The All-Encompassing Work of Christ
by Larry and Betty Hodges
The first portion of this book is presented in the format of an actual letter in answer to objections concerning the proposition of the reconciliation of all men. The reason I have chosen to include this authentic letter is that the individual with which I was corresponding raised some very good points which might arise in the minds of others also. It has been my happy observation since coming into this glorious truth that all the objections raised by traditional theology are quite easily answered. All that is required on the part of the reader is an honest and open heart.
While writing this letter I was confronted once again with the awesome power of the biased mind. It is beyond my comprehension that one presented with the evidence contained herein simply refuses to acknowledge it. It is as if one simply discards all the answers as not relevant since they do damage to orthodox theology. Apparently there is a mind-set that is not concerned with evidence if it is contrary to orthodox thought. Honesty will not allow us to deal with the issue of God's intrinsic goodness and justice in such a careless and arrogant manner. These are holy things.
In our pursuit of truth we must be very careful that we do not become merely adept debaters who always win our argument . . . even when wrong! For it possible to win the argument and still be wrong. It should always be our desire to give way to truth, even when it conflicts with orthodox doctrine. God's intrinsic goodness, holiness and justice is at stake here.
Let us not come to these things as if we already knew all the answers and had no need of Him. Let us draw nigh, though, with full assurance and with that humility of heart which says, "I cannot of myself do or know anything." And let us be very sure that He will not give us a serpent when we have asked of Him a fish or a stone for bread. We know Him better than that. Therefore let us carefully weigh all the evidence on either side of this issue.
(The actual letter portion of the book begins here).
Bless your heart! I can literally hear in your letter the struggle and perplexity you have been going through (perhaps are still going through) over this teaching of the final restitution of all things (men). I was not in the least surprised at the attitude and spirit of your letter. It is very much the Jim we have come to know and love in Christ. I am delighted that you have raised such excellent questions. With your permission, I would like to use our correspondence back and forth, with the omission of your name, of course, as a teaching on the subject.
Jim, I must admit that I simply have not the space in a three-page letter to go into the detail I sometimes should on such a subject, and for this reason I suppose I have depended upon the reader's like-mindedness which sometimes just isn't there and so gloss over things that demand more detail and information. It just isn't possible to "plant whole trees, but rather acorns," and so, many things I write about are often in seed form. This sometimes raises many questions which hopefully provoke one to study, as in your case. I have not felt to enlarge TSL and until I do, I'll have to continue as I have.
Before I begin to address your letter, I must say that I am struck by the startling ease with which some seem to accept this teaching--as if it were unquestionably the most normal position one might be expected to take on the matter. Contrarily, others seem shocked, alarmed and sometimes even angered at the mere suggestion of such views. I just mention this as a point of interest, not knowing what to make of it.
As for myself, I had considered it for some 6-8 years as a possibility but failed to search it out to see whether these things really were so. After speaking with Elaine Cook, I began seeking the Lord about it and read the book, "The Restitution of All Things" by Andrew Jukes. I was pretty much convinced just by this one book but convinced also that I would not teach it. I decided that I would "sit on it" because I detest confrontation and debate and knew that there would be much misunderstanding, censure and even some vilification associated with this truth. It has initially been that way all along with every other truth God has revealed and restored to the Church.
One evening as I sat minding my own business out in the back of our (then) apartment, meditating on the Lord and also on various other things, the Lord spoke unexpectedly (I fully realize that this is a very subjective testimony), saying, "If My people are to be conformed to My image as you teach, how shall they, unless they see Me as I truly am and not as Tradition has taught?" I recognized that this was a direct reference to one of my favorite scriptures -- I John 3:1,2, which says, "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons (children) of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons (children) of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." I understood what He meant because I know that we become like whatever we worship. If we perceive our God to be harsh, vindictive and cruel, no matter how much we attempt to exonerate Him, we become like that. People who serve a severe, legalistic God are severe and legalistic themselves.
At any rate, I instantly knew that I was required to teach this message to those of Israel who are "of the captivity" (of Babylon) [ref. Ezek. 3:11]. Incidentally, Ezekiel 2-3:11 were the scriptures the Lord gave me when He commissioned me to begin ministry to His people.
Let's begin with your question about Matthew 25:46, which is the scripture the "eternalists" base so much upon, and I do not include you with them. It is a fact that the entire teaching of eternal torment rests upon the translation (not interpretation) of the single word aion or aeon (the noun form) and aeonios (the adjective form). A correct understanding of the meaning of the word, aeon/aeonios completely removes any basis upon which one might argue for eternal torment.
You state in your letter, "Now, I knew enough traditional teaching on this word (aeonios), which is from another Greek word, aion, meaning "age."
Jim, aeon and aeonios are not two completely different words. They are the noun and adjective form of the same word, just as hour is a noun and hourly is an adjective. One cannot rationally say that the meaning of a word is changed to mean its opposite simply by changing its usage from noun to adjective without violating all the rules of English and translation. Aeon means "age." In this you are correct. But the word aeonios does not mean the opposite of its noun origin. As hourly means, "pertaining to the hour," so aeonios means "pertaining to the age." Consider the godly thoughts of A. P. Adams on this point.
"This word aeon occurs in the New Testament in so many peculiar and varying forms as to make it certain that it expresses some deep and important meaning well worth searching out. First we have the simple word many times repeated, both in the singular and plural. Then we have the word in combination with several prepositions: from the age, Luke 1:70; from the ages, Eph. 3:9; out of the ages, John 9:32; before the ages, 1 Cor. 2:7; before times of ages or before age-times, Tim. 1;2, the purpose of the ages, Eph. 3:11 (N.V. margin); the age to come, Heb. 6:5; the ages to come, Eph. 2:7; the end of the age; Matt. 24:3; the end of the ages, Heb. 9:26; the ends of the ages, 1 Cor. 10:11.
Furthermore in connection with the preposition unto we find the following remarkable changes:
1. Unto the age. Mark 3:29.
2. Unto the ages. Luke 1:33.
3. Unto all the ages. Jude 25.
4. Unto the age of the age. Heb. 1:8.
5. Unto all the generations of the age of the ages. Eph. 3:21.
6. Unto the ages of the ages. Rev. 1:6.
7. Unto the day of an age. 2 Pet. 3:18.
"Can anyone suppose that these peculiar forms have no special meaning? Is all this a mere play upon words? Simply purposeless repetition? Remember, God by His Spirit is the real author of the inspired Word. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." Is it not certain, then, as I have said, that these varying forms, so peculiar and striking, hide some spiritual mystery? And would it have not been more respectful to the Word if the translators of the common version (KJV) had rendered these expressions literally, even though they did not know what they meant, rather than to obscure the sense altogether with capricious renderings? These translators (of my precious KJV) have handled this word (aeon) apparently without any respect whatever to its real meaning. They have rendered its various combinations in thirteen ways, viz.; age, course, world, eternal, since the world began, from the beginning of the world, ever, forever, forever and ever, for evermore, while the world standeth, world without end, and with a negative, never. These are not translations but paraphrases, and look to me like 'handling the Word of God deceitfully,' albeit it may have been unintentional." A.P. Adams.
You say, "Incidentally, I'm a bit of a 'studier,'(sic) and for this reason, I like to use the King James Version, because for the study of Greek words it's simply easier to cross-reference the KJV with Strong's Concordance.
"Anyway, in a matter of minutes I was stunned to discover that in Matthew 25:46, the words "everlasting" and "eternal" were the same Greek word, aionios, (Strong's #166), which means, "eternal, forever, everlasting, world."
First of all, I would have thought it very strange indeed if you had come to any other conclusion while using the very books that have been so instrumental in propagating the error of "eternal" torment. Secondly, Matthew 25:46 is not speaking of the judgement of individuals. It is speaking of the judgement of the nations. (See verse 32) Nowhere does the Lord allude to individuals, but always to nations. But even if it did refer to individuals, it doesn't stand up to the light of truth.
The Greek words for "everlasting punishment" are "chastening aeonian." We have already discussed "aeonios," which means "pertaining to the age". Our English word, "punishment," has been translated from the Greek word, "kolasis" which comes from the root word, "kolazo." "Kalazo" means, "to chastise, to punish." It is closely associated with the Greek word, "kalaphizo," which means, "to rap with the fist."
As to the possibility of the "everlasting punishment" of the wicked and the "eternal life" of the righteous being the same, it doesn't exist. The Greek word, "aeonian" simply means, "pertaining to the age". "Aeonian," being the adjective form of "aeon," is descriptive of both the kind of life of the righteous and the kind of punishment of the wicked. In the strictest sense, it really has no reference to time at all but to the quality of that life or punishment. Does that do away with eternal life for the redeemed? Not at all, for it is clearly taught by many other scriptures throughout the Bible, but "aeon/aeonios" does not describe the duration of that life. The word, "eternal," means, "without beginning or end," as we seem to use it. I'm not sure anyone really understands the term, and it is nowhere defined or alluded to in an unending sense in the entirety of the Bible. God is eternal, without beginning or end, even though He is also the God of the ages, for He is the Creator of time and of all the ages time consists of. The life for the age that the redeemed know is that quality of life of peace and joy that we now enjoy but in no way precludes or prevents our eventual entrance in to that life which is without beginning or end, which is God's. "To know Him is eternal life."
Your statement, "Now, on this horizontal line within the two vertical lines is an aeon of time which can certainly be described as "eternal," eternal or perpetual (and complete) within its own context," makes no logical sense, Jim. There can be no perpetual (eternal) period of time. That would be like saying "The goodness of evil, the dryness of wet, the sweetness of bitter." They are contradictory and conflicting terms. To say that they mean the same is to destroy the meaning of both.
As for the parable of the rich man and Lazarus of Luke 16:19-31 that you refer to, it is usually read without any regard for the context in which it was uttered by the Lord. Beginning in Luke 15:1, we read, "Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." Jesus then begins a series of parables of which the one about the rich man and Lazarus was but one. Matthew 13:34 says,". . . without a parable He spake nothing to them. "But privately to His disciples He expounded all things" --Mark 4:34.
In all parables there must be some correspondence between the type spoken of and reality or the parable loses its basis in fact. If there is no such thing as Hades, if there is no sense of suffering in Hades, the parable has lost its entire meaning. The phrase, "Abraham's bosom" was at one time a well-known and well-used phrase and expressed the thought of the righteous being "gathered unto their fathers."
Abraham's bosom represents the position of the faithful one as accepted and as having favor. "If ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" --Gal. 3:29. Another, ". . . and many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham . . . in the Kingdom of Heaven" --Matt. 8:11.
The scene of the telling of this parable is with the sinners and publicans, as well as the Pharisees and scribes, all present. The rich man typifies the religious Jew who was entrusted with the stewardship of the riches of the kingdom but he would not share those riches with those who were outside the gates of the commonwealth of God, as it was under the Law. Get a picture of the Gentiles, like the Syro-phoenician woman whose daughter was grievously vexed with a devil and who, like Lazarus, was eager for the crumbs that fell from the master's table, "... full of sores and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table."
None can deny that the Jews have for the last 2,000 years been in a hell, with a seeming fixed gulf, over which they as a nation have not been able to cross. But the Nations, the Gentiles, have been sitting at the Lord's table with Abraham and their fathers. As for Abraham not being able to cross the gulf, I do not wonder that he could not cross it, nor Isaac, nor Jacob. They were not qualified to cross that gulf. But praise God, there is One who has spanned that gulf! Jesus Christ, the Savior of all! He left no stone unturned as to man's redemption nor any gulf He did not span! Remember that old hymn--
"Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span -- at Calvary!"
As for the rich man and Lazarus; it is a parable with tremendous lessons contained in it for those with ears to hear and a heart to understand. May God give us such.
So far as a fixed gulf, meaning that this place is eternal or never-ending, surely you do not mean to limit Christ's work simply as pertaining to this life only? What of, "For this cause was the good news preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" --1 Pet.4:6. 1 Peter 3:19 states, "By which (Holy Spirit) also He went and preached unto the spirits (of men) in prison; which sometime were disobedient when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah," He certainly spanned the fixed gulf you mentioned.
Next, your query, "Is it not possible that God is saying that while He makes salvation a gift of grace for all men, only believers choose to receive the gift?"
Why would an omniscient God provide something for all when He knew so few would accept it? And how can anyone accept what they inherently have no heart for and when their eyes have been blinded by the god of this world, lest the light of the gospel shine through and they be saved? "There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" -- Romans 3:10-12. The following is a good illustration of the helplessness of man to even accept the gift without divine enablement, without God's grace.
"The Rev. B.W. Ward, the popular Boston evangelist, and efficient superintendent of the Bleeker Street Mission, thus beautifully illustrates the gift of salvation: A friend of mine invited me into a jewelry store, and asked the clerk for samples of their pocket knives. Placing the price of the best one alongside of it, on the counter, he said, 'Ward, I want to make you a little present. There's a knife and there is the price of it. Make your choice. Take which one you will as a memento from me.' Now, said the evangelist, whose knife was it while it lay there on the counter? It wasn't mine. It would become mine by my deciding to accept it; but without such an act on my part it was not for me. So of salvation. Jesus has paid the price, but the sinner must decide whether or not he will reach forth and take it before it becomes his.
"In this extract it will be seen that the salvation of the individual is made to depend upon his own decision. The sinner must decide, and as he decides so will his future destiny be to all eternity. Thus one's salvation is practically made to depend on one's self. God and Christ have done, or are doing their part, and now they simply wait for the sinner's decision. Most people will accept the above extract as a correct presentation of the case, and would assent thereto without any hesitation. But there is a fatal defect in the illustration. The case of the one choosing the knife is not parallel to that of the sinner choosing salvation, because the former has his eyes wide open and knows full well the value of what is presented to him for his choice, while the latter is blinded and knoweth not what he does. 'But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ . . . should shine unto them' (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
"The Bible plainly teaches that fallen man is blinded to the truth; the soulical man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned, and the soulical man has not the Spirit. Thus the sinner does not realize and appreciate the value of the salvation that is offered to him. In the first place, he does not know he is lost, and hence feels no need of salvation. Secondly, this sinner does not know that the salvation offered him In Christ is worth anything. All he has to go by in determining its worth is the lives of those who profess to possess it, and they for the most part, are very deficient illustrations of its merit. Furthermore, the sinner is surrounded by circumstances entirely adverse to his acceptance of Christ. And finally, worse than all, 'the mind of the flesh,' a corrupt nature, an 'evil heart of unbelief,' a 'body of death,' that leans toward the bad and opposes the good continually; and mark you, all these things are circumstances over which the individual has no control and for which he is not to blame.
"Again, mark you, if he overcomes these unfavorable circumstances and in spite of them does accept Christ, it must be by some power outside of himself, for in himself he would never have any power for his own deliverance. This is the teaching of the seventh chapter of Romans. God must deliver him if he is delivered at all! He must bring him to a knowledge of his lost condition so that he will feel his need of a Saviour, and He must give him repentance and faith. God must open his eyes so that he shall not only see the need but also the priceless value of salvation, that like the apostle Paul, he will be willing to count all things but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.
"And he must be endowed with power to overcome the evil around and within him. All this help must come from God and must be imparted to the sinner before he can make the slightest movement toward salvation. Are there any such elements as these in the case of the man choosing the knife? Is it not plain that the illustration and the case of the sinner are not parallel at all? And yet just such illustrations are constantly presented as setting forth exactly the case of the sinner and 'his' choice or rejection of salvation in Christ! The fact is there are many factors to be taken into account in the regeneration and new creation of a human being. It is no such small matter as picking up a little present that a friend passes over to you. Hence these illustrations are very faulty and misleading." A. P. Adams -- End quote.
This thing of sinners choosing God is not representative of the truth at all. "Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you" (John 15:16), were the words of Jesus to His disciples and to us. When the great persecutor of the early church was struck dramatically to the ground by the Lord, was he asked, "Saul, are you willing to accept Me?" Or did He say to Ananias, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" --Acts 9:15? In fact, Paul was the recipient of some pretty rough handling there on the road to Damascus, and it was enough to change the mind about things and give repentance to him.
There are those who believe that God is desperately trying to save every human being in the world, but He just cannot do it because mighty man, sovereign man, won't allow it! "As I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed so shall it stand" --Isaiah 14:24.
"Man, a free moral agent? He may be free in some minor things that concern his personal conduct, but concerning God's eternal purpose for him HE IS NOT FREE to do his own will, for "IT IS NOT OF HIM THAT WILLETH OR HIM THAT RUNNETH, BUT GOD THAT SHOWETH MERCY" --Romans 9:16." J. Preston Eby. Actually, man is only free to choose, but he can do only that which God does not overrule. He is judged, though, by what he would do if he could, for as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
From my studies of the Scriptures, Jim, I find that salvation is of the Lord and that very little if anything is entrusted to man for it. That we could hold a view contrary to such a sovereignty of God the Creator is but further evidence of the depth to which we have all fallen. I sometimes wonder what men mean when they use the term, "the sovereignty of God." For surely, in most cases, it is but a contradiction in terms. "Limited sovereignty" is as meaningful as an "eternal age."
Next, your reference to 1 Tim. 1:15-16, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting (aeonian-for the age).
"To me, (sic) I receive these verses to say that Jesus came into the world for the purpose (His job, His work) of saving sinners, but that the qualification is belief in Him, which marks the "specialness" of believers, not in an elitist sense, but in a sanctified sense. God offers salvation to all men, and He does not favor anyone in this, nor exclude any from His offer, including "Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free." Is it not possible that this may be the intended sense of these verses?"
When I read this verse I receive exactly the opposite view. Let's not ignore the apostle Paul's reference to the fact that he is chief of sinners, the very worst, and that the reason he obtained mercy (not, accepted Christ) was so that Christ Jesus might show forth a pattern, an example of God's longsuffering, His all longsuffering, in reaching the very worst of men -- as an archetype for those who should after believe. Now you have taken this portion of the sentence, "those who should after believe," and placed the emphasis upon those who believe. But look at the Concordant Literal New Testament translation of this verse. "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all welcome, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, foremost of whom am I. But therefore was I shown mercy, that in me, the foremost, Jesus Christ should be displaying all His patience, for a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life aeonian." Who are "those who are about to be believing?" All mankind!
You say that there is a qualification (I do not see such a qualification as you refer to in this verse) to salvation and that it is belief in Him, and that this marks the specialness of believers, not in an elitist sense, but in a sanctified sense. I see no qualification to salvation, seeing that God is no respecter of persons and that all are under the same condemnation and that Christ came into the world to save . . . sinners, not the righteous. Before I could believe into Christ, I, in my lost and blind condition, had to receive faith to believe from the Lord. If He hadn't given me that faith to believe, I'd still be resisting the grace that is come to all men. As to any specialness of believers as being those who are so special from all others that they accept Him -- ". . . while we were yet sinners, yet unbelievers, Christ died for us . . . For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" --Romans 5:8 & 10.
You say that, "God offers salvation to all men, and He does not favor anyone in this, nor exclude any from His offer. . ."
What of Pharaoh? In another part of your letter you condemn Pharaoh for failing to let the children of Israel go free even after all the afflictions God had sent upon Egypt. I believe we must here take into consideration that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. How was Pharaoh to resist the will of God who raised him up for just the purpose of showing forth His power in him? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, 'Why has thou made me thus?' "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth." Would you like to have walked in Pharaoh's shoes, Jim? Me neither! But thanks be unto God, the plight of men like Pharaoh, Esau and, yes, even Judas, is not without remedy.
You say that God does not exclude any from this offer? Jim, surely you don't mean that the countless souls which die in India and in all the Moslem countries every day in their ignorance and darkness concerning Christ and the way to salvation are impartially included into the same rights that we Americans receive. One almost can hardly venture outside his home without being bombarded with information concerning Christ, and yet those living in Moslem countries never hear a word about Him in their entire lives.
One of the problems we have had is that we have thought that God intended all along to save all who would ever be saved during this age! That is not the case at all. Acts 15:16 attests to this as do other scriptures. "After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: (Why, why, why?) THAT THE RESIDUE (the rest, the remainder) OF MEN (of mankind) MIGHT SEEK AFTER THE LORD, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called . . ." IN THE NEXT AGE AND "IN THE AGES TO COME!" "He that raised us up together, and MADE us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Why?) That in the ages to come HE MIGHT SHOW (show it to whom except to those who are yet to bend the knee and bow the heart?) THE EXCEEDING KINDNESS OF HIS GRACE IN HIS KINDNESS TOWARD US THROUGH JESUS CHRIST" --Ephesians 2:6,7. "For in grace, through faith, are you saved, and this is not out of you; it is God's approach present, not of works, lest anyone should be boasting" --Eph.2:8 CLNT (Concordant Literal New Testament).
Again you say, "Isn't it possible that in all the verses you cite, that God is saying He offers salvation to all men? For example, if I was in a prison camp and a certain man was scheduled for execution, I could give (in my heart) and offer (physically) my life for his. I could offer to him my very life, but he MIGHT refuse. (This actually happened to Richard Wurmbrand) John 3:17 says, ". . . that the world through Him MIGHT be saved," not will be saved."
You raise the objection that God might save all men but that the glorious work of Christ at Calvary rests upon this very flimsy and tenuous "might." Surely you are not saying that Jesus came and suffered all that He suffered so that perhaps, perchance, possibly, maybe the world could be saved. I look at it as having this meaning, "The dam was dynamited so that the pent up waters might rush out." There is no implication nor one moment's thought here that perhaps, maybe the waters might perchance gush forth. It is a given that they will. So it is with the phrase, "that the world through Him might be saved," as well as the many other uses of the word might as it pertains to the salvation of mankind. This word might, which you treat so tentatively, carries the definition of "shall or must when used in law where the sense, purpose or policy requires this interpretation" (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary).
You alluded to the following verse as being "... a pretty specific indication of God's intentions for the 'world' and the believer-- 'For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you.'"
Are we to suppose from this that it is God's intention to save a little remnant out of the world as He destroys it? If this were so, what happens to 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .?' The truth is, God is only saving the firstfruits remnant out from among the nations at this time, or during this age (see Acts 15:14).
You bring up as another objection, Hebrews 10:26 -- "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." "No more sacrifice = no more of Jesus' blood to apply. And eternal death cannot pass us by. All because believers themselves have the power of willful choice to sin against Jesus' blood. No more sacrifice here, in this world and life -- NO MORE! At all! EVER! And the death angel will do his work eternally, without the blood of Christ to prevent him."
You underlined and capitalized the last part of the sentence to add emphasis to it, meaning, I suppose, that to sin willfully is another unpardonable sin. But that is not what this verse is about at all. It is speaking of the Lord not excusing, but judging and chastening for sin, not eternally but after a remedial fashion. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Has He ever taken you to the woodshed, Jim? Though He executes His chastening in love, it doesn't feel much like love at the time you are going through it. But afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who are exercised in this way. If we didn't know it when we came to the Lord, we soon learn not to do despite to the Spirit of grace or to treat in any way lightly the blood of Jesus. As for eternal death, that's not a Biblical term but "dramatic hyperbole." What a very flimsy and rickety thing you must see our salvation to be, held together only by the mighty resolve of willful, determined man. That is not the kind of salvation I am acquainted with!
Yes, we have very much enjoyed the book you sent us (The Archko Volume) and appreciate it very much. I read the passage you mention in your letter that Caiaphas might, perhaps, could possibly, be saved if he would accept it. And I read where He died so that Caiaphas and all mankind might be saved. I stand on my previous position as to the mights, perhaps, could possiblys and perchances, believing that if we are not presently willing, God will not save us against our will but has all the might and power needed in order to make us willing and bring us to repentance, now or later.
You took exception to my "writer's dramatic hyperbole" (I like that phrase) with reference to my statement of some 2-3% of all mankind actually being saved, according to the teaching of the eternalists. Guilty as charged! I have no earthly idea whether the actual figures might not really be as much as 5%. But one has but to look around at the terrible condition in the world, just as bad in "the Church," in order to come up with even worse figures. No, the figures probably are not accurate but I don't think there are any accurate figures with which to verify them. They were meant to be an approximation, and I dare to say that I am not far off.
Your objection to my usage of the phrase, "a long, but limited duration," reference to "age" is a little surprising as well as puzzling. An age is commonly understood by all to indicate a period of time, not endlessness, and therefore for a limited duration. In fact, Noah Webster even knows that aeon is a limited period of time. Anything having to do with time is limited by the very nature of the case. I cannot believe I should have to prove that an age is a limited period of time.
"Larry, concerning your statement regarding the word destroy, you say that it is used throughout the Bible with a meaning other than Webster gives as a definition. (In other words, it does not mean to annihilate) I have found that there are many different words used in the Old and New Testaments that are translated "destroy." One of these words is the Greek word, apollumi, used in Matthew 10:28. This verse says, '. . . but fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.' This word, apollumi, (destroy) means to "destroy fully, perish, lose." In searching this out further, I have discovered that when apollumi is used in the New Testament relative to hell, it means death.
You question whether the Bible really does use the word, destroy, in a sense altogether different from our common English usage. I refer you to Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. 1. apollumi -- a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies "to destroy utterly;" in middle voice, "to perish." The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being. This is clear from its use, as, e.g., of the marring of wineskins, Luke 5:37; of lost sheep, i.e., lost to the shepherd, a metaphorical of spiritual destitution, etc." 2. katargeo --see ABOLISH. "lit., "to reduce to inactivity. In this and similar words, not loss of being is implied, but loss of well-being. God has chosen things that are not "to bring to nought things that are," i.e., to render them useless for practical purposes, 1 Cor. 1:28; the princes of this world are "brought to nought," i.e., their wisdom becomes ineffective, 2:6; the use for which the human stomach exists ceases with man's death, 6:13; (and much more, please read under abolish). 3. kathaireo -- "to cast down, pull down by force, etc.," is translated "to destroy". 4. luo -- "to loose, dissolve, sever, break, demolish (tear down). 5. kataluo -- "destroy", of the person's spiritual well-being. 6. olothreuo -- "to destroy" especially in the sense of slaying. 7. exolothreuo -- "out of" to destroy out of. 8. pletheiro -- (see Corrupt) to bring to a worse state by corrupting as by evil company. 9. diaphtheiro -- (see Corrupt). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary gives several meanings to the word, destroy. The one I was referring to in my article was the meaning -- "to put out of existence." This particular meaning is the only one which has some connotation of eternal judgment and it is not remedial. But let me say, a man can lose his soul as the Scriptures clearly state. We are a spirit, we have a soul and we live in a body.
These are the nine Greek words translated "destroy" in the KJV, none of which indicate anything relative to annihilation, obliteration or eternal death. (Just think about it for a moment, Jim. Eternal means without beginning or ending as most of us have been taught to understand it. That much is not debatable. Yet, death had a beginning and also has an end, if we may be permitted to believe, as the Bible states, there shall be no more death! Whence, then, this eternal death? For that matter, eternal torment is also a contradiction in terms since it also obviously has at least a beginning.) In fact, none listed in the entire nine have such a connotation. You may look them up in the book mentioned above. Please refrain from using your KJV and your Strong's Concordance for these word-studies. In using them you are inquiring of the very ones who have been instrumental in perpetrating the error in the first place. It is something akin to inquiring of Rush Limbaugh about the integrity of Liberal Democrats. There is a built-in bias. The chance is very good that the answer you receive will be colored by the bias of your source.
I use the KJV myself, even though I am aware that in its original translation were 70,000 errors and that some 20,000 of those still exist. You may wonder, "Is there any translation to which one may turn that is an honest rendering and which did not have salability as at least a part of the consideration behind the translation and publishing?" Yes, there is. By the way, if you are wondering within yourself how God could have allowed such liberties to be taken with His Word, or why -- what better way to seal or conceal the truth of things pertaining to fullness than this? One thing which must be kept at the forefront of our investigations into these things is that, with all our searching and probing, the final outcome of what we find will only be as effectual as we have been open to the Spirit of revelation; for discovery of spiritual truth does not rest upon intelligence, or diligence, or industry -- it rests upon revelation of God's Spirit.
The Concordant Literal New Testament is the most honest and pure translation I have come across, and I do not say that merely because it happens to bear out the proposition that all shall eventually be saved. There are other translations which bear that out as well (Rotherham's, for one). I say it because of the manner in which they set about to do the translation, the reason they attempted it, and from the very spirit of related writings put out by these people.
As I understand it, they went through the New Testament and made a list of each word appearing in the original. After this they set about, with that list, to give each of the words in the original, the meaning which was closest to its meaning in English, without consideration of context or theological bias. Then when they set about doing the translation, they simply referred to their list rather than depending on their "interpretation." A wealth of information, as well as the Concordant Literal New Testament above mentioned, and some of the Old Testament books, can be obtained from their address: Concordant Publishing Concern, 15570 West Knochaven Rd, Canyon Country, CA 91351. A paperback copy of the New Testament costs, I believe, about $6.00, hardback is about $15. It should be remembered that these folks do not have the baptism of the Holy Spirit; therefore, their commentary is quite wanting. But to give an accurate translation, one need not have the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
You state, "Yes, but what of those who willfully reject Jesus, and wish to remain in this attitude? Our penal system today is testimony that punishment is NOT corrective, nor does it make anyone DESIRE to choose righteousness. Even Pharaoh, after all the plagues, when his first-born was slain by the death angel -- you might think he would be crushed by then. But no! He went after Moses and his people! How much does it take?"
By the way, the term "death-angel," is another of Babylon's inventions, like Saul on his way to Damascus, being knocked off his horse. It does not appear in all of Scripture. The Bible uses the term Destroyer and then the Lord says something about, ". . . when I pass over you."
I do not for a moment accept as testimony for divine standards the corrupt and pitifully inept judicial system of the United States of America where justice has become a stranger and equity can't even find entrance. I believe that God's sense of justice, His methods of correction, His willingness and ability to carry them out to the desired end is complete and lacking in nothing. I did hear, just yesterday, an account which took place in a Florida courtroom which gladdens my heart.
A teenage boy raped his younger sister and was arraigned before the judge by his parents. When told that he was required to apologize to his little sister, and mean it, he responded with, "Yeah, ah, sorry." The judge said, "That won't do. You must mean it." (Here is where the whole crux of the matter rests with our failing judicial system. How does one make people feel sorry for their unrighteous deeds?) The judge took the parents into chambers and together they decided to remand the teenager to the Juvenile Detention Center until he was willing to kneel before his sister publicly, in the courtroom, and apologize.
A week later the lad was able to come into the courtroom and do that. When he knelt before his sister, his heart broke and he pled from his heart, in tears, for her to forgive him for this terrible thing he had done to her. It was said that there were tears flowing all over the room. The judge said that he has noticed that body posture has an effect upon the emotions and upon whether one really means what he is saying in such cases. He also said that in such cases they have had 3% recidivism!
The whole thing reminds me of the verse which says, "Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." When? When every heart is made willing! There is no connotation or undertone here of God forcing these to just mouth words. Instead there is the implication that it is done in a heartfelt, even worshipful attitude. They have been made willing. Many eternalists like to say that this verse simply means that God will force these knees to bow and these tongues to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Now these are the same people who say that because man has a "free will" God will not force him to accept Jesus Christ. But here they have God forcing men to worship Him . . . to the glory of God? "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high one that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited" --Isaiah 24:21,22.
As I said, I believe that God's ability to bring one to a state of willingness is far greater than man's and I firmly believe that all that concerns the remedy of man's fall was taken into consideration long before He essenced His creation with sin, as Jane Leade puts it. I also believe that God's sense of justice is infinitely greater than fallen man's is, as is also His mercy, His patience, and His power and ability to bring to pass that which He desires.
You curiously raise the issue of Pharaoh as being a case in point to prove your assertion that affliction does not bring about repentance. I find that strange indeed, especially when one considers the number of times Pharaoh tried to repent and we are told that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart." He went after Moses and the children of Israel because he had no choice in the matter. (The King's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will" --Proverbs 21:1). Do I believe that God is therefore unjust to treat Pharaoh in such a way? Not at all, for I see that Pharaoh, God's creation, is but an instrument in the hand of God and that he was raised up to his place of authority for just this reason -- "That I might show forth my power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth" --Romans 9:17b. I must admit that I had quite a problem with this scripture when I believed that God capriciously raised this individual up in order to send him to an endless torment. I still would.
But as to your assertion that affliction does not lead men to repentance, there are many scriptures which dispute that.
"Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
"For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
"Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
"Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High:
"Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down and there was none to help.
"Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble and He saved them out of their distresses.
"He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke their bands in sunder.
"Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!" --Psalm 107:8-15.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I have kept thy word." --Psalm 119:67 These are but two of the many, many verses of scriptures that everywhere teach that affliction is one of God's foremost methods of bringing man to repentance.
You mention Esau as a "type/pattern" and go on to say, "What I hear God saying here (Heb. 12:16-17) is that 'heirs' can sell their birthright -- that there IS a precedence for 'no recourse,' even though a person has come to 'reduction.' When the 'afterward' of 'careful seeking with tears' was entered into by Esau, there was NO PLACE OF REPENTANCE to be found."
As for Esau failing to find repentance, the problem was that he could not bring Isaac to repent of the blessing he had given to Jacob, even though he sought it with tears! Read the account, Genesis 27:30-39, especially verses 34 & 38. It wasn't his own repentance that he had trouble with. I can agree with you in only one instance and it is that Esau is a type, but not a type of the believer that you hold up. Esau, throughout New Testament usage, is always a type of the natural, fleshly, Adamic man (Esau was Edom, meaning red. Adam means red. Adam and Edom come from the same word.) and nowhere is alluded to as a type of the follower of Christ.
As to types, Paul is here referring to the natural seed and the spiritual seed, Israel (Rom. 9). As for Esau's giving away his birthright as representing yet another unpardonable sin, it does no such thing. It is a type of Israel, the natural seed, whose were the covenants, to whom the Law was given, to whom the birthright pertained, failing to see the value of spiritual things over natural things. The natural seed of Israel, which reads only the dead letter of the Word, seeks what Esau sought concerning the birthright it lost at Calvary. Yet, all Israel shall be saved.
Even though they rejected the Holy Spirit at first when they said that the truth and deliverance Jesus brought to them was in fact by Beelzebub, they shall yet be saved. Upon this accusation and rejection, Jesus warned them emphatically, "Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 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 (age, that is, the age of Law under which they presently were), neither in the world (age) to come" --Matthew 12:31,32.
The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven the Jews during the present age of Law, under which they then resided, nor would it be forgiven during the age to come, during the ensuing Church age or Age of grace, as some call it. In no instance are we given to believe it will never be forgiven. I know that in verse 31 Jesus says, ". . . shall not be forgiven." But He Himself goes on to qualify that statement by saying that forgiveness would not be forthcoming . . . in "this present" age or in the one then coming on.
Your next question, "If a man's conscience can become seared as Paul says in 1 Tim. 4:2, what will un-sear it? A wound has been burned over with a hot iron, and an altered form exists. In this form of an altered conscience, what is left for the Holy Spirit (Who would be in Hell) to work with--to convict a person of sin (if he hasn't conscience enough to receive it), to lead him to repentance and to guide him to all the truth (Jesus)?"
What will un-sear a seared conscience? God. God Himself asked Jeremiah the same rhetorical question I now ask you -- "Is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jer.32:27) Granted, "with men this is impossible," but Jesus states unequivocally, ". . .with God all things are possible" --Matthew 19:26. As for the Holy Spirit being present in "hell" to do His work, God is omnipresent! David said, "If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou are there!" In fact, the Spirit makes it clear that there is no place where one may hide from His presence.
"Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy Presence?
"If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, (actually, sheol the Hebrew word translated "hell" means, the unseen state), behold, thou art there.
"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me"--Psalm 139:7-11. Don't you find it a little strange that David said that even in hell God's hand would lead and hold him?
You continue by saying, "As a last point along this line, consider what Jesus says in Mark 9:43-50. In these verses, He talks about it being better if we enter into life maimed, without a hand, a foot, or an eye -- if these things offend US -- than to be cast into hell, where there is a fire that shall NEVER be quenched. The point I believe Jesus very graphically makes here is that there will, indeed, be ETERNAL LOSS for offense within us that we die with in this life. Jesus says that hell will be a place, "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
I am certain that you are not suggesting that what is written about cutting off certain offending members of our bodies is to be taken literally. Men, especially in the Roman Catholic system where they have had such grievous and un-natural burdens placed upon them, have actually done this very thing. They have neutered themselves in an attempt to be rid of the offending member. Some have gouged out their own eyes, and others have mutilated themselves by cutting off other parts of their bodies, but none have succeeded in either overcoming the particular lust that was operating in them, nor did they succeed in entering into life by these means.
Metaphorically and symbolically speaking, we are to suffer the loss of those particular things we, in our Adamic nature, have loved and which hold us captive. How? By delivering them up to our loving and compassionate Physician in Whose tender hand is held the Golden Scalpel, wielded for the purpose of our deliverance from such troubling and vexing things. While this is not possible with man, it is altogether attainable through Christ.
You raise the question of the "hell where the worm dieth not." Let us be clear about one thing. I reject the KJV's translation of various places, tartarus, gehenna, sheol and hades as all being the one hell created by the same translators. Tartarus is never said to be a place where human beings go, but the place of disobedient spirits.
"Gehenna was a valley (Hinnom) on the west and south-west sides of Jerusalem where idolatrous and abominable human sacrifices were offered to Molech, the fire god. (2 Kings 23:10, 2 Chron. 28:3-6, Jer. 7:31 and 32:35) In fulfillment of centuries-past prophecy (1 Kings 13:2), good King Josiah made a sweeping reformation, clearing away the altars, groves, images and high places (2 Chron. 34:3-5). In Jer. 7:32 and 33, we find the prediction of a future defilement of this valley. Secular historians record that the site became the cesspool and repository of the filth of Jerusalem where fires were kept burning incessantly and where worms perpetually bred in the decaying corpses of criminals.
"Isaiah 66:20, 23, 24 predicted a future day of restoration for Israel, when the bodies of transgressors would be deposited in this valley to become a warning of the summary judgment to be meted out to evil doers (cf. Matt. 5:29 and 30).
"Of the eleven New Testament references to gehenna, all contained in the teaching concerning the predicted kingdom to be restored to Israel, not one makes any reference to endless punishment, nor can one see how fire or worms could affect the soul, or spirit, or anything other than the carcasses of evil doers as Isaiah said it would. Also, since our Lord confined His preaching to the land and people of Israel (Matt. 10:5) and forbade His apostles to go to others, it is evident that His references to this local spot and its associations do not apply to humanity at large. We therefore urge that 'gehenna''should be transliterated into English versions and thus linked up with the Hebrew passages from which the name arose. It certainly is not synonymous with hades or sheol, so should not be included under the term 'hell.'" --End quote by G. T. Stevens from his book, Time and Eternity, A Biblical Study.
Actually, in order to come to some understanding of the Lord's meaning and import of such scriptures as you use above, there has to be first an understanding as to what constitutes "hell." The Hebrew word sheol means simply, "the unseen state" or the grave. Hades also means the grave. These two words, sheol and hades are used interchangeably in scripture as designating "the unseen state or the state of the dead," but not of living, suffering humans. Jacob believed that Joseph was in sheol and that he would join him there (Gen. 37:35). "The Lord brings down to the grave (sheol) and bringeth up"(I Sam. 2:6). Job longed to go to sheol to rest or sleep till the resurrection (Job 14:12,13). "Out of the belly of hell (margin says grave) sheol (in this case, out of sight in a fish) cried I, and thou heardest my voice" --Jonah 2:2. There are many more scriptures which show, if a careful search is made, that those listed above are quite typical.
The reference to hades in the parable of Luke 16 accords with the scriptures throughout. They teach that no dead person can 'lift up his eyes' apart from resurrection, which for the wicked leads on to chastening (basanos, verse 23), producing beneficial results -- ( i.e. Dives' concern for his brothers). It should be particularly noted that there is nothing whatever in the scriptures quoted above to suggest that sheol, hades, or hell is a place or condition of endless pain or torture.
Remember also, that at the time the KJV was first translated, some English words carried a completely different meaning than they do today. For instance, the word "hell" was, at the time of the original translation, spelled "hele" and simply meant to hide, to conceal, to bury. The common usage was, "I shall go and hele the potatoes." Or, "The young couple searched for a hele where they might be alone."
"Where the fire is never quenched . . . ," you say. I will deal with this a little further on, as it relates to something else I must bring out. Lastly, I simply do not believe that worms have eternal life so that they "die not".
You continue for some space about "why men reject the gospel," quoting Romans 1:18-32. I quote you -- " . . . who hold the truth in unrighteousness . . . they are without excuse . . . because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened . . . "
What an apt description of some believers who go part way with the Lord but come to a point beyond which they refuse to go, where truth is concerned, regardless of the mass of evidence for truth. These plainly "hold the truth," but in unrighteousness. They clearly "knew God" at one time but would not attribute to Him the glory due Him. You may very well be right, Jim, in your assessment of why men refuse the truth, in particular, the truth of the final restitution of all men, but at bottom it is still Adam who stands in the way.
Quoting my newsletter, you say, " . . . man rejects the true gospel of Christ not because of, ' . . . eternal and pointless torment for 90% of all who ever lived'' is preached and it, ' . . . appeals to that fallen creation which is Adam -- because that is its origin.' Just the opposite seems to be true: Men reject the gospel of Christ because THEY WANT TO -- because they desire sin, pleasure, and self-exaltation over God."
May I ask what seems to me a simple question? What are they expected to do when the god of this world has blinded their minds lest the light of the gospel shine through and they be saved? Each of them was born with a natural propensity to sin, to self-love, to darkness rather than light--and why? Because the creature was made subject to vanity, not voluntarily, but by God who subjected it in hope. (Rom. 8:20).
Can fallen man rationally be expected to act in any fashion other than his inherent fallen nature dictates? Is he not the slave of sin? If a slave, then is he free to make such choices? If man could do better, if he could even accept the gospel on his own, without any help from God, then he might have whereof to boast. Therefore it is by grace lest any man should boast.
If we think that we just one day had a change of heart and were suddenly righteous enough to, on our own, turn our hearts to Christ, then we are very much mistaken. It is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth but of the Lord which showeth mercy. Not even Jacob can boast. God chose him before he was even born, for while both Jacob and Esau were still in the womb, neither having done either good or evil, God said, "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated." What a glorious beginning for Esau to have! Hated before he is even born! Before he had done either good or evil. Where is God's justice here if there is no ultimate good brought forth from this?
This thing you and I are involved in, called "firstfruits," is a thing of election, and it is God who is doing the choosing, the changing and turning of hearts unto Himself. "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified" -- Romans 8:29,30. How true is the scripture which says, "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth" -- Romans 9:18. What shall we say to these things? Thank God that during the present age He never meant to bring in everyone who would eventually come in, but only a firstfruits company! To this testifies Acts 15:16,17, as well as a host of other scriptures.
You quote my question (in the newsletter), "When Revelation 21:4 states that there shall be no more death, including the second death, is this not a clear acknowledgement that sin's wages have been received in full and all debt cancelled by Him Who knew no sin?", and then answer it with, "Not necessarily!"
Surely you aren't saying that Jesus in some way failed to pay sin's debt! I do not believe you mean to say that, but if not, I don't know what you are saying.
But you continue, "First, look at Revelation 20:10 -- 'And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.' This, in itself, may present some difficulties for you, Larry, in teaching the eventual salvation of all men. The two words "ever" in this verse are akin to the same basic word in Matthew 25:46 -- aion = eternal, without end, etc. Yes, they can mean an age, or in this case, the "ages of ages". But are you prepared to say that the devil will be eventually saved when the ages are over? Look now at Revelation 21: 8, which follows after the verse you have quoted to justify the doing away of the second death for men: 'But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, SHALL HAVE THEIR PART in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the SECOND DEATH.'" Emphasis yours.
Let me begin by pointing out the very obvious mistranslation in Revelation 20:10. Even if the word aion did mean eternal, what a silly arrangement of words to put into the mouth of the Holy Spirit! Eternal doesn't only mean "without end." Eternal has neither beginning nor end. So to suppose that the Holy Spirit inspired such words as "forever and ever" is simply ludicrous. There is no place for another ever, another eternity, after forever. There is no after forever. I believe that the more correct rendering of the verse in question would be, "And the adversary who is deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the wild beast and where the false prophet are also. And they shall be tormented day and night for the eons of the eons." -- CLNT.
And I have absolutely no problem with "the ages of the ages" or "the eons of the eons." However immensely long that period of time is, the fact remains, being a period of time, it has an end! By the way, Jim, have you never wondered about the element of "day and night" in this lake of fire and sulphur? Will day and night continue "forever" or eternally? I don't believe the Bible teaches that they shall. One major problem most people have who object to the final restitution of all men is that they invariably act, study and speak as if the KJV were the original tongue, the original inspired Bible, when it is only a version of the original. If it is kept in mind that the KJV is at best a bad translation, I think many of the problems we have with understanding what the Holy Spirit meant when He meticulously chose each word and syllable in the original tongue, would be cleared up.
In the verse you quoted (Rev. 21:8) you focused on, "SHALL HAVE THEIR PART in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the SECOND DEATH." I want to focus first on another part of that verse. "But the fearful and unbelieving . . . shall have their part . . . etc." Who are these? Without going into this a great deal, I believe they are those among His precious people who are fearful and unbelieving of "all things which are written." Who, having been spoiled by the philosophy of men and Babylon's orthodoxy, simply cannot follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. There is a further work of purification needed and the lake of fire, which is the second death, is that instrument. After all, only the overcomer is promised not to be hurt of the second death (Rev. 2:11), not merely believers. God has ordained, however contrary to orthodoxy, that the lake of fire (second death) be the instrument used to loose His creation from the bondage of the first death which is the carnal mind. (To be carnally minded IS DEATH) He that overcometh, not he that believeth, shall not be hurt of the second death. Spiritually speaking, all the other things listed in that verse, abominable, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters and liars, also can apply to believers. Shocking isn't it? Read James 4 again.
Fire and brimstone! What travesty has been perpetrated on God's people with this portion of scripture. What with Dante's Inferno and the high drama of Hollywood, it is little wonder that such a fantasy has somehow found its way into a Church which suffers fools gladly. It had, by Augustine's day, become well-established. But let me say, we have God's own words about how He feels about the matter, and it may surprise you.
"They have built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind . . ." -- Jeremiah 19:5 This takes place in the valley of Hinnom where the children of Israel offered their sons into the white-hot arms of the fire-god Molech in order to appease his anger. God said that such a thing never came into His mind! The fantasy of such is from the mind of fallen man.
Let me here quote from the publication of a brother with whom I am personally acquainted and who explains it as well as any I know.
J. Preston Eby says, "I believe every word that the Bible says about the lake of fire; I don't believe what Rome says about it, nor what apostate Churches say about it, nor what tradition says about it; but I certainly believe what the Bible says about it.
"The teaching concerning the lake of fire does not appear anywhere in the Scripture except in the book of Revelation where it is spoken of in the following passages: Rev. 14:10-11; 19:20; 20:10; 20:13-15 and 21:8. There should be no question as to the certainty of this lake of fire; neither should there be any doubt as to the awful consequence of having to be cast into it. These scriptures with their dreadful foreboding should be a fearful warning to all unthinking and foolish people who, because of their love for the world, the flesh, and the devil, have dared to ask why we should serve God now if all are going to be saved eventually. Such people have no love for God nor fear of God, and they manifest by what they say that their professed serving of God is only a pretense, arising, not from any true love for Him, but from fear of punishment.
"Because of the gross misunderstanding of almost all people concerning the lake of fire, I would like to draw your attention to three words found in the passage quoted above. 'But the fearful, and unbelieving, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire which BURNETH with FIRE and BRIMSTONE: which is the second death.' The word BURN means combustion, or to consume. To consume does not mean to annihilate, for there is no such thing as annihilation in the absolute sense. When fire consumes a log in your fireplace, it does not destroy any of the elements within the log, it merely changes their form.
"Combustion is the process by which chemicals combine to form new chemicals. For example: a tree might be cut down, sawn into fire wood, and burned. When the wood is burning, the heat causes the chemicals of which the wood is composed to vaporize, mixing with the oxygen in the air to form new chemicals, including water and the gas, carbon dioxide. So what was formerly a tree is no longer identified as the form of a tree, but the substance thereof is now simply changed into a different form and exists in its new form within the atmosphere as water, carbon dioxide, etc. Thus, to burn means to change. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that fire does not burn down; it always burns up; it seeks the highest level. And all that it consumes 'goes up in smoke,' to exist in a new form in a higher dimension. Even if you take a pan of water and place it over a fire, before long the water will take on the property of the fire and will begin to go up in steam. To burn means to change, and the change is always upward in its motion.
"Fire is the heat and light that you feel and see when something burns. It takes heat to start a fire, but once the fire is started it produces heat that keeps the process going. Thus, fire is really heat and light.
"In my study of the lake that burns with fire and brimstone I was very much helped and impressed by the understanding given by Charles Pridgeon and I would like to quote from his scholarly work on the subject of BRIMSTONE. He says: 'The Lake of Fire and Brimstone signifies a fire burning with brimstone; the word brimstone or sulphur defines the character of the fire (Emphasis mine). The Greek word THEION translated brimstone is exactly the same word THEION which means divine.
"Sulphur was sacred to the deity among the ancient Greeks; and was used to fumigate, to purify, and to cleanse and consecrate to the deity; for this purpose they burned it in their incense. In Homer's Iliad (16:228), one is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone. The verb derived from THEION is THEIOO, which means to hallow, to make divine, or to dedicate to a god (See Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, 1897 Edition). To any Greek, or any trained in the Greek language, a 'lake of fire and brimstone'' would mean a 'lake of divine purification.' The idea of judgment need not be excluded. Divine purification and divine consecration are the plain meaning in ancient Greek. In the ordinary explanation, this fundamental meaning of the word is entirely left out, and nothing but eternal torment is associated with it' --End Quote by Charles Pridgeon.
"I realize that the above thoughts define the subject very briefly, but let us summarize the meaning thus: BURN means combustion; to change the form of. FIRE means heat and light. BRIMSTONE means divine. Putting these three together can we not see that the lake burning with fire and brimstone is, actually, DIVINE HEAT AND LIGHT PRODUCING A CHANGE! Is such a process eternal? All the laws of nature shout that it is not! More than 2500 years ago the Holy Spirit warned the wicked inhabitants of Jerusalem that God would kindle a fire at Jerusalem's gates which would devour her palaces. 'But if ye will not hearken unto Me . . . then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched'' -- Jeremiah 17:27.
"Did not God say this fire 'SHALL NOT BE QUENCHED?' This prophecy was fulfilled and the fire did occur a few years later and it did destroy all the houses of Jerusalem (Jer. 52:13). Since God said no person or thing would quench this fire, did that mean that it would burn for ever? Since it accomplished the work it was sent to do, and since it is NOT BURNING TODAY, it obviously went out by itself after accomplishing its purpose! Unquenchable fire is not eternal fire -- it is simply fire that cannot be put out until it has consumed or changed everything it is possible for it to change!
"Are the judgments of God permanent? Isaiah says, 'When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness' -- Isaiah 26:9. 'A bruised reed shall He not break and a smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory' --Matthew 12:20. Judgment, therefore, is not an eternal condition, but it is given to produce that victory. Judgments of themselves do not save anyone, but they are used of God to bring one to one's self, to effect a change of attitude and will, to consume away the stubbornness and rebellion of men. Punishment by fire is a beneficial one. 'Our GOD is a consuming fire' --Hebrews 12:29. The basic purpose of this divine fire of God is to cleanse, purify, purge, temper and change. It is to rid of impurities, or filth, of undesirable elements. There is no better way to deal with filth than to deal with it by fire."--End Quote by J. Preston Eby.
Whatever did we think the scripture meant, Jim, which says, "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming:"-- 2 Thessalonians 2:8? And what is the second death? It has not merely to do with a lake of fire. It is the casting of the first death, along with hell (hades, the grave), into the lake of fire. It is the death of death and the fulfillment of that saying, "And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" -- 1 Corinthians 15:26.
Let me again quote yet another witness whose eyes the Lord has graciously opened to these glorious things.
"The offense of the first Adam brought all men under the sentence of death for sin. Hence presently our mortal bodies are in a state of dying, while our minds need to be freed from minding the things of the flesh, to mind the things of the Spirit. The act of disobedience of Adam brought forth death. Now, the obedience and work of righteousness of the last Adam also brings forth a death for every man. The question arises, Is the second death the same kind of death as the first? Many people think that it is a repetition of the first, and that the results are the same, while its action is more severe and cruel and destructive, being by fire. And some Christians add very sorrowfully, 'and from this second death there is no resurrection, it is an endless torment and agony,' but not so! For God's seconds are never duplicates of the firsts. They are always much better, higher, and more powerful than the firsts and used to counter-balance all the action of the firsts, and much more -- He always saves the best until last.
"All Bible statements prove that the two deaths are absolutely unlike, and that the two deaths are opposite and antagonistic. The second death undoes all the work of the first death in the same manner that the last Adam undid all the work of the first Adam. Not to nullify the purpose being wrought out by the plan of God in the firsts, but to bring a release from the firsts in a much-more manner of majesty and glory and power and scope of coverage, into the greater and glorious things of God. Creation was made subject to vanity for a purpose! Sin was allowed for wise ends, but when those ends have been secured, it will have to cease to exist. The purpose is not nullified, but the means whereby the purpose has been executed shall be done away. Discipline is a means to an end, but not an end in itself. It leads up to the 'afterwards yielding the peaceable fruit of righteousness.''
"The first Adam died to God and righteousness and became alive unto sin. The last Adam died unto sin (Rom. 6:10), and liveth unto God and so fulfilleth all righteousness. The first made all men sinners, the last makes all men righteous. The lives and deaths of the two Adams are thus greatly contrasting the one to the other. The first death was a transition from life to death, the second death is a transition from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality. Transformed from the carnal mind to the spiritual mind, which is life and peace, which transformation is wrought by a dying out to the one realm, to come alive to the higher realm. Because -- the second death is prepared to purge out and burn away sin and its results, and so doing, cleans all of God's universe.
"Death came as an enemy, the fruitage of an act of disobedience that turned man away from God and into the realm of carnality, minding self and flesh. Now God makes death overcome itself. It is by death that death is rendered powerless, and there arises an upspringing, a new life. It takes death to destroy death, and thus Christ '. . . did taste death for every man' -- 'that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who though fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage' --Heb. 2:9,14-15.
" Since we are all under the effects of the first death, it is appointed unto us to die once more -- not physical death; we are already in a state of mortality -- but now a dying out to this present death state. We conquer this death of the carnal mind by dying to it -- only God could use such a process bringing victory and praise to God. He is destroying the first death with the second death!
"All, the Crucifixion, our identification with the cross of Christ, must first be accepted by faith as a fact, and then the working of it in and through us as a process. If it is done now, through our yieldedness to the call and claims of Christ upon us, we won't have to face it later, in what is called the 'lake of fire,' which is the second death. The passing through that lake of divine purification will thoroughly purge out the last remaining fragments of the rebellion and waywardness of man, till the mystery of iniquity is no more, and then the carnal mind being abolished, death is no more." --End Quote by Ray Prinzing.
Jim, as I read your comments on Rev. 20:10 I am struck with the awesome power of a mind-set. It is as if everything must be considered only from that perspective, as if one were wearing tinted glasses and therefore everything appears to him in that particular hue in total disregard to reality. I am not saying this in a disparaging way at all, for I believe you are honest-hearted and at least open to try to consider things in a different light than you have perhaps seen them. I am just struck with the power of prejudicial thinking. We are all subject to it and apparently it is most prevalent when we assume that we already have the truth when current truth is presented in the face of well-entrenched and well-accepted error.
You refer to the second death as eternal death and yet there is nothing in that verse, the book of Revelation or the entirety of the Bible to indicate such a term as eternal death. One of the reasons there is such a problem with the concept eternal is that there is nothing in all of scripture which describes such a concept. But that doesn't seem to pose a problem for those who desire to believe in eternal punishment.
"Now, without getting into a lot of theology on this, I personally believe that Lucifer and Satan are two different beings, for nowhere in Scripture does it say that Satan was once Lucifer before he fell. I also believe that the (generic) man referred to here is the spiritual part of man (i.e. man's spirit), and that our soul is woman. Thus, God may be saying in this verse that Lucifer is a created man, a spirit-man, but man nevertheless. Whatever the case, and irregardless of what I believe, you may, at some point, Larry, be faced with teaching (or at least be questioned about) Lucifer (Satan?) being eventually saved along with all men."
As for your reference to Isaiah 14:12-17, especially verse 16 -- "They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, 'is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?'" You say that this refers to Lucifer and that I may have a problem of some sort with this. This is not a new concept to me and I don't have a problem with it at all. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of the assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to the grave, (hell) to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: 'is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, who made the world a desert, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?'" --Isaiah 14:12-17.
Oh, this is a beautiful description of Adam, the son of the dawn of creation. He is the morning star as opposed to Christ Jesus, the second Adam and Day Star referred to in 2 Peter 1:19, Who is now rising to replace the other. (I care little for what tradition says about Lucifer.) Adam had a throne because he was given dominion and rule. But when he believed the serpent's lie, he said in his heart, "I will, I will, I will be like the Most High God" -- apart from and independent of God!
He is still saying it and he utters it in religion more than any other place! Then he fell into the earthy realm completing the law of circularity which demands that everything have a tendency toward its origin. The first Adam was of the earth, so God said, "Dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return." The first Adam was judged by Christ Jesus, the last Adam, and forever put away.
Has Adam not shaken the earth? Who was finding expression in those men and women down through the ages who, through war, shook the entire earth, overthrew the cities of the earth until they are not safe to live in, turned the earth into a desert and the seas into polluted cesspools? Has it not been Adam who has held every last human individual in bondage through fear of death and never let a one go free? I declare, along with a multitude of scriptures from the Bible, it is no other! But, praise be to God, all that has been placed upon the human race through the first man is done away in the last Man, for as far as God is concerned there have only been two men -- Adam and Jesus the Christ.
"On page 3 (of The Shofar Letters), you state, "It is reasonable that Love had a purpose in creating everything He created. That purpose was, ". . . for thy pleasure they were created" --Rev.4:11. But it is perfectly unreasonable for us to believe that Love would, or even could do anything whose purpose and ultimate outcome was not a further manifestation of Love." --End of Quote from TSL.
You go on to say, "Then, you will have to include Lucifer, and especially, Satan in the category of "every last thing." Were Lucifer and Satan created for God's own pleasure? Yes, I think so. But to lay this Scripture as one of the bases of evidence for the eventual salvation of all men, is dangerous at best, and misses the mark, in my opinion, especially in light of your statement that, "It is perfectly unreasonable for us to believe that Love would, or even could do anything whose purpose and ultimate outcome was not a further manifestation of Love." Question: Is the casting of the devil, beast, and false prophet (created things) into the "forever and ever" fire a mistake on Love's part? Has Love failed here?"
I must admit that it never occurred to me that someone might take issue with the declared, clear Word of God. Revelation 4:11 was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was not the product of the apostle John's feelings about things. When I quote it, I am merely citing what God is on record as declaring as a truth so valid that men not only ought to believe it but also be prepared to lay down their very lives for it.
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, FOR THOU HAST CREATED ALL THINGS, AND FOR THY PLEASURE THEY WERE AND ARE CREATED." Why I should have trouble with that I do not know, but you suggest that it may be because I might have to include Satan in the category of "all things." If he is included then let him be included! If he's not, so be it. But I refuse to limit God on the basis of what I am willing to believe!
Jim, I find your deductions very interesting indeed. You have apparently quite easily deduced that the "all things" in this verse must, by the very nature of things, mean all things -- even to the point where you have reached out and, upon the weight of this all things, included Satan into the redemptive work of Christ. But your tone is suspect. It is not as if you are rejoicing that the scope and power of Christ's work were suddenly recognized to be far greater than eye hath seen or ear heard. Instead it sounds as if you feel you have presented me with an iron-tight "gotcha!" In other words, you can see that the "all things" this verse declares, must include all things . . . except that you just don't believe that, and that places you squarely in conflict with the Word which you admittedly understand. If it does, then king Reason has won again . . . for the present.
Of course you recall the scripture, "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places" -- Ephesians 6:12. Paul precedes this verse by referring to these entities, these created beings, as an expression of the wiles of the devil. Now read the following verses --"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; For in Him (Christ Jesus) were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through Him and unto Him; . . . For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell; And through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens" --Colossians 1:15-16 & 19-20.
For the very life of me I cannot see how or where this fails or comes short in any respect to illumine, define and perfectly characterize the all-inclusive work of Christ. If any man cannot see the truth here, the problem is not on God's part, it lies not upon a lack of clarity or because the Word of God is not explicit, for nothing could be said any plainer.
As I said, I don't have a problem with whatever God does with Satan--whatever Satan might be. I do recall that the "King of Babylon" was cast down from his throne and great dominion because of pride and that he was given a mind "like unto a beast". . . until seven times (a figure of fullness) had passed over him. Then he was restored to his throne and dominion and his understanding returned to him along with his former glory. You were saying something about the King of Babylon being a type of Satan? I believe he is. I can believe that God can do anything, can you? I am persuaded that, when presented with all the facts, you can also! Let God be true and every man a liar.
Next objection --"Larry, you go on to say, 'Eternal punishment has absolutely no purpose.' It doesn't? Larry, this is entirely a man's personal judgment. Could the problem be that you and I do not yet fully understand eternal punishment? Could not a purpose of eternal separation from God be just that: an issue more of separation than punishment, and that separation from God is torment and punishment, a thing which men choose for themselves?"
Are you asking if it is possible for me to be wrong on this point about eternal punishment having no purpose? Jim, I am in no way ready to say that I am infallible. I write this publication, for the most part, to like-minded brothers and sisters in the Lord who are unwilling to "make a man an offender for a word." Perhaps I should have said, "Eternal punishment has absolutely no apparent purpose." Would you have agreed with that?
Since the TSL article in question was based upon the Christ-sanctioned use of reason, I was counting on those reading it to use the logic of the cross. I explained that the reason, or logic, of which I speak is not that of the fallen nature but of that renewed mind which is Christ. It is undeniable that Jesus Himself led His listeners on various occasions to use reason. (The reason and logic of the cross) That He did, is not a moot point. "If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more shall He clothe you?" If that is not reason, I don't know what is.
What I was attempting to show, based upon the same tactics Jesus used, was if we, being evil, the offspring of God, punish our children with their correction in view, punish our children after a reformative and curative manner, how much more should we expect it of God? I in no way back away from that. Your statement, "Could it be that you and I do not yet fully understand eternal punishment?" I readily admit that there are a great many things that only God does know for sure, but I reject the suggestion that "eternal judgment" is one of those.
For one thing, the matter is made far too clear to me throughout the scriptures, and for another, Hebrews 6 states clearly that eternal (aeonian) judgment is a matter on which we, as His sons, are to be quite clear. "Wherefore let us cease to speak of the first principles of Christ and press on to perfection (7); not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (1), of the teaching of baptisms (2--Spirit, 3--fire), laying on of hands (4), and of resurrection of the dead (5), and of eternal (aionian) judgment (6)" --Hebrews 6:1,2.
But your objection was not that we could not know it, but that we might not fully understand it. That could be a possibility, especially in light of all the nonsense that is today accepted from tradition as having some bearing on eternal judgment. The truth is, it isn't even eternal judgment, but aeonian judgment, or judgment of the age. I will admit that I probably do not have as complete an understanding of it as I one day shall, but brother, and I say this kindly, anyone holding to eternal judgment isn't even in the game yet.
You make the statement that eternal punishment might be, "an issue more of separation than punishment, and that separation from God is torment and punishment, a thing which men choose for themselves."
By your own admission, this is altogether too weak a case to hold water. It is not separation from God that is tormenting, it is His holy, burning, all-consuming Presence which torments. There is nowhere to which one may flee, according to David, where His presence is not found, even hell. I believe, having covered this point at great length previously we need not spend much time with it here.
You continue quoting me -- "To continue your reasoning in this, you go on to say, 'It is a clear and unmistakable declaration that Love has failed and has been overcome of evil so long as even one man remains outside Love's reach and power.' Larry, do you honestly believe this? No matter if one believes as I do, or one might side with Larry Hodges' teachings on these matters, your statement is unreasonable, and speaks of unbelief. Just because eternal punishment is unreasonable to you and you have pronounced it as having "absolutely no purpose," if God did have a purpose for eternal punishment, would you still be willing to remain standing on your pronouncements that, 1)"It is an unmistakable declaration that, 2) Love has failed and, 3)has been overcome of evil, 4) so long as one man remains outside Love's reach and power?? . . . My brother, don't you think this might come close to accusing and judging God? "
Do I honestly believe what I have written and what you have quoted me as saying above? Without a single doubt! But you see, I do not believe that Love can fail, you do; by holding to the belief that God, Who is Love, could set out to do a thing, that is, save the world, and then fail to do it because strong, mighty, omnipotent man successfully opposes Him in it. Jim, God Himself has gone on record as stating why He sent His Son into the world and He states it very simply and very clearly. "God so loved the world . . ." Yet, we are to believe, according to the eternalists, that even though " . . . God is not willing that any should perish, but (He is willing) that all should come to repentance.", nevertheless Mighty man's will overcomes God's and thwart's the desire of God.
We are to believe, according to the eternalists, that even though "Christ came into the world to save sinners," and all have sinned, He is able to save just a relatively few, those few who permit Him to save them. My dear, beloved brother, I not only say that such a God has utterly failed, has been utterly overcome of evil, I also declare to you that I know no such God! My God is Love, and He never fails for He cannot fail! My God is the Sovereign God of all things who needs not the permission of any creature for anything He undertakes to do. He rules in the affairs of men, not the other way around. The limited sovereignty which the eternalists ascribe to their God comes out of the same grab-bag of tricks as their eternal age. There can be no such thing.
"My brother, don't you think this might come close to accusing and judging God?", you ask.
Not a bit of it! But if you believe that Love, after attempting to save mankind and upon failing, must then resort to sending those same ones He created, those same ones He made subject to vanity (Romans 8:20), to endless torment, then you, my dear brother, are judging God, and wrongly so, I might add. What an awful light in which to cast such a loving God! What slander! What scurrilous libel!
As far as the "what ifs" you raise in your letter, I decline to address them on the grounds that to do so would be to depart from any foundation for sound discourse. One can "what if" himself to any destination he desires. But consider carefully the following.
IS GOD HIMSELF LIABLE FOR MAN'S FALLEN CONDITION?
"For to vanity (vanity of the fall) 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." Romans 8:20,21 CLNT.
Could it be true that the omniscient, all-wise, all-knowing God, Who knows the end from before the beginning, had a perfect plan before He ever put into motion His very first act of creation? Allow me to answer that question with another question. Would He be God if He hadn't? Why is Jesus referred to as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" --Revelation 13:8? Why does Ephesians 1:4 state that "He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love."? In fact, it goes on to say, concerning the mystery (secret) of His will, "That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him . . ." --Ephesians 1:10.
I agree with you; that is glorious! But listen to how the Concordant Literal New Testament has it. That it is the secret of His will -- ". . . to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ--both that in the heavens and that on the earth--in Him in Whom our lot was cast also, being designated beforehand according to the purpose of the One Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will. . ." --Ephesians 1:10 CLNT.
Unless you have so placed your trust in a man or in the teachings of a man, you must already see that God had purposed within Himself before the foundation or creation of the world all that He would do, all that would occur and the subsequent outcome, from beginning to end! The Devil, contrary to popular traditional thought, did not catch God napping and then slipped into the garden to deceive Eve and cause the fall of mankind. All was pre-planned, and the cure for the fall was put into effect for all, in the death of the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.
Why did God give man the liability laws found in the Old Testament if not to show that He was holding Himself liable for like injuries to man? Does God give man laws that will make him liable for his fellow-man and yet God Himself is not willing to do as much? Will He not go even beyond such compassionate laws? Does He say to us, "Forgive seventy times seven times in a day," and Himself is not willing to forgive even more abundantly?
"When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement (a railing) for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence" --Deuteronomy 22:8.
Most of us realize that if we push someone from the roof of our house and he dies, that we are guilty of murder (manslaughter) and therefore subject to the penalty of death. But if we build a structure and fail to take adequate, normal precautions against others being hurt or injured and they hurt or injure themselves, then we are liable for their injury. In Old Testament (and even New Testament) times people spent a good deal of time on the roof tops of their homes so it was important that there be a battlement or railing of safety in place. If a man did not put up a railing around the roof of his house and someone accidentally fell off and died, the owner of the house was guilty of manslaughter and could flee to one of the cities of refuge, but he must remain there until the death of the current High Priest. God deliberately allowed Adam (man) to fall and die, but provided the death of the High Priest (Jesus, the firstborn through Whom full restitution is made) to release Himself from liability.
"If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him. Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him" -- Exodus 21:28-31.
In Adam's case the serpent was the ox, which belonged to God Who had created him. God allowed His ox (serpent) to gore, not only Adam but, every person then in the loins of Adam. Yet God had provided a means of restitution through the law of an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth and life for life. So God in Christ paid the debt, life for life for Adam and for all who were injured in that fall. For as in Adam all die, even so (in just the same way) in Christ (the last Adam) shall all be made alive" --I Corinthians 15:22. This He did so that, as by man came death upon all, even so by man comes also the resurrection of the dead. For us to say that God is willing to save all men, but not able to bring it about is to say that the ability of Satan to slay is greater then God's ability through Christ Jesus to resurrect and make alive.
"And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his" -- Exodus 21:33,34.
Any thinking person can see, upon reading the account of the temptation in the garden and the subsequent fall, that God deliberately created a situation which allowed the ox (in this case, Adam) to fall into an open pit, thereby making Himself liable according to the above law. This law was given in order to make Himself responsible for man's fall and for man's restoration. Really, that's what the year of Jubilee is all about -- the complete restoration of all that had been lost in the time leading up to the year of Jubilee. Yes, there had indeed been a loss, but only for a limited duration of time. Then restitution was to be made fully, restoring to the individual all that had been lost, regardless of the circumstances of that loss.
"If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution" -- Exodus 22:5.
In this instance the Owner of the beast is liable because He is the Owner. Restitution must be made field for field. Matthew 13:38 states that the field is the world. Isaiah 40:6 states that "all flesh is grass." So we have a situation in which the serpent (beast), which is more subtle than any beast of the field, is allowed into Adam's field (world) and consumed all the "grass." Therefore, through Jesus Christ, God had respect to His own law and made restitution to mankind, field for field. He gave the best of His own field -- Jesus -- as restitution! All these things were written as ensamples for us upon whom the ends of the ages are come!
From Well-Known Authors of Christian Classics
Some time ago I was given a book by a dear friend and brother in the Lord from Louisiana titled, "The Christian's Secret Of A Happy Life" by Hannah Whitall Smith. I started reading it right away and found it to be a very good book on the subject. Millions have probably been blessed and ministered to by Hannah. She was one of the most well-known and well-respected women evangelists of any era and still ministers even today.
Later that night I went to bed and found that my mind was being exercised on the subject of the final restitution of all men so that I couldn't sleep right away. I arose and went into the office and reached into a file I keep for materials that I mean to read when I find time. Without realizing what I was withdrawing from the file, I went into the living room and began reading. To my amazement it was a personal testimony of Hannah Whitall Smith! Let me here recount it to you in her own words.
Testimony of Hannah Whitall Smith
"One day I was riding on a tram-car along Market Street, Philadelphia, when I saw two men come in and seat themselves opposite to me. I saw them dimly through my veil, but congratulated myself that it was only dimly, as I was thus spared the wave of anguish that had so often swept over me at the full sight of a strange face.
"The conductor came for his fare, and I was obliged to raise my veil in order to count it out. As I raised it, I got a sight of the faces of those two men, and with an overwhelming flood of anguish, I seemed to catch a fresh and clearer revelation of the misery that had been caused to human beings by sin. It was more than I could bear. I clenched my hands and cried out in my soul. 'Oh God! How canst Thou bear it? Thou mightest have prevented it, but Thou didst not. Thou mightest even now change it, but Thou dost not. I do not see how Thou canst go on living and endure it.', I upbraided God. And I felt justified in doing so.
"Then suddenly God seemed to answer me. An inward voice said, in tones of infinite love and tenderness, 'He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.' 'Satisfied!' I cried in my heart. 'Christ is to be satisfied! He will be able to look at the world's misery and then at the travail through which He has passed because of it, and will be satisfied with the result! If I were Christ, nothing could satisfy me but that every human being should in the end be saved, and therefore I am sure that nothing less will satisfy Him!'
"With this, a veil seemed to be withdrawn from before the plans of the universe and I saw that it was true, as the Bible says, that 'as in Adam all die even so in Christ should all be made alive.' As was the first, even so was the second. The 'all' in one case could not in fairness mean less than the 'all' in the other. I saw therefore that the remedy must necessarily be equal to the disease, the salvation must be as universal as the fall.
"I saw all this that day on the tram-car on Market Street, Philadelphia -- not only thought it, or hoped it, or even believed it, but knew it! It was a Divine fact. And from that moment I have never had one questioning thought as to the final destiny of the human race. God is the Creator of every human being, therefore He is the Father of each one and they are all His children; and Christ died for every one, and is declared to be the 'propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world' (I John 2:2). However great the ignorance, therefore, or however grievous the sin, the promise of salvation is positive and without limitations.
"If it is true that 'by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation,' it is equally true that, 'by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.' To limit the last 'all men' is also to limit the first. The salvation is absolutely equal to the fall. There is to be a final 'Restitution of all things, when, at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' Every knee, every tongue -- words could not be more all-embracing.
"The how and the when I could not see; but the one essential fact was all I needed -- somewhere and somehow God was going to make everything right for all the creatures He had created. My heart was at rest about it forever.
"I hurried home to get hold of my Bible to see if the magnificent fact I had discovered could possibly have been all this time in the Bible and I had not seen it; and the moment I entered the house, I did not wait to take off my bonnet, but rushed at once to the table where I always kept my Bible and Concordance ready for use, and began my search.
"Immediately the whole Book seemed to be illuminated. On every page the truth concerning the 'times of restitution of all things,' of which the Apostle Peter says 'God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began,' shone forth and no room was left for questioning. I turned greedily from page to page of my Bible, fairly laughing aloud for joy at the blaze of light that illuminated it all. It became a new Book. Another skin seemed to have been peeled off every text, and my Bible fairly shone with new meaning. I do not say with a different meaning, for in no sense did the new meaning contradict the old, but a deeper meaning, the true meaning, hidden behind the outward form of words. The words did not need to be changed, they only needed to be understood; and now at last I began to understand them." --End of Quote.
I was talking by phone with the brother who had sent me the book mentioned above, and he told me that he had just bought the book in which her quote should have been found, The Unselfishness of God. He said that there was no chapter in that book with the above quote in it. I spoke with the publishing house that sells her books now and they said that since they do not agree with her views, they could not justify including it in her testimony . . . now that she is dead and can no longer object. When Littlebrook Publishing, Inc. of Princeton, N.J. republished her book, they purposely left out the chapter entitled, "The Third Epoch of My Religious Life (The Restitution of All Things)."
They do not say, however, that they have left out this chapter or that such a chapter ever existed and in so doing present to an unsuspecting Christian public something considerably less and very much other than truly represents the testimony of Hannah Whitall Smith, which she declared toward the end of her life. Do you not wonder, dear Christian friend, how many times this crime, this sin, has been committed against various authors, against a trusting Christian public? It has happened more often than you would dare to believe. Do you not wonder just how many other authors and prominent leaders have believed and taught The Restitution of All Things and this was just covered up or never mentioned by publishers and those who knew but disagreed?
William Law (1686-1761) was very much a believer in this teaching and isn't it surprising how Andrew Murray, one of the most-read and well-respected authors of any time, author of many Christian classics, has promoted Law's books and even published commentaries on them? Murray was a student of Law's and drew very deeply from the well of wisdom issuing from him. Here are but a few quotes from "Wholly For God" by William Law, edited by Andrew Murray:
"Of Love as the Nature of God"
"God, considered in Himself, is as infinitely separate from all possibility of doing hurt, or willing pain to any creature, as He is from a possibility of suffering pain or hurt from the hand of a man; and this, for this plain reason, because He is in Himself, in His Holy Trinity, nothing else but the boundless Abyss of all that is good, and sweet, and amiable; and therefore stands in the utmost contrariety to every thing that is not a blessing; in an eternal impossibility of willing and intending a moment's pain or hurt to any creature; for, from this unbounded Source of goodness and perfection, nothing but infinite streams of blessing are perpetually flowing forth upon all nature and creature, in a more incessant plenty than rays of light stream from the sun. and as the sun has but one nature, and can give forth nothing but the blessings of light; so the Holy Triune God has but one nature and intent toward all the creation, which is, to pour forth the richness and sweetness of His divine perfections upon every thing that is capable of them, and according to its capacity to receive them.
"The goodness of God breaking forth into a desire to communicate good, was the cause and the beginning of the creation. Hence it follows, that to all eternity God can have no other thought or intent toward the creature, but to communicate good; because He made the creature for this sole end, to receive good. The first motive towards the creature is unchangeable . . . " pg. 119.
"It follows that there was an utter impossibility for the seed of Adam ever to come out of its fallen state, or ever have another or better life than they had from Adam, unless such a son of man (as Jesus Christ) could be brought into existence, as had the same relation to all mankind as Adam had, was as much in them all as Adam was, and had as full power, according to the nature of things, to give a heavenly life to all the seed in Adam's loins, as Adam had to bring them forth in earthly flesh and blood. . . .The doctrine of our redemption absolutely asserts that the seed of Christ was sown into the first fallen father of mankind, called the seed of the woman, the bruiser of the serpent, the engrafted word of life, called again in the gospel 'that light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.' Therefore Christ was in all men, in that same fullness of the relation of a Father to all mankind, as Adam the first was.
"Secondly, Christ was born of Adam's flesh and blood, took the human nature upon Him, and therefore stood as a human creature in the same relation to mankind as Adam did. Nothing, therefore, was further wanting in Christ, to make Him as truly a natural Father of life to all mankind as Adam was at first, but God's appointment of Him to that end. Now that God did this, that Christ came into the world by divine appointment, to be the Saviour, the resurrection, and life of all mankind, is a truth as evident from Scripture, as that Adam was the first man.
"And thus it appears, in the utmost degree of plainness and certainty, that Christ in His single person was, according to the nature of things, as fully qualified to be a common Redeemer as Adam was, in his single person, to be a common father of all mankind. He had His seed in all mankind, as Adam had; and He had the human nature, as Adam had; and He had the same divine appointment, as Adam had." --pg. 59.
For Andrew Murray, one of Christendom's most prolific, most fundamentally-based, most-read authors, to endorse William Law, to publish and promote Law's books and teaching, is but to own that he also believed God would finally save all men. In fact, Murray himself says, "I know of no writer who equals Law in the clearness and the force with which the claims of God on man are asserted. God is all; God must have all; God alone must work all . . . " pg. xii, Introduction, Wholly For God. In one of his latest books to be published, God's Will, Our Dwelling Place, Murray has written an entire chapter on the restoration of all, titled, "The Salvation of All", in which he clearly embraces the teaching of the salvation of all.
Dr. Richard Eby (not to be confused with his cousin, J. Preston Eby), an Obstetrician from California who fell, crushed his skull, bled out and died, went to heaven and spoke with Jesus (Caught Up Into Paradise, Didn't You Read My Book?, Tell Them I'm Coming), and years later, was taken to hell as one whose name had been expunged from the book of life and was shown the torments of the suffering, is a firm believer in the truth that God will ultimately save all men. He says: "What a great God is Elohim-Jehovah, Whose promise of the eventual "All-in-All" (an Alpha state of Him alone which will be equally recycled as the Omega state of Him alone).
It is interesting that some of the Church's brightest lights have embraced in the latter part of their life, after coming into a closer walk with God, the truth of the ultimate reconciliation of all men. Some of these are as follows and there are many others besides: Paul, Origen, Jane Leade, Sadhu Sundar Singh, William Law, William Barclay, Andrew Jukes, A. P. Adams, Andrew Murray, Hannah Whitall Smith, Hannah Hurnard (Hinds Feet On High Places) and a whole host of others.
Current sources from which information on this topic may be obtained are as follows:
J. PRESTON EBY, P O BOX 371240, EL PASO, TX 79937
ELWIN ROACH, 36 SMITH AVE, ALAMOGORDO, NM 88310
BILL & ELAINE COOK, P O BOX 371, SUMMERLAND, BC, CANADA, V0H 1Z0
GARY & CAROL SIGLER, P O BOX 97076, KENT, WA 98064
GARY AMIRAULT, HCR BOX 6D, HERMANN, MO 65041
RAY & DORIS PRINZING, P O BOX 5822, BOISE, ID 83705
DEAN HOUGH, 6800 HOUGH RD, ALTMONT, MI 48003
Any of the names listed above will be happy to send you whatever you may need. I know most of them personally and they are godly, dedicated men and women whose whole attention and being is fixed upon Christ.
THREE TRUTHS OPENED UP
(This portion of Three Truths, done in collaboration with Elaine Cook)
1. The substance of the gospel: the purpose of God, by the firstfruits or firstborn to save and bless the later-born. (Acts 15:16-18; I Cor.2:9-11; Gen.3:15; Rom.11:16; Gal.3:16).
-Christ is the promised Seed, the Firstborn. In and through Him endless blessing shall flow down on the later-born.
-Christ is both firstborn from above, and first out of death.
-As by one firstborn (Adam) death came into the world, so by another firstborn (Christ) it has been overthrown. (I Cor. 15:21).
-The duty of the firstborn--Goel (Hebrew word) or Redeemer -- Ex. 13:2; 24:5; Num. 3:12,13; 8;16; I Chron. 5:1,2.
-There are others beside the Lord who are both "firstborn" and Abraham's seed. As "joint-heirs with Him" the promise must be fulfilled, that in them "all the kindreds of the earth shall be blessed."
-This glorious truth, the very essence of the gospel, announcing salvation to the world through the promised seed of Abraham is so little seen that the children of the promise speak and act as if Christ and His Body only should be saved - instead of rejoicing that they are also the appointed means of saving others!
-Even of the elect, few see that they are elect to the birthright, not to be blessed only, but to be a blessing. (Worshipers of Moloch thought that the firstborn offered had power to save the rest, but God's people do not know it).
-As firstborn with Christ we:
-share the kingship and priesthood with Him.
-rule and intercede for younger and later-born brethren.
-avenge their blood.
-raise up seed to the dead.
-through' Christ redeem their lost inheritance
2. God's purpose, by the firstborn from the dead to bless the later-born is fulfilled in successive AGES. (Eph. 3:11; I Cor. 15:23).-The dead are raised "every man in his own order."
-No word"eternal," but "age-lasting."
-No word "forever" but "for the age" (eon).
-The law, in all its "times," figures the gospel "ages".
e.g. Lev. 12:1-5. The purifying for a female (woman = our soul nature) took twice as long as for a male (male = the spirit) when the seed (the word of truth) is sown, it may bring forth a son, the new man; one after the Spirit.
Nature, or the mother, is only unclean during the 7 days of this first creation, and then is in the blood of purifying till the end of 40 days (a figure of this dispensation--wilderness time). If, instead of bearing this "new man", our nature only bears its like, a female child, its fruits merely natural, then it is unclean for a double period, till 2 x 7 days twice forty pass over it.
-The number 40 always points to the period of this dispensation, as the time of trial or temptation. (Gen.7:l, Ex. 24:18, Acts 1:3, Mark 1:13).
-The 'ages' are fulfillment or substance of the 'times and seasons' of the Sabbatic year and Jubilee under the old law. In the 'ages' we find those 'good things to come', of which the legal times and seasons were the shadow (Acts 1;7).
-The 'ages' are periods in which God works because there is evil and His rest is broken by it, but they have an end when the work appointed to be done in them has been accomplished.
3. This purpose of God, worked through successive ages, is only accomplished through death and dissolution. (Heb. 2;15).
-Jn. 12:24 re: the corn of wheat shows that all advance of life is through change, death and dissolution.
-Christ showed us the way:
-from 'the lowest parts of the earth'
-from the Virgin's womb
-through birth, and infant swaddling clothes
-to opened heavens
-through temptation, strong crying and tears
-the cross, the grave
-resurrection and ascension
-till He sits at God's right hand to judge all things.
-2 Cor. 4;16 -- The elect yield themselves to the same great law of progress through death.
-They can't live His life without being "partakers of His sufferings" (2 Cor.1;5; Phil. 3;10; Col. 1;24).
-Many mistake Christ's cross as a reprieve to nature, rather than a pledge that nature and sin must be judged and die. Their calling is believed to be delivered FROM death, instead of BY IT AND OUT OF IT!
-Christ's cross is not understood , so death is shrunk from, instead of being welcomed as the appointed means by which we can be delivered from him that has the power of death. (Rom. 6:7 "He that is dead is freed from sin."
-The cross is the way to life! (Mat. 16:25; Gal.2:20; 2 Tim.2:11,12; Rom.8:12,13)
-Death is the only way out of any world in which we are.
-It was by death to God that we fell out of God's world.
-It is by death with Christ to sin and to this world that we are delivered in spirit from sin and the dark world. Psalm 90:3.
JEROME'S LATIN VULGATE
"The early Church was mainly divided between Greek and Latin culture and language. We read from secular histories that the Roman Empire had conquered the Greek-speaking world shortly before Christ's birth. The Romans borrowed a great deal from the Greeks, but the language and cultural barriers always remained in place. The thinking was simply different.
"The Greek philosophers were mostly concerned with "the perfect (ideal) man." The Romans were mostly concerned with "the perfect government." The Greeks pursued the ideal man by studying virtue and beauty; the Romans pursued their perfect government by studying law and order.
"These differences surfaced in the early Church as well. Both cultures had a tendency to interpret the Bible through the colored glass of their own cultures. As time went on, they got farther and farther away from the Hebrew perspective. And so both Greeks and Romans had their own unique shortcomings and blind spots, even as we do today in our own cultures.
"The blind spot of the Latin Christians was their belief that in order to maintain law and order, it was necessary to threaten men with the worst possible tortures in the afterlife. This obsession with maintaining law and order appears to have been a motivating force behind the Latin idea of God's eternal retribution upon sinners.
"I do not know when the Old Latin version of the Bible was translated for the benefit of the Romans. It was not a good translation by any scholar's standard. But finally, a scholar arose who was well qualified to revise the old version. His name was Jerome.
"Jerome was born in 347 A.D. in Italy. His parents were wealthy Christians who sent him to Rome for a secular education. After his studies he was baptized in the Church at the age of 19. When he decided upon the monastic life, his parents opposed it, and he had a falling out with them. Having a bad temper, Jerome never saw them again, nor did he ever mention them again in his writings.
"In 373 A.D., when Jerome was in his mid-twenties, he went East, because the Greek world was the land of education and higher theological learning. He met Evagrius in Antioch and began learning the Greek language. Later he also learned Hebrew thoroughly.
"From 379 to 382 he lived in Constantinople, where he met Gregory of Nyassa. He also took Gregory of Naziansus as his "teacher." Jerome began reading all the writings of Origen that were recommended to him. When he re-translated the Latin Bible in 390 - 406 A.D., he wrote in the preface an appreciation to (1)Origen, who had done much translation work as well. (He also lived in Alexandria for a time. This was Origen's home town.) Finally, he settled in Bethlehem, where he headed a monastery for the remaining years of his life.
"It is unfortunate that Jerome's personality was so vindictive and hateful. He was truly one of the best Christian scholars of the day and admired for this; but his poisoned pen made people very cautious so as not to offend him in any way.
"As for the Latin Vulgate, over all, Jerome did an excellent job. His translation became a classic that has been used ever since. However, we must confine our remarks here to the subject of "eternal" and "everlasting," because it is through the Latin Vulgate (The Roman Catholic Bible) that we inherited these words (eternal and everlasting) in the English Bible!
"When Jerome came to the Greek word aeonian (age-lasting), he had two Latin words to choose from in its translation: seculum and aeternum. Both of these words had already been used in the Old Latin version that he was correcting. And, in fact, these words were quite close in meaning to the Greek aeonian. So Jerome used both words interchangeably.
There was just one problem. The Latin words had a double meaning, according to a footnote which was found in Augustine's "City of God."
The words "eternal" and "eternity" from Latin eternus, aeternitas, are related to aevum, which mans BOTH "unending time" and "a period of time;" for the second meaning, the commoner (sic) word is aetas.
"This footnote was put in by modern Latin scholars to clarify the Latin terminology, because Augustine was attempting to prove that aeternus and aeternitas in his Latin Bible was unending time. In fact, as they pointed out, it also meant a limited period of time.
Recall the verse, Psalm 45:6 --
"Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever (olam va ad, "the age and beyond)."
"Jerome translated this phrase to read in Latin: "in aeternum et ultra," that is, "into eternity and beyond." It is obvious that Jerome knew that aeternum referred to a limited period of time, an age, rather than "eternity" as we know it today, for there is nothing beyond eternity.
"At any rate, Jerome used both seculum and aeternus in the Latin Vulgate. Twelve hundred years later, the King James translators simply followed the Vulgate in their rendering of these words. Whenever the Vulgate said aeternus, the KJV said "eternal;" whenever the Vulgate said seculum, the KJV reads "world." This is why Matthew 13:39,40 reads "the end of the WORLD" instead of "the end of the age." Our word "secular" means "pertaining to this world-order, or this age."
"It is not that Jerome's translation was incorrect. His words were technically alright. The problem was that they apparently had a double meaning, and that Augustine chose the wrong meaning to champion eternal torment. Latin scholars thus point out his bias. Furthermore, Augustine was severely handicapped (as a translator) because he was virtually ignorant of the Greek language.
"Augustine's failure to learn Greek was a momentous casualty of the Late Roman educational system; he will become the only Latin philosopher in antiquity to be virtually ignorant of Greek." --Peter Brown.
(In "City of God")
This argument was actually a series of books written from 412 till his death in 430 A.D.. When Alaric the Goth sacked Rome in 410 A.D., it was an embarrassment to the "Christian Church" that needed an explanation. After all, it had been contended that such an event could never happen now, because Rome was ruled by Christian Emperors. The pagans, on the other hand, had prophesied the fall of Rome, now that the pagan gods were no longer being supported by the state. And so Latin Christians looked to Augustine to explain how this could happen.
Augustine essentially wrote that all men are divided into two spiritual cities; Babylon and Jerusalem. Rome itself was therefore not the issue, because some Romans were of Babylon and some of Jerusalem, the City of God. And at the end of history, all citizens of each city would be separated by God. Most would go to hell for eternity; a few would go to heaven for eternity.
In the latter part of the series, particularly Book 21, he attempted to prove that the punishment of the wicked is "eternal," that is, endless. Other than philosophical reasoning and quotations from Cicero, the Roman lawyer, his only real proof is his interpretation of Matthew 25:46 --
"For Christ said in the very same place, including both in one and the same sentence: 'So these will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.' If both are eternal, then surely both must be understood as 'long,' but having an end, or else as 'everlasting' without an end. For they are matched with each other. In one clause eternal punishment, in the other eternal life. (To say) "Eternal life shall be without end, but eternal punishment will have an end" is utterly absurd. Hence, since the eternal life of the saints will be without end, eternal punishment also will surely have no end, for those whose lot it is."
Augustine seems totally ignorant of two things: (1) the Greek word aeonian did not have a double meaning, as did the Latin. (2) He was ignorant of the Hebrew concept of "The Age."
Matthew 25:46 actually is teaching that the wicked will go into divine chastening that is aeonian (for, or during, the age). The righteous, on the other hand, will be resurrected to life aeonian (for, or during, the age).
In the Gospels, Jesus specifically taught on two distinct resurrections. Luke 14:14 tells us about "the resurrection of the just," where the righteous will be rewarded. In John 5:28,29 Jesus tells us about the resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
The interim between these two resurrections defines "The Age." Those who are raised in the resurrection of the just will receive life in The Age; i.e., aeonian life. It is a special reward for certain Christians who overcome. They will receive life an age before their fellow Christians, apparently a thousand years before them.
It does NOT mean that their reward must end with that age. God does not plan to take back immortality from them.
Likewise, when Jesus speaks of the wicked or the unjust receiving aeonian judgment, He is once again showing us that their judgment is limited to a specific age. It has both a beginning and an end. Judgment is not perpetual with no hope of restoration. The book of Revelation shows that this age of judgment follows the great White Throne Judgment at the end of the thousand-year Messianic Age.
So, the aeonian life reward of those who rule with Christ for a thousand years will commence at the first resurrection and end with the second. The aeonian judgment of the unjust will commence with the second resurrection and end with the third.
Consequently, Augustine's argument that aeonian life and aeonian judgment must both be equal is correct. The problem arises when he tries to show that both are unending, when, in fact, both pertain to an age. He plays upon the average Christian's ignorance of Greek. Secondly, he exploits one's ignorance of "The Age" (aion) and things pertaining to it (aeonian).
The bottom line is that Augustine's argument in his "City of God" is unsound and has no validity, and even the Latin scholars who have translated his books know this and inform us in their footnote of Augustine's misleading rhetoric.
So we see that the original Hebrew and Greek languages, the words olam and aeonian refer to a limited period of time. This is why most of the early Christian Church scholars understood the lake of fire to be only for the duration of an age, age-lasting. Augustine was the first to actually advance an argument against this, and he did so on a very flimsy basis, because he did not understand the Doctrine of the Ages. After all, he was a Roman, not a Hebrew. He did not know the Greek language.
What was worse, in time the Latin Church no longer saw the need to learn Greek, and this deficiency perpetuated the error with little chance of correction. Peter Brown tells us this:
"Gradually the 'learned fellowship' would cease to feel the need for Greek books. For they had Augustine." Who knew Latin, but no Greek!
It is not our purpose to detract from Augustine's genuine contributions to the Church and to Christian thought. He did have his strong points which made him the most influential Latin theologian of his time. We have necessarily limited our comments to the subject at hand, showing the history of the word "eternal" and how events shaped its modern interpretation." --End of Quote from Augustine's Argument.
I have taken great measures here to address the issues you have raised and could still write volumes on it, I feel. Allow me to leave you with this one final thought.
Though man a thinking being is defined,
Few use the great prerogative of mind.
How few think justly of the thinking few!
How many never think, who think they do!
- Jane Taylor
Even though this is decidedly not merely a matter of intellect but of revelation, still, think about it!
"Does God tell us to be kind to the widow and the orphan and then Himself ignore multiplied billions who, through the death of a God-arranged fall, have been widowed in the loss of their true Husband and Head? Or does He not feel the pain of those orphaned natures who cannot cry, "Abba, Father!"?
Does He charge us to forgive seventy times seven times in a day and to go the second mile, while Himself is willing to forgive only in this short span of life during which most never hear the name Jesus, and Himself has made no provision for the second mile?
"Does He tell us not to be overcome of evil while Himself is impotent to remove every last vestige of evil, as if Love, after all, does fail?
"Does He tell us to have compassion on the stranger that we might be like Him, and yet Himself has no compassion on those who are yet strangers to His goodness as it is expressed in Christ Jesus?
"Is this God of love so concerned with all His creatures that He makes provision for the oxen or ass fallen into a pit or a ditch but leaves the crowning glory of His creation to groan in the endless torment of a much deeper, much more horrible pit? "Has He charged us to visit the sick and those in prison and Himself is not willing to visit and even heal those infected with sin's death-dealing disease, but shut them up forever in an eternal prison which Himself never visits in mercy?
"What kind of spirit is this God who brings us to Christ, even to Himself? Does He have such compassion for those still living that He sends His own Son to die for them, and yet, He who changeth not will not lift a finger to help them after they depart this short life?
"Are we to believe that He would have us expend our comfort, our fortunes and even our very lives to see that men come to know Him while living, but that we are to rejoice with Him over their endless torment if they stop breathing before coming to repentance?
"And what of the billions who have never so much as heard that there be a Savior during this life? Oh, If God is Love, and we know that He is, how is it that we can be guilty of casting Him in such an awful light? Love never fails! We must stop viewing everything from the fall and begin viewing them from God, Himself." --Andrew Jukes, Restitution of All Things
This glorious truth (The Power of Love to Reconcile All Things) is like so many others in the Bible. When one sees it, it is seen everywhere, on almost every page. I have not had to resort to what might be called, "spiritual calisthenics" but have kept things very simple indeed, so that if these things be hid it is not because we failed to do our utmost in Christ to make them clear.
It is not our object to try to force these views upon anyone. Indeed, they cannot be forced; these are things which "flesh and blood has not revealed," they must be seen by God's holy light in order to be truly grasped. It is our hope that such witnesses as listed above, as well as the testimony of God's Word may offer some force and motivation for those who might not otherwise be disposed to even search these things out to see whether they be of God. May the God of all truth and mercy grant you light and grace.
They drew a circle and counted me out - they thought me a thing of nought.
But Love and I had the will to win; we drew a bigger circle and counted them in.
END OF MESSAGE
1. It is a matter of history that Origen, born in 185, was one of the foremost, if not the foremost, spiritually-minded teachers of his day who taught the truth of the ultimate salvation of all men as procured through Christ Jesus. He was said to have had an extraordinary experience of the working of the Holy Spirit upon him in his early childhood. As a lad of only seventeen he attempted to join his father, Leonidas, who was imprisoned and executed for his faith and was only deterred from this by his mother who hid his clothes. His understanding of the scriptures and his personal spirituality caused him to be sought after, even by church leaders of his day, to be taught of him though he was only a layman. Origen finally died in 254, from injuries suffered during tortures endured for the faith.
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