WHICH WILL STAND?
Man’s Fall and Reconciliation
Law of Creation: Death Always Precedes Life
Reconciliation: God to Man or Man to God
Conversion: Who Chose Whom7
God’s Ultimate Plan
How God Completes His Plan
The Value of the Blood of Jesus
Man’s Will or God’s Will: Who Is Sovereign?
The Word "Eternal"
What About Hell?
Calvary: God’s Ultimate Judgment
The Second Death and the Lake of Fire
At the November 1984,meeting of pastors from Minneapolis and St. Paul charismatic churches (both denominational and non-denominational), the following prophecy from the Lord came forth: "Truly says the Lord, Does not my word say, where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty? Know my sons, that I have come to set the captives free this day, I’ve even come to set you free of wrong traditions, wrong concepts, soulish hang ups, false principles even false doctrines, saith the Lord, and I would even bring you into a place of rest; I would bring you into a place of grace; I would bring you into a place of release this day. For I am searching for a people, saith the Lord, that know my heart. I am searching for a people that will allow me to rest their hearts, saith the Lord, That they might come under me, even my simplicity, that they might even be a child in my sight and sit on my knee and learn afresh from me. For many of you still cling to traditions; many of you still cling to the old past and the old ways, and I’m about to do a new thing in the midst of my body. I’m about to do a new thing in the midst of this city, saith the Lord and it will cause you to be alarmed as you would see many fall to the right, fall to the left; because they would not follow hard after me, saith the Lord. Learn to hear my spirit learn to hear my voice, even in a new way, in a fresh way, that I may bring you to a higher mountain; that I may bring you to a greater release; that you might truly see the power of God released in your midst."
This prophecy should be as a stick of dynamite to present day evangelical -- Pentecostal -- charismatic theology. This respected pastor who gave the prophesy and the leadership committee who printed and distributed it are to be commended for their willingness to acknowledge such shortcomings. But, is this all the further God expects His people to go with it? Are we like the Galatians who were so bewitched by the old ways and ideas that they are afraid to walk in that which is new? Looking at the present day church, its national television exposure, and the millions of professing Christians, it would be easy to assume that "all is well". Is this not the essence of why Jesus said "No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better" (Lk. 5:39)? It is human nature to cling to the old, stay in our comfort zone, and not rock the boat lest a brother be offended. Dear friend, may I humbly suggest we’d be wiser to offend one another than to offend God. If we are clinging to that which is carnal then we are at enmity with God and "they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8).
As any earthly father has patience while his children grow up so does our Heavenly Father. But there comes a day when He, like Paul, in desiring that Christ be formed in us says "I stand in doubt of you" (Gal. 4:20).
Growing up means change. Either we rock the boat or He will rock it for us. To paraphrase Jesus: either we fall on the rock or the rock falls on us (Mt. 21:44). What is hindering the growth of God’s people? Wrong and false traditions, principles, concepts, doctrines, and soulish hang ups which are presently thought of as being from God. But God says they are not from Him.
This is no time to rely upon our theological formulas of the past. Nor is it a time to write off those with whom we don’t necessarily agree. Even Peter acknowledged that Paul was given wisdom "in which are some things hard to be understood" (II Pet. 3: 16). As these erroneous beliefs are revealed it will cause many "to be alarmed." Let us be willing to cast down the sacred cows but careful that we not cast down one another. Let us pray for one another that we all may participate in that which God is doing as we all need each other. Only those who "follow hard" after the Lord will participate in the new thing that He desires.
This world is one day going to be delivered from its bondage to corruption. This magnificent hope is not going to be accomplished by Jesus, by God, or by the children of God, but by the "sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). A child knows about his father, but through ignorance has many false ideas about him. A son must know His father as He really is and cannot tolerate false ideas about him otherwise the Father cannot entrust him as His representative. I believe we are now in the day when those sons are being prepared. This booklet is my present contribution to help correct what I believe are some of the "wrong concepts" and "wrong doctrines" of which the prophesy speaks. With such a weighty list of that which is "wrong" and "false" it should be anticipated that God will give us more clarification and correction in His time as our hearts are prepared to receive. Though the conclusions may contradict much present day theology, they are nevertheless consistently supported with Scripture. The positive results promised in the prophesy have become a reality in my life as well as many others who have come to know God from the perspectives contained herein.
For several years I’ve been blessed by J. Preston Eby’s monthly "Kingdom Bible Studies." In late 1983, Brother Eby began a special series entitled, "The Saviour of the World." This series did much to answer many of my questions and open the eyes of my understanding to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. I commend his teachings. He may be written to, at Postal Drawer 2560, Crystal River, Fla. 32629.
Also, the publications of the Concordant Publishing Concern, 15570
W. Knochaven, Canyon Country, California 91351, have been most helpful. I would especially recommend a book by Andrew Jukes, entitled, Restitution of All Things.
I thank my precious wife and co-worker, Anne, for her encouragement and great help in editing, Sandy Kalpin for her typing, Bert Bauman and Judy Sky for their artistic contributions, and last, but certainly not least, the many members of the family at King Jesus Church whose continual endeavorings to know our God and Savior have been an inspiration to search out God’s Word.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Bible
Man looks back upon his genesis in Adam and Eve and sees the marvelous beginning which they had, and the great potential which was before them, but with remorse he sees the deception and rebellion into which Adam and Eve fell as they both disobeyed God. After being removed from the garden, they commenced their own family only to encounter further tragedy as Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him. This pattern of sin and self-centeredness continued on through the days of Noah. There was such a progression of sin in those days that the Scriptures say "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5).
In later years, God raised up a nation of people under Abraham. Abraham was a valiant man who lived by faith and sought to walk in the promises of God. His faith and trust in God was such that God promised him a land which we know today as Palestine. Out of his loins the nation Israel came. This nation grew and prospered and after some 430 years in Egypt, came forth victoriously under the leadership of Moses. God spoke to Israel through Moses and said, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:5-6). In spite of this high calling in God, Israel failed to live up to that for which God had called them. Again, like Adam, they fell short. Over the succeeding generations, Israel had many high points of success. Under Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, they experienced many victories. Yet when looked upon in totality, they too, as Adam, were a hopeless failure.
Over the course of history, every generation, has embraced sin and fallen short of the glory of God. As it is written, "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 together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3: 10-18). Thus mankind continually wallows in his own sin, failure, and sense of rejection before God. Man answers his own dilemma by striving to earn acceptability before God. This produces a law mentality which is foundational to the religions of the world.
Most of today’s church clings tenaciously to this same law mentality. Though the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth'' (Rom. 1:16), God's power is short-circuited by a lingering attitude which strives to earn right standing with God. Why? The church’s view of God is distorted The church sees God as unable to fulfill His original purpose which was to make man, and hence all mankind, in His own image. The church sees Adam's sin overpowering Christ’s work at Calvary. In other words, God is not able to save to the uttermost His fallen creation, even though He Himself became "Savior of all men'' (1 Tim. 4 10).
In spite of man's failure, God's view of man is totally different. God sees man from His perspective, with His ultimate purpose in mind God's initial statement with regard to man was, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; Male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:26-27). Mankind looks upon this statement, sees Adam's failure and that of all those who followed Adam, as coming short of God's original intention. At best, man gives God credit for creating him a tripartite being with a spirit, a soul, and a body. But still, this is far short of being in God's image, for an image reflects the same nature character and ability as the object it mirrors. So from man's perspective, though we don't like to admit it, it is implied that God, too, has failed. But, this is not the case. God has declared of Himself, "I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Is. 46:9-10). God says there is none like Him, that He is different from man. Man sees only the beginning and assumes it is the completion. Man fails to see that he is in between God's beginning and end. Man has not seen the whole of the creation process, whereas God sees the end product from the beginning. God has declared that His counsel shall stand and He will do all of His pleasure. Paul says of God that He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11). There is nothing that is come upon this earth or that has happened upon this earth that our sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God has not known about or has not allowed to happen. For it is all a part of His plan to bring to pass the very thing which He began.
God's destiny for mankind as represented by Adam, required that Adam pass from his original, created state through sin and death, in order that man might enter a realm higher than where Adam first began. This intention of God is substantiated by three facts. First, Adam mutually was totally innocent and naive with regard to good and evil, and would have continued that way had it not been for his fall. Subsequent to his fall, "the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Gen. 3:22). Thus in this continuing creation process, Adam was destined to know good and evil in order that man might eventually become as God. Second the Scripture declared that "The first man Adam was made a living soul" (1 Cor. 15:45). This was his initial state, but it is not his destiny. Man's destiny is to be like God as revealed in Jesus Christ. If man as the first Adam had continued on as a living soul, mankind could never fulfill its destiny. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, completes God’s plan by enabling man to become as He is, a life giving, "quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:445). Third, Adam’s initial state was in a "natural body" but mankind’s eventual destiny is to have a "spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:44). Thus, Adam as he was initially created was totally innocent; he had a living soul, and he had a natural body. The destiny of mankind through Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is that he is to have the wisdom of God knowing good from evil; he is to have a quickened life giving spirit as those who are born of the Spirit already have; and he is to have a spiritual glorified body as Jesus had upon being resurrected from the dead.
Man's Fall and Reconciliation
This subject is probably the most difficult for the natural mind to understand. For man in the shortness of his perspective can only see his present situation and is not able to see on into the ages to come. But nevertheless, the plan of God and the purpose of God are most apparent. God has declared, "I have created the waster to destroy'' (Is. 54:18). God says, "I form the light and create darkness: I make peace: and create evil: I the Lord do all these things (Is. 45:7). God says, "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made'' (Gen. 3:1). The waster, the evil, the serpent, all come from the hand of a God who sees the end from the beginning. If God had not had a purpose for the serpent, then he would not have created him or at least would have prevented him from entering the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, it was God who put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, and it was God who directed Adam and Eve’s attention to it. God issued the law or commandment to Adam not to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since Adam was a living soul, rather than a quickening spirit, he was short of the glory of God which is by definition the essence of sin, (Rom. 3:23), and consequently, short of the plan and purpose of God. Yes, the very best that Adam, in his initial state, could do was to live in the strength of his own soul, and thus, "sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Rom. 7:11). It was God who put Adam under law. God Himself declares that the propensity or "motions of sins...by the law... work" (Rom. 7:5), and "the strength of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:56), "that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (Rom. 7:13). God, knowing exactly what Adam would do, prior to creation, made complete provision for man’s fall, for it is written "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Thus God, who worketh all things after the counsel of His will planned man’s fall and planned man’s reconciliation, all with a view toward completing the creation process. Thus God, who worketh all things after the counsel of His will planned man’s fall and planned man’s reconciliation, all with a view toward completing the creation process.
Paul describes the degeneration process, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12), then goes on to sum up God’s plan for the reconciliation. "For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many" (Rom. 5:15). "Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Rom. 5:18-19). Hallelujah! How my heart rejoices to know that God has never lost control of his creation. That which came upon Adam condemns all and that which was accomplished through Jesus Christ redeems all. The "all" and "many" who were condemned are the same "all" and "many" who will receive the gift of grace and be justified in Jesus Christ.
I can well appreciate how from our human perspective, it is difficult to accept that God would allow man to fall into sin with the outcome of sickness, disease, poverty, and all the many ways in which sin has magnified itself upon this earth. The horrors that man has been exposed to are beyond comprehension. We must see God’s greater purpose. For example, if I had a son who was deformed or abnormal, my love for him would yearn for some means of correction. Should I learn of a surgical process which would be extremely painful but certain to correct the abnormality, I would definitely go ahead with the surgery. The one thing that would inspire me to take my abnormal son through that surgery and through the pain would be the vision in my heart of seeing him completely healthy and whole. In the same manner, the first Adam was abnormal compared to God’s ultimate intention. The pain of sin and death to mankind is excruciating, but ultimately it will result in every living soul’s coming to the end of their self centered life. Then, the last Adam, Jesus Christ, shall enter the door of every heart and quicken "every man in his own order" (I Cor. 15:23), that we all may be like Him. "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).
Law of Creation: Death Always Precedes Life
Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his live shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (Jn. 12:24-25). Nature itself tells us that death always precedes life. This is a law of creation which God not only instituted, but having instituted, must Himself live by it. Every stalk of wheat from which we get bread to feed our bodies, can only come forth from a seed which has died. Every blade of grass, every shrub and every tree that we look at is a continual testimony that death precedes life. "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead" (Rom. 1:20). The invisible laws of the spirit realm are clearly seen as we look about creation. The natural mind does not want to receive the principle of death preceding life. This reasoning restricts man in his understanding of God’s plan of creation. Paul says, "The natural 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" (I Cor. 2:14). The natural mind exalts the present realm of existence and is horrified at the prospect of death, but the spiritual mind understands death as the doorway through which man passes to enter into a higher realm of life. Adam was God’s corn of wheat. Except Adam and all in him had fallen, he would have remained in a realm of fruitlessness. God, abiding by His own principles of spiritual reality, placed Adam, a living soul, into the realm of death, that he might, as the corn of wheat, ultimately bring forth much fruit.
Paul states, "some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die" (I Cor. 15:34-36). Again Christians, thinking according to the natural mind, do not understand God’s process whereby we enter into life. Adam is that which was sown and the only way in which all men in Adam could be quickened is that Adam first die. "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:42-44). God’s objective for man has always been and will always be that man be in God’s image which is resurrection life. The first Adam through sin was sown in corruption, dishonor, weakness, and into a natural body. He in his initial stage of creation as a "living soul" (Gen. 2:7), was the best that a soulish man could possibly be. All in Adam must experience the same process— as soulish men, they must die. By death we are not speaking of physical death, but of spiritual death, which is separation from God. The wages of sin is always death (not eternal torment). The gift of God is life eternal in Jesus Christ. Thus "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order" (I Cor. 15:22-23). Ultimately "every man" shall be raised in incorruption, in glory, in power with a spiritual body.
Paul again preached the same message for he declared, "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:18-21). Since Jesus is "the first born of every creature" (Col. 1:15), the word "creature" means man. The creature was made subject to vanity (futility, emptiness), not by the devil or Adam, but by God, who "subjected the same in hope." To have left Adam in the state of innocence as "a living soul" would have been, from an eternal viewpoint, an act which would have demonstrated a total lack of love on the part of God. The hope, or confident expectation of God is that all mankind shall come into "the glorious liberty of the children of God."
"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). The prominent theme of creation is that death precedes life. So was it appointed unto Adam once to die. The spiritual death which Adam and all who are in him must suffer is prerequisite to judgment. God’s judgments are designed to end man’s dependence upon himself. The judgment that follows death would be purposeless if it were only to seal man hopelessly in his separation from God. Man may do things without purpose, but not God. He has a purpose in everything. Hence, God brings pressures and circumstances in life designed and determined to turn that person from self to God. For some the judgment is understood while in a mortal body on this earth. For others the judgment is understood after having left these mortal bodies. An example of this is where Jesus "went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah" (I Pet. 3:19-20). Please note the effect of 2000 years in Sheol! They who "sometime were disobedient." Notice their disobedience was a thing of the past. God’s judgment succeeded. They were now obedient. Hallelujah!
God has His unchanging purpose in mind and He has mankind in the school of learning, that they might learn not to dwell in the soul realm but that they might learn to live in the realm of the spirit. As a corn of wheat which must die, humanity has been subjected to vanity and appointed unto death, so that everything that is done independently of God will come to naught. Jesus "the last Adam" (I Cor. 15:45), is the pattern of the new creation man who acknowledges that "I can of mine own self do nothing (Jn. 5:30), and who desires to do only "what he seeth the Father do" (Jn. 5:19).
Reconciliation: God to Man or Man to God?
The word reconciliation means to restore two individuals who have been alienated, to a harmonious relationship. When there has been a separation between two parties, who is it that is responsible to effect the reconciliation? Is it not the one who has initiated the separation? If, as is generally taught, man initiated the separation, then Scripture should read "man hath reconciled God to himself by Jesus Christ" But if, in fact, God initiated the separation, then Scripture should read as it does. "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 5:18). The one who initiated the separation is the one who initiates and effects the reconciliation. Hallelujah! What a marvelous truth for it places the responsibility on the shoulders of our omnipotent God, rather than inept man. Man’s response to that which God initiated is to believe and to rest in the truth of that which he has begun and will complete. The words of the psalmist reaffirm this marvelous truth, "Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night" (Psalm 90:3-4). It is God who initiated the destruction, and it is God who initiates the reconciliation saying, "Return, ye children of men," and when it is all past, and all have been reconciled unto him, in heaven and in earth, it will seem as a watch in the night.
Again, illustrating the same point, when there has been a separation between two parties, the one who is at fault in the separation is the one who brings the gift to heal that relationship. Thus we find in the Scripture, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (Jn. 3:16-1 7). God gave the gift, and as this gift is revealed to everyone of his creatures, they pass from death into life. Though the offense of Adam results in the death of many, "much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many" (Rom. 5:15). That which Adam did brought death, but much more or superabounding that which Adam did, God hath now done through his Son Jesus Christ. To see that which Adam did as being permanent in the life of even one individual is to minimize the "much more" of that which God has done through his Son Jesus Christ. Thus, as "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" all are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24).
Now we begin to see why there are so many failures among God’s people; why there is so much shallowness; why there is so much striving, legalism, and self-condemnation; why it is that Christians are so easily taken in with doctrines that cause them to follow after formulas and traditions. The culprit is ignorance of the fact that the God who sovereignly allowed the fall will complete the reconciliation. He has begun a good work in us and He takes it upon himself to complete that which He has begun. Christian failure comes from striving and unbelief in the fact that God is capable to bring it to pass. We become as those foolish Galatians who, having begun in the spirit, are now seeking to perfect themselves by the flesh. (Gal. 3:3). Our misunderstanding of God and his complete plan, has caused us to minimize the grace whereby we are saved. We have walked in a counterfeit faith which is a product of the soul, rather than the faith which is the gift of God. We lose sight of Him who is not only the Author of our faith, but the Perfecter of it as well. In so doing, we impose upon ourselves a "law mentality." Whenever we are under law, the pressure is on us in our own strength to obey and to fulfill the requirements of God. This is Old Testament Christianity. The outcome is that "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4). This Paul wrote to believers who had been born of the Spirit of God and had received the Spirit by the hearing of faith, yet they went backwards and though they continued as a religious people, their confidence had very subtly shifted from God to self and the ways of man. This in large part is the state of the church today, including the charismatic movement.
Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:4-6). He was writing to believers who had fallen from grace. The Greek work translated "impossible" means "impotent," "weak," "without vigor." The good news of God’s grace is without vigor, indeed impotent, in the heart of a religious Christian, especially one who, knowing many Bible verses, labors under a law mentality. Why? Because this mentality puts confidence in what I do for God, what doctrine I know, what formula for faith I exercise, or what form of church government I endorse. Salvation then, depends upon what "I" do, which is the essence of living under the law. The gospel has no strength to renew again unto the changing of the mind, so that salvation can be rightfully seen, coming not from our own works, but rather, as a free gift from God. In Hebrews 10:26-31, the believers had in the same way "trodden under foot the Son of God," counted as unholy "the blood of the covenant," and "done despite unto the Spirit of grace." No wonder there was a "certain fearful looking for of judgment," among these people, for living under law generates self condemnation.
Conversion: Who Chose Whom?
Are we converted and born of the spirit of God because we chose Him and we believed in Him? Maybe we’ve not noticed that Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (Jn. 6:37), and "no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (Jn. 6:44). Often when we see the quotation from Joshua, "choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15), our tendency is to believe that we are born of the spirit because of what we did. Then we think we are walking in the spirit because of that which we do. This way of thinking either consciously or subconsciously causes us to boast in our strength of commitment, for it is WE who are doing the doing. It is a way of thinking which is a law mentality and places the initiative on man rather than on the grace of God. Jesus declared to his disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (Jn. 15:16). In contrast to a law mentality there is a way of thinking which is a grace mentality. This grace mentality sees God as the One who chose me, who drew me, who strengthens me, and daily fills me with His life that He might be glorified through me.
The reason there are so many spiritually retarded children of God is because the gospel preaching of this day seeks to motivate people to come to Jesus because they have done so little for God and because they fear God’s pouring out his wrath upon them. Though the "guilt" and "fear" message contains a measure of truth, it misses the point as to how a person is born of the Spirit. Those people who are motivated to believe on Jesus Christ out of guilt or fear, will find that the same motivation governs them all their Christian life. How many people today respond to the preaching of the gospel with, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound" (Rom. 6:1)? Very rarely, if ever, is that the response of people today. Why? The gospel that is generally preached today is not the gospel which Paul preached! Paul’s message emphasized that all are dead in Adam, all are made alive in Jesus Christ, and only by God’s grace is anyone saved or enabled to walk with God. When Paul and his party preached at Antioch the Scripture says that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). In other words "every man in his own order" is made alive in Jesus Christ, (I Cor. 15:23). The scripture tells us that "every man" is made alive in Him, by Him who chose us "before the foundations of the world" (Eph. 1:4).
Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Whom say ye that l am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 16:15-17). Simon Peter did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God because he figured it out with his mind. He did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God because of the fear of hell or the guilt and shame that could come through the knowledge of having done so little for God. None of these things were factors. That which brought about Simon Peter’s belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, was the fact that the Father which is in heaven revealed it to Simon Peter. This revelation comes from above and is the only basis upon which a person is born of the Spirit of God.
I look back on my conversion experience and I am so thankful that it happened as it did. I was not looking for God. I had no knowledge that there was more for me. I was a faithful Episcopalian and just "by chance," I happened to attend some meetings. In the course of those meetings, I recognized that I was totally self-centered and living only for myself. The conviction of the Holy Spirit came upon me and the tears flowed down my cheeks. At the same time as I recognized my self-centeredness, God, through the preaching of the Word, revealed to me His Son Jesus Christ, and what He had done at Calvary. In my natural mind I could hardly believe that God could love me that much. In my unbelief I asked God, "You mean all my sins have already been forgiven, that I have already been reconciled unto you?" It was too much. When in my own natural understanding I sought to think of the most evil person that had ever lived upon the face of the earth, the name Adolf Hitler immediately came to my mind. Again in my natural reasoning I thought if he could be forgiven, then certainly I could be forgiven. So I asked God, "You mean to tell me that if Adolf Hitler were to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior, he too would be forgiven of all his sins?" Though the answer was not audible, there was a thundering "YES" that came to my heart, and even to this day, I find it almost impossible to believe this marvelous revelation of God’s all-encompassing love and forgiveness. My motivation for believing was born solely of His love. As a result, love is the motive which today constrains me to walk with God and to want to see Him glorified through me and all of His people. Jesus, in explaining the new birth to Nicodemus said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:8). The new birth experience is totally an action of the Holy Spirit, and the receiving of that new birth, when genuinely given by God, results in our believing upon Him. Therefore, it is God who chooses man, not man who chooses God.
God’s Ultimate Plan: Jesus 100% Victor,
Satan 100% Loser
Subsequent to all God’s judgments, which include the lake of fire, there is going to be the fulfillment of that which Jesus declared, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (Jn. 12:32). Nothing in this verse suggests anything of man’s doing. Jesus takes total responsibility for drawing "all" men unto Himself. The only prerequisite is that He should go to the cross and die for all mankind. This was accomplished according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). If the above verse is not fulfilled, then Jesus sinned, because He did not tell the truth or keep His word, and if He sinned, then He cannot be the Savior of the world, or for that matter, the Savior of any one individual. We must either reject this verse through some design of smorgasbord theology or we must accept it for what it says. In the accepting of it we will find released within our hearts, great life and revelation that will give us total confidence in a God who is in complete control of His creation.
Paul reiterates by the Holy Spirit, the truth of Jesus’ drawing all men unto Himself, saying, "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 the earth" (Eph. 1:10). In the book of Hebrews a quotation from the prophet Jeremiah states the outcome of the New Covenant. "And they shall not teach every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord:
for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest" (Heb. 8:11). The "all" of this verse refers to the same "all" spoken by Jesus and the same "all" spoken by Paul.
Scripture states that, "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). Some people say this applies only to spiritual Israel, which is the church. But that would be taking the verse out of context. The preceding verse, speaking of natural Israel, states "that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25). If this verse is speaking of the church, then it is saying that blindness has come to the church until the fullness of the Gentiles come into the church. This is nonsense. The verse is speaking of natural Israel and the scripture clearly declares that "all Israel shall be saved." Hallelujah! "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead" (Rom. 11:15)? Who is it that was cast away? The church or natural Israel? Obviously it is natural Israel! Who is it that is going to be received as life from the dead? It is natural Israel! If God says He will save all natural Israel then we ought to agree with Him. Though present circumstances seem contrary, God will perform His Word for He is without limitation. Since God loves all the world and is "the Savior of all men" (I Tim. 4:10), and "there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:11), that which He does for natural Israel, He will do for all.
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Is. 45:22-23). Note God says "I have sworn by myself!" God’s Word is not dependent upon man. God has sworn to make something happen and surely a God who is all powerful and all knowing, if He truly is God, is well able to do that which He has determined to do. It was with this very scripture in mind, that Paul, in writing to the Philippians, states with regard to Jesus, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11). I prefer to speak of this teaching as the doctrine of ultimate exaltation. As long as there is one knee that is not bowed and one tongue that has not confessed Jesus Christ as Lord any place in God’s creation, whether it be in heaven, on earth or under the earth, then Jesus has not yet been rightfully exalted. Some would say, "Well, this may be, but it is because they have to." In other words, they bow outwardly, but not with their hearts. This is the very hypocrisy for which Jesus judged the Pharisees. This famed worship would not be "to the glory of God the Father" God never forces man to worship Him. The word translated "bow" in the phrase "every knee should bow," is the same word that Paul uses when he says, "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:14). This is not a bowing such as Nebuchadnezzar forced upon his subjects, lest they be cast into a fiery furnace. God will have no hypocrisy amongst any of his people. The bowing before Him shall be in worshipful reverence, lauding Him before all creation for who He is, Savior of all. Hallelujah! The consummation of the ages is thus described, "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that stitch upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever" (Rev. 5:13).
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming (parousia= presence). Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (I Cor. 15:22-28). First, it is interesting to note the word "all" is used twelve times in these verses. The "all" who are in Adam and die, are the same "all" who are made alive in Christ, and thus subdued unto Christ. This happens according to God’s established order. It is "every man in his own order". The word translated "order" speaks of a fixed order, as Zacharias, who "executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course" (Luke 1:8). Zacharias was appointed according to an order for ministry as a priest. He could not alter that order, because it was an appointed order. The same word is translated "ordained, " in (Acts 13:48), "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. " For me the order when I was made alive in Christ, happened in October of 1970. Others’ conversions occur according to God’s pre-established order for them. We who are believers, are called to go out and preach to every creature, but it is not we who do the saving, it is God who makes the arrangements. "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:16). "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32).
The release of resurrection life came first to Jesus Christ, the first fruit. After that it came and continues to come to those who are Christ’s at His coming. The Greek word for coming in the phrase, "at his coming" is "parousia" meaning "presence." Jesus taught his disciples about His presence, as a place in the spirit, a place that He was going away to prepare for them, and "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that, where I am, there ye may be also" (Jn. 14:3). On the day of Pentecost this became a reality. "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you" (Jn. 14:20). "Then cometh the end", or in other words, the end of the current order. There are yet multitudes in whom the reconciliation is to be effected at another time when all rule, all authority and all power are brought under Jesus, that every enemy may be put under His feet. The last enemy, even death itself, will be destroyed. When all these things are subdued, then Jesus Himself shall be subjected unto God the Father who had all things put under His Son, that then at the final consummation, "God may be all in all". Notice it does not say God may be all in some, or some in all, but it states that God may be all in all. "Be everything to everyone, supreme, the indwelling and controlling factor of life" (I Cor. 15:28). Amplified Bible.
This may be hard to accept, especially if there is something in us as was in the heart of the prodigal son’s elder brother. He was rightfully angry that his brother who had wasted his own inheritance, should be received back into his father’s household and treated as a son. Nevertheless, it was the will of the father. If our hearts are in line with the heart of Father God, we will rejoice that multitudes of prodigal sons, one of whom we once were, will also find their all in all in God. Another who had difficulty with God’s greatness in extending mercy was Jonah. He did not want to preach to the Ninevites, and when God actually saved those people from destruction, he was greatly distressed and even angry. God’s only response to Jonah was, "should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle" (Jonah 4:1 1)? Dear ones, let our hearts not be as Jonah’s nor as the elder brother’s, but let our hearts be in line with the heart of God.
How God Completes His Plan
Though we have been commissioned to preach to every creature "as ye go into all the world", it is not God’s plan at this time that everyone be saved and experience this reconciliation. According to Scripture, "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name, 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: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:14.18). The Greek word "ekklesia" meaning "called out ones" is translated "church". God’s purpose in this church age, is to take out from amongst the Gentiles, a people for His name’s sake. That which is being established today is the spiritual fulfillment of the tabernacle of David. This tabernacle is not a physical tabernacle in a physical land, but it is a spiritual tabernacle. It is a spiritual building with, "Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:20-22). The church is the tabernacle, the temple of God; it is being rebuilt in this day. When this church age is completed, then the residue of men will seek after the Lord along with the nations upon whom His name is invoked. God’s desire is upon all men. And it is He who encompasses and energizes all these things.
In this church age, we now have the privilege of participating in this "ministry of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:19). We are the "ambassadors of Christ" (II Cor. 5:20), and we are "laborers together with God" (I Cor. 3:9). Jesus, after His death and resurrection, commenced this greatly expanded reconciliation upon all the Gentiles. The Scripture declares "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water" (I Pet. 3:18-20). We in this life, and especially the church today, have a very narrow view of God’s creation. We can only see and think about those things with which our natural sense knowledge has contact. But God has concern and knowledge of every spirit being which He has created. God’s love extends to all people, whether in the body or out of the body. Furthermore it will never cease, for His nature is love. When He who was Just suffered for the unjust, the unjust did not include only those living in physical bodies, but the unjust included those who had died centuries before. The "us" who were to be brought to God were not only those who lived in physical bodies, but all who ever lived in a physical body. Jesus’ actions following His resurrection are proof of His justice and His love for even those who were once disobedient in the days of Noah. These men whose wickedness was great and whose "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously" (Gen. 6:5), spent some two thousand years in prison subsequent to the flood. The judgment which God had determined, had its effects; the disobedient repented. "For this cause was the gospel 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" (I Pet. 4:6). Here is the marvelous testimony of our omnipotent, omniscient God, for He is concerned about all who are dead whether in the body or out of the body. And His means of bringing them to a place where they might live according to God in the spirit is that they "be judged according to men in the flesh."
Judgment is the course determined by God for those who are spiritually dead, in order to bring them to the end of themselves. With those who were disobedient in the days of Noah it was an imprisonment which lasted through the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Speaking of his ascension day, Paul says, "when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph.4:8). The church age is the preparatory school for a dimension of spiritual life and victory that far excels that which God’s people are seeing. If Jesus is our forerunner (Heb. 6:20), which He certainly is, then where He goes, we go, what He does, we do. This is precisely what He had in mind when He said to Peter about the church, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 1 6:18). Yes, there was a great gulf fixed between the beggar who went to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man who suffered torments in hell. But, the Captain of our salvation is not restricted by death and hell for He says, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen: and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18). Jesus has the keys which unlock the gates of hell. The church, which is the first fruits of His new creation, the "few that find it," has the honor and the privilege of being used of God to preach the gospel to the living and to the dead both in the body and out of the body. For this reason Paul speaks of the gospel "which was preached to every creature which is under heaven" (Col. 1:23). To whom was the gospel being preached? Every creature. And where were those creatures? They were those who were "under heaven." They had not yet responded to the gospel and therefore were not seated in the heavenly places with our Lord Jesus Christ and with those who have been quickened and made alive spiritually.
Now, let us consider the practical application of ultimate reconciliation upon the true believer’s prayer life. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (I Tim. 2:1-6). If we are exhorted on one hand to make supplications, prayers and intercessions for all men, and then on the other hand believe that only a few men will be saved, it greatly diminishes our faith that God hears and that God answers. It is true that in this day of the church age only a few find life, but when we see an expanded view of God’s creation and all the ages to come, we can believe and pray with absolute faith for all men, knowing that it is "God our Savior who will have all men to be saved." Notice the scripture does not say, God hopes to have or wishes to have or desires to have all men, but God will have all men to be saved. It is the declared will of God that all men be saved. God made provision for all men to be saved. The ransom given for all will be testified to for all "in due time," (I Tim. 2:6) and all shall come to a knowledge of the truth.
The primary ministry of the church today is to make supplications, prayers, and intercessions for all men. The scripture says that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). If I am not praying in faith, but only in hope or wish or desire that certain people be saved, then I am actually coming short of the glory of God and am, in fact, sinning. The devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy absolutely hates this teaching of ultimate reconciliation, for in it are the seeds of faith that will bring in the latter rain, and produce the house of God whose glory shall be greater than the former. (Hag. 2:9). If, in fact, we are praying in faith according to the will of God, we are by the Spirit seeing every single person reconciled unto God. No man can stop this; no devil can stop this; no principality or power can stop this. God’s will is behind it and He is looking for a people who will join with Him in agreement. The knowledge that God will ultimately reconcile all people unto Himself releases faith in God’s people for the great end time harvest.
The ability to see sinners from this standpoint puts within the believer’s heart a love for people which sees beyond their faults. Within us dwells a faith whereby we can look at the most rebellious sinner and can say to him, "There is coming a day when you, too, will bow your knee before the Lord Jesus Christ and worship Him with all your heart. Today this may be bad news to you, but ultimately it is good news because when that day comes it will be the greatest day of your life." Our faith for the salvation of every person will overcome their unbelief! I look back on my years in business and I recall various instances where people accepted my business proposals, not because they understood them, but because I was so positive in my presentation and certain that my product or my proposal would fulfill their needs. They accepted the product based upon my enthusiasm. Today the principle is still the same. We can witness even to a Madelyn Murray O’Hair with absolute certainty that one day she will love God with all her heart. She may rant and rave and spew forth one invective after another, accuse the church of hypocrisy, declare that God doesn’t exist, but nevertheless, we can look at her with a clear eye and a smile upon our face and love her and love her and love her. "Whosoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I Jn. 5:4). The gospel that Paul preached was to tell people that even when they were enemies of God, God reconciled them to Himself and furthermore, "being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). The Word of God will not return void. Our faith in God and in His Word shall produce the results desired. And truly all men will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
The Value of the Blood of Jesus
"For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (Col. :19-20). Notice the things that pleased the Father: firstly, to have all fullness dwell in Jesus Christ; secondly, to make peace through the blood that Jesus shed on the cross; and thirdly, by Jesus Christ and through the blood to reconcile all things unto himself, things in heaven and things in earth. The blood is the ransom price paid whereby the Father is pleased to reconcile all things to Himself.
The value of any commodity is based upon how much it will buy. Suppose we had two gold colored coins, one of which was solid gold, while the other was only gold plated. If I were to ask you which coin would be the more valuable, you would say the solid gold coin. The reason for its greater value is its greater content of gold, thus it will buy more than the coin with the lesser content of gold. The value of the coin is determined by how much it buys. The same is true in evaluating the blood of Jesus Christ. If the blood of Jesus buys only a fraction of those for whom it was shed, then the blood has been devalued. But, if the blood of His cross does, in fact, pay the full ransom price and reconciles all things unto the Father, then its value is seen in its proper light. There is a false teaching in the world today known as Universalism, which declares that all are reconciled to God regardless of the blood. In effect, this teaching makes the blood of no value whatsoever. If only a small fraction of creation is reconciled, the value of the blood of Jesus is only slightly greater than the value the Universalists put on it and thus, maligned.
Man’s Will or God’s Will: Who Is Sovereign?
Let us look first in the scriptures at just a few statements which speak of God’s will. "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Is. 14:24). God says that which I have thought and that which I have purposed shall come to pass and shall stand. In man’s view, if it doesn’t come to pass in ten years, a hundred years, or a thousand years, then surely it will not happen. But God is not limited by the timing of man. God affirms that it shall come to pass, "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10). Man sees the "now" realm and in his limited perspective says to himself "no, it cannot happen" even though God has said it. But God, whose Word is going to last, even though heaven and earth pass away, insists that He will do all His pleasure. Certainly there are those who do resist the will of God and seek to keep God’s will from coming to pass, but God has declared, "The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations" (Ps. 33:10-11).
In the days of Moses, Pharaoh’s resistance to God’s will for Israel was actually in accord with God’s will. "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory" (Rom. 9:17-23). God raises up people to resist His will to bring about His own purposes. He causes their counsel to be brought to naught; He causes their devices to be made of none effect. The counsel of the Lord shall stand forever. God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11).
The thought that God will never overrule the will of man is a clear contradiction of scripture. "A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps"(Pro. 16:9). "There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand" (Pro. 19:21). "Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way" (Pro. 20:24)? Certainly there are multitudes of people who have resisted the gospel, and God’s plan for their lives. Yet God is not frustrated, for God has declared that He shall accomplish His purposes. Ultimately His righteous judgment shall bring those who resist him to a place where they shall change their minds. The story of the prodigal son is an outstanding example of God’s judgment using the law of sowing and reaping to bring this young man to the end of himself. Jonah is another who experienced God’s corrective process to make him willing to do the will of God. Saul of Tarsus knew the reality of God’s sovereignty in overruling man. He had been exceedingly zealous for the Jewish religion, "but when it pleased God to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:14-15) he became the willing bondslave of Jesus his Messiah.
Does this mean then, that man has no free will? Perhaps the question is better asked, "Just how free is man’s will?" Within the laws of creation, man is restrained. A man cannot jump off a thirty story building and simply by force of will get up and walk away. The law of gravity, which is a law God put into effect, will not permit it. God instituted marriage which atheistic Russia, thinking that marriage was a Christian relationship, rejected. Russian leaders soon found that encouraging two unmarried people of the opposite sex to live together, resulted in a society which did not care for its young. Social chaos and irresponsibility toward other rules and regulations followed. Russia has since recanted and reinstituted marriage, making it a state law agreeing with God’s ordinance. God’s laws then are designed to restrict man’s will both physically and spiritually for his own good, and the order of the universe. Man, then can only resist God’s will within certain limitations. But as he does, he finds himself a vessel of destruction. What does the potter do when his clay does not take proper form? Does he abandon the clay? No, he simply pounds the clay into a ball and starts over again. To say that man’s will can supercede God’s will is like saying that clay can exercise authority over the potter. This is the essence of humanistic thought. God has not abdicated His place as sovereign God. On the contrary "For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles" (Rom. 9:19-24)?
What part does man’s will have in being born again? Jesus said, "all that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (Jn. 6:37). Contrary to the popular opinion that "whosoever" can come to Jesus if he chooses or wants to, the only ones who can come to Jesus at any particular point in time are those whom the Father wills to come. In Jesus’ earthly ministry all that the Father gave Him constituted only a small percentage of the population. So it continues to be today. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (Jn. 6:44). Why? Because unregenerate man is spiritually dead. He has no more capacity in and of himself to believe or to choose to believe in Jesus as his Savior than a corpse has to get up and to walk. Even Simon Peter who saw Jesus perform multitudes of miracles, did not have the capacity to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. The understanding and subsequent faith came only because the Father in heaven revealed it to Peter (Mt. 16:17). "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you" (Jn.15:16). It is God who does the choosing, not man. Conversion occurs when man’s spirit is regenerated, quickened, born again, or made alive (all of which are terms describing the same event). This only takes place through the action of the Holy Spirit and has nothing to do with the mind, emotions or will of man. For we "were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn. 1:13). "Even when we were dead in sins, (God) hath quickened us together with Christ" (Eph. 2:5). It is only after God quickens man and man is born again or regenerated in spirit, that man has faith and becomes a "whosoever" (Greek word "pas" meaning "all") that believes. Paul says the faith to believe is "not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Regeneration, or the initial salvation experience, does not come by anything of man. This salvation comes "by grace" (Eph. 2:8) which is defined as the unmerited favor of God. If it were dependent upon man’s will then man would merit his salvation. "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace:
otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (Rom. 11:5-7).
Do Christians have a free will? Jesus said, "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn. 8:32). The only man to ever have a completely free will was Jesus Christ. This was because He had knowledge of all the truth and perfectly understood all the alternatives in every circumstance. Christians have a free will to exercise their faith and live a godly life to the degree that they have a pure heart and knowledge of the truth. As in the days of Hosea the prophet when ignorance was more comfortable than truth, so today "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6). Christians who have no knowledge of Jesus as their healer have no understanding how to exercise their wills in receiving healing. Christians with no understanding of their union in Christ have little ability to exercise their wills in experiencing their authority in Christ. Christians with no understanding of God’s purpose and plan in creation have little ability to exercise their wills to believe for the salvation of unregenerate people. A truly free will is one which is completely free of all the demands of the world, the flesh, and the devil. A free will has limitless potential for faith, hope, and love, and like Jesus can continuously declare "not my will, but thine, be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Are Christians responsible for the exercise of their wills? Absolutely yes! Do they experience both consequences and reward? Yes, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:7-8). Sometimes people in their ignorance suggest that the emphasis upon the sovereignty of God produces passivity and indifference toward sin. Just the contrary is true, for it teaches that our loving Father will continually work His purposes into our lives until every vestige of self centered independent motives and attitudes are extinguished. To the degree that we resist His will, choosing to do our own thing, to that same degree will we find ourselves discomforted and lacking peace. The essence of the message of God’s sovereignty is that we can voluntarily repent and do it God’s way or we can put off submitting to Him, and take, what you might call, the scenic route. The wilderness is always there to empty us of the sin of self. Why resist God who will assuredly have the victory? Why exalt the pride of man in suggesting that man’s will can overrule the plan of God? Who are we to dethrone God and enthrone man? Man may think he is God, but the deception shall not last, for "I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Is. 4 6:9-10).
The Word "Eternal"
People insist upon the doctrine of "eternal punishment" because the King James Bible (and others influenced by it) associate the word eternal with punishment and destruction. God raised up scholars to give us concordances, lexicons, and both Greek and Hebrew word studies, because no translation is perfectly true to the original manuscripts. The King James Bible translated the Greek noun "aion" and its adjectival form "aionios" variously as world, age, eternal, and everlasting. One word cannot be accurately translated to have so many separate meanings when there are specific Greek words with these meanings. World means the material earth on which man lives, and is properly translated in "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world [kosmos] are clearly seen" (Rom. 1:20). Age means an indeterminable period of time which has a beginning and an end, and is properly translated in "the mystery which hath been hid from ages [aion] and from generations" (Col. 1:26). Eternal means that which is perpetual, with no beginning and no end, and is properly rendered in "his eternal [aidios] power and Godhead" (Rom. 1:20). Please note the Greek word "aidios" which actually means eternal. But "aidios" is never found in relation to punishment of unbelievers.
Some would suggest that the Greek form in which the adjective "aionios" is used allows for the translation "eternal." The most basic laws of grammar prohibit this. A word derived from a parent word cannot have a meaning greater than or different from the parent word. The meaning of the adjectival form of a word depends upon and corresponds to the meaning of the noun from which it is derived. As an example, a daily (adjective) paper comes every day (noun) not monthly or hourly.
A reasonable objective may well be "why didn’t the King James translators or the New American Standard translators translate "aionios" to be age instead of eternal?" Or why does the commonly accepted Vine’s Expository Dictionary (V.E.D.) insist that "aionios" means eternal? The beloved brethren who have given themselves to these scholarly pursuits are to be honored, but they, like us, are subject to seeing "through a glass, darkly" (ICor. 13:12). V.E.D. for example, states that the gift of tongues ceased after apostolic times and that both the gifts of knowledge and prophecy are unnecessary since the Holy Scriptures are sufficient for guidance, instruction, and edification. Mr. Vine’s viewpoint is typical of the "fundamentalist" school of theology, which for all practical purposes eliminates the need and expectancy of God’s people to hear directly from Him. To the many who have come into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and today comprise the Pentecostal and charismatic segment of the church, V. E.D. is obviously biased. The gifts of the Holy Spirit did not terminate with the early apostles, but are to be just as much in evidence today. The same kind of prejudice is perpetuated with the doctrine of "eternal punishment." Numerous Greek scholars have sought to bring correction. A sampling of some of their works follows:
Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible,
by Robert Young, LL.D.; Thomas Nelson Publishers Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible,
by Robert Young, LL.D.; Baker House
by J.B. Smith; Herald Press
The Emphasized Bible,
by J.B. Rotherham; Kregel Publications
Concordant Literal New Testament,
by the Concordant Publishing Concern
The word "aion" means age or that which pertains to the ages. Ages have beginnings and endings. Their durations are for indefinite periods of time. There is no time element to eternity and therefore the word eternal is a totally inappropriate translation. God made the aions: "by whom also he made the worlds (aions)" (Heb. 1:2). Having created the aions, God is called the God of the aions or the "everlasting (aionial) God" (Rom. 16:26). There was a time before the aions: "according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world (aionios) began" (II Tim. 1:9). We live in the present aion: "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world (aion)" (Mt. 13:39). There is an age after this aion: "it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (aion), neither in the world (aion) to come" (Mt. 13:32). There are aions to look forward to: "that in the ages (aions) to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace" (Eph. 2:7). Jesus reigns to the aion of the aion: "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever (to the aion of the aion)" (Heb. 1:8). At the end of this aion: "then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father... then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (I Cor. 15:24&28).
During this time of the aions, Christians have aionial life (Jn 3:16), aionial salvation (Heb. 5:9), and an aionial inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Presently Christians have been "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. 1:14-15). There will come a day when Christians no longer have just the earnest, but will receive the full inheritance of true eternal life which is when God becomes "all in all" (I Co. 15:28). In the meantime, there will continue aionial judgment (Heb. 6:2), aionial condemnation (Mk. 3:29), aionial fire (Mt. 25:41), and aionial punishment (Mt. 24:26).
What About Hell?
The name hell comes from an old English word "helle," which means hole, pit, or grave. It is derived from a Saxon word "helan" which meant a covered place or place of concealment. When one covered his head he wore a "helmet." When one covered or thatched his house, it was said the house was "helled" and the thatcher was the "hellier". When the frost came one would go out and "hell" the turnips. Thus, hell came to mean a place or condition which cannot be seen by the natural eye. Its meaning was quite consistent with the Hebrew word "sheol" and Greek word "Hades" from which it was translated.
Today’s conception of hell is quite different. It is generally assumed that hell is synonymous with the lake of fire, that it is a fiery abyss designed to torment the unregenerate for all eternity, without end, or hope of escape. "All hope abandoned, ye who enter here" from the Roman poet and educator Dante Alighieri’s (1265-1321 A.D.) "Inferno" greatly influenced western civilization’s concept of Hell. His thoughts were the product of such well known pantheistic philosophers as Virgil, Plato and Socrates.
Of the 76uses of sheol or Hades, only twice is it associated with fire. Dt. 32:22 speaks of fire in the lowest hell. Lk. 16:24 speaks of the rich man being tormented in flames, particularly his tongue. Only 2 out of the 76, hardly make a convincing case that sheol or Hades is synonymous with fire. David’s statement "thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell" (Ps 86:13) contradicts the thought of abandonment in flames of torment. There are many aspects of the rich man’s story which indicate it is a parable. Even if it weren’t a parable, it was prior to Calvary when Jesus won "the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18). Scripture consistently uses fire to convey a spiritual reality of. purging, cleansing, refining, and testing rather than a literal eternal instrument of torment. God states concerning subjecting people to a material fire "I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind" (Jer. 32:35). God here not only rejects the thought of such a horrendous act, but attributes it to Baal worshippers. It should now become apparent what spirit seeks to perpetuate a doctrine depicting unending fiery torment for the vast majority of mankind.
Make no mistake, those who have lived as rebels and scoffers against God, will experience great sorrow, remorse, anguish, and torment when entering the unseen realm of death outside of their physical bodies. In that state the sinner no longer has a fleshly body with which to vent his lusts and thereby gratify himself. Even Jesus, our Savior had a taste of this Hades. After God had "made him to be sin for us" (II Cor. 5:21), that He should "taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9), Peter says "his soul was not left in hell" (Hades) (Act 2:31). So Jesus, the substitutionary "Savior of all men" (I Tim. 4:10), knows fully what it is to experience being forsaken by God. (Mt. 27:46). Please note that Jesus as the Substitutionary Lamb "of all men" spent only a limited time in Hades. Why limited time? Because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23) or separation from God, not eternity in hell. Spiritual death is not a permanent state of being. Every Christian was at one time "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). But God, "even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us" (Eph. 2:5). If the teaching of eternal punishment in Hell were true, then for Jesus to be a substitute, He would have had to spend eternity in Hell rather than just three days.
It should also be noted that sheol or Hades can be a present state in the soul of man while living in the physical body. David rejoiced in the Lord for His great mercy because "thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell" (Ps. 86:13). When we spank a disobedient child we "deliver his soul from hell" (Pr. 23:14). Guilt, condemnation, and the after affects of sin produce turmoil in the soul or unseen realm which many know today as a living hell.
Another word which is translated hell on one occasion, is the word "tartarus". "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, (tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4). Tartarus is only mentioned in connection with angels and not mankind. Also please note these angels were kept in Tartarus until a specific event, not for eternity.
The fourth word which is translated "hell" is a Greek word "gehenna" which is derived from the valley of "Hinnom" or "Gehenna." Gehenna was the garbage dump which burned continuously outside the gates of Jerusalem. Jesus only taught on gehenna in relationship to the elect of God. Always with this word there is mention of fire for the purging of sin within God’s people. Therefore "gehenna" is disqualified as a place of eternal torment for the unsaved after death. For instance, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, taught his disciples saying, "That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool shall be in danger of hell fire" (or gehenna fire) (Mt. 5:22). Again in connection with the sin of adultery, Jesus said, "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (gehenna). And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell" (gehenna) (Mt. 5:29-30). Jesus, again speaking to his disciples was telling them that He would be sending them forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, that they would be delivered up to councils to be scourged, that they would be brought before governors and kings, but that they were not to fear for the Spirit of the Father would tell them what to say. "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (gehenna) (Mt. 10: 27-28).
In another case John is objecting to the fact that another man who was not amongst the disciples had been casting out devils. John, at this point, evidenced a wrong attitude toward this man and Jesus rebuked him saying that he that is not against us is for us, and that there would be others who would receive rewards in addition to these disciples. And furthermore, "if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell (gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell (gehenna) fire; Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another" (Mk. 9:43-50). Please note, Jesus is not speaking to heathens saying, "believe in me as your Savior or else you will go to hell." He is speaking to "that disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn. 21:7). The substance of what He is saying is, "John, either repent and be at peace with your brethren, or else expect to experience gehenna fire in your soul until those trashy attitudes are purged and the kingdom of God is established within you." If in the natural, gehenna fire was an unpleasant experience, consider how unpleasant it will be in the spiritual realm.
In the natural, flesh finds fire unbearable. So fire pictures the anguish of soul the believer experiences when fleshly attitudes need to be eliminated. Fire speaks of the spiritual realities of purification, purging, cleansing and testing. Paul taught the same truth. "Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" (I Cor. 3:13-16)? It ought to be obvious, Paul is not talking about a literal physical fire after death, but is talking about a spiritual fire to which "every man" who is a believer, is subjected. Why believers? Because believers are the temple of God. They are the "living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1), who are "salted with fire" (Mk. 9:49). Every time a Christian yields to any fleshly attitude, the fires flare up in the soul and makes one miserable, until the sin is confessed and forgiveness received through the cleansing blood of Jesus. This is the very reason why believers are baptized "with the Holy Ghost and with fire" (Lk. 3:16). Even the believer’s faith is tried with fire that it "might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 4:17).
Dear ones, fire does not come from the devil. Fire comes from God. It is one aspect of His nature. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). The fire which Paul describes is the same fire pictured as gehenna fire described by Jesus. Yes, the fire is unquenchable because God’s determination to purge and purify is unquenchable, and the worm of remorse that gnaws at the believer’s conscience dieth not until he repents.
Charles Finney, who was marvelously used of God, is quoted as criticizing the principle of remedial or redemptive judgment saying it teaches a "hell redemption". Though his ministry is to be greatly respected, this statement could not be further from the truth. Though hell is experienced by the unregenerate after physical death, even more important for us is the reality of its being a condition of the soul, often augmented by circumstances. For those who "were disobedient …in the days of Noah" (I Pet. 3:19-20), 2,000 years in prison was their hell. The prodigal son did not have a pigpen redemption. It was the circumstance of that hellish pigpen that got his attention and maneuvered him to the end of himself. The soldier who is in the heat of the battle and has a fox hole conversion, is not saved by the foxhole. Realistically his situation forced him to cry out to the only One who could save him, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hell will never save anybody, but, like the foxhole and like the pigpen, it is a place where, whether it be in this life or in the life after, man finds himself in despair and utter futility, having no place to turn but to his Creator. Jonah sought to evade God’s will by escaping in a ship, but "The Lord sent out a great wind … so that the ship was like to be broken" (Jon. 1:4). When by chance (?) "the lot fell upon Jonah" (Jon. 1:7) and he was selected to be thrown overboard, "The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah " (Jon. 1:17). Jonah cried out from "the belly of hell" (Jonah 2:2) and was vomited upon dry land. God’s judgment always precedes grace. For Jonah, the "belly of hell" was not a fiery pit in the center of the earth, but was in a fish’s belly where he experienced separation from God’s presence thereby causing him to reconsider his disobedience. Though hell will never save anyone, its purpose is to prepare the heart to receive God’s grace and enablement to live in accord with God’s ways.
God speaks of Israel "How is the faithful city become an harlot!. . . Thy silver is become dross . . . Thy princes are rebellious . . . I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy sin: . . . Afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness" (Is. 1:21-27). God declares the nature and purpose of His judgments. God, giving no heed to man’s will, sovereignly declares "I will". The purging process was hell for Israel. God says His judgment is redemptive."
That which He does with Israel He shall do with all the nations. "For my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them my indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent" (Zeph. 3:8-9). Obviously this has not yet come to pass, but God’s word shall not return void. God says "it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Is. 55:11).
The teaching of the ultimate "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face" (Ps. 89:14). The exaltation of Jesus Christ and the ultimate reconciliation of all men unto Him, make God’s judgments consistent with His plan of creation. God’s judgments become understandable, purposeful, and constructive without violating any aspect of justice, truth, or mercy. If just one person were condemned to eternal torment, then God’s purpose in creation would have been defeated. God’s judgments are redemptive. They are built upon the spiritual laws of sowing and reaping. The sinner shall reap punishment to the degree that he persists in sin and rebellion. "They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same" (Job 4:8). "He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and with the rod of his anger he shall be consumed" (Prov. 22:8, margin). Man continues on in his sin until "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee" (Jer. 2:19). So man even in his obstinacy, eventually brings himself to a place of correction and reproval. Not only is this true for individuals, but it is true for nations and all creation. "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Is. 26:9).
Rejoice saints, the gospel of the Kingdom is that God has come on the scene. He is going to "make all things new" (Rev 21:5). "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end... The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Is 9:7). The end result of God’s judgments is "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11). "He planned for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ both in heaven and in earth" (Eph. 1:10). Amplified Bible.
Calvary: God’s Ultimate Judgment
God’s judgment of sin at Calvary is HIS-STORY. More than any other event, it demonstrates the redemptive nature of God’s judgment. It has and will stand out through all the ages as the one event which both satisfies the justice of God’s law, and at the same time, confounds the hearts of even those who are chief among sinners. Mankind already belonged to God by right of creation. Now mankind belongs to God by right of redemption. Jesus "gave himself a ransom for all" (I Tim. 2:6). Jesus purchased all mankind, or 100% of all persons, from Adam throughout all ages. Though all men do not know it yet, God says that it is "to be testified in due time" (I Tim. 2:6). God has a "due time" which He controls. It is not yet, but it will "be testified" of. Who will testify of it? All who have been ransomed or purchased. Who are all? The answer is all mankind. Anything less means Jesus does not receive what He purchased. Anything less belittles the finished work of Calvary. "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" (Is. 53:11).
The Second Death and the Lake of Fire
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:11-15).The second death is death and hell cast into the lake of fire. Consequently, hell and the lake of fire are not one and the same anymore than death is the same as the lake of fire. The second death is accomplished in and through the lake of fire. Indeed "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26). The second death is the end of all that is of the first death. It is the death of death after which there shall be no more death. Death will have been changed into life according to the principle introduced earlier that death always precedes life.
The instrument of the second death is described as "the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Rev. 21:8). All that have their part in it are burned, not burned up to do away with them, but burned to change them. They pass through this horrendous consuming fire to be metamorphosed. In the natural realm when something is burned, the chemical elements in it are rearranged. Coal, for example, when burned in a furnace disappears before the physical eye, but becomes energy to generate electricity. God’s objective in this great fire is to rearrange the characters and dispositions of those people who have refused for eons to acknowledge Him as Lord God Almighty. The word "brimstone" which is translated from the Greek word "theion," is a key to our understanding this process. According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, "theion" literally means "divine fire" or "divine sulfur." It is a fire associated with divinity or God, for the purpose of purification. Fire is the heat and light produced by the burning and the brimstone. The fire, burning, and brimstone of the lake of fire cause change, change of monumental significance. Unfortunately, there are people who so stubbornly cling to their devilish. perverse, ungodly attitudes and actions, that only a place like the lake of fire will turn them to God. They have resisted the tender mercies of the Lord. The wages of sin have not broken them. Neither has hell in its unseen or literal sense subdued them. But here in God’s final place of corrective judgment, they will be burned with unquenchable fire, refined and refined, until no more refinement is needed, and they bow their knee in worship and praise of our great God and Shepherd who will, "go after that which is lost, until he find it" (Lk. 15:4).
Interestingly, the lake of fire is located in the presence of the Lamb, Christ Jesus. The incorrigibly rebellious "shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night" (Rev. 14:10-11). Some would have us think that the Lamb and his angels are torturing the lost sinners, fanning the fires of hell. But God who does all things well and sees the end from the beginning, views the redemptive process even in the lake of fire with a heart full of love for His precious creation. Since "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 Jn. 1:5), and He is also love, it is the light of His overwhelming love which persistently pricks the sinner’s conscience until he begins to experience as J. Preston Eby suggests, an excruciating torment of conscience. Gradually he starts to compare himself to the sinless, holy, harmless, undefiled, Lamb Christ Jesus, who bled and died for him. It is more than he can bear. The Presence of Faith torments the fearful and unbelieving. The Presence of Truth aggravates the deceitful and the liar. The Presence of Holiness tortures the immoral and corrupt. The Presence of Love agonizes the mean and hateful. God allows this procedure to continue until He has fulfilled His intention to "make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). The redemptive work is complete.
Believers who do not live an overcoming life can also expect to be subjected to the lake of fire. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death " (Rev. 2:1 1). Unfortunately, not all Christians draw upon the abundance of God’s grace in order to live an overcoming life. According to Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed, only a fraction of those who hear the Word of God truly receive it in its entirety (Mt. 13:18-23). The majority are "dull of hearing" (Heb.5:11) always dwelling on the "principles of the doctrine of Christ," having no vision to "go on unto perfection" (Heb. 6:1). Thus, many believers resist God’s judgment, ignore the reasons for their chastening, and are "condemned with the world" (I Cor. 11:31-32). The unfaithful servant of the Lord is cut off and appointed "his portion with the unbelievers" (Lk. 12:46). "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences" (II Cor. 5: l0-11). Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were subject to the fire seven times hotter, and came forth with "no hurt" (Dan. 3:25), the overcoming Christian can go through the second death and "not be hurt" (Rev. 2:1 1).
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (I Jn. 5:21).An idol is a man-made image of a god. John was greatly concerned that the church know God as He really is, rather than be taken up with man’s false ideas. Why? "They that make them are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them" (Ps. 115:8). Our view of God will react upon ourselves and thus change us into the likeness of our view of God. If we think of Him as legalistic and hard, then we become legalistic and hard. If we think of Him as trying the best He can but failing, then we strive fearing the same results. For example, if what is generally taught about eternal torment is true, then the Jesus Christ of today is not the same as the Jesus Christ of yesterday. Instead of weeping over the lost as He wept when He was on earth, He feels no remorse while myriads of his creatures are in endless torment. Can the church not see that this representation of God hardens the heart of the church toward the lost? Why should the church fight against evil if the Lord Himself permits it forever in his universe? Why should the church expect to overcome evil with good when our God does not do the same? Why should the church love her enemies when God refuses to do the same? Why should the church not let the sun go down on her wrath when God lets the sun go down on His wrath? God’s people have been ensnared in a doctrine which contradicts the very nature of the God whom they represent. Is the church any different than Israel of old, who did right in the sight of God, but still maintained the high places that the people might sacrifice and burn incense unto idols made by the hands of men?
If we know God as sovereign, all powerful, all wise, full of unlimited grace and love for each of His people whom He created to be in His image, Then confidence is imparted to us because we know that He will succeed in our lives just as surely as He will with all creation. Thus, our faith for all people from spouse to neighbor to nation is quickened as we pray that all will be saved because it is His will. If we are unlike Christ, it is only because we have not seen Him as He really is. "We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I Jn. 3:2).
It has been said by some that the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation has been rejected all through the history of the church. It is true that in 553 A.D., the Roman Catholic church rejected this teaching as false doctrine. Others also have rejected this doctrine. But some of the most notable of church teachers and leaders have taught the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation Henry Chadwick, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, England, in his book, The Early Church, states that Origen, 184-254 A.D., "stands out as a giant among the early Christian thinkers." Origen taught ultimate reconciliation. Eusebius of Caesarea, 265-339 A.D., "the Father of Church History," and bishop of Caesarea, "looked back on Origen as the supreme saint and highest intelligence in the catalogue of heroes in church history." According to Zondervan’s International Dictionary of the Christian Church, Gregory of Nyssa, 330-395 A.D., the bishop of Nyssa, was so highly regarded that the Seventh General Council of the Church entitled Gregory, "Father of Fathers." Gregory "took Paul’s statement literally that God will eventually be ‘all in all’ and saw hell as a process of ultimate purification rather than a place of eternal suffering."
Is this doctrine taught today? Yes, it is being taught. In recent years Sundar Sundat Singh of India and H. A. Baker, missionary to China, two men who were greatly used of God, both believed and taught that men experience reconciliation to God after physical death. In Baker’s book, From Gloom to Glory, he expounds upon his own teachings and those of Singh. Catherine Marshall in her book, Beyond Our Selves, quotes noted writer Hannah Whitehall Smith, "If a person is a lost sinner it only means that he is temporarily separated from the Good Shepherd who owns him. The Shepherd is bound by all duties of ownership to go after all those who are lost until they are found. Who can imagine a mother ever dropping a search so long as there is the least chance of finding a lost child? Then would God be more indifferent than a mother? Since I had this sight of the mother-heart of God, I have never been able to feel the slightest anxiety for any of His children. We can trust him...trust him." Mrs. Smith also states, "The amazing thing is that all sort of travesties on the character of God and libels on His goodness can find a welcome entrance into Christian hearts." So quotes Catherine Marshall. My personal observation is that those who object to this teaching are like the ten spies who though they knew God’s promise, responded out of fear and unbelief. Like Israel, "they do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways" (Heb. 3:9). Since "false doctrine is any doctrine which doesn’t agree with my doctrine," teachers of ultimate reconciliation are immediately labeled "false teacher." But in spite of the resistance, this teaching is coming forth in greater and greater clarity. There are many today who in their hunger for God, are willingly throwing away their old wine skins that they might receive the new wine. Ultimate reconciliation received in the heart of the believer will remove the denominational walls, will eliminate all grounds for the judgmental, intolerant attitudes which plague the body of Christ, and will release a faith for intercession for all creation’s being delivered from the bondage of corruption. It is God’s Truth for the hour! "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Any doctrine that is of God, will when received in the heart, produce life. The doctrine of the new birth produces life. The doctrine of healing produces life. The doctrine of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit produces life. I will give my personal testimony as to what this doctrine has done in my life. For several months prior to declaring my belief in it, many scriptures and thoughts were brewing in my mind. Out of fear of man, I could not bring myself to declare it openly. The Bible says that we believe with our heart unto righteousness and that we confess with our mouth unto salvation. As I have in recent months confessed my belief in this doctrine, it has had an effect upon me which is greater than that which I experienced in the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and almost corresponds to my new birth experience. My God has become bigger, greater and more sovereign than I had ever seen. The Scriptures have been quickened and made alive in my heart as never before. I have sensed a depth of the grace of God worked within my heart such as I’ve never known. The undercurrent of friction between my wife and I that used to surface so often is now a thing of the past. My children have given unsolicited testimony to the fact that their father is different. I have a confidence in God and an anticipation of hearing from God such as I’ve never before experienced. I have received answers to prayer, practically as soon as the request came out of my mouth. The faith that is now working in me, is a faith that is born of God’s grace and goodness. I commend this teaching of the ultimate exaltation of Jesus Christ and reconciliation of all men to you, and trust that it will bring to you the same life, encouragement and excitement that it has to me. Amen.
P.S. As with every presentation of truth, there is both the heartache of observing those who won’t listen and the joy of observing those who receive. Observing the fruit in the lives of all concerned strongly encourages me that we are being led by the Spirit of Truth. So our rejoicing is in Jesus Christ as we "continue in the faith grounded and settled, not moved away from the hope of the gospel...which was preached to every creature which is under heaven" (Col. 1:23). I believe "The faith" which "if ye continued in" that makes a Christian "holy and unblameable and unreprovable" (Col. 1:22) is faith in the Jesus Christ who created "all", is before "all", by whom "all" consist, will be preeminent over "all", and who by the blood of His cross reconciles "all" (Col. 1:16-20). Interestingly, the Greek word here translated reconcile means "to change thoroughly from" or "to make different by intense opposition." This gospel which Paul refers to as "my gospel" in contrast to that of other apostles, has both demanded and produced in me a deeper repentance and understanding of the Father heart of God than I’ve ever before known. This gospel is not just another teaching but has become a way of life. Its reality began in my home and continues to extend to all with whom I have any acquaintance. It has given me new opportunity and experience in loving my enemies, blessing them that curse me, and doing good to them that hate me. "Therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is Savior of all men, specially of those that believe" (I Tim. 4:10).
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