself said it was 'everlasting', yet ended it. Was He incorrect in using the word 'everlasting'? Perhaps He changed His mind and just lied to us in the beginning? Or could it be that religion has led us astray in understanding the true meaning of these words. Let God be true and every man a liar. Even the leprosy of Gehazi, stated by Elisha as 'for ever', must end at his death. (ref. II Kgs. 5:27)
Perhaps a little more difficult to both understand and explain are the following few verses. However, we must maintain a consistent meaning with our word and can only rely on the Holy Spirit to quicken to our minds such truths. "The eternal (qedem) God is thy refuge....." (Deut. 33:27). This word is also translated as east, eastward, before and anciently. It means antiquity and relates with time if one were to review the some sixty verses which use the word. For example, "the chief things of the ancient mountains" or "I have considered the days of old". The translators could have just as easy wrote "eternal mountains" or "days eternal". Yet, that would clearly be misleading since we know a mountain cannot be eternal nor can a day, which is clearly related to time. However, it is very true to say that "The God of the ages is thy refuge" since He acts within the limits and confinements of time with man. Paul writes "Now unto the King eternal (aion), immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (I Tim. 1:17). Dr. Robert Young translation gives "and to the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only wise God, is honour and glory - to the ages of the ages! Amen". Another reads "Now to the King of the eons, the incorruptible, invisible, only, and wise God, be honor and glory for the eons of the eons! Amen!". And yet again, "He is the King of the ages, the unseen one who never dies.......". So we can see that He is the King of all the ages of time and is to receive honor and glory in each one of them.
Now to that more difficult question, what about the 'eternal' life which God has given to us, or the 'eternal' life which we are to lay hold, or the 'eternal' life in which we are to believe so not to perish? And while on the subject, how about the 'eternal' damnation or 'everlasting' punishment for the wicked? Some have asked, how can the punishment or correction have an end, yet the same word for the believer's life mean eternal. On the surface this may seem to be a plausible argument, however as we seek the mind of the Lord, relatively simple answers are provided for us.
First of all, we have seen that the words under investigation can not mean eternal or endless. Eons have beginnings and have endings, however long or vast they may be, common sense demands it and the scriptures prove it to be so. I would be the first to admit that if I only knew of the phrases like 'eternal' life to rely on and knew nothing else of this life in which I now possess, I would tend to think that perhaps it has an ending somewhere in the far reaches of time. However, scriptures clearly show that this life is an endless life, never to cease, eternal without end. It is a life which can not be corrupted and shall never see death or an end. So now that we know a little more about this life, we can see that this 'eternal' life isn't talking about it's duration but rather it's quality. The life, which is endless, has been subjected into the time realm and will exist down through the ages or as some translators have accurately stated, ".....to the life age-during". Once the ages are complete, this life does not discontinue because it is endless, eternal! The word aion does not make it eternal, it simply implies that this life has been implanted into time or is life age-abiding. However, there are other verses which show us that it is truly eternal and shall never end! And besides, whoever heard of (or can find in the Bible) an eternal punishment? Isn't punishment a form of correction? Once the crooked is made straight, the punishment is no longer required. Don't let your carnal mind or your religious dogma get you all confused regarding this subject. Yes, this life endures throughout the ages, it is age-abiding life. But it goes past the idea of only 'during the ages'. It is an endless life subjected into the time realm, to be experienced by man throughout the ages and beyond.
So when we find words to mean a duration of time, we must conclude that these were used with specific intent since they were under inspiration when spoken. God in His dealings with man is working with the ages, it is 'age-abiding' life, 'age-abiding' salvation', etc. He is the God of all ages. Yet He is still Eternal and reaches beyond time. I do not think that the doctrine of eternal damnation belongs in the Christian faith. Those who teach such ideas are teaching against the character of God and are unskillful in handling the word of God. Surely, His whole mind is full of love towards His creation!
God's Love Towards All - Part IV
These lessons are intended to be basic, elementary, entry level teachings to better understand the instruction of our Lord. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has already spoken into our very hearts.
God's Love Towards All - con't
"Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord." Those were words spoken by the prophet Isaiah, yet they are worthy of consideration for today. Therefore, I ask you to reason with our Lord regarding His intent for creation. I beseech you to seek the Holy Spirit as to the character of our heavenly Father and Almighty God. Do His thoughts suggest endless suffering, torment and damnation for the vast majority of His creation? It is my deepest conviction and foremost desire that the truth be known, yea that it be shouted from the housetop. Countless thousands, even supposed educated Christians have not even heard such wonderful things. And what things are these you may ask? We answer with confidence, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:25). And if He shall, let the words of Job support our cause, "But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth." And His desire is that none should perish!
Many have been blinded by the doctrines and commandments of men. For too long, the blind have led the blind. However, we who have been graciously given the ability to understand now speak of the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. We openly share that He is the satisfaction for both our sins and the whole world, we gladly confess that God will have all men finally to be saved, we rejoice in the fact that He is the Saviour of all men, most of all for those now in belief. Yes, we are comforted with the loving and good truth that all shall be made alive in the Christ of God. We see that all things shall be subdued unto Him and put under His feet so that every knee would bow to the glory of God. Only such subjection can come from salvation! We see this in the words of David, "stilled (subjected) is my soul, for from Him is my salvation" (ref. I Jhn 2:2; I Tim 2:1-6; 4:10-11; I Cor 15:22-23).
Every now and again, not often, but sometimes, I am asked why I insist that this subject be so often shared. I am persuaded that it is not only vital that we seek truth and that the very same will make us free, but we must also come to know the true nature and character of our Father. As we observe Him, we shall be changed into His likeness, therefore we must come to behold Him as He Is. I am convinced that our very own concept of God and how we see His love determines the place we have of Him in our hearts, and consequently, we measure others with this same amount of love. I can say with a sure mind that the popular teaching of endless damnation will not be accepted by those who demand sound reasoning and clarity of scripture, yea it will not be once mentioned by those who will rule and reign with Christ.
The teaching of universal salvation has been often misunderstood as it relates to sin. Before we answer this charge, let us define what is sin. The scriptures shows us that "sin is lawlessness" (I Jhn 3:4 Williams). One person has written, "failure to conform to any standard is sin, whether it be the law of Moses or any other law, natural or revealed." He later states, "We are glad to turn to the fountain of all wisdom and find there a simple simile that presents a perfect picture of God's own apprehension of what is meant by sin." He continued to show using Judges 20:16 that the word sin and miss are identical in meaning. He adds, "Some months ago we had occasion to throw a stone over a certain branch of a tree. A cord was attached to the stone, for the object was to draw up an aerial for radio reception without climbing up to the perilous higher branches. We confess that we sinned many times before the task was accomplished. The cord would catch as the rock ascended; the rock went too high; it went to one side; it caught in the foliage. No matter what it did, each failure was a picturesque representation of God's definition of sin."- endquote.
God has given us a conscience to guide us as to right and wrong. David prayed, "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart....that I may discern between good and bad." (I Kgs 3:9). That sense of right and wrong is, I think, God's voice via the Holy Spirit speaking within us. When you know to do right and willfully sin or fail to obey, the opportunity has been lost and therefore you have missed or sinned. To this James agrees, "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." When you miss or are in error, you are technically a sinner in that particular area or circumstance. If you were to shoot an arrow at a target and miss, you are a sinner as to your ability to master a bow and arrow. James says of fellow brethren that if we err from the truth, we are sinners. (ref. 5:19:20).
John says that "all unrighteousness is sin". Paul wrote, to those beloved of God and called saints in Rome, that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Jesus said it was a sin (a miss), "because they believe not on me" (Jhn 16:9). Here I am reminded that belief must first stem from the heart, or "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." And again, "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart...". Only Christ can change the attitude of the heart and that is where the source of your motives stem, yea your very own character, own conduct, own state of being in spirit, soul and body. Certainly to not believe in Him is to be a fool and every foolish thought just plain misses the mark, which is Christ. (ref. Prov. 24:9).
So to sum up, sin is missing the mark or the target. We have a high and holy calling in which we press toward. We have a prize to attain and that is to win Christ! Anything short of Him, in our thinking, our saying or our doing , is missing the standard, it is failure. This should encourage, not discourage us, for we have a mark to shoot for! I don't know about you, but I welcome the idea that my character is constantly being improved upon. I relish the thought that I am becoming more in union with Him.
So back to the charge that we who teach the salvation of all mankind downplay sin. Just like anything else, I will admit that there are probably those who have the mental understanding of this doctrine yet would sin most every opportunity they have, but it is simply not so for many others! Paul said, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid." (Rms 6:1-2). It is a serious matter, yea a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I urge you not to toy with His dealings, His divine cleansing, yea His divine fire of purification.
The great Origen, perhaps one of the wisest of all early church fathers, once stated, "The sacred scripture does, indeed, call 'our God a consuming fire', (Deut. 4:24) and says that 'rivers of fire go before his face', (Dan. 7:10) and that 'he shall come as a refiner's fire and as fuller's soap, and purify the people.' (Mal. 3:2). As therefore, God is a consuming fire, what is it that is to be consumed by him? We say it is wickedness, and whatever proceeds from it, such as is figuratively called wood, hay, and stubble. These are what God, in the character of fire, consumes. And as it is evidently the wicked works of man which are denoted by the terms wood, hay, and stubble, it is, consequently, easy to understand what is the nature of that fire by which they are to be consumed. Says the apostle, 'the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any one's work abide, which he hath built, he shall receive a reward. If any one's work be burned, he shall suffer loss.' (I Cor. 3:13-15). What else is here meant by the work which is to be burned, than whatever arises from iniquity? Our God is, accordingly, a consuming fire, in the sense I have mentioned. He shall come also as a refiner's fire, to purify rational nature from the alloy of wickedness, and from other impure matter which has adulterated, if I may so say, the intellectual gold and silver. Rivers of fire, likewise, said to go forth before the face of God, for the purpose of consuming whatever of evil is admixed in all the soul."
And again he states, "the word of the gospel in the present life, purifies the saints; whether Israelites or Gentiles, according to that expression of our Lord, 'now ye are clean through the word I have spoken unto you.' (Jhn 15:3). But he who shall have spurned the cleansing which is effected by the Gospel of God, will reserve himself for a dreadful and penal course of purification; for the fire of hell shall, by its torments, purify him whom neither the apostolic doctrine nor the evangelical word has cleansed: as it is written, 'I will thoroughly purify you with fire.' (Isa. 1:25). But how long, or for how many ages, sinners shall be tormented in this course of purification which is effected by the pain of fire, he only knows to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, and who so loved his creatures that for them he laid aside the form of God, took the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death, that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." - endquote.
Likewise, an earlier church father stated that God's "justice is, of itself, nothing but goodness; for it rewards the virtuous with blessings, and conduces to the improvement of the sinful. There are many evil affections which are to be cured only by suffering. Punishment is, in its operation, like medicine: it dissolves the hard heart, purges away the filth of uncleanness, and reduces the swellings of pride and haughtiness, thus restoring its subject to a sound and healthful state. It is not from hatred, therefore, that the Lord rebukes mankind." - endquote.
Similar are the wise words of Ray Prinzing, "Man has long viewed God's judgments as a vindictive action prompted by a motive for revenge and supported by a tumultuous wrath that must be pacified. NOT SO! Such is a gross caricature of our God! His mercy and grace are super-abundant, and though He finds it necessary to chasten, His wisdom and righteousness produces a just and pure chastisement conditioned to correct the situation, and thus bring forth a creature improved by the process. ALL OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE CORRECTIVE IN NATURE, motivated by His love, and used to work out a divine purpose, into our good, and His praise!" - endquote.
Indeed, God will deal accordingly with the soul which has been tainted with sin. Some of the disorders can be removed with His mercies and love, others require that more painful mode of cure, even to burning. For it may even come to be for some that it be impossible for them to turn their mind in repentance; having crucified and rejected our Lord time and time again. It is to them whose end is to be burned. (ref. Heb 6:1-8) Even Isaiah confirms that punishment is inflicted by fire, "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. " (Isa. 4:4 YLT).
Indeed, both present and future punishments or corrections are purifications by their nature. Yet, I do not suggest that the fires are to be taken lightly nor can they within themselves turn one to Christ. It is only by the irresistible grace of our Lord that a person can call upon Jesus Christ. Yet, I see that it is all designed to let man be totally convinced within himself that nothing better satisfies than the Lord Himself. The fires of correction are not designed to preserve any in their sin and wickedness but rather to make them cease from it. Once again, this is not to imply that the fires of hell can redeem a person for only in Christ alone is there redemption.
J. Preston Eby penned these fine words, "Some argue that because we affirm that the judgments of God are not eternal, but corrective, we teach a 'hell redemption.' We are accused of believing that hell can accomplish in a man what the mercy and blood of Jesus could not accomplish. Many years ago Charles G. Finney (and we respect his ministry) opposed the teaching of the ultimate salvation of all by ridicule. Finney was a master of the invective. He said that those who were saved after this 'age of grace' ends would unceasingly sing, 'Thanks be to the hell that saved us by our own suffering!" Just how much weight is there to that criticism? It is a marvelous truth that CHRIST ALONE can save! There is no other way! How we rejoice that it is so! But there is one thing that must be dealt with before any man can come to Christ and be saved. MAN'S REBELLION MUST BE REMOVED. His pride and self-confidence and stubborness and trust in things and pleasures that damn and lead away from God must be broken. And this is where judgment comes in. Judgment destroys the power of the carnal mind which blinds, which is enmity against God - but judgment does not grant redemption. It only breaks rebellion! It breaks man's stubborn will! But redemption was purchased upon the cross." - endquote.
Indeed, sin is most hateful in the sight of God and in His infinite wisdom He designed the cure to remove it from His creation. Certainly, the complete extinction of sin must be the case for Paul to even suggest that God would be all in all. And if God is to be all in all, there will be no mixture of evil for "Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good" (Lam. 3:38). In fact, sin was so displeasing to our Holy and Almighty God that He sacrificed His very own Son to take it out of the world. Yet much of Christendom today would imply that His Son had failed His mission or missed His task. Missed, they say....why they suggest that He sinned! I will have you know that as long as sin strikes its terrible blow to the heart and mind of a single person, either in the now or hereafter, it has not been put totally under foot and has therefore retained it's sting of death!
Obviously, I support the notion that the fires of correction and hell are not literal or material but rather allegorical. Yet, I submit for your consideration that any correction, especially spiritual, can be most severe and is to be taken very seriously. To suffer loss, any loss, is always painful. So as the good physician might say, 'be wise and take your medicine now, even if it doesn't taste so good." Remember, it was never said that broad is the way that leadeth to life or that many are called and chosen? Nay, the scriptures say narrow is the way that leadeth to life and few there be that find it. Also, that many are called but few are chosen.
Let us now briefly turn our attention to words and phrases which have been poorly represented by religion and make it difficult to see God's Love Towards All. The remaining portion of this article will focus on the word 'hell' in the old testament. Future articles will rightly align the concepts of 'hell' in the new testament, damnation and stories such as that of Lazarus.
I am a firm believer that the usage of a word in the context of scripture should determine its meaning. I have also found that most people have much difficulty considering a viewpoint if it contradicts tradition and what they have long perceived as truth. The subject of hell, perhaps more than any other, carries an unusual and phantom type image in the minds of most today, including bible professing Christians. Yet I am amazed how little they have sought out whether their doctrine stands the authenticity of holy script. As such, I beg that you study and mediate without ceasing to know truth regarding the remaining portion of this article.
Popular teachings of today suggest that when death comes to the mortal body of a person, the person that is good or saved ends in a heavenly bliss while the bad or unbeliever goes to an endless hell of misery and torment. Let's now look closer at this concept of hell to learn its true meaning. The word 'hell' comes from an old English or Saxon word hel-an and meant to hide, cover or conceal. To hele over something was to hide it. It has been said that the "first translators of the bible used the word hell in the sense of a covered or unseen place, the grave, or perhaps the state of death." A nineteenth century English church scholar named Samuel Cox taught on this same saying, "In our early literature it is used to denote, not only any obscure place or dungeon, but also the dark hole into which a tailor flung his waste shreds, and even the retired spot to which, in a popular game, a lad led a lass to exact the forfeit of a kiss. But theology has long since discharged all gay and innocent meanings and associations from the word hell." - endquote. I recall that once upon a time I read that it was proper in old English to suggest that a potato would be found in the ground as in hell since it was unseen or covered by the earth. Imagine sitting at the dinner table and asking a fundamental church friend if they would care for a 'potato once in hell'. Or consider the idea of asking your spouse or fancy if they'd be interested in finding a place, namely hell (covered place), for a romantic kiss! (If this offends you, perhaps you misunderstand the true meaning sheol).
Many tradition bound teachers are quite descriptive of the blazing hell-fire which torments the soul for all of eternity while Jesus and His angels look on with just and dignified stares. Yet such men are only lost in their vain and carnal reasonings, speculating what they think is the truth of scripture. Simple reasoning tells us that God should love his enemies if we are called to love our enemies. The worst of man would probably save his own child from a natural fire rather than see them suffer for one minute, yet we are told that the Father of all spirits will torment his very own creation for not only one minute, or one hour, or one day, or one year, or one decade, or one century or one millennium but for all of eternity! O thou selfish seeking humanistic mind, who has bewitched you to believe such lies! I challenge any to this.
In reviewing the old testament, we find that the hebrew word sheol is used some 65 times, about 31 of them as 'hell', while the remaining 34 times as 'the grave' or 'the pit'. Strong's concordance defines sheol as hades, world of dead, grave, pit or hell. A comparative study of the occurrences in the old testament will clearly show that this word sheol, all throughout scripture, simply means the state of death or unseen. The first time we see this word used in the O.T is Genesis 37:35 when Jacob heard of his favorite son Joseph supposed dead having thought that a beast had devoured him, "And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him." In consideration of the meaning of sheol, Jacob leaves us with a few possibilities, either that it meant the state of being dead, the realm of the unseen or the grave itself. By process of elimination, further examinations will help us capture a more true definition. Obviously, we can rule out the ever-burning fire damnation concept of hell for the word sheol, for who could ever think that Jacob, one of the great heroes of faith, the one whom the Lord spoke, "yet I loved Jacob" (Mal. 1:2) and was "the apple of his eye" (Deut. 32:10) would have such a horrid place in store for his rest. And again, I don't think Job would have said "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave (in sheol, in hell), that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!" if the meaning of it were what theologians would have us to believe today.
It is found of King David saying, "The sorrows of hell compassed about; the snares of death prevented me", and "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." And yet another, "O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit". Job said, "Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering." and "Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned." From these few statements we can learn more about this concept called sheol or hell. David said that it was the sorrows of sheol which compassed him and tied the idea closely with the snares of death. Job also relates the downside and ruin of hell with the idea of destruction. Interestingly enough, Job understands that even hell is visible or seen by God, which obviously becomes apparent that this realm is not naked or visible to man. It should be apparent that it is a realm of the unseen and certainly most often (but not always) in scripture suggests sorrow, pain and death. David said that his soul was in sheol or hell and the Lord brought it up and kept him alive. Jonah also cried out of the fish's belly which he called the belly of hell. This can be understood as he cried out of the realm of the unseen. (ref. II Sam. 22:6, Ps. 16:9-10, Ps. 30:3, Job 24:19, 26:6, Jonah 2:2) In fact, in the works of Josephus, he wrote regarding how Saul, upon God's not answering him concerning the fight with the Philistines, desired a necromantic woman to raise up the spirit of the prophet Samuel. Josephus said that she called forth the spirit of Samuel from hades or sheol. Now let me ask you, do you think that prophet of God, that servant of God, that man of God would end up in the hell that theology has painted for us?
To quote again that wonderful teacher, J. Preston Eby, "In the Old Testament we find the word sheol which according to our Hebrew dictionaries means 'the place of the dead.' The word always appears in the singular, never in its plural form. It is not the 'places' of the dead, not the individual graves where reside their respective bodies, but the realm of the dead, the abode of the dead, or the state of the dead. The word is derived from the root shael, which means, by implication, 'to request, to demand.' And this reminds us forcibly of the common and inevitable end of all flesh. There is a realm and a state beyond this life which inexorably beckons men onward through the fleeting years of earthly ambition and toil till at last it lays its demand upon them, drawing them into its inescapable embrace." - endquote.
I find that Sheol is never once used to denote the final estate of men and certainly does not imply the endless torments described by so many misguided preachers today. It is the abode or realm of the unseen, the domain of death, it is without life, without Christ! When relating to the souls of men in the departed, I see it is an intermediate place for the continued processing and inworking of the cross of Christ. In fact, I am bold to say that by an in-depth study, one may even find that the inspired ones of old, when having tasted of the realm of sin and death and its dreaded influence, were actually experiencing hell in themselves!!
God's Love Towards All - Part V
These lessons are intended to be basic, elementary, and entry level teachings to better understand the instruction of our Lord. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has already spoken into our very hearts.
God's Love Towards All - con't
As I sit at my computer terminal and write, I am overwhelmed with the grace and mercy of our Lord and God. I can hardly grasp His love towards me nor His intense love towards all of creation. It is certainly a love of another kind, yea, a love that surpasses all understanding. Surely, it is a time of rejoicing for He makes all things work together for good to them that keep on loving Him and are called in accordance with His purpose. Even in our times of ignorance and carnality, in those moments of darkness when His love appears to be absent concerning us and our "loving" Him is nowhere to be found, yet He is still forever faithful and continues to work all things for our benefit.
He surely knows the way that we take, even when we cannot perceive or see the way He would take. It reminds me of that perfect and upright man Job, who feared God and stayed clear from evil. He had his moments of not knowing how God was at work in His life, yet he had faith that the judge of the earth would do right concerning his journey in this land of the living. Hear his very own words, "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job. 23:8-10).
Therefore of His love I shall insist that it is a love of another kind, a love that no man knoweth, except he who has the Spirit of God. Yes, it is only the Spirit of God which can draw us to such a love, a love that never fails, a love which is unquenchable, a love which reconciles our wayward hearts back to God. And why do we love him? Can it be any other than that spoken by the beloved disciple John, "We love him, because he first loved us" (I Jhn. 4:19). He FIRST loved us. He preceded all our intentions, He directed and was foremost in the series of events, namely our response. He did the leading, He pioneered the call, He exceeded and was foremost in the bidding of this love. Because He initiated this love towards us, we in turn are able to respond back with the same quality and substance of love. It is His love that is at work within us to desire and perform His good pleasure. Indeed, we owe our allegiance to Him.
When I consider the love that is contained in my heart towards Him and realize that it is only because He first loved me, it causes me to love Him even that much more. This is not the love that the world seems to have toward one another. "For if ye love them which love you, what thank (karis: greek word for grace) have ye? for sinners also love those that love them" (Luke 6:32). Isn't it easy to love when you know that that love is appreciated, when it is returned. But how about loving when the return isn't expected, when it does not come back to you. How about "love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35). What is the motive behind our love at times? I can hear someone say, "that kind of love is difficult, it's too great for me, beyond my capacity". Well, now you're getting it. Of course it is. In fact, it is downright impossible. No one can attain such heights in the true realm of love unless the Spirit of grace influence and enable a person to meet the call.
The wonderful words of Elwin R. Roach add to this very subject, "Many things can generate love, but there are two primary principles that always work; namely, we love because we choose to love, and we love because someone first loved us. People who have never been loved very seldom possess the gift of love. If they do not have the understanding on how to generate it themselves, and if no one has ever given them that most precious gift, it is a foreign thing to them. The most common occurrence of love in the average person is because someone first loved them, especially since they are unaware that it can originate within themselves" - endquote.
As love matures and has its way with, in and through us, it dispels all that would torment us. Again, the words of John, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I Jhn. 4:18). What is love? "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I Jhn. 4:10). He is certainly the 'propitiation' for our sins, that is, He is the satisfaction, atonement, amendment, conciliation or expiation for our sins. His blood is our satisfaction and when this understanding is grasped, when we come to realize and believe that through faith in His blood we have already been amended, we then openly declare His righteousness for the remission of sins! Again, what is love? "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (I Jhn. 4:16). God IS love. It does not say that God has love, but rather that God IS love. His underlining motive originates out of pure, divine, holy and balanced love.
Hear the wise words of J. Preston Eby, "When we speak of God's attributes we may say, and many do, that God is Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. This is a very beautiful definition; but it largely defines only God's attributes, whereas the text, "God is Love," tells us WHAT HE HIMSELF IS. This text reveals His nature, His state of being. For instance, in speaking of justice, we know that God has justice as one of His attributes, but He is not justice; God IS love. This fact gives us a revelation of GOD'S VERY NATURE" - endquote.
Let me share two stories penned by Brother Eby while teaching on the Power of God's Love. He writes, "J. A. Dowie relates the following story: "I remember how touched I was to look upon a grave once which had only these words: 'MY BROTHER. HE LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF INSTEAD OF ME.' I turned to a person and said: 'Tell me the story of the grave.' He told me that it was erected by a man in memory of his brother who was killed in war. The man was drafted as a conscript; but when this younger brother, who had no wife or family, heard of it, he went to him and said: 'John, you have a dear wife and a nice family, and I have none. Let me take your name and go for you.' So he went under the name of his brother, John, and was killed in the battle. John went down to the battlefield and brought the body home and buried it. He erected a tombstone on which were only these words: 'My brother. He loved me and gave himself instead of me.'".
The second story goes as follows: "The story has been
told of when John B. Gough, the great temperance orator, was entertained by
some friends in an eastern city, the mother of the household called him aside
and asked him to go to her son Edward and have a talk with him. She said that
Edward had been a wayward son; in fact, he had gone so far in disgracing them
that the father forbade him to enter the house. She said that she had pleaded
with the father and had prevailed, and that the father had consented to permit
Edward to have a room where he would never have to see him. She said, "Mr.
Gough, Edward came home intoxicated a couple days ago and is still in his room.
I have been caring for him. Will you not go and have a little talk with him?"
Mr. Gough said, "My dear mother, if you with all your love and patience
can not do anything with him, I scarcely think that I can." With a mother's
persistency she finally persuaded Mr. Gough to talk with her son. He knocked
at the door and entering found Edward. Mr. Gough said, "Edward, aren't
you tired of the kind of life that you are leading?" Edward said, "Yes,
Mr. Gough, I am sick and tired of it." "Then why do you not quit it?"
"Quit it? I can't, Mr. Gough; I am bound hand and foot with an evil habit."
"Then why do you not pray, Edward?" "Pray! I don't believe in
prayer; I don't believe in God; I don't believe in anything." "Oh,
yes, you do, Edward," replied Mr. Gough. "You believe in something.
You believe that your mother loves you." Edward replied, "I do not
believe anything about it, I know she loves me." "Then Edward,"
continued Mr. Gough, "you believe that there is such a good thing in this
world as love, and I am going to leave you here and I want you to promise me
that after I go out, you will get down on your knees and pray to love."
"Pray to what?" said Edward. "Pray to love, for that is the only
thing you say you believe in." After much persuasion Edward promised. He
afterward said that he felt very foolish when he knelt down to pray to love,
but he had promised, and he tried to fulfill his promise. He kneeled and cried,
"Oh love, love help me"; and straightway, as if through the cleft
heaven, this text sounded as a voice in his heart, "God is Love";
and still looking up, he said, "Oh God!" and there came the verse
that he had learned years before, "For God so loved the world, that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life." And he cried, "Oh, Christ!" - and
it was done. He rushed out of his room to find his mother, and, when he did,
he threw his arms around her neck and said, "Mother, I have found the Christ!"
I am sure that any believing Christian reading thus far is saying, "Amen", to the words which have been shared. How can we disagree with the true nature and character of our Father. How can we be at odds to the Spirit of Truth which makes us free. As we observe Him, we shall be changed into His likeness, therefore we must come to behold Him as He is. I've said this several times in articles past, yet it is worth mentioning a thousand times again, "Our very own concept of God and how we see His love determines the place we have of Him in our hearts, and consequently, we measure others with this same amount of love". Yet, we are now faced with those more difficult questions, those which are never answered very well and seem to contradict the very nature of God Himself. We now come to that junction where we must disagree with popular teachings of today, regardless of the cost. We must learn to reason together, forsaking our preconceived ideas of what we "think" the Bible would teach and come to realize what the Spirit of Truth would have us to know this very day. Sound reasoning and clarity of scripture must be in agreement with the Spirit of God, else it is simply our tradition and carnal reasoning. Let us not be as those scribes and Pharisees of yesteryear when Jesus said, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matt. 15:6).
If we truly believe that God is love, and scripture clearly states that He is, then can we honestly believe that He would damn His creation to hell for all of eternity? Would He suffer the majority of His children to the so-called 'flaming torments of hell' never to be forgiven again? The popular view of hell is that God will never love His enemies enough to save them but rather subject them to spend their entire existence in a state of godless torment and never-ending punishment (which by the way, defies the very purpose of correction). It is said that there will be no hope nor escape for all the ages to come in eternity for those who have never received Christ. The unbeliever will experience the agony of pain and never have another chance to repent nor experience the goodness of God, so they surmise with their dogma. Yet, I say with authority by the Holy Spirit of our Almighty God and Saviour that such thoughts have never entered His mind. These are man-made, hair-brain schemes to justify religion's own reasoning and wicked nature. Such doctrines are a travesty to our Heavenly Father. I cannot sit back and lighty accept the lies of Babylon anymore. I shout it from the housetop. He saves! He loves! He Is Love! Our Father loves His creation for He has "created all things, and for His pleasure they are and were created" (ref. Rev. 4:11). His dealings are motivated by His nature and character. Shall not the judge of the earth do right? I say, prove me wrong if you can. Have you laboured and toiled hours on end to discover whether this is true? Have you ever considered your doctrine to be perhaps a product of religion and the spirit of error? Have you given ample thought to your inner conviction? Well, I have! I have labored hard and long on such thoughts. And guess what. Christ is triumphant!
In articles past, we have spoken of the GOOD NEWS of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have openly shared that He is the satisfaction for both our sins and the whole world. We have gladly confessed that God will have all men finally to be saved. We have presented ample scriptural evidence that He is the Saviour of all men, most of all for those now in belief. And we have clearly shown that ALL SHALL BE MADE ALIVE IN THE CHRIST OF GOD. Certainly, all things shall be subdued unto Him and put under His feet so that every knee would bow TO THE GLORY of God.
We also have clearly shown that God has given us an endless life, a life which will never cease, eternal without end. Although I admire the work of St. Augustine, his argument against the salvation of all men is based on the logic that 'if the punishment of the wicked is but for a period of time, then the life of the ages must also come to an end' since the same adjective is used in both cases. If one ends, then the other must end as well. Although on the surface this appears to be sound reasoning, further consideration coupled with divine inspiration proves it to be none other than error and falls far short of truth. The life is His life and is therefore without end. His life has been subjected into the realm of time, and is therefore 'age-abiding life'. Unfortunately, his logic has influenced many Bible teachers of our day. We have also proved that the word for hell in the old testament, sheol, is never used to denote the final estate of men and does not imply the endless torments described by so many misguided preachers of today. It is the abode or realm of the unseen, the domain of death, it is an abode without life, without Christ!
Let us now briefly turn our attention to the word 'hell' in
the new testament. As stated in past articles, the usage of a word in the context
of scripture should determine its meaning. Don't let your superstition nor religious
self-delusion cause you to believe a doctrine which is not found in God's holy
word of truth. And foremost, pray the Holy Spirit shows you the truth regarding
such critical matters of the kingdom of God.
In the New Testament, the word 'hell' in its original Greek appears twenty-four times. The three Greek words used are hades, gehenna, and tartaroo. We will now briefly look at all three of these words. First the word hades, means that which is not or cannot be seen. It means the same as the Hebrew word sheol, which implies the sense of a covering or unseen place or perhaps the state of death. This latter thought is supported by holy script as we read the words of Paul, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, (hades) where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55). Did you hear that? O hell, where is thy victory? Praise the Lord, the victory does not belong to hell but to Jesus. Contrary to popular belief, I say that the gates of hell WILL NOT prevail. It is Jesus who holds the "keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18). Certainly, death follows this realm of hell (hades), both in the now and hereafter, yet I know that it shall have its end for "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14). And for those not found in the book of life, they also were cast into the lake of fire. Are you of the opinion that if any enters the abode of hell, they shall never return? Are you of the persuasion that hell with its mighty grip can never let go or release a soul once it enters its gate? Well, I ask then, did not Jesus Himself, the Holy One of Israel enter into this realm called hades? "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell...." (Acts 2:27). And is it also not true that "his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:31). Permit me to quote the nineteenth century Church scholar, Samuel Cox, on this very same subject. "Hades is never once used to denote the final estate of men, but only the state which precedes the day of judgment; and it is commonly used to denote the whole of that intermediate state, the lot of the righteous as well as that of the unrighteous......No thought of "hell", the final prison-house, was in our Lord's mind" - endquote.
Secondly, the word gehenna, means the valley of Hinnom. Although in the times of the Hebrew Kings, this was a place of pleasant gardens and sacred streams, over time, it became a city dumping ground outside of the wall of Jerusalem. The carcases of animals and even the worst of criminals were left here for the worm to eat and the fire to forever burn. It is said that, "To the Hebrew prophets this foul terrible Valley became an apt type, or illustration, of the doom of the unrighteous. They drew from it their images, images of which such terrible and unwarrantable use has been made, of the worm that never dies, and of the fire which is not quenched. To say that a man was in danger of Gehenna was to say that his sins had exposed him to a judgment the terrors of which were faintly shadowed forth by the sickening horrors of the detestable Ge-Hinnom". - endquote.
Is it any wonder that Jesus used this word eleven times as an illustration to make His point clear when dealing with the religious of His day. Clearly, this valley called gehenna spoke of death and not life. It serves as an illustration of being without Christ which should not be taken lightly. However, it does not describe the physical dimensions of hell in anyway and should not be used to support such doctrines. Brother Eby writes, "It is interesting to note that those who are pictured as going into Gehenna are, without exception, not the sinners of the world, but the SINNERS AMONG GOD'S PEOPLE. How precise the type! Gehenna was the city dump of Jerusalem, the Holy City, where every unclean and unnecessary thing was burned and consumed. The antitypical Gehenna to which our Lord alluded in His teaching is the process of PURIFICATION by which every unclean and unnecessary thing in the lives of His Holy people is purged and consumed by the fires of His judgment" - endquote.
The last greek word tartaroo, is found but only once in the Bible when Peter states, "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartaroo), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (II Pet. 2:4). Before presenting a brief definition on this word, I am not that concerned with any idea that presents itself both difficult to understand and only ONCE in the scriptures. Sound doctrine should not be based on 'hapox mentality', or one-verse derived theology. Nevertheless, let's share the meaning of this third greek word translated as hell. Isn't it interesting that the learned apostle Paul never used this word, but rather the unlearned fisherman Peter. Many of his time used this word to speak of the land of shadows and darkness, of where departed wicked men were tasked. It appears that this unusual word carried an uncertain, shadowy definition, yet it is clear that it never denotes the final estate of the one carried to its domain.
In my study of this particular word called hell, I have never found it once to mean the FINAL STATE of any who enter therein. Scripture says very little on the future condition of man, yet suffice it to say that whatever the case, God Who Is Love will do right. God Who Is Love shall be all in all.
God's Love Towards All - Part VI
These lessons are intended to be basic, elementary, and entry level teachings to better understand the instruction of our Lord. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has already spoken into our very hearts.
God's Love Towards All - con't
Stained with blood from head to foot, a small child cries in agony to be relieved from his pain. The automobile crash left the little boy screaming for his mother who lay unconscious twenty yards from the scene of the horrible accident as she was thrown out of the window at the time of impact with the oncoming truck. Any attempt to call 911-emergency service is futile at this point in time as the smell of gasoline is all around the car and the nearby truck already is burning in flames. The only hope in saving the child is the onlooking witness at the scene of the accident, ........ you the reader.
So, beloved, I ask you this simple question, "would you attempt to save the small boy?", "Would you relieve him from the awful agonies of the ready fire about to torch his little body?" More than likely, most, if not all, having read this fabricated story had answered "yes" to the challenge. You would have risked your own life to save the child from a momentary, yet unspeakable painful event. Here I am reminded of the words of Jesus, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give......" (Luke 11:13). And while holy script is pregnant with such rich and encouraging words which demonstrate that God is a loving, tender, righteous, and compassionate Father, there remains part of the church which would hold a contrary position, namely that most will not be saved and will be subject to a most painful torture for all of eternity or 'eternal damnation'.
Unlike the documented early teachings of great church fathers like Clemens of Alexandria, 'Origen' Adamantius of Alexandria, Saints Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, Didymus of Alexandria, Saint Ambrose of Milan, Diodorus - Bishop of Tarsus , Saint Jerome, Rufinus, Basil the Great - Bishop of Cappadocia, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret - Bishop of Cyrus as well as later century greats as Bishop Westcott, Dr. Samuel Cox, Andrew Jukes, and George MacDonald to name a very few from a long list, the commonly held view of today's religion for the fate of the unbeliever remains closed minded to both divine inspiration and the authority of holy script. Their view is that God, who is more than able to save, would rather cast the majority of His creation into a 'so-called' endless misery of hell and fire, punishing them forever and ever, never forgiving them their sins as they cry out in agony of pain and sorrow and beg for mercy. According to some, the tormented will ask but not receive, they will seek but never find, they will knock but it will never be opened. They will ask for bread and be given a stone, they will ask for fish yet only find a serpent. Even if they were to ask for the Holy Spirit, we are told that the Father would deny them. Damned they are, enemies never to be loved by God all throughout eternity. According to what they say, the majority of God's very own creation is cast away, never to enjoy the mercies of God. Yet I ask, did not Jesus mean what He said, "for every one that asketh....to them shall it be given"? (ref. Luke 11:9-13).
But what does the authority of scripture say regarding this matter? Who shall we believe? In whom is our trust, in the Lord or in men having the form of godliness, yet denying the power thereof? Is not our Lord the God of both the living and the dead? Is He limited to this veil of flesh or the decisions we make while living in this mortal tent? Hear the words of Jesus Himself, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (Jhn 12:32). The greek word for draw is helkuo which means to drag, as to wrap up, pull, move, thrust, or to drive. This is the same word where Peter drew his sword and smote the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. The same word where Peter drew the net to the land having it full of fish. The same word where Paul and Silas were caught and dragged into the marketplace (ref. Diaglott). And last, the same word where Jesus said, "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him....." (Jhn 6:44). And clearly He does drag us for no man will come to Him, except they be dragged. Stop and think how many times you dug your heels into the ground, unwilling (out of ignorance) to come to Him. Aren't you glad He knew how to break your stubborn will, melt your heart and draw you into His bosom. For we who are born of God were not born of our own will but of God. It was His own will that He begat us, it was not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (ref. Jhn 1:13, James 1:18, Rom 9:16). This is without doubt the total working of God, the handiwork and operation of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. Now allow me to draw (no pun intended) your attention to the rest of John 12:32. So who does He drag? Read the text carefully. It says plainly, He will draw A-L-L men. It does not say a few or some, nor does it say many. It clearly says that He will draw ALL men unto himself. Shall we be guilty of calling Jesus a liar? Should we take party with those who deny the very words of Christ Himself? Why can't we admit we simply do not always understand all the mysteries of God? We need to confess our ignorance and traditions and submit to the divinely inspired, inerrant and trustworthy word of our Lord. Let God be true and every man a liar. Let us submit to the teaching of the Holy Spirit and trust Him to bring truth to us. Run not to indoctrinated bible teachers who will only take away the word that is sown into your heart before it ever takes root and brings forth fruit. Please don't reject the light, for if we turn our backs on truth when brought our way, the light that is in thee becomes darkness, and how great that darkness!
And I ask the question, How could God turn His back on His enemies while commanding us to love our enemies? Wouldn't this make God Himself a hypocrite, an actor telling us to do one thing while doing another Himself? Surely, God is not a hypocrite nor is it possible for Him to perform such an act. Clearly, when Jesus said to "Love your enemies", the words were an expression of the image of the person of God and an outflow of His very essence. "For I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal 3:6). God does not change. If He commanded us to love our enemies, it is simply because He can do no other than to love His enemies. To say that God cannot change, is to say that His love cannot change. Therefore, His love is changeless. Popular theology would have us believe that God loves His enemies until they die. His love then turns to hate and vengeance. Nay, I say that His love never changes, never fails and is capable of reaching the worst of sinners; swallowing up the darkest of holes and filling the deepest of pits. He will pursue the sinner to the outer darkness, and being Almighty, draw him back to Himself. All of holy script demonstrates such a God which displays this love, a love that is balanced, a love which is tough, disciplining, corrective and still all together perfect.
God's essence is love. It is not His will that any should perish, that any should be so far removed that He could not reach down and pour His love into him. Isn't it comforting to know His heart? Is it not refreshing to be made aware that we have a tender and compassionate Father who cares for His creation and is operating all together for good? And may I add, once God calls a person to return, He never changes His mind. "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29). The Moffatt translation says, "For God never goes back upon his gifts and call". God is without repentance, without turning His mind once He calls somebody to perform a task, for "Surely, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isa. 14:24).
So, beloved, God is truly love. God is not anger, though He can be angry. God is not vengeance though He does avenge. These are attributes of His character, but His essence is love. We speak of love, yet still know very little of what it really is. I think that love conquers all and should be what motivates our thoughts, our deeds, our lives. Indeed, it is true as one has said, "love must be the strongest force in the universe". In Proverbs we read, "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Prov. 10:12). "Charity never faileth", said the apostle Paul. His original words were that 'love' or 'agape' never fails. As love matures and has its way with, in and through us, it dispels all that would torment us. Listen to the words of John, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I Jhn. 4:18). Again, "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (I Jhn. 4:16). God IS love. It does not say that God has love, but rather that GOD IS LOVE. His underlying motive originates out of a pure, divine, holy and balanced love. Another person writes, "Yet believing this fact does not eliminate our frustration over such challenges any more than the awareness that God is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will removes the sorrows and pains of present experience. There is great comfort and consolation in knowing that all is out of God, but these are for the fruit of patience, endurance and reliance on the living God, not for escape into some sort of supernatural utopia where comfort and consolation are not needed". - endquote.
How wonderful it is to know that our God has given us an understanding, not only of His ways and His words, but of His very own heart. He is indeed, love. True love may thrust away its object for a season, but only that it may DRAW it back more closely. God permits that man be separated from Him, yet it is only for the purpose that man may be reconciled back to Him. "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up" (Hos. 6:1). Again, "See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand" (Deut. 32:39). God uses the devil, His instrument of destruction for His work. He created the smith which blows on the coals of fire. Sin breaks and crushes us that He may heal and cure us. It has smitten us nearly to death in order that He may make alive. As one has written regarding sin, "Its function is to show God's creatures their utter dependence on His power. It gives them a wholesome horror of existence without Him. It will change them from His creatures to His friends. It will drive them into His bosom." - endquote.
We come back to the issue of who will be saved. More specifically, will all be saved? I ask how anyone can explain away or reconcile such clear and concise statements as those from the apostle Paul? Hear his words. "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time". And, "......because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe". Again, "as all die in Adam, so shall all be made alive in Christ. But each in his own division". Also, "That 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". And, "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all". Nor should we forget that Paul said, "O hell, where is thy victory?" and "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ". Even the beloved disciple John tells us, "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (ref. I Tim 2:3-6, 4:10, I Cor 15:22-23, Phil 2:10-11, Rom 11:32, I Cor 15:55, II Cor 5:18, I Jhn 2:2). There are literally dozens (perhaps over a hundred) other scriptural verses which prove that God will not hold an 'eternal judgment' but rather excercise a holy, just and right corrective measure towards those who have disobeyed or rejected him. Modern theology teaches that Christ tries to save all, yet in the end is really defeated. I can not help but to think that this is a disgrace to the cross of Christ and what He had accomplished at calvary. How can God ever fail? Dare we make the Almighty God as unto man? God forbid.
Scripture is clear that all things are issued out of God and all things return back to Him. "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." (Rom. 11:36). It also shows us in the book of Genesis that God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. In fact, all that God does towards us is for our instruction and good. It is written of Clement of Alexandria, that he had learned from a disciple of the apostolic age, and thus believed and taught that 'all the punishments God inflicts upon men are salutary, and executed only for reformation'. Another early church father states, "By God's slaying sinners, their conversion is meant". It is said of perhaps the most learned and foremost of church fathers in history, St. Gregory of Nazianus, that 'he doubted about the pains of the damned, whether they would be endless, or whether they are to be estimated rather in accordance with the mercy of God, so as at some time to be brought to an end' - endquote. It is also said St. Gregory taught that when Christ descended into hell, He liberated not some, but all the souls there in prison.
The old testament prophet Isaiah said, "in mercy shall the throne be established", when referring to Jesus as He sits upon the throne in truth while in the tabernacle of the beloved. I would say that this implies the restoration of all of them who come under its subjection. Shall not even His enemies bow down? The prophet said, "And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day" (Isa 2:17). What then is that subjection with which all things are subdued? Can it be none other than SALVATION to be subjected to Christ? Even King David said, "stilled (subjected) is my soul, for from Him is my salvation" (Ps. 62:1-2 CV). St. Basil the Great said regarding Isaiah's words of "every man shall be brought low" that it means "every kind of wickedness in man shall cease".
Surely God's vengeance upon His enemies will purify and purge them until the crooked is finally made straight. You ask for a witness to this? Hear again the words of Isaiah, "Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross,..........Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness." (Isa 1:24 - 27). St. Gregory of Nyssa said that "if God shall be in all things that exist, obviously wickedness shall not be in existence." And if we are to believe the words of the apostle Paul that, "God may be all in all" (I Cor 15:28), then certainly evil must cease to exist and all of God's creatures come to adorn and worship their Creator! Didn't Paul even say that death itself shall be destroyed? Should we believe that death, with its sorrow and agony continue to exist for all of eternity when Paul said it shall be destroyed? Does not the bible teach us that death is cast into the lake of fire? And for what purpose, to suffer? Nay, I say to those who can hear, that God is a consuming fire and will burn away all that keeps His creation from having fellowship and union with Him!
Let us now briefly turn our attention to the word 'damnation' in the New Testament. As stated in past articles, the usage of a word in the context of scripture should determine its meaning. I would also remind the reader to remember that when considering the scripture, keep in mind that it be in accord with the Spirit of the word and not the letter of the word. As with the past studied word, 'hell', I would say that this word 'damnation' is also very misleading. In fact, I believe to be accurate to say the words damnation, damned and damnable are very inaccurate words and should be discarded from modern translations.
In the New Testament, the word 'damnation' in its original Greek appears twenty-eight times. The english words found in many of the modern translations for this Greek word krima include: damnation, condemnation, and judgment. This word means to go to law, condemn, for or against a crime or to judge. The last time this word is used in the scriptures is where I shall start for it sets the proper tone to what this word would mean in the bible. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw......." (Rev. 20:4). Most, if not all bible teachers would say that this verse is referring to the saints of God and that judgment is given to them to perform or execute divine law. The verse says that judgment was given unto them. Now I ask, would it not be absurd to suggest that damnation was given to them? Are the saints of God to be damned? Does it fit? Certainly not. So, we can easily rule out the idea or concept of damnation.
The nineteenth century Church scholar, Samuel Cox wrote on this word, "Take the verb 'to damn,'......let me give those of you who need a little lesson in Greek. It shall be a very short and simple one, and any of you may master it in a minute or two. In the Greek, one of the verbs in the most common use is krinein. Any Lexicon will tell you that it means 'to part, to separate, to discriminate between good and bad,' in short, 'to judge'. From this verb, two nouns are formed, krisis, which means the act of deciding or judging, and krima, which means the sentence, or judgment, which has been reached. From this verb, krinein, moreover, another verb has been formed by prefixing a preposition to it, which intensifies its meaning, kata-krinein, 'to give judgment against, to condemn.' And from this second verb, as from the first, two nouns are formed, kata-krima, 'the sentence of condemnation.' All you need remember is, that in the Greek there is a verb, krinein, which, with its derivatives, means to judge, the act of judging, and the sentence of justice; and another verb, kata-krinein, which, with its derivatives, means to condemn, the act of condemnation and the sentence of condemnation. There are hardly any words in the Greek language more common than these; and there is not, and never has been, any dispute as to their meaning.
Now the former of these two verbs, krinein, with its derivatives, occurs more than a hundred and seventy times in the Greek Testament; more than a hundred and fifty times it is rendered in the English Version by our verb 'to judge,' so that our translators evidently knew its plain meaning and use. Seven times, very needlessly and misleadingly, it is rendered by 'to condemn;' twice by 'to accuse'; and only eight times by 'to damn.' That is to say, our translators render the word in the sense of to damn, only eight times out of nearly a hundred and eighty! So again, with the other Greek verb, kata-krinein, which means to condemn. With its derivatives it is used twenty-four times in the New Testament, and only twice do they render it by 'to damn;' in every other instance they abide by its true meaning - 'to condemn'. - endquote.
Therefore, in scripture where we find Jesus saying, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation." (Matt 23:14) and likewise in Luke, chapter 20, verses 45-47, as warning his disciples of the very same, the meaning would be more accurate as to read, "These shall receive the severer judgment" or "These will be getting more excessive judgment" (C.V). Anyone studying the scriptures can see that the scribes and Pharisees hid their hypocrisy under the law and their judgment or sentence would be more severe, heavier or sharper. Although this indeed is a serious offence, it does not imply that they would be held captive to hell for all eternity. It simply does not say that, nor should it be taught any other way than what it simply says.
The apostle Paul wrote, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." (Rom 13:1-2). Would it be safe for us to assume that if one were to rebel against a higher power, they have subjected themselves to damnation? Nay, it is not unto damnation but rather of getting a corrective and accurate judgment for the crime.
I find it interesting that when Paul spoke of krima in I Timothy, chapter 5:12, "Having damnation...", it is not possible to mean 'to be damned', but rather judged. Consider the story according to the concordant commentary. "It is supposed that a list of church widows was kept, which probably included all widows of sixty years and over, whether self-supporting or not. Those who were entered on this list undertook certain duties and promised to give themselves to the work. The younger widows were not to be put on this list lest they should tire of their promise and break faith. They might grow restive, and so fall into judgment." - endquote. Certainly, such a woman will never be damned for breaking her vow. Now she may be judged rather harsh for breaking the vow, whether by God, the men or especially the women. And perhaps rightfully so, for vows of all sort should not be taken lightly nor broken.
Paul also wrote concerning those who have a conscience about partaking of certain foods and being easily offended and connected it to the idea of condemnation, never damnation. "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom 14:22-23). Here we have a weak brother who thinks it wrong to eat certain foods (e.g., food offered to idols, etc.) yet modern theologians would suggest he is damned. Damned to what I ask, to hell? Come now, are we as superstitious as certain philosophers whom Paul preached in the midst of Mars hill?
Also when Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29). A better reading only affirms that such a person is in danger of age-abiding judgment. That is, having no pardon for the age. And in reading Matthew, chapter 23, verse 33, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?", it should more clearly read, "How may you be fleeing from the judging of gehenna?" (C.V).
To close, just as past articles have dealt with words like 'hell' and 'eternity', once again we find yet another word, 'damnation', which is misunderstood and perhaps even misleading. The character of God is mercy and love towards all. The character of God would not only save the small boy from the agony and pain as portrayed in the opening story, the character of God would and will save His creation from the agony and torments of hell. It is true that scripture time and time again proves that all men will be saved, regardless of what some may teach or say. This is a conclusion I state with satisfaction for I find both the witness of the Spirit of God and the holy script to prove it to be so. Indeed, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach GOOD NEWS."!!!
God's Love Towards All - Part VII
These lessons are intended to be basic, elementary, and entry level teachings to better understand the instruction of our Lord and truths of our Christian faith. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has already spoken into our very hearts.
God's Love Towards All - con't
The writer to the Hebrews calls the doctrine of 'eternal' judgment an elementary teaching, yet I am surprised as to how many Christians are unwilling to find out or accept what the scriptures really say regarding this subject. Bible teachers speak of the love and mercies of God, then immediately teach of endless punishment and ongoing torture beyond human description; penalties unfit and unfair for the worst of offenders. They proclaim good news to all, yet follow with BAD NEWS for most people. Whether due to mistranslation; misinterpretation or whatever the reason may be, their lack of understanding and falsehood has caused many to agonize over the destiny of a loved one. I believe that the time is at hand to remove our heads from the sand and discern what is the Spirit of Truth and what is the spirit of error. God has winked at the times of our ignorance but now commands us to turn from our traditions to receive the word with all readiness of mind and to search the scriptures to discover whether these things are so.
As stated in previous articles, there are a large number of statements in the Bible which clearly favor that God will ultimately save all men. Now this is not to deny the fact that sinners and wrong-doing require correction. Nor is it to suggest that sin is to be taken lightly or we can live with loose and immoral principles. It is, however, to say that the doctrine of eternal damnation or endless torment is foreign to God's Word if we accurately and fairly interpret it. This is a conclusion I state with satisfaction for I find both the witness of God's Spirit and holy script to prove it so. It is with this very understanding of truth that our hearts are further inspired with joy and happiness as we discover a deeper sense of love toward our Lord and God, thus working harmony with His will and fulfilling our quest to serve our Master.
God is determined and will have all men to be saved, His desires are not in vain. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He is the Saviour of not only a few but all men and He died not only for a few, but all. He shut up all men unto disobedience in order that He might have mercy upon all. He is the satisfaction for not only our sins, but for the whole world. We also know that every tongue will be acclaiming and thanking that Jesus is Lord for the glory of God; that all men shall be made alive in Christ and that He will drag all men to himself. These are but a few of the insights we have studied in previous articles.
It is true that Jesus is triumphant and shall bring all back into the sheepfold, not one to be lost (Matt 18:12). The same God that is gracious in time will not turn and be monstrous and relentless in eternity. Beloved, God does not change, He is love now and forever and ever and ever. Nor does His love change towards His creation. His love is unchanging and eternal in all its ways. His love remains constant as a Creator towards His creation. And if one creature were to remain in hell, never to see their redemption, God would continue to love that creature, His love does not change, it is not conditional. And if He loves the creature, He must redeem it. Why? Because love demands it. He must eventually purge the creature from its sin and make it whole, else His love has failed. He cannot desert the works of His very own hands. Our love may retreat, but never shall the love of God.
On what authority does religion base their dogma that to die is to pass into a state beyond the reach of Christ's grace? Why then, I ask, did Paul make it a point to tell us that Christ preached the gospel to the dead? (ref. I Pet. 4:6) Supposedly, St. Gregory also taught that when Christ descended into hell, He liberated not some, but all the souls there in prison. I ask again, does not His cross span beyond the grave to reach even the dead? Is He not Lord of both the living and the dead? Paul made it very clear that "death is swallowed up in victory" (I Cor. 15:54). The victory of the cross will consume or devour death wherever it may be. Swallowed up of life, never to be an enemy anymore. Death cannot remain for any one soul in eternity, otherwise it is still an enemy. And if an enemy, then the last enemy that is death has not been destroyed. And if true, then Paul's words that 'death as the last enemy shall be destroyed' is false!
To consider the teaching of the Bible according to the popular or common view, we need to consider and explore further. It is with certainty that the many verses declaring the reconciliation of all men speak for themselves. They lead us to only one conclusion. Yet, what do we do with the several other verses which, on the surface, seem to contradict God's divine purpose. To these verses we now concentrate our efforts.
We have already reviewed in past articles the meaning of 'eternity', 'hell' and 'damnation'. Yet before we go on to search other scriptures, I need to re-emphasize some basic points regarding the idea of eternal life. Some have used the common objection that if the same Greek word translated 'eternal' is used to describe both life and punishment in Matthew 25:46, how can we affirm one as meaning eternal and the other as a period of time subject to end. To this charge, I provide the following response. The word 'eternal' in Matthew 25:46 means a term, interval or period of time, an age or an epoch. (An epoch is a particular period of time marked by distinctive features, events, etc.). Scripture clearly teaches that this word meant a period of time having a specific end to it. The Bible speaks of 'eternal' mountains, days 'eternal' and an everlasting or 'eternal' covenant; each having their own end or termination. (This was demonstrated in earlier journal editions). So, the everlasting or 'eternal' punishment referred to in this verse speaks of a correction process subject to the realm of time or the ages. The period would continue until the victim is converted or changed, until the crooked is made straight.
Now let us turn our attention to the phrase 'life eternal'. First of all, it is true that the same Greek word, 'aionios' is used for both punishment and life. It is also true that the bible clearly teaches this word to mean a duration of time subject to an end. So now the difficult question. "How can one mean eternal and the other mean a duration of time"? The answer, it doesn't! They both mean the same thing, it's the very same word. So, now some may ask, "Do you mean the life I have will end?" The answer is emphatically NO! The life will not end, it can not end, it is ETERNAL. Let me explain. Some translators have more accurately stated this verse, ".....to the life age-during'. We must first understand that the life itself is incorruptible and is therefore eternal or endless on its own merit. We could take the word 'aionios' away from this verse and still keep the meaning of endless. The true eternal quality is already inherent in the seed of Christ. Therefore, the phrase 'life eternal' really refers to an endless life subjected into the realm of time or a 'life during the ages' as some translations accurately interpret. I think the problem often lies in the fact that we have not been taught that the Bible says so little on eternity and so much on God's plan throughout the ages. Truly, He is the God of the ages, to be made known to all nations.
As suggested by a close friend as to when we are confronted by those opposing this teaching, he says, "ask them the simple question - would you be disappointed if the salvation of all men were true?'" So I ask the reader, if you are considered as one who defends the doctrine of eternal punishment, ask yourself this very same question. And if you answered, "yes", then perhaps your heart is waxed cold and your mind closed to what the Spirit of revelation would have you learn today. So I ask you, is this the right way to approach a matter? Are we not instructed to reason together? The affairs of the kingdom of God are serious matters. Again I ask, how can anyone use Matthew 25 to promote the doctrine of eternal damnation while the entire bible teaches the idea of eternity to mean an entirely different thing? Do we really want to know truth or are we determined to defend our traditions regardless of whether it is true or false? I would invite our opponents to substantiate their claims with accurate biblical evidence before they continue to cast stones, and to pray to God that they have not become enemies of the cross of Christ in their well-meaning but ignorant efforts. In past articles we have studied how the word 'damnation' is misleading and should be regarded as condemnation . We had discovered that the word 'hell' implies a sense of covering or the unseen. In fact, the historian Josephus said that the spirit of the prophet was called forth from 'hell'. We also studied the principles of eternity and found it to be a period of time. Several examples were used, including how the leprosy of Gehazi, as stated by Elisha as 'eternal', must obviously end at the time of death.
We now turn our efforts to the New Testament and continue to investigate whether there are any valid objections to the already clear and concise teaching that God will ultimately save all of mankind. We will start in the gospel of John with the words of Jesus. He said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (Jhn 6:37). I would first draw your attention to the indisputable fact that ALL that the Father gives His Son WILL come to Him. It plainly says, everyone that is given shall come. It also goes on to say that Jesus will in no wise cast them out. The Williams translations says, "All that my Father gives to me will come to me, and I will never, no, never reject anyone who comes to me". Another translation says, "All that the Father is giving to Me shall be arriving to Me". I would remind you that Jesus also said, "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw (or drag) him". Jesus went on and said, "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing...". Once again, it is clear that He shall not lose none of those given to Him, or "lose nothing of all that He has given Me" (Diaglott 6:39). So I ask, what has the Father given Him? We turn to the gospel of John for our answer. Please read chapter 3, verse 35. It says, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." Another translation says, "....and has given all into His hand". We read here that God has given not some but rather A-L-L into the hand of His faithful Son. And what did we read in verse thirty-seven? A-L-L that the Father has given to Him shall come! Praise the Lord, the fragments that remain will not be lost.
We now read the words of Jesus according to Matthew, "......for whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man exchange for his soul?" (chp. 16:25-26). We all would do well by taking heed to this warning, regardless of our doctrinal differences. What does a man gain if he profits the world and forfeits his life? The Williams translation says, "For what benefit will it be to a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his higher life?". Our worldly gains will benefit us none if we forfeit our life in the kingdom of God. This is indeed, a serious loss. To not experience the higher life, which is His life, should cause each of us to repent a thousand times. However, this verse speaks nothing of the subject at hand. Please show me where you read an endless or eternal loss, an endless or eternal torment, an endless or eternal damnation, an endless or eternal anything? Where is it, I ask.
Mark 3:28-29 reads, "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation." Matthew 12:32 speaks of this same account, "And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Of these verses, we must take careful notice that there is no mention of an "unpardonable" sin, a sin never to be forgiven in eternity. Matthew states the sin would not be forgiven in this age or the age to come. If your translation says 'world' as does my King James bible, it is an incorrect rendering. Regarding the verse quoted in the gospel of Mark, hath 'never' forgiveness is the Greek word, aion, and should read, no forgiveness to the age. This is in accordance with the gospel of Matthew.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we find the story of a rich man and a beggar, named Lazarus. (Please take time to read Luke 16:19-31 before proceeding.) First and foremost, we must realize that this is a parable. We can trace the story back to the words of Jesus in chapter 15, verse 3, "And he spake THIS PARABLE unto them, saying....". Remember that a parable is an allegory, an illustration used to point to what is real. In our story we find that the rich man was buried and found himself in 'hades' or the realm of the unseen, the word 'hell' and its common definition today is not used in the original Greek. The parable goes on to say that he was in torment. Rightly so, for the rich man was rewarded for his deeds and now finds himself in a condition immediately following his death. As we read the story, we see the rich man, (or who he represents since it's a parable), having a change of attitude. First, the rich man only cares about himself, never a peep about another person, including his five brothers. Then we read in the story how he had concern for his five brothers that they would not have to experience this same place of torment. As the great churchman Samuel Cox wrote regarding this story, ".....vital and hopeful germs of charity and spirituality have already been released and developed within him; and how can any torment, any discipline, which produces such happy effects, be enduring?" - endquote. Whatever this place of 'hades' is, we can see a CHANGE in the attitude of the rich man. Although there was a great gulf fixed in which he could not pass, it does not say that he cannot be rescued by the One who can pass, the One who has the keys of hades and of death. (I highly recommend the excellent book, titled 'Abraham's Bosom' by J. Preston Eby for an indepth 94-page review of this story). To suggest that this parable is evidence of an eternal hell-fire violates sound reason and systematic study. We believe in the good news of Christ and the fullest meaning of the scriptures. We openly declare "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord"!!