DR. BERT BAUMAN
1846 GRANT ROAD, ST. PAUL, MN 55112
PRINTED IN U.S.A.
ALMOST 2,000 years ago, a message came into the world that completely changed it. The world has not been the same since. This message created a special body of people whose principal purpose is to continue proclaiming that message. This special body of people is the church, and the message came to be known as THE GOSPEL. Through the centuries this gospel has varied often and considerably. Sometimes it seemed to lose its original content completely, but at those times God moved to restore it - at least in part.
This message known as THE GOSPEL is much more than a message; it is a body of truth which contains the Living Word of God. From its beginning, it has come to man in two ways - through the teaching of man and by revelation of God. I will refer to these two ways as the taught gospel and the revealed gospel. Unfortunately, these two are not always synonymous. We see the difference illustrated in the understandings of Peter and Paul. The gospel preached by Peter was largely colored by his Jewish traditional understanding of scripture and Old Testament law. Even though God began to reveal His glorious gospel to him upon the Joppa rooftop, Peter seemed unable to rise above the understanding he had into the fuller divine revelation. He remained the apostle to the circumcision and preached an interim gospel, that is, his gospel served as a bridge between the Old Testament understanding of God and the New Testament revelation. In contrast, Paul as a zealous student of Jewish theology, was undoubtedly more deeply inoculated with the same tradition and learning as Peter, yet through the grace of God, he was able to receive the heavenly revelation. According to his own words, he became the first man to fully understand and preach the revealed gospel. "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11,12). Alas, though he imparted the pure gospel, it soon became polluted with tradition and human understanding. Even in his own lifetime, what he preached was under constant attack by others within the church. Repeatedly he wrote to defend what he jealously called "my gospel" (Romans 16:25, 2 Timothy 2:8).
DILUTION OF THE GOSPEL
The resistance Paul experienced and the historical record of the church since, expose the human inability to contain such wondrous glory as the revealed gospel unveils. Passing from generation to generation, it is soiled with human understanding and is changed into something more logical to human reason. The revealed gospel becomes the taught gospel, reverting to something similar to Peter’s "interim gospel" which was heavily influenced by the Jerusalem church in which James was dominant. James gave the gospel a heavy mixture of Old Testament law and Peter seemed unduly intimidated by him. Notice how Paul confronts Peter at Antioch. (Read Galatians 2:11-15). It is ironic that Gentile Christianity named its grandest monument, a basilica in Rome, after the apostle to the circumcision rather than after its own divinely appointed apostle. Is this not a subtle indication of which gospel gained the ascendancy and popularity?
But there remains a certain vitality even in a polluted gospel. Only rarely, as during the dark ages, was its power almost destroyed. Happily, the smallest remnant of truth contains enough of the potent seed of life to bring man into the Kingdom of God. Most Christians have been made alive through less than a wholesome gospel, as is apparent in the manifold splintered church. Each fragment preaches its variegation of the gospel and yet born again believers may be found in most, if not all, of the splinters. What is called gospel preaching is most often a checkered kaleidoscope of blatant legalism mixed with multi-hued shades of grace. In fact, most traditions consider good gospel preaching to be a "proper balance of law and grace". Gospel has come to be a name for a body of teaching with little regard for what the word actually means, that is, glad tidings or good news.
The law has never been good news. Paul asserts that law and grace are totally incompatible - absolutely contradictory. You may hold one or the other, but you cannot hold both at the same time. It is difficult to comprehend how the intelligent theological mind can nurture such contradiction as "a proper balance of law and grace". In practically all of his letters, the Apostle Paul rejects the law as a power to save or give life. On the contrary, he says it kills. Those who preach the formula mixture are alternately ministering life, then death to their followers.
MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the true gospel. He is faithful in His work of leading every Christian into all truth and so He alone is able to purify the taught gospel. As we have already observed, life is usually given through the taught gospel, but the purified understanding of the true gospel can only come by revelation from God. In other words, the gospel, which we have been taught, must pass through a process of revelation by the Holy Spirit so that it may be purified and become the revealed gospel to our hearts. Nevertheless, it does not follow that man has no part in bringing the revealed gospel. God has commissioned him to do so but man is only the preacher - God is the Revealer. Unless the messenger has allowed the gospel to be purified to his own heart and is careful to minister under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that the gospel he teaches is truly the revealed gospel, he perpetuates a taught gospel which may be tainted with human wisdom and the traditions of men.
Unfortunately, most Christians find it difficult to let go of their taught gospel when confronted with the revealed gospel. So often they are too deep1y steeped in traditional understanding to receive correction from the Holy Spirit. This is the historical error of established religion.
God works from within, through the spirit into the heart. Man works from without, through the senses and mind. I John 2:20 teaches that the anointing of God’s Spirit causes us to know "all things", and again in chapter 2:27, that same anointing is said to teach us so that we "need not that any man teach" us. Why
then is it that one of Christ’s gifts to His church is teachers? There may be many answers to this question not the least of which is that God would have His people excel in fellowship and unity. These qualities are best nourished in an exchange of gifts in mutual need. But there is another reason, which is a principal found throughout God’s dealings with man. It is that of the double witness. Jesus used it often in His teaching with the words, "Verily, verily", and Paul enunciates it in 2 Corinthians 13:1, "... In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." God has sent two great revealers of truth into the earth - the Holy Spirit and the scriptures - if one or the other is ignored by truth seekers, error results. So we see that the process of bringing truth to man has a two part composition. Indeed, we "know all" as John says, but we are not aware or conscious of this knowledge because God puts His revelation into the spirit (which is the unconscious self). It is therefore necessary to be "made conscious" of that which we know "unconsciously". God brings this about through anointed, human teachers, who present the truth from the outside through the senses and mind. When the truth is thus presented and received, there is a union of that which God has put into the spirit with that which He brings through the anointed teaching, and the hearer experiences a "conscious knowing" of the truth. Some call this the witness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, if we are sincere in doing the will of God, we shall know if the doctrine we are hearing is of God. (John 7:17).
But the witness of the spirit is not possible if we reject what we hear before it can be examined by the inner man, It is always difficult to allow what is revealed in the heart by God’s Spirit to conquer what is entrenched in the man-taught mind, but unless we do, conflict between the heart and mind results in frustration - and more seriously, the Holy Spirit is hindered in bringing the truth of God to us. Of course, it was never intended that human teachers should be in conflict with what God puts in the spirit, rather, it is God’s plan that man should be a co-worker with Him. This grand plan, however, has many adversaries. Human beings find it easier to lean upon those who can be seen rather than upon Him whom they cannot see. Fear holds many in traditional teachings, even when they suspect grave error. Often they are warned that to believe other than what "Mother Church" teaches will lead to destruction - even eternal torment in the hands of an angry God. Not less than these is the strong ambition to receive honor from our peers, "How can ye believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44). Every prophet of God has had to overcome such obstacles in order to receive and preach God’s message, and it is no less traumatic for the average Christian to accept the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ today. God is looking for bold warriors of truth who will courageously hear and trust His voice within and dare to believe the outer witness of the inspired scriptures. A limited gospel can only yield a limited salvation. The glorious and powerful salvation prophesied to take place in the last days can only be produced through a pure, Holy Spirit-revealed gospel.
The children of God need to learn how to hear and receive from their Heavenly Father. All truth must come from Him. Instead, Christians are trained to hear truth from their leaders only. They are actually taught that only those in authority can be trusted to hear accurately from God. Each convert is pressed into the standard mold. As Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell (Gehenna) than yourselves." (Matt. 23:15). Leaders of religious systems have changed little since Jesus’ day. They still tend to feel all truth must come through them. Rather than trust the Holy Spirit to keep doctrine pure, they seem to feel a God-given commission to restrict and control what is taught and believed among people. Indeed, elders or shepherds of the local church are given responsibility to teach and keep the way of truth, but this is strictly a local charge, that is, to the flock given to their care, and with this charge are given checks and balances to protect the flock from authoritarian abuse. It does not extend to other flocks or churches, as in the structure of religious systems, and it emphatically does not include authority to use force or intimidation. Church history is a sad witness to the heinous extremes religious systems will resort to when combating new teaching - true or false. The only weapon allowed by the Holy Spirit in this charge is teaching the word of truth. Certainly, error is a persistent presence in the church, but so long as freedom of spirit is nourished, God will quickly raise up corrective teaching when necessary.
Every God-sent revival has eventually fallen under human control. Heaven-sent seasons of refreshing have always come through and to the grass roots, never through the established religious system. In these divine moves, God always sets people free from religious authoritarianism. Unfortunately, it invariably follows that the newfound freedom is abused. This seems to be an inevitable stage in learning to walk under grace in liberty. As in the making of new wine, the new work of God appears frothy and full of ferment and those who were used as leaders in the new move become concerned with the abuses. Failing in understanding and faith that God will correct aberrations and bring discipline, these leaders often invoke the false doctrine of delegated authority, as did those before them. Taking authority, they name themselves the vicars of Christ and exercise lordship over God’s inheritance. Thus a priesthood is established which draws a firm line between leaders (elders) and people.
In God’s order, leaders are commissioned to help people into direct personal contact with their God - not become a chain of command! The elder who does his job best is the one who works himself out of a job by teaching the younger Christians to become intimately acquainted with their Heavenly Father. Thus, in the eyes of the younger he becomes what he really is - an elder brother in the family of God. However, the human heart somehow prefers to be indispensable and so tends to rise to a place between God and man. The result is that truth is encapsulated in authoritarianism and frozen into the framework of creeds and traditions. The Holy Spirit as the active revelator of truth is quenched and ironically, the very heresy which the leaders sought to prevent is established by themselves. Living truth is replaced by tradition. Schism is inevitable as the leaders who appointed themselves overlords disagree, each drawing disciples after himself (just as Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30). Each fragment then establishes its own seminary and bible school in order to perpetuate its own particular dogma. All other views are rigorously guarded against and only those who are duly indoctrinated are authorized to teach the accepted truths. Every proselyte is trained to reject any new thought as if it were
satanic, and if he should embrace new truth, he is anathematized and cast out as a heretic. So goes the historic metamorphosis of changing living truth into dead orthodoxy.
THE GOSPEL AND JESUS CHRIST
In Romans 1:16, Paul boldly declares that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation but elsewhere he preaches Jesus Christ as the Savior of man. It must be then, that the gospel and Jesus Christ are intrinsically related. The Apostle John agrees with this premise when he tells us that the Word was made flesh and was named Jesus. Jesus also enforces this thought, declaring Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life, The Word, which comes to us in the gospel, is not merely a word then, but it is really a PERSON. It is a Person Who gives life, not a mere word or truth. "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (John 5:39-40). Salvation, after all, is deliverance from death in all its various forms, and death can only be overcome or eliminated by making the dead alive - hence, salvation must be the impartation of God’s life for He alone has life and immortality. . . SALVATION IS OF THE LORD. (I Timothy 6:16, Jonah 2:9).
When the gospel is preached it becomes the vehicle of life, since it actually carries in and with it the Person of Jesus Christ. It is He Who brings us to God (John 17:2). It is in Him that God has chosen to meet man (I Timothy 2:5). Through Him God will bring all creation into Himself (Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:20). It is the purpose of God to make every man alive through this Christ (I Corinthians 15:20-26), therefore Jesus said, "preach the gospel to every creature". Paul emphasizes the importance of preaching the gospel in Romans 10:14, ". . . and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?". So then, Jesus is the Word Who comes to us in the gospel, consequently, error in gospel preaching comes perilously close to presenting a false or distorted Christ!
THE SEED OF LIFE
Knowing the power in the gospel, Paul encouraged the Philippians to hold forth the word of life. All life springs from seed, each seed yielding after its kind. I Peter 1:23 teaches that we "are born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever". In His parable of the sower, Jesus revealed "the seed is the word of God". God or the Son is pictured as the husbandman or farmer. A farmer sows seed according to his will. He prepares the soil and he plants the seed. No life is possible until he plants the seed. In the human family, no life comes into being until the father plants his seed in the prepared womb. This obvious and basic principle of life is forgotten in our present day theology. Though Jesus taught that spiritual birth is like human birth, somehow, we are told by today’s preachers that we are responsible to bring ourselves into life. Evangelists often quote the words of Jesus to Nicodemus as a command: "You must be born again", they thunder! Indeed we must! But is it possible for the spiritually dead to do anything to produce spiritual life? In the context of John 3, it is clear that GOD ALONE has the ability to produce spiritual children through spiritual birth, for we must be "born of God" just as we were born of Adam.
THE NEW BIRTH
Nicodemus was quite willing to do something to be born again but Jesus gave him no formula. Instead, He likened the mystery of spiritual birth to the uncertain ways of the wind. Clearly, He intended His words to teach that the creation of life is totally in the hand of God and totally subject to His will. Inspired by the same Spirit, James wrote, "Of HIS OWN WILL begat He us with the word of truth" (James 1:10). The Apostle John emphasizes, those who believe in Jesus, "…were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD", (John 1:13). In light of these clear statements, how is it possible for men to teach that the human will can have anything to do with being born again? No, it is clear, God must make us alive or we abide in death, as many scriptures teach. We are blind and dead to God and His Kingdom and to all that is spiritually of God until He in His mercy begets His life in us. The life of God must first be imparted before a man can receive Jesus or any spiritual gift of God. "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14). Faith in Jesus is the RESULT of the new birth. We believe in Him BECAUSE we are born again not IN ORDER to be born again. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (I Corinthians 12:3).
It is possible to have life and not know it. John teaches that believing in Jesus is evidence that the life of God has been imparted, "These things have I written unto you that believe in the name of the Son of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." (I John 5:13). So if you are believing in Jesus you may be sure that God has already given you life. This should be great comfort for those who are always battling the demon of doubt in order to find assurance of life. Faith is a gift, given in and with the life of God that comes to us in the gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus taught no other way to receive life than as a sovereign gift of God. Notice John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth unto me shall come to me and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." And in John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him . . .", and again in John 6:65, "And he said, therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." In this work the Father and the Son are in harmony, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you . . ." (John 15:16).
THE HUMAN WILL
But what of the human will in all of this? Is man not able to choose? Is he not commanded to choose God and believe? Indeed, man has a will - he was created with one. But to say that he has a free will and is able to do as he wishes is contrary to scripture, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." (2Timothy 2:25-26). "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness" (literally, "lies in the wicked one", I John 5:19). Again in Romans 3:10-18, God declares the natural state of man as totally helpless and depraved. There is NOT ONE righteous, there is NOT ONE that seeks after God among all mankind. Truly, man has a will but he uses it, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, only to say NO to God. He cannot do otherwise, for man is in bondage to the god of this age and has taken on his rebellious nature. The fact is clear, ALL MEN WILL NOT. it is only God’s gracious will that brings mankind to Him. FREE will can only begin with the new birth. As we have read in 2 Timothy 2:25, God alone can set man free unto repentance (change of mind and will). Jesus said, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36).
Unless God shows favor through imparting His life, the will man has can only be used against himself. This is what it means to be a sinner. Only those born again can begin to choose to do the will of God and even these need the help of God to do so, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Obviously, the much talked of "free will" is true only within the parameters of God’s will. He, as sovereign God, has the final say. Any attempt to venture beyond His permissive will only leads to His judgments. In the final analysis, the Christian life is one of learning to use our will in such a way that it conforms to His will. This is child-training. Every child of God is being trained.
Until the natural man has been freed by the power of God and given His life, he cannot begin to use his bound will as a child of God can. The popular notion that the human will can overrule or frustrate God’s will is one of the gravest errors in modern thinking. Such an idea is foreign to the scriptures. God is not a limited sovereign. He is ABSOLUTELY sovereign. Neither can it be found in scripture that He voluntarily gives up His sovereignty out of respect for the will of any of His creatures. Indeed He does respect the will He has given His creation but He is in no way controlled by such respect. When necessary, He produces a change in the choices of any creature He pleases in order to produce His will. Even after rebellious will does its worst, the results reveal that God’s will was finally done. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the supreme example. The Apostle Paul was not seeking to worship Jesus Christ when he was converted on the Damascas road, neither did Jeremiah in his mother’s womb, choose to be a prophet or man of God. Likewise, Nebucadnezzar did not choose to recognize the sovereignty of the Most High God until he ate grass with the oxen under the chastening hand of God. Satan, the greatest rebel among God’s creatures, can only do his worst within the bounds of God’s permission, as is witnessed in the first two chapters of Job. From Genesis to Revelation God is shown to be in absolute control, though it appears from our viewpoint that we control our own destinies and He is subject to us. Eventually, with Nebucadnezzar, all creation will confess, "… mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:34-35).
GOD’S DECLARED PURPOSE
God’s declared purpose from the beginning was to produce children in His image, that is, sons of God, "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26). Contrary to common belief, Adam was not the ultimate fulfillment of that declaration. He was only the beginning, or phase one, of creating a son of God. Jesus is the firstborn of what God purposed for Adam and all of his offspring. "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of EVERY creature" (Colossians 1:15). This "Last Adam" is what God had in mind when He declared His intention in Genesis. The first Adam was merely a living soul; the Last Adam is a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (I Corinthians 15:49). The man of dust is a necessary first step in producing the man from heaven. He must return to dust and be made alive by the power of God in order to bear the image of heaven. Death is not an accident but a preplanned step in the process of creating sons of God.
GOD’S GUARANTEE TO ADAM’S RACE
How many steps or phases are necessary to complete God’s work is only known to the Creator, but surely a new phase begins when we are born of God. As Jesus instructed Nicodemus, man must be born of flesh and Spirit. Man must be spiritually begotten in order to become a child of God Who is Spirit. Only those who are the children of God are seriously trained by their Heavenly Father. They are known by Him in a special way and are purged and disciplined into maturity, that is, to become partakers of His nature (Hebrews 12). All the children of the first Adam shall be transformed into the image of the Last Adam, though not in this age. Today there is an election of a privileged few, a remnant, a firstfruit that is chosen through grace to be born of God. These are older brothers, the first born, who will have the responsibility of nurturing future brothers not yet born.
The church is not the end of God’s purpose but a means to the end. Terms such as "church of the first born" in Hebrews 12:23 and the definitive word of James 1:18, "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS OF HIS CREATURES", make it unmistakably clear that there are more of God’s creatures to come even after the church has reached its full stature and complement. The pattern of harvest, as established in the Old Testament, begins with firstfruits, then the main harvest, and finally the gleaning of the fields by the needy and destitute, assuring that not one kernel would be lost.
The very fact that one is born of Adam guarantees that one will also be born of God. First the flesh, the earthy, then the spirit, the heavenly. First the man of earth, then the man of heaven. Thus Paul so confidently declared, "AS we have borne the image of the earthy, we SHALL ALSO bear the image of the heavenly" (I Corinthians 15:49). He could not more forcibly present
God’s guarantee that the very fact you exist as a human being is proof and assurance that one day you will bear the image of God’s heavenly Adam, Jesus Christ. God always finishes the work He begins, including that of making man in His own image which He began in the Garden of Eden.
THE LAST ADAM is not an idle poetic expression that Paul used referring to Jesus. As the context of his words show, he intended to establish the fact that just as we all sprang from Adam the first man, and therefore bear his image, so in the very same way, the Last Adam is the first spiritual man who shall be the father of all spiritual offspring. The first Adam was the first of the old and earthy creation; the Last Adam is the first of the new and heavenly, or spiritual creation. In Romans 5, the inevitability of bearing the image of the Man from Heaven is underscored. It is inescapable that everyone who is born of Adam will bear Adam’s sinful likeness. It is likewise inescapable that all who are born of the Last Adam shall bear His holy image. Jesus is the firstborn of the new creation just as Adam was the firstborn of the old creation. But thank God, the old is passing away and the NEW has come! The work of Jesus far surpasses the work of Adam. What Adam did unto death, Jesus much more accomplished unto life. Adam fathered death to every one of his children and in the very same way Jesus, the Last Adam, fathers life to every one of the race. It is necessary to be born of the flesh in order to be born of the Spirit. Jesus does not bring into existence a totally new race of beings when He fathers children in life, rather He puts His life into the husk of Adam’s fleshly offspring. As Jesus instructed Nicodemus, mankind must be born of the flesh AND of the Spirit. It is not possible to be born of the Spirit unless one is first born of the flesh. The flesh is as the chaff or husk that holds the grain. Without it there would be no fruit but it is discarded when its purpose is fulfilled. Jesus, the Last Adam, makes alive all who died in the first Adam. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:22).
THE NECESSITY OF EVIL
The all-loving God, who watches over His creation and is unlimited in knowledge and power, would have prevented the "tragedy" in Eden had it not been useful to His benevolent purpose. Instead, He allowed the stage to be set, knowing full well what His creature would do. The New Testament reveals that every event was carefully planned before God ever put His hand to clay - everything, including God becoming flesh and the death and resurrection of Christ for the redemption and restoration of mankind - all was planned before the foundation of the world, as is clearly stated in several scriptures such as Matthew 25:34, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world". Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love"; Hebrews 4:3, "For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." I Peter 1:20, "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you"; Revelation 13:8, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is."
Evil, as a necessary presence in the purposes of God, does not seem logical to the human mind. But I would ask, "How does one go about producing a son of God?" Admittedly, we do not have even a theory. We must, by faith, accept the wisdom of God on the subject. "For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God, For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21). Apparently, death (vanity) in all its workings - pain, suffering, heartache and all the other works of Satan - is an essential in the complex process of creating man in the image of God. Satan is really a finishing tool in the hands of God, existing for His purposes. "Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy." (Isaiah 54:16). "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7). Many scriptures teach us that God uses evil to produce good, from the testimony and example of Job into clear New Testament passages such as Romans 5:3, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience;" or James 1:2-4, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into various trials".
God’s immediate observation after Adam fell by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not one of despair: "Behold, the MAN IS BECOME AS ONE OF US, to know good and evil . . ." With these words, God signaled the beginning of phase two in His declared purpose of making man in His own image. It is necessary for man to know good and evil to become like God. But lest he be fixed in this stage of work, God drove him from the tree of life and consigned him to death. Death is the ultimate knowledge of evil and it concludes phase two. Each and every one of Adam’s offspring must pass through this process, therefore, man is still today in phase two. For nearly 6,000 years he has been in God’s kindergarten, learning good and evil.
JESUS, THE SAVIOR
There is no question that the scriptures reveal Jesus Christ as the Savior. But what does He save from? The average preacher today says the obvious answer is, "Jesus saves from eternal hell fire." Few preach more than that. Some add that He also saves from sin and others add that He saves from sickness as well. Most all preach that His ability to save is modified by and limited to the human response. In other words, Jesus offers to save IF the human race is willing. How this harmonizes with the many scriptures, which declare no human being, is in himself willing to do the will of God, they never explain. Such a gospel only presents the POSSIBILITY of salvation. Any offer of salvation limited by conditions leaves no hope for a deceived and wayward world. But let us return to our question, "What does Jesus save from?" Is it really so obvious in the scripture that the goal of Jesus’ salvation is to save from eternal hell fire? Once the glaring
errors of translation in the King James Bible are corrected, we will be hard pressed to find a single text in the sacred record which clearly makes such a statement. At best one would be able to say that some verses might imply such but there must be stronger reasons than implication to justify the overwhelming assumption by today’s preachers that the most basic truth of scripture is that Jesus saves from eternal hell fire. What IS unmistakably taught was first made known to Joseph by the angel appearing in a dream, "He shall save His people from their sins". Later, John the Baptist introduced Jesus as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world". The writer of Hebrews speaks much of Jesus and salvation from sin, summarizing in 9:26, "But now once, in the end of the ages, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." The Apostle John rejoices, "And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
As the Savior from sin, Jesus becomes the Savior from every other evil thing. When sin is put away, death has no power ("the sting of death is sin", 1 Corinthians 15:56), thus Jesus saves from death, and so one day, "there shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4). And here we find the goal of Christ’s salvation: to save mankind from DEATH! Through His death on the cross, through the shedding of His blood, through the offering of His body, through the giving of His life, Jesus saved us from sin in order to SAVE US FROM DEATH! This was not done for the Christian only, but as John said, for the WORLD also. He tasted death for EVERY man, (Hebrews 2:9). The Lamb took away the sin of the WORLD and His blood was the propitiation for the sins of the WORLD. God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son. Consequently, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Obviously, if there is no more death in God’s creation, it must be that all creatures are alive. Death can only be destroyed by making ALL alive. This applies to death in any definition (including annihilation, which is just another word for death). So long as ONE person abides in ANY death state, death will not have been destroyed. Death is death - whether it be the first death, the second death or whatever death. THERE SHALL BE NO MORE DEATH!
No translation of the original Greek text is perfect. Translators are mere men and often succumb to fears and the pressure of opinion when doing their work. Our popular English Bible carries the name of an earthly monarch and so bears mute testimony to the influence the English King had over the translators. His directive to "do nothing that will disturb the tranquility of the church", appears to have been taken very seriously by the translators since they often chose to interpret certain Greek words to support then-current church doctrine and practice, rather than render a faithful and consistent translation of the original. I will not presume to correct the King James Bible, but certain errors are so obvious and glaring to even the "unlearned" of our day, that I feel I must call attention to them. These errors sometimes spawn false ideas and doctrines. For example, when I first became a Christian, it was not uncommon for believers to expect the end of the world. This misconception was based upon the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20, as translated in the King James bible, "Lo, 1 am with you always, even unto the end of the world". Preachers would appear on street corners proclaiming the end of the world, and frequently, some group would leave all they possessed to prepare for the expected cataclysm. Modern translators discovered that Jesus actually said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the AGE". This correction has been made in most modern versions, consequently, few expect the "end of the world" today.
I must confess to the admiration I feel for the absolute brilliance of Satan’s cunning and strategy. He has effectively polluted the entire fountain of truth from which Christians drink by causing confusion in the meaning of a single word. It does not seem that this single word could be so important as to produce such calamitous results but it is just here that we see the utter genius of our adversary. Perhaps no other word in scripture, erroneously translated, could cause such widespread confusion and distortion of truth. The division between Christians, especially the Arminian and Calvinist theologies, has its roots in the misunderstanding of this word. Practically all Christian doctrine is affected: the purposes of God, the nature of God, judgment, eschatology, Christ’s victory and His work on the cross, man’s destiny, grace, election, salvation, security of the believer, the place and purpose of the church - and the list goes on - to say nothing of its effects upon our concept of the very God we worship and the way we treat one another as Christians and the world at large. We have already referred to one error caused by this distortion in the previous paragraph. That word in the original Greek is the noun AION and its adjective AIONIOS. Our English words EON and EONIAN are taken from the Greek words.
The words AION and AIONIOS occur 199 times in the New Testament scriptures. They are translated in the King James Version as follows: AION - ages 2, course 1, world 40, ever 72, never 7, evermore 4, eternal 2. AIONIOS - everlasting 25, eternal 42, world 3, ever 1. That the same word can mean "forever" and "world" may come as a surprise to most people. Or how a word which, in its scripture context, is said to have a beginning and an end can be translated with "eternal" and "forever", words that convey the thought of no beginning and no end, may indeed be a mystery to thinking minds. AION has a beginning, as in 1 Corinthians 2:7, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world (aion) unto our glory", and 2 Timothy 1:9, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world (aion) began", and an end, as in Hebrews 9:26, "For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world (aion, plural form) hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself", and I Corinthians 10:11, "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world (aion) are come", and Matthew 24:3, "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (aion)?"
Obviously, a word, which is said to have a beginning and end, is a word, which communicates the thought of time, NOT timelessness. An age or eon is a period of time of indefinite duration. It has a beginning and it has an end. The scriptures speak of the past eons, the present eon and future eons, indicating a minimum of five eons. It is not possible to have more than one eternity, therefore, it is senseless to speak of eternity in the plural. Perhaps one might think of this present period of time as an interruption in eternity so that we might speak of the eternity before and the continuation of eternity in the future, but it is impossible to compound eternity as the KJV does (as in "forever and ever"). This error comes about through ignoring one of the most basic rules of grammar, which is, an adjective cannot have greater meaning or force than the noun from which it is derived. Weekly cannot mean more than week, yearly cannot mean more than year, and the Greek adjective AIONIOS cannot mean more than its noun AION. Keeping this rule of grammar in mind, it requires no great grammatical genius to see that AIONIOS cannot be given the value of endlessness when its noun is said to have a beginning and ending, as the above scriptures clearly state. But this subject requires a separate work to deal with it properly. I encourage you to search it out for yourself through a study of scripture with your concordance and the many fine works available as study aids. I would only add this word of caution when using study helps. Though all lexicons, with which I am familiar, give the meaning of AION as "age", many go on to interpret its use in various passages, confirming the KJV errors.
HELL IN THE KJV
In the KJV three Greek words are rendered with the same English word "hell", they are GEHENNA, HADES and TARTARUS. Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, is a geographical location bordering Jerusalem on the south and west. It became an abomination to the Jews because of the idolatry practiced there by the Israelites, which included causing their children to pass through the fire to the pagan god Molech at the high place of Tophet. Because of the detestable history, it became the place where the city discarded its waste and rubbish. A fire burned continually, consuming the waste, and worms fed on carrion. Obviously, it had special meaning to the Jews, so Jesus pointed to it as a type of rejection from his kingdom and the most serious judgment. There is no more basis to translate Gehenna with the English "hell" than there would be to translate the Kidron valley, which lies next to it, hell. It is an obvious "interpretation" and not a "translation" as it should be. "Gehenna" appears 12 times in the New Testament as follows: Matthew 5:22, "But I say unto you, 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 (gehenna) fire." Matthew 5:29, "And 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)." Matthew 5:30, "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)." Matthew 18:9, "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell (gehenna) fire." Matthew 23:15. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell (gehenna) than yourselves." Matthew 23:33, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (gehenna)?" Mark 9:43, "And 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:" Mark 9:45, "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:" Mark 9:47, "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:" Luke 12:5, "But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell (gehenna); yea, I say unto you, Fear him." James 3:6, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (gehenna)." Matthew 10:28, "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)".
HADES is also translated with the English "hell", and it is the only word which should be so translated. The Hebrew counterpart is SHEOL, and both words simply mean the unseen state or the hidden place. Early English used the word hell in such a way, for a farmer would "hell" his potatoes. In the scripture, it is understood to be the abode of the dead (not necessarily a place of judgment or torment). It may be found in
I Corinthians 15:55, where it is in controversy as to its original appearance in the Greek, Here the KJV translates it "grave". Otherwise, it is used 10 times as follows: Matthew 11:23, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell (hades): for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. Matthew 16:18, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it." Luke 10:15, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell (hades)." Luke 16:23, "And in hell (hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." Acts 2:27, "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (hades), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Acts 2:31, "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell (hades), neither his flesh did see corruption." Revelation 1:18, "1 am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell (hades) and of death." Revelation 6:8, "And I looked, and behold a pale horse:
and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell (hades) followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." Revelation 20:13, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." Revelation 20:14, "And death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
TARTARUS, the third word translated "hell" is used only once and is found in 2 Peter 2:4, "For if 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;". The text clearly indicates it is a prison for fallen angels. In Greek mythology it is a place of darkness as far below hades as earth is below heaven, with a river of fire encircling it. Zeus imprisoned the Titans there. Could this have been a source of inspiration for the traditional Christian idea of hell? The medieval poet, Dante, certainly drew from the Greek myth in his imaginary journey through hell. If Christian theologians were not directly influenced by Greek mythology, they surely were by the great Italian poet, for even to this day the Christian concept of hell is almost identical to his descriptions of the "Inferno".
According to the passage in Luke 16:23, the rich man was tormented in hades, so there may be an aspect of judgment there, It should be noted that many scholars take this account as a parable (directed at the Jewish nation), since it is part of an assortment of parables given by Jesus. However, taken literally there is nothing in the passage that can substantiate modern interpretations of it. First of all, Lazarus finds himself comforted, not because he trusted Christ for salvation, but because he suffered upon the earth. Likewise, the rich man suffered because he had all of his comfort upon the earth, not because he rejected Christ. Secondly, the rich man was not fixed in his depravation but rather improved in character, for he became concerned about those still upon the earth, a marked contrast to his lack of interest in others while in his luxury. It is interesting that the Greek word translated "torment" comes from a word meaning "to examine by trial". Thirdly, nothing is said of eternal torment, only that it was beyond Abraham or Lazarus to help in any way. Nothing is impossible for God. Since God has promised an end to death and hades, it cannot be that the rich man was fixed in an eternal state. Hosea 13:14, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave (sheol); I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave (sheol), I will be thy destruction; repentance shall be hidden from mine eyes (i.e. God will not change His promise)." Sheol is the Hebrew for hades, and is in other places translated "hell" in the KJV. In no uncertain terms, God promises to put an END TO HELL!
Why else would Jesus announce that He has the keys to death and hades if not to encourage humanity? Revelation 1:18, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell (hades) and of death." He earned possession of those keys by overcoming death. What would the Savior of the world do with such keys but to release those held in the captivity which He conquered? He came to do the Father’s will and in Revelation 20:14 we find the fulfillment of the Hosea promise, "And death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Death and hades, as they exist today, will no longer be. The language here is obviously symbolic, for one cannot speak of death as a "place" of substance and self existence which may be moved about. Neither can the dead be removed from it as from a geographical location. Death is a state of being, and people can only be removed from death by making them alive. Hades could be either a state of being or a place in which the dead are kept, however, it can no longer exist when the dead are made alive.
JUDGMENT OR TORMENT?
But before the end of death and hades, all in that state are brought to judgment, Revelation 20:13, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." The doctrine of eternal torment is not found in scripture but the teaching of judgment certainly is. But why judgment? Is it a matter of God’s vengeance only? The scripture suggests that God’s judgments are desirable but not necessarily enjoyable. It is never pleasant to be judged, but the fruit of judgment is desirable. Correction produces righteousness which yields the fruit of the Spirit, therefore, while the chastening is unpleasant, the results are a blessing. David rejoiced in the judgments of God because he saw them as a blessing, "... the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:
sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." (Psalms 19:9-10). Out of love for His creatures, God chastens, corrects and punishes. He judges His creatures for their own good as any good father should. Hebrews 12:5-11, "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth, If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." I am aware of the distinctive references to "sons" in this scripture, but please also note the more general reference to "Father of spirits". Whatever else may be seen in this passage, surely the principle of God’s loving heart in judgment is revealed. Does He not also love the world? Yes indeed, for it is there that His love begins to work. He loved it so much that Jesus died for it and bought it with His blood so that He might convert it into "sons". Remember, He is no respecter of persons, what He out of love does for one He does for all but each in His own order and time. As the "Father of spirits" He is the Father of all and He is the Father of spirits before He is the Father of "sons". Only sons can become like their Father in chastening but all benefit from judgment. Isaiah 26:9, ". . . for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Matthew 12:20, "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench. till he send forth judgment unto victory."
GOD’S LOVE IN JUDGMENT
Since the essence of God is love, everything He does must be beneficial to something. Love cannot exist in a vacuum. Though His judgments be ever so severe, they must ultimately work for the good of the recipients. Long before God revealed His love in Jesus Christ, Job knew this, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. . ." (Job 13:15). Did not Jesus teach us to love and do good to even our enemies? And while He admonished us to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father, would our Father be less than we are expected to be? Can love pour out vengeance for its own gratification or judge to satisfy its own sense of justice? The high standards of the Kingdom of Heaven set forth in the Sermon on the Mount are surely practiced by the God and King of that Kingdom if the subjects are required to live by them. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect". (Matthew 5:43-48). But we must not understand the Kingdom of God to be a system of rules and laws for it is a LIFE - a life of LOVE. which is the very LIFE OF GOD Himself. And that is precisely why we "must be born again or we cannot see the Kingdom of God". All in the Kingdom of God must have the same life that He is in order to be true citizens. In reality, Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is a revelation of God’s nature and life. Therefore, since we now know who God is and what He is like through the manifestation of Himself in Jesus Christ, how is it possible to conclude that His judgments are terminally destructive? No, the result of His judgments must ultimately be profitable and beneficial to the one being punished. "For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them …" (Luke 9:56).
THE LAKE OF FIRE
It is often assumed that the lake of fire, hell and the second death are all one and the same. Casual bible teaching has left many of us with such an impression, however, scripture clearly makes a distinction. First of all, hell cannot be the lake of fire for hell is cast into the lake of fire. Secondly, it is the EVENTS which are described as taking place in the lake of fire which are referred to as the second death. The second death is the pronounced judgment and the lake of fire is the instrument of judgment. Twice in Revelation, the second death is referred to in connection with the lake of fire and in two other passages we find the second death mentioned without reference to the lake of fire, verses 2:11 and 20:6. But what is it? It is found 5 times only in the book of Revelation, as follows: Revelation 19:20, ‘And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." Revelation 20:10, ‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." Revelation 20:14, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Revelation 20:15, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 21:8, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Are we to understand this as a literal lake of fire? Caution must be exercised when accepting anything in the book of Revelation literally for in the very first verse John tells us that the things shown to him were "signified", that is, they were "signed" to him by the angel. What follows makes it clear that symbols are the rule in Revelation. While some things may indeed be taken literally, most of what is written cannot. Chapter 20, in which we find the most frequent use of the second death and the lake of fire, is rich with symbolism. Abstract phenomenon such as death and hell are treated as substance and cast into the lake of fire. This should probably warn us not to literalize the account, for if death and hell are symbolically cast into the lake of fire, it may be that the lake also is a symbol. Clearly, it is symbolic of the severest judgment. Jesus undoubtedly had this judgment in mind when He chose Gehenna as a type. While all of His teaching on Gehenna was symbolic, couching spiritual realities in physical terms, He emphatically warned of the gravity of this judgment in the strongest language possible. We must in no way diminish the seriousness of His warnings but neither must we read into them the heinous and hopeless things so often heard.
THE SECOND DEATH
Revelation 2:11, "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". Revelation 20:6, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years". The special promise of deliverance from the second death pledged to the faithful who have their part in the first resurrection, is reminiscent of the "better resurrection" sought by the saints of Hebrews 11:35 and Paul’s striving for the "out from among the dead resurrection" of Philippians 3:11. This resurrection leads to reigning with Christ for 1000 years while the rest of the dead remain in their graves for the same 1000 years (Revelation 20:5). The implication of verse 6 seems to be that those not raised in the first resurrection are hurt by the second death. In this case, being left in death for the 1000 years would be part of the second death. Judgment for sin was first pronounced in the Garden of Eden, "You shall surely die", and ever since all sinners die once. Death is always the judgment for sin. Romans 6:23, "... the wages of sin is DEATH". The second death is a further or second judgment for sin. All in Hades are brought out to be judged but not necessarily all are sentenced to the second death, only those whose names are not written in the book of life (vs. 20:15).
WHAT IS FIRE?
The elements of the lake of fire are fire and brimstone. Throughout the scripture, as in life, fire is a purifying agent. It consumes the consumable, leaving purity in its wake, converting material substance into energy (spirit). It is referred to as a refiner of gold, trials of various kinds, judgment and even to God Himself, Hebrews 12:29 "For our God is a consuming fire."
I Corinthians 3:13, "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." There are far too many references to list here. I suggest you do a word study with a concordance to acquaint yourself with the many applications. Suffice it to say, fire is usually connected with God in some way. Elijah proved the one true God through the control of it. He considered the true God to be the only one who could manifest supernatural fire. I Kings 18:24, "And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answereth by fire, let him be God. Several times in the first chapter of 2 Kings, he proves he is a man of God by calling down fire from heaven. Satan’s false prophet deceives the world in Revelation 13:13 by apparently duplicating this miracle, proving that Satan himself acknowledges fire to be heaven’s domain.
Is it divine design or mere coincidence that fire and brimstone are mentioned as the essence of the lake of fire? Brimstone is the old English name for sulfur, an element which was traditionally considered a purifying agent and is still used in the science of healing today. The Greek word for it is THEION, which is the neuter form of the word for God, THEOS, the masculine form. Is this also a coincidence, or is this book of signs telling us that the lake of fire is somehow symbolic of God and His purifying and chastening love? Our God, the Consuming Fire manifested in purifying Brimstone (chastening love).
Lest we be confused again by the KJV translation of AIONIOS, we must remind ourselves that the book of Revelation is set in the fabric of time, not eternity. Remember "forever and ever" literally translated is "into the ages of the ages", indicating a set of ages that are significant among the ages. All falls within the profile of Ephesians 3:11 in which we are told that God is working out an intention in the ages (literally translated), "according to the PURPOSE OF THE AGES, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord". These are the same ages (not worlds) He made by the Son referred to in Hebrews 1:2, And again in the eleventh chapter where we through faith "understand the ages (not worlds) were FRAMED by the word of God". So God has a definite purpose for the ages. Through Jesus Christ He made them and appointed Jesus to be the executor of that purpose. But the wonder is greater for God has made Christ head of His body, the church, through which and together with, this work is done! Everything that happens within these ages is working out the wonderful purposes of God! No wonder our Apostle Paul exalts, "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all
ages, world without end (literally: into all the generations of the age of the ages). Amen. Ephesians 3:21.
DOES "ALL" MEAN ALL?
ALL: Every one of; The whole of; entire, complete; the greatest possible; every. This is the definition from the World Book Dictionary. The Greek word, PAS, carries the same force of meaning. Following are a number of verses which use this word: Luke 2:10, "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL people." John 12:32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men unto me." Acts 3:21, "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of ALL things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of ALL his holy prophets since the world began." Romans 5:18, "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." Romans 11:32, "For God hath concluded them ALL in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon ALL."
I Corinthians 15:22-28, "For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 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." 2 Corinthians 5:15, "And that he died for ALL, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." Ephesians 1:10, "That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one ALL things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:" Ephesians 1:21-23, "Far above ALL principality; and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put ALL things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over ALL things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth ALL in ALL." Ephesians 4:10, "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above ALL heavens, that he might fill ALL things." Philippians 3:21, "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue ALL things unto himself." Colossians 1:16-20, "For by him were ALL things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: ALL things were created by him, and for him: And he is before ALL things, and by him ALL things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in ALL things he might have the preeminence. 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." 1 Timothy 2:4-6, "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." 1 Timothy 4:10, "For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of ALL men, specially of those that believe."
In addition to the word ALL the KJV also sometimes uses the word EVERY when translating the Greek word PAS. It is most important to note that whenever the phrase ALL THINGS appears, the original has only the word ALL. "Things" was added by the translators to distinguish the neuter gender of the Greek. Without getting into Greek grammar, suffice it to say that many Greek words have a suffix which gives the basic word the masculine, feminine or neuter gender, therefore, ALL THINGS indicates that the gender of ALL is neuter. This distinction in no way changes the force of the translation but to our modern concept of the meaning of THINGS we are inclined to think of inanimate objects rather than living beings and so lose the force of what the scripture actually conveys. The meaning of the Greek PAS in the neuter gender is simply every man, every woman and everything. I believe the content of the verse becomes clearer to our English mind if we ignore "things" when reading these passages.
It is tempting to launch a running commentary on these pungent and wonderful verses but it would be redundant to do so. It requires only a careful reading with special cognizance and recognition of the full meaning of the word ALL to see the glory of God’s plan for humanity revealed in these verses. Hopefully, these verses will inspire a more complete study on your own. The Colossians passage alone, quoted above, should convince anyone that God has good things in store for all, especially verse 20, where the universal nature of God’s redemptive work is underscored: "… reconcile all things … whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven". The word "reconcile" means to change from one state to another, so this is not only an optional legal reconciliation but a declaration that God will CHANGE His creatures as well. Jesus made peace through the blood of the cross but God did not stop there for through Jesus He will also CHANGE the ALL! Obviously, this does not all happen at the same time. There is a long and complicated process in view but in the end God will have fulfilled His purposes. He will be all IN all. ALL will come to Him but not all at once. When the gospel was preached in Antioch in Pisidia those who were "ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48), but these were not the only ones so ordained. Others came later for "the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region". Every man in his own order (1 Corinthians 15:23). The thought of order is, as in the ranks of a marching army.
THE GLORIOUS FINALE
"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."
(PhiIippians 2:9-11). These verses speak of the final change and restoration of all of God’s creatures through the redemptive and priestly work of Jesus just before He submits everything to The Father. Why our translators thought it necessary to insert the word "things" in this passage is a mystery. It only serves to muddy the waters. The obvious reference is to "beings" rather than "things". Peace, harmony and happiness in God’s universe can only be when all His creatures acknowledge the universal headship of Jesus Christ. And this is the glorious promise in the great Gospel of our God. Every creature will enjoy the wonders of their God in absolute and pure love out of submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It borders blasphemy to suggest that this acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord is a forced confession. How could such a condition produce a perfect kingdom based upon love? And how could such a condition possibly be "to the glory of God, the Father"? Mohammed Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. If he were to take a little boy by the neck and force him to admit Ali is greater, it would be no glory to him. All men would consider such a forced confession to be a disgrace to him - and yet there are those who would tell us that this passage declares a forced admission of Lordship and call it a glory to God! Only blind dogma can arrive at such a conclusion. NO, love never fails and force never wins and the love of God will conquer ALL!
Underlying everything we have said is the concept of GOVERNMENT. That is what all this is really about. The message Jesus preached during His earthly ministry was the announcement of God’s government, that is, THE KINGDOM OF GOD or THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS. Many have wondered what the difference is between the two. The answer is none. The terms are used interchangeably. The Kingdom of God tells us whose it is and The Kingdom of the Heavens tells us where it comes from. According to Daniel the Prophet, it is the final Kingdom upon the earth and it comes from heaven, in the last days when the Roman empire has been revived. In fact, all of that area revealed by Nebucadnezzar’s image will be in power and prominence again in the days when the God of Heaven sets up His Kingdom upon the earth. In Daniel’s vision, it comes from Heaven striking the STANDING image on its toes, displacing the entire image and growing to fill the entire earth. Revelation refers to that event in 11:15, "... The kingdoms of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (into the ages of the ages)."
Israel rejected Jesus as King because they expected the visible Kingdom when Messiah comes. They did not realize the nature of The Kingdom or the foundation of love it would be based upon. According to their history, God always moved in their behalf by violently destroying their enemies. When Jesus came announcing the Kingdom and teaching love as the Kingdom basis, it was totally unlike their history. They expected to rule the world by force under a powerful Messiah. Indeed, the first 1,000 years of Christ’s reign will have an element of force, for He shall rule (Greek says "shepherd") the nations with a rod of iron. Contrary to popular myth, this millennium is not yet the perfect time upon earth. Some of the ills of this age remain though good and evil will be in inverse proportions. Righteousness will prevail and every unrighteous deed will be swiftly dealt with, but it ends in rebellion, which brings further judgment. It remains for the age or ages to follow to produce the perfect government by perfecting love in all of God’s creatures. It all makes sense, does it not? Jesus announced the Kingdom of God when He was upon earth, but it did not appear. Nevertheless, it began with John the Baptist, though unseen, for it must begin by changing the spirit of man. The kind of Kingdom God had in mind could not come until there was a way for pure hearts to be given, The Lamb must be slain to provide the foundation for God’s intervention into human will so His Holy Spirit could be given in order to begin His Kingdom on the INSIDE of His creatures. After finishing this vital work, Jesus went away to await the visible Kingdom, in the meantime, the Holy Spirit is quietly at work bringing to pass the Kingdom and preparing a governmental force to aid in the world government of God’s Christ. Those who have been chosen and are faithful in the little, will be chosen to share the glorious work in the reign of Jesus.
The best government is the least government. In the ultimate and perfectly free society there can be no governmental control or restrictions. In this present evil age such lack of government would be disastrous and therefore perfect freedom in this age is only an impossible dream. Love does no harm to its neighbor. If all beings were perfected in love, no controls would be necessary. This is what we see as the result of Christ’s reign. When He has destroyed all enemies and changed all hearts and all of God’s creatures have God’s nature, His authority and power will no longer be necessary. At that time He will abdicate, turning the Kingdom over to God the Father. The earliest government known to man was a patriarchy. The last government will also be a patriarchy with our Heavenly Father at the head. The final society will be a family bound together in love, each seeking only to do good to each other.
The basic and abiding GOSPEL is the good news of God’s reign upon earth. It is the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM. Paul’s Gospel, which I have named the REVEALED GOSPEL contains that gospel and gives us the good news of HOW it will be done. This GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM will be restored to the church in the last days, so it can be preached in all the world, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14). So now we await the promised return of our King to set up His visible Kingdom, replacing the present imperfect governments of man with THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
EVEN SO COME, LORD JESUS!
Hopefully, this booklet presents the REVEALED GOSPEL as the Apostle Paul gave it to us. It has been my desire to deal with some of the errors which hinder sincere hearts from accepting it. I hasten to admit, it is a poor effort. Nothing has been dealt with fully. I only pray these words inspire or challenge you to do as the Bereans, who "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." I realize it would be a miracle if you could receive everything I have written - and certainly, it would be a greater miracle if I understood and presented everything perfectly. Nevertheless, I trust God will add His grace to this work and cause it to be a blessing.
Redeeming Love, 1846 Grant Road, Saint Paul, MN 55112
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Revised: September 16, 2009
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