One Verse Podcast https://redeeminggod.com Liberating Scripture from the Shackles of Religion … One Verse at a Time. Brought to you by Jeremy Myers and RedeemingGod.com Wed, 17 Jul 2019 04:27:16 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 The Bible is often used by religion to manipulate people and control what we think, do, and say. In the One Verse podcast, author and blogger Jeremy Myers provides verse-by-verse Bible teaching to show how Scripture does not enslave us to the shackles of religion, but instead liberates us from religion by drawing us into a loving and dynamic relationship with God. <br /> <br /> These expository Bible lessons are based on Jeremy's many years of research and Bible teaching. <br /> <br /> They are short, to the point, and easy to understand. Listen to this podcast and see God and Scripture in a whole new light, one verse at a time. Jeremy Myers clean episodic Jeremy Myers jmyers@tillhecomes.org jmyers@tillhecomes.org (Jeremy Myers) 2006-2018 Liberating You from Bad Ideas about God ... One Verse at a Time jeremyers1@gmail.com The Bible is often used by religion to manipulate people and control what we think, do, and say. In the One Verse podcast, author and blogger Jeremy Myers provides verse-by-verse Bible teaching to show how Scripture does not enslave us to the shackles of religion, but instead liberates us from religion by drawing us into a loving and dynamic relationship with God. These expository Bible lessons are based on Jeremy's many years of research and Bible teaching. They are short, to the point, and easy to understand. Listen to this podcast and see God and Scripture in a whole new light, one verse at a time. TV-G Weekly Think you know what humility is? Think again. (An Interview with Dan Kent, author of Confident Humility) https://redeeminggod.com/dan-kent-confident-humility/ Thu, 11 Jul 2019 17:42:45 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=51231 Dan Kent has written a fantastic book about humility. You might think the topic sounds boring (so did he!), but he has discovered something about humility which makes a lot of sense and helps us better understand what humility is, and how to live humbly in this life. Dan Kent Confident HumilityI had the privilege of interviewing Dan Kent this week about his book, Confident Humility.

I’ll be honest. When I first heard that he had written a book about humility, I thought “Booooring … we all know everything there is to know about humility.”

But then I read the book.

Mind. Blown.

It turns out I have been thinking and teaching about humility entirely wrong. Dan Kent’s book opened my eyes to what truly humility is, how humility works, and how to attain humility in my life.

If you want to understand what the Bible teaches about humility and how to become humble and live humbly in your life, listen to my interview with Dan Kent, and then go buy a copy of his book on Amazon.

Let your view of humility get turned upside down!

Podcast Links:

Watch the Interview with Dan Kent here:

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Dan Kent has written a fantastic book about humility. You might think the topic sounds boring (so did he!), but he has discovered something about humility which makes a lot of sense and helps us better understand what humility is, Dan Kent has written a fantastic book about humility. You might think the topic sounds boring (so did he!), but he has discovered something about humility which makes a lot of sense and helps us better understand what humility is, and how to live humbly in this life. <br /> <br /> Listen in, and let your view of humility get turned upside down!<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the shownotes, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/dan-kent-confident-humility/ <br /> <br /> To get a copy of Dan Kent's book, visit: <br /> https://amzn.to/2xOCSvz Jeremy Myers clean 42:37
Do the warning passages of Hebrews 6:7-8 and Hebrews 10:27 refer to Christians going to hell? https://redeeminggod.com/hebrews_6_7-8/ Thu, 20 Jun 2019 17:00:17 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50241 There are five warning passages in Hebrews. Two of them, Hebrews 6:7-8 and Hebrews 10:27, are often used to teach that Christians can go to hell if they turn away from Jesus or stop believing the truth. But is that what the author of Hebrews is saying? No. A careful study of the context reveals what the author IS teaching. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this study, we will consider two of the warning passages in Hebrews to see if they are warning Christians about the possibility of going to hell. We will look at Hebrews 6:7-8 and Hebrews 10:27.

Does Hebrews 6:7-8 warn about hell?

For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

The book of Hebrews contains five warning passages (Heb 2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11–6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). The warning passage in Hebrews 6 is both the most severely worded and also the most widely misunderstood.

The author of Hebrews uses the imagery of a plot of land which is cultivated and planted so that a harvest might be gained from it. If the land produces crops, it receives blessing from God, but if it does not produce crops, it will get burned.

In the context, the land refers to the lives of Christians (Hebrews 5:11; Hebrews 6:3-4), and so it is upon Christians that the potential blessings or curses can fall. If, therefore, the cursing and burning refers to the fires of eternal hell, then this passage means that some Christians could end up in hell.

But is that what it means? No.

A careful consideration of three key terms in this text helps the meaning become clear. These words are “rejected, cursed, and burned.”

All three terms are parallel, and therefore help explain each other.

The word “Rejected”

The word rejected (Gk., adokimos) could also be translated as disapproved or disqualified. This word has nothing to do with whether or not a person has eternal life, but instead has to do with whether or not God finds a person useful and honest in their dealings with others.

Due to this, the word “useful” is a good synonym for the Greek word dokimos, while “useless” would be a good synonym for adokimos.

Therefore, if a Christian is adokimos, they still have eternal life, but God considers their “plot of land” to be useless for planting. (See the lesson on the word “Approved” in my Gospel Dictionary Online Course)

Rather than being fit for planting, the field of their life is only full of thorns and briars, which are the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world, so that any seed which is planted would get choked rather than produce a harvest (cf. Luke 8:4-15).

The word rejected is also found in Hebrews 12:17 (along with the word blessing which was mentioned in 6:7) in reference to Esau. Esau sold the blessing of his earthly birthright for a meal, and even though he sought to regain it afterwards with repentance and tears, he was rejected.

So the word rejected refers to the loss of earthly and temporal blessings and inheritance that God gives to those who obey and honor Him. Those who disobey God will not receive the blessings, but will be rejected and turned away from them.

This is not about going to hell, or getting turned away from the proverbial “gates of heaven,” but is instead about being rejected as a useful part of God’s plan here on earth.

The word “Cursed”

The word cursed (Gk., katara) is similar. The word does not refer to an action, but to a verbal, imprecatory declaration about something or someone.

In the context, this word cursed is the exact opposite of the blessing which was mentioned in Hebrews 6:7. The word for blessing is eulogia, and means “verbal praise,” and so the cursing is also verbal. It is a negative declaration that something is useless.

The word cursed is also used in Galatians 3:10, 13 to refer to the curse of the law and the curse of being crucified.

It is used in James 3:10 to refer to the curses that a person can utter with the mouth.

And it is used in 2 Peter 2:14 to describe the behavior and characteristics of false prophets (cf. 2 Pet 2:1). On this last text, it is important to note that in the context, Peter writes about the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Jude 7), which is similar to how the author of Hebrews goes on to describe the burning of this worthless field.

And just as the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah is not equivalent to burning in the fires of hell, so also, the burning of the field is also not referring to hell.

The word “Burned”

The third key term is the word burned (Gk., kausis). The word is not the normal word for fire (Gk., pur), but is the noun kausis, which is the only time this noun is used in Scripture.

The verbal form is found in 2 Peter 3:10 in reference to how, at the end of the age, this world will be burned with fire. This Petrine parallel reveals that the word does not refer to hell, but instead to some sort of temporal discipline and judgment in this life.

Indeed, in real life, the burning of a field is actually a way to prepare it for harvest. Often, when a field is full of thorns and briars, the quickest and easiest way to prepare it for plowing and planting is to burn the field.

This does not destroy the soil, but instead prepares the ground for future harvest. The burning of the field is a form of discipline and correction to change a useless field into a useful field, making it ready to be planted.

Putting the Three Terms Together

When the meaning and significance of these three terms are considered together, we learn that Hebrews 6:7-8 is not saying anything about how God will send some people to burn in hell.

Quite to the contrary, the author is saying that when a Christian fails to live as God wants and desires, and as a result of this failure becomes useless, God might “curse the ground” and burn over the field of their life, so that the field can be properly plowed and planted in the future.

This is a passage which explains the disciplinary and restorative work of God in helping unfruitful Christians become fruitful again.

This passage is not talking about Christians who lose their eternal life and end up in hell.

Just the opposite.

This passage affirms our eternal security because it is a passage about the discipline that God gives to His own children when they fall away and stagnate in their lives due to the riches and pleasures of life (cf. Rev 3:19).

The author of Hebrews states elsewhere that the Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and that is what the author writes in Hebrews 6 as well.

One of the other warning passages in Hebrews also contains a reference to fire, so it too is worth considering, especially since it seems to be more strongly worded than the imagery of the burning field in Hebrews 6:8. This other text is Hebrews 10:27.

Does Hebrews 10:27 warn Christians about hell?

… but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

Hebrews 10:19-39 is another of the five warning passages in the book of Hebrews (Heb 2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11–6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29).

In the middle of this warning passage, the author reminds the readers what will happen to them if they reject the truth revealed in Jesus. The author writes that those who disregard what they had previously learned about Jesus will face the judgment of fiery indignation and punishment (Hebrews 10:27, 29).

Many see this as a clear reference to torment in the flames of hell, but once again, several key insights from the context reveal an entirely different understanding.

Fiery Indignation does NOT come from God

First, note that Hebrews 10:27 does not say that the fiery indignation comes from God. Instead, this indignation appears to be self-inflicted. That is, it comes from within the person to consume and devour them.

How do we know this?

The word indignation (Gk., zēlos) could also be translated as “zeal” or “jealousy” (cf. Rom 13:13; 1 Cor 3:3). The word itself usually refers to a sinful attitude (2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; Jas 3:14, 16), though there is a form of godly jealousy (2 Cor 7:11; 11:2).

So how can one determine whether or not the zeal or jealousy in question is sinful or godly? The word is often accompanied with a modifying adjective or a descriptive noun which helps determine whether the zēlos is sinful jealousy or godly jealousy. Here, the modifier is the word fire (Gk., pur).

As we have seen over and over from Scripture, fire is often a symbol of judgment, discipline, and destruction. Even when used in a positive way to describe the fires of purification (cf. 1 Cor 3:15), the fire itself is still a destructive fire that burns away all that is undesirable.

The context of Hebrews 10 reveals something similar here. Phrases such as “fearful expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27), “worse punishment” (Hebrews 10:29), and “draw back to perdition” (Hebrews 10:39) reveal that the fire is to be understood in this negative, destructive sense.

Therefore, since the fire is a negative experience, the zēlos can also be understood as the negative, destructive, sinful form of jealousy.

If this is the sinful form of indignation or jealousy, then it cannot be God’s. Since it is sinful, human jealousy, it cannot be godly jealousy.

The jealousy, indignation, or zeal which the author of Hebrews is describing is not from God, but from the sinful heart of human beings.

This insight provides great help in understanding this fourth warning passage.

Don’t Reject the Truth!

The author is warning the readers to not reject the knowledge of the truth they have received through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:26).

For if they reject what Jesus revealed, then there is nothing for them to return to except the old religious system of sacrifices, which never did anything to help them with their sin. Indeed, the sacrifices themselves were sinful (Myers, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus).

sacrificial systemThe sacrificial system was based on fear, accusation, blame, and scapegoating, and Jesus came to set us free from all such things. But if one rejects the revelation in Jesus, then the only other option is to return to that broken and sinful system.

And what did Jesus reveal?

He showed us that we have nothing to fear from God. It is as John writes, the perfect love we have seen in Jesus casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).

In Jesus we have learned that God does not punish, and therefore, we have nothing to fear.

Yet those who have not yet seen or understood this revelation of God in Jesus Christ, still live in fear of God. They do not know what God is like and so are afraid of God and live in fear of His judgment.

This explains the fiery indignation that the author of Hebrews has in mind.

Fear makes people feel that they are being unjustly judged. Fear causes a person to feel that the one whom they fear will not judge them correctly or justly.

Only when a person knows they are loved by the one doing the judging will they feel that this judge has their best interests at heart and will make sound judgments.

So when people fear the judge, they become indignant and resentful of the judgment they receive. They feel that all the facts were not properly considered or that extenuating circumstances were not factored in.

And so when people fear God, they become indignant and upset that God will judge them for the actions which they feel they were forced to commit by life’s circumstances. They become upset, thinking that God only wants to punish them, regardless of the reasons for their actions. They develop a raging indignation against God, or a fiery zeal based on incorrect ideas about God (cf. Rom 10:2).

This inner indignation consumes them. It devours them from the inside out.

The author of Hebrews is warning the readers that if they reject what is revealed in Jesus, then they also reject the love and forgiveness of God that is revealed in Jesus.

If they reject this, then there is nothing left but the inner turmoil of fiery jealousy and indignation which consumes people from within.

This is not eternal torment in the flames of hell, but the inner, psychological turmoil that comes from having an incorrect view of God.

But what about Hebrews 10:29, 31, and 39?

These verses contain references to punishment, perdition, and how fearful it is to fall into the hand of the living God. Do these references prove that some sort of punishment from God is in view?

They do not.

What is the “Punishment” of Hebrews 10:29?

In Hebrews 10:29, the Greek word for punishment is timōria. This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament.

church growth through loveIn other Greek literature, it most often refers to helping someone who has been wronged by assisting them against those who committed the wrong. It is giving the offender what he deserves by doing to him what he did to others.

In other words, it carries the idea of a sin against someone else coming back and falling upon the person who committed it. This idea is nearly identical to the concept of indignation from Hebrews 10:27.

The fiery indignation was not from God, but was from inside a person who misunderstands God, and therefore, the indignation is a sin that consumes and devours the person who commits it. The word for punishment here has the same idea. Sin bears its own punishment with it.

What is the “fearful thing” of Hebrews 10:31?

Similarly, when Hebrews 10:31 says that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” the author has in mind the exact same concept that was expressed in Hebrews 10:26-27.

When people reject the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, that God is only loving and always forgives, then the only alternative view of God is that God is out to judge and destroy them.

And for those who have this view of God, for them, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a God who wants to judge and kill. But for the rest of us, who have seen God in Jesus Christ, we need not fear God in such a way.

Yes, God is a judge (Hebrews 10:30), but Jesus shows us what kind of judge God is. Yes, vengeance belongs to God and God alone will repay people for what they have done (Hebrews 10:30), but in Jesus, we see that divine vengeance looks like mercy and that repayment for sin looks like forgiveness.

When we have this view of God, then we see that God is love (1 John 4:8), and the knowledge of this love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

What about the “Perdition” of Hebrews 10:39?

Finally, we must consider the word perdition in Hebrews 10:39. The Greek word is apōleia, which means “destruction” (cf. Matt 7:13; Rom 9:22; Php 1:28; 3:19; 2 Pet 2:1, 3; 3:16) or “waste” (Matt 26:8; Mark 14:4).

The word itself refers to utter loss or complete ruin. It does not have anything to do with eternal damnation (2 Pet 2:3 in the KJV is poorly translated).

It simply means that a person is inviting destruction into their life, and into the lives of those who follow them and their teachings. This is exactly what happened with Judas, and what will happen with the antichrist, both of whom are called “the son of perdition” (John 17:12; 2 Thess 2:3).

The phrase “saving of the soul” in Hebrews 10:39 also does not refer to escaping hell and going to heaven, but to delivering your life from premature physical death (cf. Jas 1:21; 5:19-20; 1 Pet 1:9).

What is Hebrews 10:19-39 warning about?

So although Hebrews 10:19-39 is indeed a dark and ominous text, it is not teaching that some Christians can end up in eternal hell.

It is teaching that those who abandon Jesus after believing in Him and receiving the knowledge of the truth that He reveals will experience many negative and harmful consequences in their life.

They will become indignant toward God, feeling that He has unjustly judged them, and this fiery indignation will consume them from the inside out.

They will live in fear of God, rather than in the experience of His unconditional love.

And ultimately, if they continue on this path, they will bring destruction and utter ruin into their life. It is indeed a serious mistake to reject the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, for He alone brings love, hope, and encouragement into our earthly lives (cf. Hebrews 10:19-25).

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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There are five warning passages in Hebrews. Two of them, Hebrews 6:7-8 and Hebrews 10:27, are often used to teach that Christians can go to hell if they turn away from Jesus or stop believing the truth. But is that what the author of Hebrews is saying?... There are five warning passages in Hebrews. Two of them, Hebrews 6:7-8 and Hebrews 10:27, are often used to teach that Christians can go to hell if they turn away from Jesus or stop believing the truth. But is that what the author of Hebrews is saying? No. A careful study of the context reveals what the author IS teaching. <br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/hebrews_6_7-8/ Jeremy Myers clean 47:10
Does 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 teach about hell? https://redeeminggod.com/2-thessalonians_1_8-9/ Thu, 13 Jun 2019 17:00:50 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50239 By carefully studying the context of 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, we learn that the references to fire, vengeance, and everlasting destruction in this passage are NOT warnings about people suffering forever in the burning flames of hell. There is a dire warning here, but it is not about everlasting punishment in hell. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this study, we will be looking at 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, which refers to flaming fire of vengeance and everlasting destruction coming upon those who do not obey the gospel. This certainly sounds like a punishment of everlasting torture, doesn’t it? So what is Paul referring to?

Let’s begin by looking at the passage.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

… in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power …

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9When considered by itself out of context, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 seems to conclusively state that God punishes and destroys people forever with flaming fire.

As such, this text may be the strongest passage in Scripture to support the concept of eternal torment in fire for the unregenerate dead.

But an entirely different understanding emerges after a careful analysis of the text in its context and the numerous intertextual allusions to other passages in Scripture.

And since our previous studies on the topic of hell and everlasting fire have already considered numerous texts with similar terms and has shown that they do not refer to everlasting torture in the fires of hell but to some sort of temporal destruction, we are well-prepared to see what Paul meant when he wrote this text.

Paul is Alluding to Numerous other passages in Scripture

The first thing to consider is the numerous allusions and references in these verses to other passages of Scripture. When Paul wrote these words, he expected his readers to bring to mind the images of fire and destruction that are found in various prophetic texts and the teachings of Jesus.

For example, the terminology and imagery used in the preceding verse about Jesus being “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7) brings to mind the similar imagery used by Jesus in Matthew 13:36-43 and Matthew 25:31-46. Both of those passages refer to the destruction of nations and countries that ignore the ways of God and the plight of the needy in their midst. Since Paul is using similar imagery, he must have similar ideas in mind.

Furthermore, when Paul writes about “the presence of the Lord and … the glory of His power,” he likely has texts such as Isaiah 2:19-21 (cf. Revelation 6:15-16) and Isaiah 66:15-16, 24 in view.

This first text refers to the “terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty” while the second refers to the destruction that comes upon those who sin against God. Yet it is critical to note that while the Isaiah text refers to the “terror” of the Lord, Paul removes the reference to terror and inserts the “presence” of the Lord instead.

This change is significant.

What does “from the presence of the Lord” mean?

The phrase “from the presence of the Lord” is key to understanding Paul’s point. Many books and articles focus primarily on the first word of this phrase. It is the preposition “from” (Gk., apō), and can refer to location or separation (away from), source or origin (comes from), instrument or cause (caused by), and time (from ages past).

But since the preposition introduces a longer phrase, we can know the proper meaning of the preposition by first understanding the phrase it introduces.

So what does the phrase “the presence of the Lord” mean?

In English, it appears to refer to that which is in proximity to God, or that which is near God. Therefore, to be in the presence of the Lord is to be near God. But the Greek terminology (and the Hebrew on which it is based) is much more vivid.

The phrase Paul uses could literally be translated as “before the face of the Lord” (Gk., prosōpou tou kuriou). This was a specific Hebrew idiom which referred to the honor of God.

The honor of the Lord

In biblical times, the greatest cultural value was honor. People sought to gain and keep honor for themselves, their family, their country, and their god(s) while avoiding shame. In honor-shame cultures such as that of the ancient Mediterranean world, honor and shame are often symbolized by certain body parts.

The head, face, and right hand were symbols of honor, while the left hand, feet, and buttocks were symbols of dishonor (Malina, The New Testament World, 37-39; Neyrey, ed. The Social World of Luke-Acts, 34.)

When Paul (or any biblical author) refers to “the presence of the Lord,” or more literally, “before the face of the Lord,” they are not referring to God’s presence, but to God’s honor (cf. Jon 1:3; Acts 3:19). See my podcast study on Jonah 1:3 for a detailed explanation of this idea.

Further support for this idea is found in the fact that Paul also writes about the power and glory of God (2 Thess 1:9-12), which are closely connected with honor.

Therefore, when Paul puts the preposition “from” in front of this phrase, he is not writing about something that is located with God or comes from God but is instead referring to God’s care for His own honor.

Paul is writing about the negative consequences that come “from” neglecting the honor of God.

In other words, the preposition “from” is causal, but God is not the cause. We humans are the cause of the destruction, for we despised the Lord’s honor and suffered the consequences.

It is our responsibility and calling as the people of God to bring honor and glory to God through obedience to Him. If we fail in this, and bring shame upon God instead, we can expect to suffer for it.

The Suffering We Experience does not come from God

But note that the suffering and consequences which come upon humans for neglecting God’s honor do not come from God Himself, but “from the honor of God.”

That is, for the sake of His own honor, God has given instructions to humans about how to live and function in this world. These instructions are for our own good and to help us live life in the best way possible.

When we ignore these instructions, thereby forsaking the honor of God, we suffer the consequences, not because God sends the consequences upon us, but because wrong choices and bad decisions naturally lead to devastation and destruction.

And indeed, according to Paul, destruction is exactly what comes upon those who do not know God and who do not obey the instructions within the gospel about how to live (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Three phrases in the context carry this idea. They are “repay with tribulation” (2 Thessalonians 1:6), “in flaming fire taking vengeance” (2 Thessalonians 1:8), and “punished with everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

All three of these phrases are in parallel, containing an action and an instrument of that action. So each explains and amplifies the other two.

Here they are again in parallel format for comparison:

Repay with tribulation
Vengeance with flaming fire
Punishment with everlasting destruction

Let us consider each phrase.

Repay with tribulation

First, in 1:6, Paul says that God will “repay with tribulation those that trouble you.”

The word for tribulation (Gk., thlipsis) does not refer to hell, but to temporal calamity. It refers to negative outward circumstances and troubles in this life. Not anywhere in Scripture does it refer to eternal sufferings or torment.

So when Paul writes about this, he is saying that when others seek to bring trouble upon us for following Jesus, God will turn these troubles back around upon them. This is not a form of punishment or violence, but simply the principle that “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

Vengeance with flaming fire

Second, Paul writes that this repayment will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance” (2 Thessalonians 1:7).

The concept of vengeance is parallel to the idea of repayment from 1:6, and so the idea of flaming fire is parallel to tribulation. And just as the tribulation is in this world, so also is the flaming fire.

Paul is not referring to torment in the fires of hell.

The image of fire, as seen nearly everywhere else in Scripture, refers to the devastation and destruction that comes upon people in this life as a consequence of disobeying God.

This fire destroys their plans and goals for this life, leaving only emptiness behind. Vengeance is something that God reserves for Himself (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30), but according to 1 Peter 2:14, God often carries out this vengeance through governors and rulers.

So once again, this second phrase is about the temporal consequences.

Punishment with everlasting destruction

The third and final phrase is parallel to the first two, and can be understood similarly. Paul writes that these people will be “punished with everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

punishment everlasting destruction 2 Thess 1:8-9The word “punishment” is not a good translation of what Paul wrote. A better translation would be “pay the penalty” (Gk., dikēn tisousin). God does not punish people for their sin, but sin bears its own punishment with it. And this punishment of sin can come in the form of a penalty that must be paid or exacted.

In sports, a player can get sidelined, put in the penalty box, or even ejected from the game if they break the rules. They are not being “punished,” but are simply paying the price for their bad behavior in the game. They made a choice, and the penalty is the consequence.

Similarly, the “everlasting destruction” (Gk., olethron aiōnon) does not refer to annihilation or everlasting torture in hell.

As with the parallel concepts in the preceding verses, this destruction is an event that takes place in this life which brings to ruin all the plans and goals of the people and nations upon whom this destruction comes.

In fact, “ruin” is a good translation of olethron and better carries Paul’s meaning. It carries the idea of plans coming to ruin, or of instruments and tools being of no further use. It does not carry the idea of everlasting torture or a cessation of existence.

When a car is “totally destroyed” in an accident, it still exists; it just exists in pieces and parts. It no longer functions.

The same is true of “ruin.” If I prepare a meal, and then accidentally drop it on the floor, my meal has been ruined. It is all still there, but it is no longer edible. It cannot be enjoyed for the purpose to which it was prepared.

So the term does not require that the object of ruin or destruction be annihilated, or cease to exist. It also has no implication of ongoing destruction or ruination, and especially no implication of torture or infliction of pain.

Now, in the case of 2 Thessalonians 1:9, the word “destruction” or “ruin” is modified with the adjective “eternal” (Gk., aiōnon), and so some believe that this is ongoing destruction.

And it is, but not in the sense that the activity of destruction itself continues.

If a car is “totally destroyed” it is beyond repair, and will be eternally destroyed. It cannot be fixed. Similarly, if a meal is dropped on the floor, it is eternally ruined. It cannot be salvaged. I cannot go back in time and catch the meal before it hits the floor. A new meal will have to be made.

So “eternal destruction” means that something has come to ruin, and it cannot be salvaged, restored, fixed, or repaired.

In regards to the people about whom Paul is writing, their plans and goals will be ruined and come to nothing.

The word olethros in the LXX is most often used in reference to foreign nations who seek to destroy and subjugate Israel. God tells them that because they have made plans against Israel, it is actually their plans that will come to nothing, and in fact, they themselves will be destroyed (cf. 1 Kings 13:33-34; 15:28-29; Prov 1:26-27; 21:7; Jer 25:31; 48:3, 8, 32; 51:55; Ezek 6:14; 14:16; Hos 9:6).

This is also similar to what Paul writes later about the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and which is discussed in numerous other biblical texts (cf. Psa 18:8, 15; Isa 30:27-33; Jer 7:31-33), some even by Paul himself (cf. 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; 1 Tim 6:9).

When God opens His mouth and speaks truth to worldly power, the plans of those who disobey God and rebel against Him are ruined. The people themselves might continue to live, and indeed, some of them might even be Christians, but their plans which are contrary to the ways of God and the gospel will have no eternal significance and will even be forgotten in the memories of mankind. Their plans come to ruin, come to nothing for eternity, experience everlasting failure, and have no eternal significance or consequences (cf. John 6:27).

So what is everlasting destruction in the flames of fire?

It is the ruination in this life of the plans and goals of the people and nations who array themselves against God and His goals. God has set up this world to bring honor and glory to Himself. When we pursue God’s honor, we will also experience the best possible life in this world.

But if we live contrary to the honor of the Lord, rejecting His glory and power, then our lives will not bring forth joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment, but only emptiness and failure.

These flames of fire and eternal destruction can come in many forms.

It can come temporally in the lives of people, as it did with many of the people in Jerusalem and the Roman Empire after the days of Paul.

It can occur in human history, as the lives and work of people, nations, and rulers fade from memory and have no lasting impact on others.

flames of vengeance everlasting destructionIt can even come upon believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ when they see everything they have worked for and sought after get burned up as wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor 3:12-15; cf. “the Day” of 2 Thessalonians 1:10).

But one thing that is not in view with Paul’s words here is the everlasting torture of people by flames of fire in a place called hell.

So what is 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 teaching?

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 is not about a future general judgment where unbelievers are consigned to eternal hell.

It is explaining that the ways of this world are not the end of the matter, for a day is coming (and has come) when Jesus will vindicate His afflicted people, so that affliction comes upon the afflicters.

But even then, this affliction is not everlasting torture, but is the sad reality of seeing their life’s work and actions come to nothing for eternity, have no lasting significance on world history or events, and fade away from memory among people.

For those of us who want to be remembered and to make an impact on this world, this is a dire warning indeed.

So even the strongest potential passage in the Bible which is often used to support the idea of everlasting punishment in the fiery flames of hell turns out to be teaching nothing of the sort. Contextual and cultural insights about the text reveal that Paul is saying the same thing that every other passage of Scripture says about fiery judgment coming upon people.

Such texts are not referring to everlasting torture in hell, but to a temporal judgment in this life.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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By carefully studying the context of 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, we learn that the references to fire, vengeance, and everlasting destruction in this passage are NOT warnings about people suffering forever in the burning flames of hell. In 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Paul writes about fire of vengeance and everlasting destruction. Is Paul warning people about going to hell? No, he is not.<br /> <br /> By carefully studying the context of 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, we learn that the references to fire, vengeance, and everlasting destruction in this passage are NOT warnings about people suffering forever in the burning flames of hell. There is a dire warning here, but it is not about everlasting punishment in hell.<br /> <br /> Go here to view the transcript or ask a question:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/2-thessalonians_1_8-9/ Jeremy Myers clean 38:54
Is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) a warning about hell? https://redeeminggod.com/luke_16_19-31/ Thu, 06 Jun 2019 17:00:31 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50237 The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 is probably the premier passage in the Bible that convinces people about the reality of hell as a place of eternal suffering and torment. But is this really what Jesus is teaching in this text? What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this article, we are considering the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. This is probably the premier passage in the Bible that convinces people about the reality of hell as a place of eternal suffering and torment. But is this really what Jesus is teaching in this text?

No. In fact, when people use Luke 16:19-31 to terrorize others about hell, they end up missing the entire point of the story.

Does Luke 16:19-31 teach about torment in hell?

Every discussion of fire (or hell) in Scripture must include an examination of the story of Lazarus and the rich man from Luke 16:19-31. With its detailed and lurid depiction of the suffering of a rich man in the flames of hell, this account appears to support all the horrifying ideas of hell as a place of eternal torture for the unredeemed.

Luke 16:19-31 contains the portrayal of a man being tormented in flames, who cries out for just a drop of water to cool his burning tongue (cf. Luke 16:23-24). When most people think of hell, this is the sort of image they have in mind.

One of the main verses in this passage which seems to teach about the reality of torment and suffering in the flames of hell is Luke 16:24. Here is what it says:

Luke 16:24. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’”

Yet not everyone is convinced that Jesus is describing a literal place with literal flames where literal people suffer and burn for all eternity.

Several factors reveal that Jesus intended some other sort of message with this story.

1. Do you really go to hell by neglecting the poor?

First, if this is a story about how to escape hell and go to heaven when you die, then the lesson of the story is that eternal life and entrance into heaven can be earned by being poor, or at least by being generous to the poor. If you don’t take care of the poor, then off to hell with you!

But is this what Scripture teaches anywhere else? No. Far from it.

Eternal life is the free gift of God to everyone and anyone who simply and only believes in Jesus for it (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47). While there are many blessings and benefits connected to taking care of the poor, escaping hell is not one of them.

2. Are believers and unbelievers all in the same giant “cavern” of hell?

Second, the presence of Abraham and Lazarus in the same vicinity as the suffering rich man does not fit any other portrayal of hell.

In other words, if Jesus is describing the place where the unredeemed dead spend eternity, then what is Abraham doing there, and why does Lazarus get sent there? Is there some sort of annex or suburb of hell where the redeemed can live in relative peace and safety while looking across the chasm at the sufferings of the poor sinners in the torture chamber of hell?

Though many scholars try to explain this away by speaking of “Abraham’s Bosom” as a temporary holding tank for the redeemed which was then emptied at the resurrection of Jesus, such an idea is tenuous at best and is not taught anywhere else in Scripture.

To the contrary, the image of “Abraham’s Bosom” comes from Babylonian intertestamental Jewish literature. The Babylonians believed that there was a single afterlife location for all the dead, and this dwelling place had two regions, one for the righteous and one for the wicked.

Some of the Jewish people living in Babylon picked up on this idea and began telling stories about something similar for Jews. A few of these accounts (which are now found in the Babylonian Talmud) speak of “Abraham’s Bosom” as the place that righteous Jews went after they died.

But no passage from Scripture teaches this concept.

The fact that Jesus refers to it in this story should not be read as an endorsement of the idea, but as a way of using a common image from that culture to make a theological point.

I’ve mentioned it before, but if I began to tell you about meeting Peter at the Pearly Gates, you would know I was using this common folktale image to tell a fictional (and possibly humorous) story, but you would not imagine that I was speaking of a literal place or that people who die actually appear before Peter at the Pearly Gates.

So also with Jesus referring to a common folk-tale about Abraham’s Bosom. He was using the imagery, not because it is correct, but because it helped make the ultimate point Jesus wanted to make. We’ll see what that point was in bit.

3. This story appears to be a parable

Third, despite the claims of some, this story of Jesus contains all the markings of a parable.

There are numerous and significant elements of this story that are parallel to the other parables in the preceding context.

For example, both this story and the Parable of the Unjust Steward begin with the words “There was a certain rich man” (Luke 16:1, 19). These two parables focus the reader’s attention on certain rich men of Luke 16:14 and how their treatment of the poor was an abomination to God (Luke 16:15). Some of the other contextual parallels are considered below.

The only real reason some people think this is not a parable is that Jesus specifically names two characters: Abraham and Lazarus. No other recorded parable of Jesus provides a proper name for any of the key human characters.

However, “Satan” is mentioned in Mark 4:14, “the son of man” as a title for Jesus in Matthew 13:37, and several personal titles in Luke 10:25-37. Many believe that the story of Job is a parable, in which case, it contains the names of several people.

Furthermore, outside of Scripture, many ancient parables often used the names of people in the telling of the stories. So the presence of two names in Luke 16 fails to prove the story is not a parable.

Some speculate that maybe Jesus used the name of a popular beggar who was well-known in the streets of Jerusalem. The other possibility (as mentioned previously) is that Jesus was referencing a popular Jewish folktale which His hearers would have immediately recognized as fiction.

Again, just because someone mentions Peter’s name when speaking of the Pearly Gates, this does not mean they are referring to a literal location or future event.

4. Jesus Speaks of Hadēs Instead of Gehenna

Fourth, everywhere else Jesus speaks about individual people in “hell,” He uses the word gehenna, which referred to the Valley of Hinnom outside the walls of Jerusalem. But here Jesus uses the word hadēs (Luke 16:23).

Elsewhere, Jesus uses this word only as a way of describing the destruction that will come upon certain cities (Matt 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23).

Furthermore, the word hadēs was a Greek word for the abode of the dead, and was also the name of the Greek god of the netherworld. Once again, this provides evidence that Jesus is not speaking about hell (the way He understands it), for then He would have used the word gehenna.

Instead, Jesus uses a word that He typically uses to refer to the destruction of cities, combines in the Greek idea of the afterlife, mixes in some Babylonian imagery of two compartments in hell, and uses this all in connection with the Jewish history and Jewish folktales.

Why? Because this approach makes a memorable story.

Jesus is clearly mixing images from numerous sources so that He can tell a parable to His listeners that will connect with them on multiple levels. Jesus is making a point that He doesn’t want His audience to miss.

Ironically, due to the Christian preoccupation with sinners burning in the flames of hell, we have mostly missed the point of Jesus. But what was that point? The context makes it quite clear.

5. Contextual Keys Help us Understand Luke 16:19-31

This context is the fifth and final piece of evidence that helps us know that the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable rather than a description of a literal place.

Jesus has been making one single point in the preceding context, and this story hammers that point home.

The setting for the context is found in Luke 15:1-2. After Jesus welcomes and spends time with the sinners and tax-collectors, the Jewish religious leaders chide Him for eating and befriending such people. They believe it is better to remain separate and distant from such wicked people.

So Jesus sets out to correct this entire line of thinking. In doing so, Jesus tells five parables.

The first three parables explain why Jesus does what He does, and what will come of His actions. These are the Parables of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the Lost Coin (Luke 15:4-10), and the Lost Son, also called the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

The third parable is transitionary. It not only shows how the younger son went into a far country to squander his inheritance, but also introduces the elder son, who stayed at home and worked the family farm. Yet as the story closes, it becomes obvious that the Prodigal Son, or the Lost Son, is not the one who went into a far country, but is rather the one who remained.

It is the elder son who is actually furthest away from the heart of his father, and wants to keep separate from his sinful, wayward, younger brother. The father invites the older son to the feasting and dancing, but the son refuses, preferring to stay instead in the darkness outside the party. Because he was angry, he would not go in (Luke 15:28).

It is also helpful to recognize that this third parable, the Parable of the Lost Son, not only serves as a transition to the stories that follow, but also serves as a parallel (but opposite) story to that of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

In other words, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is an inversion of the story of the Prodigal Son.

-Both the prodigal son and Lazarus find themselves in desperate situations. Both beg for scraps.

-Both are in the company of unclean animals (dogs, swine)

-Both stories have father figures: The rich man calls Abraham his “father.” Lazarus leans on Abraham like the prodigal son is held by his father.

-Both contain a theme of distance—there is a great distance between the rich man and Lazarus, and between the father as his wastrel son (in “a far country”). Unlike the father who sees his son from a long way off and runs to meet him, the rich man maintains his structural distance and indifference to the poor, so he sees Lazarus “far away” with Abraham.

-Both the prodigal son and the rich man live sumptuously, but then lose everything. But the prodigal son “comes to his senses” while the rich man does not change his way of thinking. He still treats Lazarus like an inferior wanting him to bring him water with “the tip of his finger,” and then to warn his brothers. He is still thinking of his own status and social group, not of the poor. (Bartlett, Seven Stories, 90-91.)

After these three parables about His own mission and ministry, with the third parable ending with a depiction of the religious rulers as the elder son, Jesus transitions to two other parables, both of which focus on the ministry of the religious rulers. Jesus is seeking to contrast His ministry with theirs by showing where their methods and goals come from and what their methods and goals accomplish.

The first parable that Jesus tells about the ministry of the religious leaders is the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13). Though many assume that Jesus is describing how His followers are supposed to function in this world, this is not the point of the parable. If it were, Jesus would be telling His followers to cheat their employers and live unscrupulous lives for the sake of gaining favor with others and wealth for themselves.

Does this sound like something Jesus would teach? No. Quite to the contrary, this sounds like the opposite of what Jesus would teach. And indeed, it is.

People get confused, though, because they think that Jesus applies the Parable of the Unjust Steward to His followers in Luke 16:9-12, where He seems to say that we should use riches and wealth for making friends with others.

But notice Jesus basically says, “And when your money fails, they will welcome you into their home for ever and ever” (Luke 16:9). We all know that this is not true. If Jesus was actually “applying” the parable here, then He is flat-out wrong.

Therefore, it is better to see that this so-called “application” in Luke 16:9 is not the application at all, but is a tongue-in-cheek sarcastic reference to how the people of this world will not treat you when your wealth is gone.

Jesus is saying, “If you use money to gain friends, don’t be surprised that when your money runs out, so will your friends. Though they may promise that you will always be welcome in their home, this promise only lasts as long as your money does.”

This is reality, and this is also exactly what Jesus just taught in Parable of the Lost Son. When the son’s money ran out, he had no home to go to, and was sent to live with the swine, and no one gave him anything (Luke 15:14-16).

So the Parable of the Unjust Steward is not about how the disciples of Jesus should act and behave, but is instead about how the world works, and how the religious leaders act and behave to gain friends and influence for themselves.

Many of the religious leaders had become very rich by making deals with merchants and political leaders. They were using mammon the way the world used it, to benefit and enrich themselves, and get more money and power for themselves.

Yet it is not just finances that they dealt with; they also trafficked in the forgiveness of sins.

Religious leaders have always sold the forgiveness of sins to others for money. Such a practice did not begin with the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church in the days of Martin Luther.

The religious leaders were also engaging in this practice in the days of Jesus. Though the religious leaders were supposed to be stewards of the things of God, they were actually using their position to not only cheat others, but to also cheat their master, God.

Jesus, however, gave away forgiveness for free, which is the only way it can be given. But this free forgiveness to the sinners and tax-collectors did not make Him popular among the religious crowd, for it threatened both their teachings and their livelihood.

John the Baptist threatened the religious establishment as well, which is why they had him killed. This is why Jesus mentions John in Luke 16:14-18. John had challenged Herod about his marriage to Herodias (Matt 14:1-12), which eventually led to Herod beheading John.

This event in the life of John also explains why Jesus throws in the teaching about marriage and divorce in Luke 16:18. This is not a non-sequitur, but logically follows what Jesus has said about John. John’s condemnation of the divorce and remarriage of Herodias led to John’s death. This, Jesus says, is what true followers of God can expect from those who live according to the values and principles of this world.

Now the Pharisees knew that they were being derided by Jesus, and so they sought to deride Him (Luke 16:14). This proves once again, that the Parable of the Unjust Steward is not about how followers of Jesus are to behave in this world, but is instead about how some corrupt religious leaders behave.

The Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them, and they were offended. But Jesus says that their behavior, though highly esteemed among men, is an abomination to God (Luke 16:15).

Their use of mammon and religion to garner favor with the rich and the powerful was a great sin before God. It was an abomination that would lead to their desolation.

Luke 16:19-31, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

And indeed, this is exactly what Jesus goes on to describe in Luke 16:19-31, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The “Rich Man” obviously represents the rich men who are discussed in the context, which is the Pharisees who were “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14). They were servants of mammon (Luke 16:13). Like the unjust steward, they used their money and position to make friends with the rich and to enrich themselves.

What were they supposed to do with their money and power instead?

They were to use it to take care of the poor and needy in their midst. Like who? Like Lazarus, who was covered in sores and laid at the gate, desiring just a few crumbs from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:20-21).

At what gate did Lazarus lay?

In the days of Jesus, there were Gentile converts to Judaism who were called “gate proselytes.” Since they were Gentiles, they were kept in the outer “Court of the Gentiles” and could not even pass through the gate into the Court of Women. Many of them wanted to draw nearer to the temple and to God, but were barred from access.

So they would hang out at the gate, peering through its opening, and longing to be closer to God. But the religious leaders kept these Gentile proselytes at a distance. They were sinners who could not draw near to God.

If Lazarus was a Gentile proselyte, that is, a “gate proselyte,” then not only was he overlooked and neglected for his sores and starvation, but also for his desire to serve and honor God.

But now, in this story, the entire situation is reversed.

Lazarus is with Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith, while the rich man is far off, thirsty, and separated. And the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers. But Abraham tells the rich man that his brothers can listen to Moses and the prophets.

Apparently, Moses and the prophets contain enough instruction and warning to keep a person from experiencing the fate of the rich man.

And what is the central and overriding theme of Moses and the prophets? It was that the people of God are to take care of the poor and needy in their midst. Though there are many sins which Moses and the prophets teach against, the overriding theme of the prophetic message is that God’s people must defend the orphans and the widow, provide for the foreigner and the stranger, and take care of the poor and needy.

They must do this themselves; not by demanding the government make laws which force others to do such things. This generous and loving activity was the clear sign that God was in their midst.

So what then is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus all about?

It is the concluding story of a series of five parables, and it summarizes them all by revealing the danger of living according to the way of this world.

This world worships mammon, and uses money to gain friends and power. But greedy living and lusting after money does not satisfy or quench one’s thirst for meaning or significance in this world. Money satisfies those who chase after it less than a drop of water on the tongue would satisfy a man who is burning in flames.

The quest for money does not quench one’s thirst. No matter how much you have, it leaves you desiring more.

The story of the Prodigal Son depicts a man who started out chasing after money, but discovered it was worthless (Luke 15:11-32).

The story of the Unjust Steward shows how this world uses and responds to money (Luke 16:1-13). The Pharisees didn’t like what Jesus was saying (because they were guilty of such actions), and so in an attempt to justify their own greed, complained about His teaching and derided His message (Luke 16:14).

So Jesus provides the example of John, who was a Just and Faithful Steward. John was not greedy and did not use money to make friends with the rich and powerful, but was instead beheaded by them (Luke 16:15-18).

And now all of these lessons about greed are wrapped up into the one story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Ultimately, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a warning against greed.

In Luke 16:15, Jesus identifies the love of money as an abomination to God. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus illustrates that greed does not accomplish the righteousness of God, or help one experience the kingdom of God.

Instead, it only invites flames into one’s life. Greed brings nothing but desolation and destruction. Greed, and the money which comes with it, does not help one experience the kingdom of God in this life or the next.

The flames in this story, then, are “no more literal than Abraham’s bosom. The flames represent the burning agony of his thirsty soul. The rich man is experiencing the agony of thirst and deprivation that Lazarus had known throughout life” (Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut, 102).

We see this by the two different words used to describe the experience of the rich man in this story.

He was in torment (Gk., basano)

First, Jesus says that the rich man was in “torment” (Gk., basano) in hadēs (Luke 16:23). The word literally refers to a touchstone, which was used in ancient times as a way to test the value and genuineness of the gold and silver found in coins and jewelry.

“While the rich man looks fancy on the outside, when placed under the ‘touchstone’ his veneer comes off. He is being revealed for who he really is … and the revelation is agony” ( Butler, The Skeletons in God’s Closet, 77).

He was tormented (Gk., odunōmai)

Second, the word used for “tormented” (Gk., odunōmai) in Luke 16:24-25 can also “be translated as ‘grief’ or ‘anguish’ and conveys a sense of emotional turmoil rather than physical pain” ( Butler, The Skeletons in God’s Closet, 76).

It is only used two other times in the New Testament, both by Luke.

In Luke 2:48, it refers to the “anxiousness” that Mary and Joseph felt as they searched for Jesus in Jerusalem for three days when He was twelve.

Then in Acts 20:38, it refers to the “sorrow” that the Ephesian elders experienced when they said goodbye to Paul, knowing that they would never see him again. In neither case does it refer to torture, but to intense emotional grief or anguish.

So the rich man is not being tortured.

Instead, he is having the truth revealed to him about himself, about Lazarus, and about what God values in the world. And for a man who has put all his hope in worldly riches and social status, the truth is more than he can bear.

The truth is a torment to him. Too late, he discovers that everything he worked for and sought after during his entire life is worthless in this life and the next. And since he cannot accept this truth, he remains in emotional torment and even seeks to continue the life he knew and loved.

We see this in the fact that, even in death, the rich man attempts to command and control Lazarus. He tells Lazarus to bring him a drop of water and to go warn his five brothers about the fate that awaits them. Even in his state of torment, he prefers to stay where he is and order Lazarus around than beg for forgiveness or ask for the opportunity to come over to where Lazarus reclines with Abraham.

Furthermore, in his continued haughty arrogance, the rich man never speaks to Lazarus but only to Abraham (Luke 16:24, 27, 30). Even though their roles are reversed, the rich man shows only disdain and derision for Lazarus (cf. Luke 16:14).

Notice that in response, however, “Abraham does not call [the rich man] ‘fool,’ ‘disappointment,’ or ‘idiot,’ but ‘son.’ This is an expression of fatherhood, of filial devotion, of care” ( Butler, The Skeletons in God’s Closet, 74). Abraham and Lazarus are on the side of love while the rich man continues in his self-centered mindset.

Ultimately, then, the great gulf that separates the rich man from Abraham and Lazarus is a divide of his own making (Luke 16:26).

It cannot be crossed, because the rich man will not cross it, for doing so would require him to admit that he is no better than Lazarus. This he cannot do, and so his riches, his racism, and his religious arrogance keep him separated from others.

Furthermore, though Lazarus and Abraham may want to cross the divide to the rich man, they cannot, for the division is not of their making.

The rich man is the one who creates the divide, so that those on Abraham’s side of the chasm who “might want to pass” (i.e., act out of compassion) in fact cannot. The text clearly implies that the rich and privileged, those with status, create the divide, not God. Thus the parable is not a picture of medieval hell but of humanly-created alienation and its suffering.

The chasm is a spiritual parallel in death to the social chasm fixed in life by the rich man’s caste. By making it impossible for the poor or the sinner to cross that great gulf into their pseudo-kingdoms and religious enclaves, the spiritually privileged were unwittingly defining their own distance from God’s kingdom.

In the end, Luke 16:19-31 is a condemnation of greed

Luke 16:19-31 is a picture of how life looks from God’s perspective when the rich create chasms between themselves and the poor and needy.

Though the rich could learn much and benefit greatly from the refreshing presence of the poor and needy among them, they separate themselves from those who are considered “beneath” them. And though the religious elites claim to follow the law and the prophets, their actions and behavior show that they know nothing of what Scripture teaches.

Those who rest and live in the way of Abraham, and now those who follow the teachings and example of Jesus, will live in solidarity with the sick, the poor, and the outcast, for it is among them that the kingdom of God most naturally lives and grows.

So what are the rich to do? They should use their wealth to serve, honor, protect, and provide for the poor in their midst. They must use their wealth to serve Jesus in the kingdom of God.

In this way, they avoid the torment of hell in their lives here and now, and experience the joy and fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven instead.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 is probably the premier passage in the Bible that convinces people about the reality of hell as a place of eternal suffering and torment. But is this really what Jesus is teaching in this text? The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 is probably the premier passage in the Bible that convinces people about the reality of hell as a place of eternal suffering and torment. But is this really what Jesus is teaching in this text? No. In fact, when people use the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus to terrorize others about hell, they miss the entire point of the story.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or read the transcript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/luke_16_19-31/ Jeremy Myers clean 1:01:31
Does Mark 9:42-50 teach about hell when it refers to worms and fire? https://redeeminggod.com/mark_9_42-50/ Thu, 30 May 2019 17:00:05 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50235 Many believe and teach that the imagery of unquenchable fire and corrupting worm in Mark 9:42-50 refers to the suffering and torment of unbelievers in everlasting hell. But is this what Jesus meant? No. This article looks at the context and the verse that Jesus quotes, Isaiah 66:24, to see what Jesus really meant. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

The following study looks at Mark 9:42-50 to see whether are not this text teaches that hell is an everlasting place of suffering and torment for the unbelieving dead.

Does Mark 9:42-50 teach about hell?

Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched… (Mark 9:48).

Mark 9:42-50 is very similar to Matthew 18:6-9, and can be understood in a nearly identical way. So it might be helpful to go back and read that article as well…

However, there is one primary difference between the two passages which is important to consider. The passage in Mark 9 contains the refrain that “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Though many take this passage as a clear reference to eternal suffering and torment in the flames of hell, there are several reasons to doubt such a view.

Are these literal worms?

The first reason is that the images of worms and the fire cannot both be taken literally. Indeed, those who see the reference to fire in Mark 9:42-48 as a reference to literal flames in hell do not typically understand the reference to worms in a literal way. Instead, they interpret the worms metaphorically, as a symbol of intense remorse or regret.

Why? Because the word used for worm is skōlex, which is the kind of worm that feeds on dead bodies. This worm would not feed on a living body in hell, and especially not if the body was being burned by flames.

In the literal Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna), which was a graveyard for the dead and dying, worms and maggots would eat the bodies that were not being consumed by flames. Proper hermeneutics requires that either both terms be either literal or symbolic.

But they cannot be literal, for worms cannot “feed” on living beings in hell that are being burned alive for eternity.

Therefore, both terms must be symbolic. But symbolic of what?

Jesus is quoting Isaiah 66:24

In Mark 9:48 (and 9:44, 46 as well), Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 66:24, which is the final verse in the book of Isaiah. These final lines of Isaiah describe the eternal state of the new heavens and new earth, in which all flesh will worship Him forever and ever, “from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another” (Isaiah 66:22-23).

Part of this everlasting worship of God includes the ability to “go forth, and look upon the corpses of the men” who transgressed against God, “for their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched” (Isa 66:24).

Though some look forward to such an experience with anticipation, I find it impossible to think that as part of eternal bliss with God, people will want to take regular field trips to gaze upon a mass grave full of rotting, burning, maggot-filled corpses.

To the contrary, since we will have glorified bodies, and will be sinless as God is sinless, I doubt that any glorified person in eternity would ever desire such a thing.

So why does Isaiah end his book this way? What did Isaiah have in mind?

The key is to recognize that throughout the book of Isaiah, fire and worms are used as imagery for the destruction and corruption that come upon people and nations for rebelling against God (cf. fire: Isaiah 5:24; 9:18-19; 33:11-12; 47:14; worm: 14:11; 51:8).

And quite often, this destruction and corruption is self-inflicted. God set up the world with rules and guidelines for how to best live and function in this world, but when we live outside these boundaries and guidelines, negative consequences are the result. He does not send the consequences of sin, for they are inherent within sin itself.

God loves us, and does not want to see us hurt by sin, which is why He warns us against it. But when we ignore His warnings and practice sin anyway, the consequences of sin come upon us. This is why Isaiah speaks of “their worm” and “their corruption.” It is theirs and theirs alone. They brought it upon themselves, and they live with it.

But how does this help us understand Isaiah 66:24?

Isaiah is describing the new heavens and the new earth, in which all the peoples of all the nations of the earth dwell (Isaiah 66:18-20). And when he writes that the people of God will be able to gaze upon the corpses of the dead, he is not imagining that there is literally a field of corpses in eternity that we can stare at with dread fascination or morbid satisfaction.

Instead, Isaiah is answering an age-old question about eternity. He writes that in the new heaven and new earth, all flesh will come and worship God (Isaiah 66:22-23).

But the question that people have always asked is how this eternal existence of worshiping God will differ from that of Adam and Eve who were supposed to worship God for eternity as well. In other words, since they were perfect and sinless but still fell into sin, what will keep us from rebelling against God in the new heaven and new earth?

Isaiah 66:24 is the answer.

We will have what Adam and Eve did not, namely, the knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge is not something that God intended to withhold from humanity forever, but was instead something He wanted to teach to humanity over time within the reality of an ongoing relationship with Him.

But Adam and Eve “jumped the gun” and tried to take a shortcut before they were ready. In eternity, the thing that will separate us from Adam and Eve, and therefore, allow us to avoid their same mistake, is that we will have knowledge of evil and will understand its devastating and destructive consequences. We will be able to go out and look upon the corpses of men who have transgressed against God, and will be able to see how their words and actions led to nothing but the worms of corruption and the fires of destruction.

And who are these “corpses” we will look upon? There are all the people of human history, including ourselves. We will be able to view human history, and how we have all lived at various times in the kingdom of hell, which is the realm of death and darkness, the world of worm and fire.

Human history will serve as an everlasting reminder about where a life of rebellion leads. Human history is the everlasting object lesson that provides the knowledge of good and evil to the redeemed.

While some people think that heaven cannot be a blessed existence if we are able to remember or view the horrors of human history, the truth of the matter is the opposite: Eternity will not be much of a blessed existence if we cannot remember what God redeemed us from.

Besides, since all events in our lives are connected, God cannot wipe some of our memories without wiping them all. But as painful as human history will be to watch and remember, it will carry a much different meaning when viewed through the lens of God’s redeeming grace.

So the group of “corpses” that we will be able to view is the corpse of human history. The field of the dead in Isaiah 66:24 is the field of human history, including all of our mistakes and failures. It is our observation and remembrance of human tragedy and horror that will help us avoid similar mistakes in eternity.

We will have gained the knowledge of good and evil, and by remembering the fires and worms of our past, will be able to judge between right and wrong, good and evil, so that we can worship God in righteousness and holiness forever.

This will enable us to worship God in eternity by learning from our past mistakes and seeing how God has redeemed these mistakes to bring glory and honor to Himself for all eternity.

It is this understanding of Isaiah 66:24 that Jesus appears to have in mind.

We see this because of His reference to fire and salt in Mark 9:49-50.

Everyone experiences fire

Jesus says that “everyone will be seasoned with fire.”

If Jesus is thinking of the eternal fires of everlasting torment in hell, then He would be saying that everyone is going to hell. Clearly He is not saying this, and so therefore, some other meaning must be sought.

His reference to salt helps clarify the picture. In the ancient world, salt was not only used as seasoning, but also as a preservative for meat. Since there was no refrigeration, salt kept meat from decaying, and kept worms from eating the meat.

So Jesus is saying that purifying fire can be used to stop the fire of destruction, and preserving salt can be used to stop the worm of decay and corruption.  Jesus talks about salt as a seasoning as well, but equates this seasoning to having “peace with another” (Mark 9:50).

Since the fires of destruction often come upon humans as destructive wars (that often involve fire), then being seasoned with salt for the sake of peace is one of the primary ways to avert human violence and the wars that come from it.

This imagery of fire and salt is also mentioned in the context of sacrifice.

This brings to mind not only the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law, but also the invitations in the New Testament for followers of Jesus to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God (cf. Rom 12:1-2). Jesus has done away with bloody sacrifices, and now calls us to follow Him through a life of self-sacrifice for others.

We put ourselves on the sacrificial altar by purifying our lives through the fire of discipline, and sanctifying our lives through the seasoning and preserving salt of peace.

If we do not fire and salt ourselves in this way, our life’s work will be burned away forever and will be eaten and destroyed by the corrupting worm.

William Lane presents the truth of Mark 9:43-49 this way:

The thought of the sacrifice of an offending member of the body (verses 43-47) is here carried a step further: every disciple is to be a sacrifice for God (cf. Rom 12:1). In the OT the Temple sacrifices had to be accompanied by salt (Lev 2:13; Ezek 43:24; cf. Exod 30:35). The salt-sacrifice metaphor is appropriate to a situation of suffering and trial in which the principle of sacrifice cultivated with respect to the individual members of the body is now severely tested. The disciples must be seasoned with salt, like the sacrifice. This will take place through fiery trials (cf. 1 Pet 1:7; 4:12) (Lane, NICNT: Mark, 349).

Conclusion

So the worm and fire of Mark 9:43-49 is not referring to the punishment or torture of the unregenerate dead in the afterlife, but to the self-sacrifice, loving discipline of God, and even fiery trials of persecution that come upon disciples of Jesus during this life as a way of purifying their lives and preparing them for future ministry and effectiveness in this life.

As with Matthew 18:8-9, Jesus is encouraging His disciples to take steps of self-sacrifice now, in this life, and to keep their life free from pollution, corruption, and moral decay.

This is not so that His disciples can escape hell and go to heaven when they die, but so that they can experience the rule and reign of God in their life here and now, while avoiding the devastation and destruction brought by sin in their life here and now.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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Many believe and teach that the imagery of unquenchable fire and corrupting worm in Mark 9:42-50 refers to the suffering and torment of unbelievers in everlasting hell. But is this what Jesus meant? No. This article looks at the context and the verse t... Many believe and teach that the imagery of unquenchable fire and corrupting worm in Mark 9:42-50 refers to the suffering and torment of unbelievers in everlasting hell. But is this what Jesus meant? No. This episode looks at the context and the verse that Jesus quotes, Isaiah 66:24, to see what Jesus really meant.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/mark_9_42-50/ Jeremy Myers clean 31:21
Is the everlasting fire of Matthew 25:41 a warning about hell? https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_25_41/ Thu, 23 May 2019 17:00:00 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50233 Some think that the everlasting fire of Matthew 25:41 refers to eternal torture in the pit of hell. But this is not what Jesus meant. When the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25 is studied in order and in context, we see that Jesus is teaching something much more serious and practical for how to live our lives TODAY. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this study, we will consider the phrase “everlasting fire” as it is used in Matthew 25:41.

What is the Everlasting Fire of Matthew 25:41?

Let us begin by looking at the text.

Then he will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:’

This text is one of the more difficult passages to understand about the image of fire in the Bible. However, when studied in connection with what the Bible teaches about hell, this verse is not as difficult as it first appears.

Hell is a Kingdom

As discussed in a previous study, the Bible teaches that hell is a kingdom which is diametrically opposed to the kingdom of heaven. Everything that is true of the kingdom of heaven is also true of the kingdom of hell, but in opposite form.

This will help us understand the parallels in this passage between “the fire prepared for the devil and his angels” and “the kingdom prepared for you” (Matthew 25:34).

The Context of Matthew 24-45

A proper understanding of this passage is further aided by taking careful note of the context in which it occurs.

The entire Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24–25) must be understood as Jesus’ answer to two questions from the disciples. They had just come from the temple where Jesus had said that the entire structure would be destroyed. By this, He wasn’t just referring to the building, but to everything it represented.

Jesus was not impressed with religious buildings or the religious establishment they represented. He wanted both to disappear so that people could personally connect with God in freedom and grace.

So Jesus told His disciples that it would all be destroyed, not just the temple, but what it represented as well (Matthew 24:1-2).

Two Questions

In response, the disciples ask two questions.

They want to know (1) when these events will take place, and (2) what will be the signs of His coming and the end of the age (Matthew 24:3).

At this point, the disciples do not realize that Jesus will die on the cross, rise again, and then ascend into heaven. So when they ask about the signs of His coming, they are not referring to His “second coming” the way we think of it today, but to their expectation of how He will be coming into His throne.

They expected the Messiah to overthrow Roman rule and come into His rightful place as the ruler of the entire world. These events would indicate the end of the age and the start of the new, Messianic age. They wanted to know when the war with Rome would begin, and what signs would show its beginnings.

All of the teachings and parables of Matthew 24–25 must be read in light of these two questions. Jesus not only seeks to answer their questions, but also to correct their thinking about His coming.

Jesus wants to show them that His coming from heaven to earth has already occurred in His incarnation, and that the works they have already seen Him perform are the only type of works that His kingdom produces. His kingdom will spread over the face of the earth as promised, but not with military might, political power, or religious regulations (cf. Luke 4:1-13). It will spread through peace and grace.

He first provides the signs of His coming at the end of the age (Matthew 24:4-51). As indicated everywhere else in Matthew, the “age” in which Jesus and His disciples lived ended with His death and resurrection.

The new age began with the birth of the church in Acts 2, but there was a transitionary period with the dying throes of the old age and the birth pains of the new. Some of these dying throes of the old age were evident in the destruction of Jerusalem, its temple, and the religion it represented.

Many seek to consign the events of Matthew 24–25 into some future time period, but Jesus states in Matthew 24:34 that all these things will take place within one generation. One must engage in several hermeneutical contortions to get this statement to refer to more than forty years.

destruction of Jerusalem 586 BCBut if we take it at face value, then we see that the words of Jesus did come true within one generation. Less than forty years after Jesus spoke these words, the Roman military laid siege to Jerusalem, and eventually razed it to the ground, burned the temple, and killed over one million Jewish people.

Some of those who heard Jesus say these words saw them come to pass, just as He promised.

Two Options for How to Live

At the end of this teaching section, Jesus presents the two possible options for living in this world as one of His followers (Matthew 24:45-51).

They can either (1) look for His coming which leads them to love and serve others, or (2) they can think that He is not coming and so live selfishly and violently toward others.

Again, when Jesus talks about His coming, He is not referring to His future “second coming” but to the coming of His kingdom in power and glory, which will spread over the face of the earth.

Jesus wants His followers to choose whether they will join Him and participate in spreading His kingdom over the earth, or if they will think that His coming is delayed (cf. 2 Peter 3:4), and so will live according to the values and principles (the kingdom) of this world.

Three Parables as Illustrations of the Two Options

Based on these two options, Jesus then presents three parables as illustrations.

These three parables of Matthew 25 compare and contrast the two kingdoms and how the followers of Jesus will affect and be affected by both.

And since Matthew 24:45-51 contrasted “believing and wise” servants with “unbelieving and foolish” servants, the three parables of Matthew 25 make a similar contrast.

The followers of Jesus are to live in a constant state of readiness for His return and also work to advance the kingdom while they wait. They live in a state of readiness by believing He will return soon, and they advance the kingdom by loving and serving others in His absence.

The three parables of Matthew 25 reveal what this new kingdom will be like (and not like) and how His followers can participate in its coming through their beliefs and behaviors.

These three parables not only show the two ways of living in this world as one of His followers, but they also correct the thinking of the disciples about what the kingdom of heaven will look like.

Jesus wants them to know that His rule and reign will not be like the Roman rule and reign. Jesus is not trying to simply replace Caesar. Though this is what most Jewish people wanted and expected, Jesus did not come to inaugurate a kingdom that looked and acted like the kingdom of Caesar.

The first and last parables, therefore, describe truths related to the kingdom of God, while the middle parable, the Parable of the Talents, describes truths related to the kingdom of Caesar.

The followers of Jesus must decide which kingdom they will serve.

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13)

wise and foolish virgins

Jesus first describes the kingdom of heaven with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13). The point of this parable is to encourage His followers to live in a constant state of readiness for the coming of the kingdom.

This passage is not about who is going to heaven and who is not. This story is about participating in the wedding celebration when the bridegroom arrives and the kingdom party begins.

People can have eternal life and still miss out on most of the party. Whether we watch or sleep, we will live together with Him (1 Thess 5:10).

The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)

Parable of the Talents

The next parable is the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

This parable has been widely misunderstood.

Most assume that it also is about the kingdom of heaven and how Jesus is the man who traveled to a far country and will return, at which point He blesses those who helped increase His wealth and punishes those who did not.

But Jesus does not say that He is describing the kingdom of heaven. While most Bible translations do include the words “the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 25:14, these words have been added by the translators and do not exist in the Greek.

Instead, having just invited his followers to look eagerly for the coming of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus now goes on to warn them what life would be like for them if they tried to live in the kingdom of this world.

Numerous lines of evidence support this view. Chief among them is the fact that the actions of this man who travels to a far country would have been understood as quite evil in the first century Mediterranean world. They not only closely follow the actions and behaviors of King Herod and how he went to Rome to become the king of Israel, but the values of this man also reveal the opposite of what Jesus taught and encouraged.

The first century Mediterranean world was guided by the cultural values of honor and shame. Modern western culture is guided by materialism.

Today, we value any activity which gets more money and gains more possessions.

But in an honor-shame culture, such activities were great sins. They believed that money and possessions were zero-sum commodities, which meant that the only way for one person to gain more money and possessions was by taking it away from someone else.

This was very shameful behavior. The first two servants, like their master, were exploiters. They gained more for themselves at the expense of their brethren.

So Jesus is saying that if one of his disciples does not look with anticipation for the coming of the kingdom of heaven, their only other option is to participate with the kingdom of this world, by imitating it in its greedy ways.

If a person does not follow the way of Jesus, they will either behave very shamefully in stealing from their brethren, or will receive harsh judgment and punishment from the rulers of this world for not participating in their greedy game.

The rulers of this world expect and demand their subjects to follow their twisted, thieving ways to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Those who refuse to follow these marching orders will be punished by the rulers, and will be banished to the darkness outside the party of this world.

But when followers of Jesus experience such treatment at the hands of the rulers of this world, they should not despair, for the punishment of worldly rulers is not the end of the matter.

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)

Parable of the Sheep and Goats

Jesus now goes on in the final parable of Matthew 25 to show His disciples that even though they might be rejected by the kingdoms of men, they will not be rejected or despised by the kingdom of God.

Since the values and behaviors of the two kingdoms are diametrically opposed to one another, the consequences for actions are different as well. While a lack of greed brought punishment from the kingdoms of the world, this same behavior brings praise and honor in the kingdom of heaven.

With the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus shows the distinctive characteristics that separate the two kingdoms, and calls His disciples to choose which kingdom they will serve.

In this final parable, Jesus reveals that He, as the Son of Man Shepherd King, will be the one who decides which of His servants worked for the kingdom of heaven and which worked for the kingdom of earth.

While the Parable of the Talents showed that the kingdom of earth praises those who steal from the poor and give it to the rich, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats reveals that the kingdom of heaven works the opposite way.

Jesus, the Lord of the kingdom of heaven, values the poor and needy, and gives praise and honor to those who tend to their needs.

So this final parable of Jesus ties the preceding two parables together.

Jesus told two parables showing two different ways of living in this world. One can either live in in the light of the kingdom of God or live with the values of the kingdom of this world. This final parable shows the consequences of living in the two opposing kingdoms.

Most studies on this parable go to great lengths trying to discern who Jesus has in view when He speaks of “the nations” (Matt 25:32) and the “the least of these, My brethren” (Matt 25:40). The “nations” can be identified with Gentile nations, unbelieving Jews, or unbelievers from all nations. The “least of these, My brethren” can be identified religiously as the group of people who follow Jesus and do His will (Matt 12:50; Mark 3:35; Luke 8:21), ethnically, so that Jesus’ brethren are the Jewish people, and therefore, all nations (Matt 25:32) that help Israel will be blessed (Gen 12:3), or eschatologically, so that the brethren of Jesus are believers who live during the future Tribulation period.

All such proposals, however, allow readers to ignore the overall lesson of the parable: A defining characteristic of the kingdom of God is that it will take care of the poor and needy of this world, wherever they are found, whatever religion or nationality they are of.

take care of the poor and needyThose who use this parable as justification to limit their care of the poor and needy to those of only one particular group of people or for people during one particular time period (e.g., the future Tribulation), self-identify themselves as a goat.

Those servants of Jesus who believe that Jesus is returning soon, and live wisely as members of the kingdom of God, will work to feed, clothe, and serve all the poor and needy, regardless of religion or race.

The kingdom of God breaks down all such barriers, so that those who work for the kingdom see all people as their brothers and sisters.

So what is the Everlasting Fire of Matthew 25:41?

This finally brings us to the description of the everlasting fire near the end of the story.

Jesus says that those who do not take care of the poor and needy will go away into “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). He later describes this as “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46).

Since this later term helps guide and define the earlier image of fire, it is important to begin there.

The Greek word used for punishment is kolasis. The word “punishment” is likely not the best translation. Moulton-Milligan argue that “cut short” is the original sense of the word, with the idea of pruning in the background (cf. John 15:1-6).

The word itself is only used one other time in the New Testament, in 1 John 4:18, where it speaks of fear involving torment. The point of John is that as we come to understand the love of God, fear is cast out, because fear has to do with punishment.

In other words, fear, and the related concepts of torment and punishment, are the opposite of what we see through the love of God in Jesus Christ.

The word kolasis is also used several times in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (LXX). Ezekiel 14 contains this word three times (14:3, 4, 7) in reference to the idolatrous stumbling blocks that the leaders of Israel had set up in their hearts. God tells Ezekiel, as the son of man (Ezek 14:3), to inform the leaders of Israel that their idolatrous ways would lead to the devastation of Jerusalem and those who lived there (cf. Ezek 18:30; 43:11; 44:12).

Of further interest in the context of Ezekiel is that the people of Israel are equated with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezek 16:44-59). And what was the sin of these two cities? According to God, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because although the people of these cities had lots of food and time, they did not help the poor and needy (Ezek 16:49).

This behavior was a shameful abomination (Ezek 16:50-52) which led to the destruction and desolation of not only Sodom and Gomorrah, but Israel as well (Ezek 14:15-16; 15:8; cf. Jer 7:30-34).

The abomination that leads to desolation, therefore, is the failure of God’s people to take care of the poor and needy in their midst, which then leads to the destruction and devastation of the nations in which they live (Jesus defines an abomination this way as well in Luke 15:14-15).

This is the repeated theme of the last half of Ezekiel, that all the nations which practice the abominable behavior of not taking care of the poor and needy in their midst (whoever they might be), will come under the judgment of God and become desolate wastelands destroyed by fire, famine, pestilence, and war.

In some places, this destruction is even called “everlasting desolation” (cf. Ezek 35:9).

All this is to say that when Jesus tells the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, where the nations are brought before Him so that He might determine which nations took care of the poor and needy in their midst, and which did not, Jesus has the prophetic message of Ezekiel in mind.

The everlasting punishment is not everlasting torture in hell, but is referring to the temporal destruction and desolation that comes upon nations when its people do not take care of the poor and needy in their midst.

Of course, even here, there is redemption for these nations, for God says in numerous places throughout Ezekiel that He will eventually restore the various nations to their former places (cf. Ezek 16:53-63). Their wicked, selfish, and greedy ways will be eternally destroyed, but the nations themselves, as geographic and political entities upon this earth, will be redeemed and restored so that they properly serve within God’s kingdom and purpose on earth.

So in light of all this, the word kolasis is best understood as a disciplinary pruning by God upon the people within the various nations who refuse to take care of the poor and needy among them. Though God gathers the nations, He separates the people within the nations one from the other for judgment.

God sends this kolasis upon them so that they might turn from their shameful and selfish behavior and start looking after the poor and needy in their midst. Once they learn this lesson, God will restore these nations to their place in this world.

But how does a nation learn to live as God wants?

Such behavior is not accomplished through laws or courts. You cannot legislate generosity.

Instead, such things are learned only through the active example of the righteous people within that nation. The sons of righteousness who reside within a nation must lead their nation into righteousness by showing them through word and action how to live in light of the kingdom of heaven.

If we fail in this, then it is we who have been unbelieving and foolish servants, and we who lead our nation into destruction.

All of this helps us understand the everlasting fire in Matthew 25:41. It is a refining fire that comes upon the nations so that they learn to practice the principles of the kingdom of heaven by taking care of the “least of these, my brethren” in their midst.

When nations live like Sodom and Gomorrah, or Israel and Samaria, by refusing to tend to the needs of the poor, they will come under the purifying discipline of God, which is described as “everlasting fire.”

It is everlasting in that it is a purifying fire that comes from God, who is Himself everlasting.

But doesn’t it say the fire is for the the devil and his angels?

But what are we to make of the fact that this everlasting fire is prepared “for the devil and his angels”? This does not mean that the fire is some sort of place or state of existence in which God punishes spiritual beings for their rebellion.

It is important to remember that devil is the god of this age, the spirit of the air that is at work in the sons of wickedness (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 6:12). Since the word “devil” could also be translated as “accuser” or “slanderer,” this means that the world is guided or directed by a spirit of accusation and slander.

As seen in Genesis 3, the spirit of this age is a spirit of accusation and judgment in which we humans try to take the place of God in deciding between good and evil. Accusation and blame are the guiding forces of everything in this world. The angels of the accuser, therefore, are the principalities and powers that guide and direct the nations of this world (cf. Dan 10:13; 12:1).

This imagery fits perfectly with what Jesus is describing in Matthew 25:41. God created the nations of the world to function in a particular way. He gave them power and authority in this world, not to dominate and destroy others, but to protect and care for others, especially for the poor and needy.

But the accusatory spirit (the devil) that guides the spirits of the nations (his angels) leads these nations into war and violence, which accomplishes the opposite of what God desired or intended.

So the fire prepared for the devil and his angels is once again the fire of discipline, so that the spirits of the nations will be guided and taught to live as God wants.

Satan and his angels seek to set the world on fire through accusation and blame (Jas 3:5-6), but God fights fire with fire, by sending forth the kingdom of God through the followers of Jesus to show the world a better way to live.

The fire of the kingdom of God is the cleansing fire of grace, humility, patience, mercy, and forgiveness. As we live in such ways, we give instead of take, love instead of hate, bless instead of accuse, and believe instead of condemn.

The nations, as they see our good deeds, will glorify our Father in heaven by learning to live in similar ways themselves (Matt 5:15-16).

Since the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is the last part of the last spoken “sermon” (or teaching) by Jesus before His crucifixion, He goes on to tell His disciples how to show love to Him and carry on the Kingdom in His absence.

The Application of the Olivet Discourse

While Jesus has told His disciples in various ways that He is going away, He also wants them to know how to live while He is away. Jesus reveals to them that the ultimate truth of His absence is that He is not really absent at all.

Instead, He is dwelling with and among the “least of these, My brethren.” If His disciples want to spend time with Jesus, they can do so by spending time with the poor and needy.

If His disciples want to serve and love Jesus, they can do so by serving and loving the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. In this way, His disciples will not only be loving and serving others as Jesus did (thereby expanding the presence of the kingdom), but will also be loving and serving Jesus Himself.

So the stories of Matthew 25 are not about some future judgment.

They are stories about what is occurring through the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is saying that the health and survival of a nation can be affected by whether or not the individual people within that nation take care of the poor and needy in their midst.

When people serve the “least of these” in this way, they are not only helping the poor, but are loving Jesus and serving their country as well.

True service to your country does not look like marching off to war to kill others, but instead looks like feeding the hungry and clothing the poor that are in our midst.

And we do this, not by asking our country to tax people more or to redistribute the wealth of the rich, but simply by being generous with our own money and possessions.

take care of the poor

When this happens, we avoid bringing the fires of hellish war upon our country and instead invite the blessings of the kingdom of heaven upon our land and its people.

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is the last parable that Jesus ever told.

It is, therefore, a summary parable, or a key to understanding all the others.

In it, Jesus describes the central truth to living and experiencing the kingdom of God which He inaugurated on earth. Jesus is saying,

If you want to find the kingdom of God and live within it, then you need to follow Me and live where I live. And where is that? It is with the poor and needy. Go serve and minster to them, and you will be serving and ministering to Me, and in this way, will be living within and serving the kingdom of heaven.

Many people wonder where God has been hiding for all of history.

In this parable, Jesus tells us where. It is the great surprise at the end of the story. It is the final “Here I Am” of the great divine game of Hide and Seek that humans have been playing with God since Adam and Eve first hid from Him in the Garden.

And since that time, though we are the ones who hid ourselves from God, it is we who think that God has been hiding His face from us. We wonder why He doesn’t show up in strength and power to fix the world and right all wrong.

We think God is distant and neglectful. We think God is shirking His duties. And when bad things happen (and continue to happen) we cry out to the silent sky, “God! Where are you?”

But now Jesus tells us where God has been hiding all along. He has been living and dwelling with “the least of these, My brethren.”

The people we neglected and rejected throughout life are the very people among whom God has lived and dwelt. God has lived among the poor, the sick, the weak, and the hungry.

God is with the poor

And when we love and serve them, we love and serve Him, and paradoxically, He loves and serves them through us, so that they love and serve us in return, revealing the kingdom of God, and indeed, God Himself, to us.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, the disciples have been saying, “Show us the Father. We want to see God. We want to understand God and know what He wants of us.” And now, finally, Jesus has given the answer. “You want to see God?” He asks. “Go serve the poor, for that is where He lives.”

When we live in this way, we will experience the kingdom of God in this life, which has been prepared for us since the foundation of the world, thereby fulfilling our God-given destiny and purpose.

Those who live this way will see righteousness rise like the morning sun and blessing will come upon them like the dew.

But when we refuse to follow Jesus in this way, we will live in and experience the kingdom of hell during this life, which is guided only by selfishness, greed, hatred, rebellion, and emptiness.

Those who live this way, though they live for themselves, will only see their life burn away into nothingness, losing all purpose and significance. Such people have chosen to dwell in a hell of their own making.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free. ]]>
Some think that the everlasting fire of Matthew 25:41 refers to eternal torture in the pit of hell. But this is not what Jesus meant. When the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25 is studied in order and in context, Some think that the everlasting fire of Matthew 25:41 refers to eternal torture in the pit of hell. But this is not what Jesus meant. When the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25 is studied in order and in context, we see that Jesus is teaching something much more serious and practical for how to live our lives TODAY.<br /> <br /> To read the manuscript or ask a question, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_25_41/ Jeremy Myers clean 49:51
Is the everlasting fire of Matthew 18:8-9 a reference to everlasting torment in hell? https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_18_8-9/ Thu, 16 May 2019 17:00:04 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50231 When Jesus speaks of a fiery hell in Matthew 18:8-9, is He warning people about being tortured forever in flames of fire? No. The context makes it clear what He is referring to. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this study, we will consider Matthew 18:8-9 to see whether or not the reference to hell in this text refers to everlasting torment in fiery flames.

What is the meaning of “hell” in Matthew 18:8-9?

Let us begin by looking at the text of Matthew 18:8-9.

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”

The teachings of Jesus in Matthew 18 are very similar to Matthew 5:22, 29. But we are discussing this text of Matthew 18:8-9 because it contains extra details which help us understand both passages.

Jesus speaks of hell and describes it as being a place of everlasting fire.

The word for hell is gehenna, which, as we learned in a previous study, was a literal place outside the walls of Jerusalem. It was also known as the Valley of Hinnom and was a horrifying place of worms, fire, decay, and death.

Gehenna was a garbage heap that had been set on fire to consume its contents and cover the stench of rotting refuse and corpses. The everlasting fire, therefore, refers to the fire of Gehenna that burned day and night, seemingly forever and ever.

The nature of city garbage dumps, however, is that they attract the poor and the sick.

In that day (as in our own day), those who were stricken by poverty or sickness would visit the garbage dump in an attempt to find something to eat or sell.

For example, in the days of Jesus, scavenging for food and clothing in the garbage dump was often the only way that lepers could survive. It is the lepers that often frequented Gehenna which led Jesus to teach what He does here in Matthew 18:8-9.

While leprosy itself does not cause someone to lose their eyes, ears, nose, or limbs, it was not uncommon for people with advanced cases of leprosy to lose body parts or appendages due to infection, amputation, or accident.

If someone has no feeling in their feet, it is possible for them to accidentally put their foot too close to the fire at night while sleeping, thereby causing it to burn. If they are burned bad enough, they might need to amputate their foot.

Jesus heals leper Mark 1:40-45This is the situation Jesus has in mind. Some people, when they first saw a hint of leprosy on their hand or foot, would rather cut off their hand or foot and go through life maimed, than be officially diagnosed with leprosy and be sent to live in Gehenna, where the fire burned day and night.

Similarly, if someone’s eye is injured, and it begins to putrefy or rot, it is better to pluck it out than to leave it in and allow the corruption to spread to the rest of the body. If this were to happen, the person would eventually be sent to Gehenna. It is better to lose an eye than to spend your last days there.

So Jesus is NOT warning people about everlasting torture in hell…

When this cultural context is understood, we see that Jesus is not warning people that if they sin in this life, they will end up in a fiery torture chamber in the next.

Instead, Jesus is saying that sin leads to damaging and destructive consequences in this life.

If we want to avoid those consequences, some drastic steps are sometimes needed.

A person who finds themselves infected with the rot of addiction or the decay of bad influences should cut those places or people out of their life so that the disease does not spread and cause greater damage to themselves or to others whom they love.

Matthew 18:8-9 is not a warning about the afterlife

So Matthew 18:8-9 is not a warning about the afterlife, but an instruction about preserving your life here and now.

The surrounding context gives several applications of exactly how to do this.

Jesus teaches that His disciples should cut pride out of their life if they want to experience the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1-5).

He provides instructions for how to rescue a lost sheep (Matthew 18:10-14) by going to them with one or two others.

But if they do not heed or listen, then they should be cut out of your life as well (Matthew 18:15-20).

gehenna valley of hinnom hellJesus also speaks about the importance of forgiving others as we have been forgiven (Matthew 18:21-35) so that we give up our need to be repaid for wrongs done against us.

The point of the entire context is that it is better to go through life (this life!) without pride, certain friends, and a defense of justice than to maintain such things but to lose yourself, your family, your friends, and your finances in the process. This is what Jesus is teaching.

Matthew 18:8-9 is not a warning about everlasting punishment in hell, but is rather a warning about the experience of a hellish life here and now.Yes, Jesus mentions “everlasting fire” in the context. To understand this term, we will study Matthew 25:41 next week…

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free. ]]>
When Jesus speaks of a fiery hell in Matthew 18:8-9, is He warning people about being tortured forever in flames of fire? No. The context makes it clear what He is referring to. When Jesus speaks of a fiery hell in Matthew 18:8-9, is He warning people about being tortured forever in flames of fire? No. The context makes it clear what He is referring to. <br /> <br /> To read the manuscript or ask a question, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_18_8-9/ Jeremy Myers clean 16:27
Is the furnace of fire in Matthew 13:40-42 a reference to hell? https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_13_40-42/ Thu, 09 May 2019 17:00:42 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50229 Does the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-40 teach that some people will go away to everlasting torment in a furnace of flames where they will scream and suffer and wail and gnash their teeth for all eternity? No. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this study, we are considering the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-30, and specifically what it means when the tares are cast into a furnace of fire, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Is Matthew 13:40, 42 (Matt 13:50) a warning about hell?

Let’s begin with the specific verses we want to consider:

Matthew 13:40, 42: “Therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. … and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

It is important to first consider the context of Matthew 13.

Matthew 13 contains several parables which have consistently challenged interpreters and Bible students. In fact, even the first hearers of these parables were confused by them, as evidenced by the fact that the disciples asked Jesus to explain the parables to them (cf. Matt 13:10, 36).

As Jesus explains the parables, He also tells His disciples that one reason He speaks in parables is so that people do not understand what He is talking about (cf. Matt 13:15-16).

In other words, Jesus wanted people to be confused by His parables. Why? So that those who wanted to learn what He was talking about would come to Him for an explanation.

Therefore, if you’ve ever been confused by a parable, be encouraged, for you are on the right track. Then allow this confusion to lead you to the feet of Jesus.

Three Keys to Understanding Parables

By doing this, you will come to discover three keys to understanding the parables of Jesus.

First, if Jesus explains some of the symbolism of the parable, this will greatly help in your understanding.

Second, it is critically important to learn the historical, cultural, and theological contexts behind the parables.

What matters most in these parables is not what you and I want them to say, but what the original audience heard and understood Jesus to be saying. This means that if you want to understand these parables, you must get into the mindset of the original audience by seeking to understand their times and culture, how they read the Hebrew Bible, and what sort of concerns and issues were commonly discussed in their day, not ours.

Finally, it is important to recognize that Jesus had a sense of humor.

Many of His stories were told with a twinkle in His eye and a half-smile on His lips. The stories often contain half-jokes, plays on words, and surprising twists and turns that were intended to amuse, delight, and amaze His hearers. His parables used humor to instruct the hearers about what was most important.

Historical-Cultural Background to the Parables in Matthew 13

With these three keys in mind, a few cultural, historical, and theological details will help us better understand what Jesus is saying in Matthew 13 (and in all of His parables).

First, most of Jesus’ parables are about the kingdom of God. Many people today, when they think about the kingdom of God, think about heaven.

But nobody in the days of Jesus thought this. They had daily, negative experiences with the “kingdom of Rome,” and they longed for the promised and prophesied Messiah to come and overthrow Rome so that the kingdom of God could take over.

The kingdom of God, therefore, is the rule and reign of God on earth, here and now as a replacement for the kingdoms of men.

Second, the people to whom Jesus spoke were nearly all Jewish, who had been immersed in the themes and ideas of the Hebrew Scriptures since birth.

Many modern Christians spend little to no time studying the “Old Testament,” and as a result, fail to understand much of what the New Testament teaches. This is especially true with the parables. A deep understanding of Old Testament concepts, imagery, and themes is necessary to understand the parables of Jesus.

Finally, it is critical to recognize that the parables of Jesus were politically and religiously subversive, but not primarily against Rome, as the Jewish people wanted and expected.

His parables were subversive to the politics and religion of Judaism. This is one of the reasons Jesus didn’t want everyone to understand what He was saying. If people among the Jewish political and religious ruling class understood what Jesus was saying, they would have crucified Him much sooner than they did. If we fail to grasp the subversive and dangerous elements in the parables of Jesus, we have likely misunderstood them.

So with all of this in mind, Matthew 13 contains seven parables about the kingdom of God, which is also called the kingdom of heaven.

And despite the popular teaching that is found in some Christian circles today, not a single one of these parables is about how to go to heaven when you die, or how to tell if you are truly a Christian.

The Seven Parables of Matthew 13 are not about the afterlife at all.

Instead, all seven are about the nature, character, birth, and growth of the kingdom of God on earth.

For example, the Parable of the Four Soils (Matt 13:1-8) is not about who is a Christian and who isn’t, or how to determine who gets to go to heaven and who doesn’t. The parable is about how different people respond to the teachings about the kingdom (Matt 13:19). Any believer or unbeliever can be any one of the four soils.

Note as well, by the way, the humor in the Parable of the Four Soils. This sower went out and scattered seed all over the place, willy-nilly, not caring where the seed landed. Seed was valuable, and no sower in that day would have been this careless. But apparently, God is careless with the truths of the kingdom, scattering them all over the place without much concern for where they land. It is not very “efficient,” but God has never cared much for efficiency.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30)

All of this helps us grasp the meaning of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-30 and the explanation by Jesus in Matthew 13:36-43.

By understanding this parable, we will discover a surprising truth about the fire mentioned in Matthew 13:42 (and Matthew 13:50) and the identity of the ones who are burned in this fire.

Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sows good seed in his field (Matthew 13:24). The kingdom of heaven, of course, is not heaven, but is the way God brings heaven down to earth as Jesus and His disciples spread the rule and reign of God over the earth. It begins with the sower spreading seed. But an enemy comes and sows bad seeds in the field, so that a bunch of weeds, or tares, spring up among the wheat.

The seed that Jesus refers to should be read in light of the first parable of Matthew 13, the Parable of the Four Soils.

There, Jesus teaches that the seed is the Word of God. But here in Matthew 13 we see that there are two types of seeds that can be scattered. There are the seeds of kingdom, and the seeds of the devil. These are two contrasting kingdoms, which result in two contrasting types of people.

But initially, when the seeds first begin to sprout, there is great difficulty in deciding between the wheat and weeds.

When the servants discover the weeds, they ask how the weeds came to exist and what the owner wants to do about them (Matthew 13:25-27).

This is where some humor enters into this parable. As anyone who has ever had a field (or even a flower garden) knows, one does not need an enemy to sow bad seeds for weeds to pop up and grow.

So when Jesus describes an enemy sowing bad seeds in the owner’s field, His audience would have likely snickered a little bit. No enemy would work so hard to ruin a crop. If an enemy really wanted to ruin someone’s crop, there were better and easier ways to do it.

But the enemy in the parable does sow bad seeds in this story, which not only shows his own foolishness, but also provides a humorous backdrop for the rest of the story.

Many commentaries and articles point out that the bad seed in the field is most likely darnel, which looks exactly like wheat until harvest time. It is a mimic weed. This is why the owner of the field tells his servants to just let the two plants grow side by side until harvest (Matthew 13:27-30).

Prior to harvest, it would be nearly impossible to tell the two apart, and so any attempt to remove the darnel would likely result in the loss of wheat as well. Once harvest arrives, wheat turns golden and the heavy heads of grain droop down toward the ground, but darnel tends to remain greener for longer and will continue to stand upright.

Since wheat and darnel appear so identical, the presence of the tares in the field goes unnoticed until the grain begins to “go to crop,” or develop a head. This is why the servants only notice the tares once the wheat begins to mature (Matthew 13:26).

So they ask the owner if he wants them to pull out the tares, but since wheat and darnel look quite similar to each other prior to full maturity, the owner tells his servants to leave the weeds alone and let them grow along with the wheat.

At harvest, the reapers will go through and gather the tares, and then they can harvest the wheat (Matthew 13:30). The tares are thrown into the fire to be burned.

One of the reasons it was necessary to first harvest and then burn the tares is because darnel can be deadly to livestock and humans if consumed in large quantities. Smaller quantities will cause dizziness if baked into bread or brewed with beer.

In fact, there are historical records of people actually cultivating darnel for this very reason, treating it like an ancient form of cannabis. But if too much is consumed, darnel can cause great sickness and even death.

The Explanation of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:36-43)

Thankfully, this is one of the parables that Jesus explained.

When Jesus explains this parable to His disciples, He begins by identifying the various characters in the story.

He says that the sower is the Son of Man (Matthew 13:37), which is one of Jesus’s favorite titles for Himself. The field which the sower plants is the world, and so the good seeds that go out into the world are the sons of the kingdom (Matthew 13:38). The tares are therefore the opposite of the sons of the kingdom; Jesus calls them the sons of the wicked one. The enemy is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels (Matthew 13:38).

Now each of these characters need to be more carefully explained, but first, it is critical to notice that there is one set of characters Jesus does not identify.

This missing identification is the key to the parable.

Who is it that Jesus does not identify? It is the servants.

Jesus does not explain who the servants represent.

I have heard some say that the servants are the reapers, but when the owner is speaking to the servants, he clearly identifies the reapers as a different group (cf. Matthew 13:30).

So who are the servants? Who do the servants represent?

The solution to this problem is to return to the image of the field as the world.

The Son of Man sowed seeds in the field, and the servants went out and worked in the field. Since the field is the world, and Jesus is the one who sowed the seeds in the world, then the servants are the ones who tend, cultivate, and work in the fields. Who are they?

They are the followers of Jesus. They are disciples.

The servants in the story are the Christians. Christians, or followers of Jesus, are those who work in the world to grow and expand the kingdom of God which Jesus planted and initiated.

But if the servants are Christians, then who are the “sons of the kingdom”?

Jesus says the seed is the sons of the kingdom. But if the servants are Christians, then the sons of the kingdom (the seed) cannot also be Christians.

To put it another way, since the servants are the followers of Jesus, then this means that the sons of the kingdom must be someone else. And when we understand the identity of the sons of the kingdom, we will also understand the identity of the sons of the evil one (which might be better translated as “sons of wickedness”; Matthew 13:38).

If the Servants are Christians, then who are the Sons of the Kingdom?

To understand the identity of both, it is first necessary to understand how the word “son” is used in Scripture.

Typically, a “son” is understood to be a child of someone else. But the word “son” can also be used metaphorically. When the word “son” is used in connection to a concept or idea, instead of to a person or family, it refers to the characteristics or inner attributes of someone, rather than to the person themselves.

So “sons of this world” are contrasted with “sons of light” in Luke 16:8 (cf. John 12:36; 1 Thess 5:5). A student or disciple of the Pharisees could be called a “son of the Pharisees” (Matt 12:27; Acts 23:6). Scripture can also speak of “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), “sons of this age” (Luke 16:8; 20:34), “sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2; 5:6), “sons of the devil” (Acts 13:10) and numerous other similar terms.

Such descriptions are not literal (a son of the devil is not literally the biological offspring of the devil), but are instead figurative and symbolic ways of referring to someone’s character and behavior.

So who are the sons of the kingdom and the sons of wickedness, and how can we tell? One more contextual key is needed before an answer is discovered.

In the context before these seven parables of Matthew 13, the Jewish religious leaders accused Jesus of operating according to the power of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). Jesus responds with a teaching full of symbolism and imagery (Matthew 12:25-37) that shows up again in the parables of Matthew 13. He speaks of kingdoms (Matthew 12:25, 28), sons of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:27), gathering and scattering (Matthew 12:30), this age and the age to come (Matthew 12:32), and the fruitfulness (or lack thereof) of various trees (Matthew 12:33-37).

All the parables of Matthew 13 must be read in light of this confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees. While they were accusing Him of doing the devil’s work, He responded by saying that it was not Him, but they, who were committing blasphemy and speaking evil from their hearts (Matthew 12:35).

But how could the onlookers, the disciples, tell who was right?

They had grown up being taught to love, respect, and listen to the religious Pharisees. But now they loved, respected, and listened to Jesus.

Yet the Pharisees were saying that the teachings of Jesus were from the devil, and now Jesus was saying the same thing about the teachings of the Pharisees. So what were the disciples to do? How could they know who was right and who was wrong?

If you have ever had two Bible teachers, both of whom you greatly respect, disagree with each other, then you understand the dilemma of the disciples.

How were they to choose between Jesus and the Pharisees?

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is the answer to their question.

In this parable, Jesus, the Son of Man, tells His servants, the disciples, that two types of seeds have been sown which result in two types of sons of two types of kingdoms. But which was which and how could they know?

Jesus tells His disciples to wait until the harvest “at the end of this age” (Matthew 13:40).

But this is not helpful for them if the end of the age is thousands of years in the future when the new heavens and new earth are created.

So what if “this age” was the age in which Jesus and His disciples were living, and the age to come was the age that followed (cf. Matthew 12:32)?

Indeed, Scripture indicates in numerous ways and places that a new age did indeed come into existence with the death and resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the church. The death and resurrection of Jesus gave birth to a new age, the age of the kingdom of God, the church age.

There were birth pains and many travails as the old age died and the new age began (as Jesus discusses in Matthew 24–25), but the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the church was the sign that the new age had begun.

Jesus tells His disciples that while it is difficult for them to decide between the wheat and the tares right now, it will become clear to them at the harvest.

Though they had trouble deciding between the way of Jesus and the way of the Pharisees, the end of the age would make it clear when the messengers of God arrived and took away the tares.

Here we have the religiously subversive nature of the parable.

The disciples of Jesus are faced with a choice: they can either follow the way of Jesus or the way of the Pharisees. Jesus tells them that they don’t need to figure it out.

In fact, it would be dangerous for them to try to do so, for they will not be able to properly and perfectly tell the difference between the good teaching and bad.

Instead, they should just wait for the harvest and let the reaping angels separate the wheat from the chaff.

And this is indeed what happened in 70 AD.

The way of the Pharisees was destroyed when Jerusalem and the temple were burned with fire.

destruction of Jerusalem 586 BC

This does not mean that the Pharisees and all who followed their teachings were unregenerate sinners who will spend eternity burning in hell. Everlasting torture in hell is not anywhere in view with this parable.

To the contrary, the “furnace of fire” imagery is drawn from Daniel 3:19-25 where Daniel’s friends are thrown into a furnace of fire, but only their bonds are burned as they walk around in the flame with one shining like the Son of God. (As a side note, the “Son of Man” imagery is drawn from Daniel 7:13-14, and the imagery of the righteous shining like the sun in Matthew 13:43 is drawn from Daniel 12:3).

It can be assumed that when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army, many Christians were also consumed by the flames. But Christianity survived, as it was not (and is not) dependent upon a city, a temple, or a priesthood.

Yet the Jewish Pharisaical religion was dependent upon such things, and so it died out when Jerusalem fell.

And so we see that the burning of the chaff in the furnace of fire is not about God sending people to hell where they will burn forever and ever. Instead, it is about the disciples of Jesus allowing God to be the one to judge between right and wrong, good and evil, especially when it comes to deciding between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the Pharisees.

As a result of the events in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve tried to gain for themselves what should be left up to God, we humans have always done a poor job of judging between good and evil.

So God invites us to leave all such judgment up to Him. And this is what Jesus tells His disciples to do as well.

So the Tares are NOT “sent to hell”

This parable, therefore, is not about how God sends wicked people to burn forever in the furnace of hell, but is instead about how the disciples of Jesus should allow God alone to make judgments between good teaching and bad teaching, and allow His angels to burn up the bad teaching “at the end of this age.”

This is what happened with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD.

But what about the Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth?

Some may object that the description of weeping and gnashing of teeth from Matthew 13:42 indicates that Jesus does indeed have hell in mind.

The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” occurs six times in Matthew (8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30), once in Luke (13:28), and nowhere else in the New Testament.

Matthew’s six uses of this phrase are all in reference to those who are “part of the family,” that is, those who belong to God.

In Matthew 8:12, it refers to those who are sons of the kingdom. In Matthew 13:42, it refers to those who were gathered out of God’s kingdom, indicating that they were in it to begin with. In Matthew 13:50, the image is of two types of people caught in the same net (which is a symbol of the kingdom of God), and one type is pulled out and experiences this weeping and gnashing of teeth. In Matthew 22:13, the phrase describes a man who is actually at the wedding banquet. And in both Matthew 24:51 and Matthew 25:30, it is used in connection to the experience of a servant who did a poor job serving his master.

What this seems to indicate, therefore, is that the weeping and gnashing of teeth does not refer to the tortured experience of unregenerate people in hell, but instead to the experience of some people who belonged to God in some way and should have known what He expects of them and how they are to live.

While this can refer to believers who might have a negative experience at the Judgment Seat of Christ or who experience the discipline of God in this life (cf. Matthew 8:13), it can also refer to Jewish people who should have known that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” therefore, has nothing whatsoever to do with hell.

It is instead a graphic and descriptive middle-eastern way of expressing profound regret and shame, and maybe even fury.

The weeping and wailing speaks of “extreme loss, not so much of actual pain” while the gnashing or grinding of teeth could refer to fury and anger directed at someone else (see Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 171).

Hell is not in view in Matthew 13:40, 42

When we read in Matthew 13:42 (and later in 13:50) about the tares being cast into the furnace of fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, we should not read this as an image of God casting people into everlasting flames of hell where they scream and wail for all eternity at the painful suffering inflicted upon them.

Instead, Jesus is saying that when judgment comes after the end of the age (which ended at the resurrection of Jesus), the good and bad teachings will be made clear because one set will survive and the other will be burned up.

This judgment occurred in 70 AD when the city of Jerusalem, along with the Jewish temple, was destroyed and burned by the Roman military.

On that day, there were not only flames and fire, but also much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Burning of the Tares in History

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in his history of the destruction of Jerusalem, writes that in the time right before the Roman military attacked and burned the city and the temple, chariots and soldiers were seen to be running around in the clouds around Jerusalem, and voices from heaven were heard calling for the removal of the city.

It sounds like fiction, and Josephus admits as much, but he also says that many people witnessed these events and told him about them. Here is what he writes:

Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence” (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.5.3.)

Could it be that these were the angels whom Jesus prophesied about in Matthew 13:39-41, who were sent to separate the wheat from the chaff at harvest time?

Conclusion

The parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43 is not about God sending sinners to hell to burn for all eternity.

It is instead a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish religion (as practiced in that day), and how the disciples of Jesus should not seek to judge or decide between right and wrong when it came to the teaching of Jesus or their own Jewish traditions.

They should instead allow God and the angels to make this separation on their own, which is what happened in 70 AD.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Does the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-40 teach that some people will go away to everlasting torment in a furnace of flames where they will scream and suffer and wail and gnash their teeth for all eternity? No. Does the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-40 teach that some people will go away to everlasting torment in a furnace of flames where they will scream and suffer and wail and gnash their teeth for all eternity? No.<br /> <br /> This study looks at the context and key words of Matthew 13:24-40, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, to see why it is NOT teaching about everlasting hell.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_13_40-42/ Jeremy Myers clean 52:23
Does the unquenchable fire of Matthew 3:10-12 refer to hell? https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_3_10-12/ Thu, 02 May 2019 17:00:27 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50227 Some think that the unquenchable fire of Matthew 3:10-12 refers to hell. But the context shows that this is not what John the Baptist had in mind at all. The context clearly shows he is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 AD. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this article, we will be discussing the topic of “unquenchable fire” as it is talked about by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:10-12 (and the parallel passage in Luke 3:16-17).

ax is laid to the root

Matthew 3:10-12 (Luke 3:16-17)

Many believe that John the Baptist is teaching about hell in Matthew 3:10-12. Here is what the text says:

“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

This is a message from John the Baptist to the Jewish people who came to be baptized by him in the Jordan River.

The words of John are sometimes used by modern teachers who want to defend the idea that those who don’t have good works will end up in hell. They argue that all true Christians will prove the reality of their new birth by having good works.

In other words, the argument is that if someone doesn’t have the necessary good works, they will lose their eternal life (or prove they never had it in the first place) and so will end up in hell.

This misapplication of the text arises primarily from thinking that the fire John speaks about refers to hell.

But John is not referring to hell.

In the context, John the Baptist is not talking about hell, but about impending temporal judgment on the people of Israel if they fail to repent.

In Matthew 3:7-8, John warns the religious leaders that wrath was coming upon them, but they could escape this wrath if they bore fruits worthy of repentance. Scholars have always understood this as a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

There is no thought of hell here, but only of temporal judgment on the nation of Israel and the people who are part of it.

The references to fire in Matthew 3:10-12 must be understood in light of this context.

When John speaks of the ax being laid at the root of the tree, he is saying that the judgment is imminent.

The ruling class of Israel was often compared to a tree (cf. Isa 11:1), and so John is saying that the rulers of Israel (such as the religious leaders) will be cut down unless they repent.

But it was not just the rulers. While the root of the tree represents the leaders of the nation, from whom the teaching and direction of the nation comes, the tree itself represents the rest of the nation (Keener, Matthew, 123).

Similarly, when John uses the image of the wheat and the chaff, he is describing the common practice of farmers gathering the harvest into their threshing floor where the wheat was separated from the chaff with a winnowing fan.

winnowing fanA winnowing fan was a cross between a rake and a shovel so that large scoops of grain could be tossed into the air while also creating a bit of breeze. The heavier grain would fall back to the ground, while the lighter chaff would get blown off to one side, where it would pile up against a low wall of the threshing floor.

Once the wheat and chaff had been separated in this way, the grain would be taken away for storage, while the chaff would be set on fire. Since chaff is light and insubstantial, it burns quickly, leaving almost no ash behind and very little evidence that it ever existed.

John says that this is what will happen to the Jewish leaders and those who follow their teachings if they do not all repent and turn to follow God.

This was a challenging teaching, for while most Jewish people expected God to judge the surrounding Gentile nations, few believed or taught that God would judge the nation of Israel itself.

But this is what John preached. He was speaking to them as if they were Gentiles in need of repentance.

Repentance, of course, is not a necessary condition for receiving eternal life, but is an actual turning from sin toward obedience.

We receive eternal life by believing in Jesus for it, not by repenting, or turning, from sinful activities. Such turning is extremely helpful in experiencing the blessings that God wants for us in this life. But those who do not repent will experience the devastating and destructive consequences of their sinful choices.

This is what John warns the leaders about and the nation of Israel as a whole. John uses the image of fire to refer to this destruction.

But what about being “thrown into the fire”?

When John says they will be “thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:10), he is not talking about being thrown into the fires of hell, but is using the imagery of cutting down a tree which then gets burned. Many trees are cut down and then used to make planks of wood for building and construction.

But John says that Israel’s leaders, and those who follow their teaching with a lack of repentance, will be symbolically cut down and burned. They will not be useful for anything once the judgment comes.

But what about the baptism by fire?

The baptism by fire in Matthew 3:11 is to be understood in a similar way.

It does not refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but the impending destruction on Israel.

Since baptism simply means “immersion,” when something is immersed in fire, it is consumed by the fire.

The fact that Jesus is said to be the one who will bring this immersion in fire does not mean that Jesus is the one who performs or sends the destruction. Instead, that the destruction will come upon Israel by means of their rejection of Him as the Messiah (cf. Luke 12:49).

Then how about the “unquenchable fire”?

This fire will not come upon all, for John teaches that the Messiah will gather the grain into the barn, while the chaff gets burned with unquenchable fire (Matt 3:12).

This reference to unquenchable fire causes some to think that John is referring to hell. But the term “unquenchable” (Gk., asbestos) simply means that the fire completes its task. It burns all that it was meant to burn and fully consumes all that is fed into it.

quicklimeAs an interesting side note, the term asbestos not only means “unquenchable” but also refers to calcium oxide (or quicklime) that was made in the lime kilns of the ancient world, which, after being slaked with water, was widely used for art and construction. When a human body is completely burned, the ash it leaves behind looks very similar to asbestos, or calcium oxide (See Isaiah 33:12).

Chaff does not burn eternally. Quite to the contrary, it burns quickly and then is gone.

So the fact that this fire is described as unquenchable means that it burns hot and fast until there is nothing left to burn. It completes its task of burning so quickly and thoroughly, there is little trace of the flames or its fuel after the fire is gone.

Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History (Book VI: Chapter 41), writes about a Christian named Julian who was burned to death for being a Christian. Eusebius describes this fire as being an immense fire. The Greek words he uses are puri asbestō, exactly the same words used by John in Matthew 3:12. Eusebius goes on to use the exact same term to describe how other Christian martyrs were killed.

Clearly, when Eusebius used this phrase, he was certainly not saying that these Christian martyrs went to hell. Instead, Eusebius was simply describing the immense inferno which consumed their bodies in the flames.

The bodies of these Christians were reduced to ash in the fire; not sent to everlasting torment in hell.

John’s Warning was fulfilled in 69-70 AD

This is what happened to the nation of Israel within one generation of John speaking these words. In 69-70 AD, some Jewish people tried to revolt against Rome, and in response, Rome sent its military to destroy and burn the city of Jerusalem. Its walls were torn down, the temple was ruined, thousands of people were killed, and the city was burned to the ground. The rest of the nation scattered over the face of the earth.

Destruction of Jerusalem

In the minds of many, the nation of Israel ceased to exist, and there was almost no trace of it to be found. It was not until 1948 that Israel was resurrected from the ashes and became a nation once again.

This unquenchable fire was not the first time that such fires came upon Jerusalem.

Jeremiah prophesied that if the people of Jerusalem did not turn from their disobedience, then an unquenchable fire would be kindled upon the gates and palaces of Jerusalem (Jer 17:27). This fire came upon Jerusalem in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar burned the city, destroyed the temple, and razed Jerusalem to the ground. But even though Jeremiah said the fire was unquenchable, the fire burned itself out. Many years later, the city and temple were once again rebuilt.

John follows in the prophetic steps of Jeremiah by saying that if the Jewish people do not turn from their ways, the same thing that happened to Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah would also happen in their own day.

Matthew 3:10-12 is not teaching about hell

Matthew 3:10-12 burning of chaffSo John is not warning the people about going to hell where they will be tortured forever in flames.

He is warning the people of Israel that a fire is coming upon them, and once it is ignited, it will not be extinguished, but will burn until there is nothing left to burn.

This is not a reference to hell or the eventual annihilation of unregenerate dead, but only to the temporal destruction that would come upon the nation of Israel if they did not repent and return to God.

Throughout this text, John uses the images of pruning and burning to invite his listeners to repent and prepare their lives for the coming Messiah.

He invites his listeners to burn the rubbish out of their own lives now in preparation for the Messiah, or have it burned up later when the Messiah comes.

This is not a threat from John that the Messiah will send people to everlasting hell, but is instead a call to national repentance as a way of preparing the way for the Messiah.

As we now know, however, the nation did not properly prepare themselves, and so the Messianic presence resulted in the fires of purification (cf. Luke 12:49).

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Some think that the unquenchable fire of Matthew 3:10-12 refers to hell. But the context shows that this is not what John the Baptist had in mind at all. The context clearly shows he is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 AD. Some think that the unquenchable fire of Matthew 3:10-12 refers to hell. But the context shows that this is not what John the Baptist had in mind at all. The context clearly shows he is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 AD. <br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/matthew_3_10-12/ Jeremy Myers clean 34:26
Does Isaiah 33:10-16 teach about hell? https://redeeminggod.com/isaiah_33_10-16/ Thu, 25 Apr 2019 17:00:19 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50225 Isaiah 33:10-16 is a text which helps us understand all the fire imagery in the Bible. It shows what the fire does, where the fire comes from, what goes into the fire, and what happens to the things that are burned by the fire. In the end, we learn that this passage is not about hell. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this article, we will be looking at a key passage from the Old Testament about the symbolism of fire in the Bible. By understanding how the Bible refers to fire, we can understand what the Bible means when it talks about burning in hell, or the fires of judgment.

The key text we want to study is Isaiah 33:10-16.

Scores of passages from the Hebrew prophets could be considered which provide insight into what a Jewish person thought when they heard someone teach about everlasting fire.

Isaiah 33:10-16 is representative of many of these prophetic texts, and provides perfect insight into what the Bible means when it refers to fire that comes upon people who disobey God.

Isaiah 33:10-16 and Burning in Fire. Is this hell?

Here is some of what Isaiah 33:10-16 says,

You shall conceive chaff, You shall bring forth stubble; Your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be like the burnings of lime; Like thorns cut up they shall be burned in the fire. … The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: “Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa 33:11-12, 14).

There are three key insights to note from this text which help guide our understanding of all the others.

1. It is Not People who are Burned, but what People Produce

First, Isaiah writes that the people of Zion will “conceive” chaff and “bring forth” stubble.

Isaiah 33:10-16Isaiah uses terms of conception and childbirth to speak of the works that these sinners produce. It is not their lives that are chaff, stubble, and thorns, but what they produce with their lives.

Of course, when your entire life’s work is destroyed, it may seem as if your life is destroyed as well. Indeed, when other prophetic passages (and later New Testament texts) talk about the destruction that comes upon people for their worthless way of living, it sometimes refers to the people themselves being destroyed, rather than the work of their hands.

This is how it feels when, at the end of your life, you discover that everything you have worked for has amounted to nothing.

This is not to say that many prophetic passages (including those in the New Testament) do not have the death and destruction of actual human lives in view. Many of them do, as we shall see. But in each case, the passages are always referring to physical death and temporal destruction rather than to everlasting death or eternal physical torture in flames of fire.

Some of the physical death and destruction during this life does indeed happen with literal flames when war comes upon a nation or its cities, and in such wars, many human beings do die. But once again, it is physical death that is in view, not eternal death in an everlasting place of torment.

2. The word “Everlasting” can refer to an event of limited duration with everlasting effects

But some point to Isaiah 33:14 as evidence that everlasting burning in the pit of hell is indeed what Isaiah has in view. This is the second important point to note from this text. While the term “everlasting” can indeed refer to a period of time that never ends, it can also refer to an event of limited duration which has effects that never end.

This second explanation provides the proper understanding for Isaiah 33:14.

In this text, people who are alive are saying that the works of their lives have been destroyed, and nobody in the future will know or hear of them.

They are afraid because they have lived hypocritical lives, and see that all they have lived and worked for will be consumed by fire, and will have no lasting value, significance, or remembrance for all eternity.

The fire that consumes these people and the works of their hands did indeed go out. It came upon them in 586 BC (when King Nebuchadnezzar invaded and destroyed Judah, along with Jerusalem and the temple) and has long since burned out.

destruction of Jerusalem 586 BC

But none of their work remains. It burned to ashes long ago and has forever been forgotten.

Note that even though Zion was destroyed with “everlasting fire,” the nation, its capitol city Jerusalem, the temple, and even the people of Zion rose again from the ashes.

In 538 BC, the Persian ruler, King Cyrus, allowed the Hebrew people to return to their land where they eventually rebuilt the city and the temple.

Though the everlasting fire prophesied by Isaiah destroyed many of the people and the works of their hands, this was not the end of the Hebrew people themselves, or their influence upon this world. They rebuilt and regained much of their former glory.

Furthermore, of the people who died in 586 BC, nothing is said by Isaiah or anyone else regarding their eternal state or destiny. It is only the work of their lives which was burned away into nothingness.

In fact, it is possible that many of them are already with God, and will spend eternity with Him.

hypocriteWe see evidence of this in the fact that Isaiah calls them “hypocrites.” A hypocrite is someone who acts in ways that are contrary to their stated identity. As such, anybody can be a hypocrite. Jesus often called some of His followers hypocrites (Matt 15:7; Luke 13:15), and Paul once referred to Peter and Barnabas as hypocrites (Gal 2:11-13).

Obviously, if someone is a hypocrite, this does not automatically mean they are truly part of the family of God, but it also does not necessarily mean that they will spend eternity in hell. It just means that they claim one thing about themselves but behave in ways that are opposite.

This was true of the people in Isaiah’s day, and many of these hypocrites will spend eternity with God.

3. The Fire is not from God, but from the People themselves

The third and final thing to note from Isaiah 33:10-16 is that the fire comes from the people themselves.

Isaiah writes, “Your breath, as fire, shall devour you” (Isaiah 33:11).

While numerous passages in Scripture indicate that the fires of judgment comes from God, a look behind the curtain reveals that the fires of judgment that come upon human beings for their sinful ways are always self-inflicted.

Sin bears its own punishment; rebellion carries within it the flames of ruin.

Actions have consequences, and when we live in ways that are contrary to the will of God, these actions lead to destruction and devastation.

This is why God warns us against sin in the first place. God warns us against sin, not because He is a killjoy and wants to ruin our fun with arbitrary laws, but because He knows how best to live this life and get the most out of it.

He also knows what happens when we do not live this life as He intends and seeks to warn us against such ways of living.

sin hurtsWhen we sin, we hurt others and we hurt ourselves. And since God loves all of us, He does not want to see us get hurt, which is why He warns us about sin. Yet we often sin anyway, and so destruction comes.

This is what Isaiah is teaching.

The people were warned by the prophets, including Isaiah himself, about their sinful and hypocritical ways. But they continued to sin, and so the fire of judgment that comes upon them is a fire they lit themselves.

And while it is not always words that spark the flame, words are often the culprit, as Isaiah indicates. He says it is their “breath” that is the fire, which is a way of referring to the words that they speak.

Indeed, near the end of Isaiah’s life, King Hezekiah said some foolish words to the ambassadors from Babylon. He boasted to them about the treasures of the temple and showed them the riches that were within it.

As a result, Isaiah told Hezekiah that because he had said and done these things, Babylon would come against the city and destroy it (2 Kings 20:12-19), which is exactly what happened (2 Kings 24:1-16).

Eventually, the entire city, with the temple, was burned with fire, and its inhabitants were carted off into captivity (2 Kings 25:1-21).

what is hell

Conclusion

So Isaiah 33:10-16 is a guiding paradigm for helping us understand all the passages in Scripture about fire.

As we will see, just like Isaiah 33:10-16, none of the passages which teach about the destruction of people in fire are referring to the everlasting torment of people in flames where they scream and burn for all eternity.

Instead, such texts refer to the worthless work of human hands that gets burned away by destructive forces in this world. All the work of their hands is turned to ash.

lime ashWhen lime is burned in a fire or thorns are put to flame, nothing is left but a fine, white powder which blows away with the first puff of wind.

So it will be for everything that some people have worked for in this life. As we keep this paradigm in mind, many of the New Testament passages which speak of fire make much more sense.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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Isaiah 33:10-16 is a text which helps us understand all the fire imagery in the Bible. It shows what the fire does, where the fire comes from, what goes into the fire, and what happens to the things that are burned by the fire. In the end, Isaiah 33:10-16 is a text which helps us understand all the fire imagery in the Bible. It shows what the fire does, where the fire comes from, what goes into the fire, and what happens to the things that are burned by the fire. In the end, we learn that this passage is not about hell. <br /> <br /> To leave a comment or question, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/isaiah_33_10-16/ Jeremy Myers clean 28:45
What is hell? (James 3:6 and James 5:3 provide the answer) https://redeeminggod.com/james_3_6/ Wed, 17 Apr 2019 17:00:11 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50223 James 3:6 and James 5:3 help us see that hell is not a place of everlasting torture for the unbelieving dead, but is instead a kingdom of destruction here on earth now. It sets our lives on fire now. As such, the kingdom of hell is set in direct opposition to the kingdom of heaven as founded by Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus, we must live and operate according to His kingdom, rather than the kingdom of hell. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In previous studies, we have looked at the words sheol, gehenna, abyss, tartarus, hades, the ‘outer darkness‘ and the Lake of Fire. In each case, we have seen that none of these words describe a place of everlasting torment for unbelievers in a place of burning fire.

Having studied several of the key terms that often get related to hell, it is also important to study several of the key passages that many people believe teach about hell. This study looks at James 3:6 and James 5:3.

Does James 3:6 teach that your tongue can send you to hell?

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell (James 3:6).

James 3:6Since the book of James is likely one of the earliest New Testament writings, James is heavily reliant upon the Hebrew Scriptures. And since James was a leader in the Jerusalem church and a half-brother to Jesus, he seems to base his letter upon the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Therefore, what he writes about fire and hell is extremely important for understanding the overall imagery of these terms in the Bible.

In other words, the image of fire and hell in James can be used to help us understand how references to fire and hell are to be understood in the rest of Scripture.

According to Brad Jersak, who wrote the Foreword to my new book on hell, the imagery of fire and hell in James 3:6 is a definitive text for understanding both terms and how they were used by Jesus and the early church.

Jersak writes that the hell (Gk., gehenna) imagery in James 3:6 reveals that hell is not a destination to which people go after death, but rather the source of the flames that set the tongue and this world on fire.

And since the tongue itself does not actually burn with flames, nor do words literally set our lives, or the lives of others, on fire, this imagery too is symbolic of the devastation and destruction that the tongue can cause in a person’s life.

What then is hell?

Hell is a kingdom of darkness and destruction that is set against the kingdom of heaven in this life.

The two kingdoms are at war with each other, and while one brings light and life, the other brings death and devastation.

So James 3:6 is a key interpretive text for the fire and hell imagery of Scripture, and it reveals that neither are referring to a place of literal flames in the afterlife for the unredeemed dead, but instead refer to the devastation and destruction that can come into our lives when we stray from the values and principles of the kingdom of heaven.

The “fire” is not a place of burning and torture in the afterlife, but an experience of death and devastation in this life.

However, some of this fiery devastation and destruction might come upon believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is what James warns the rich about in James 5:3. So let us also consider this text…

Does James 5:3 teach that rich people will go to hell?

Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days (James 5:3).

This passage is frequently cited by those who think of hell as eternal conscious torment, because James portrays a vivid image of the gold and silver eating rich people like fire.

And yet as James has pointed out frequently in his letter, the people to whom he writes are Christian brethren (cf. Jas 1:2, 16; 2:1, 5, 14; etc.), and James counts the rich among these Christian brethren (cf. Jas 2:1-7).

James 5:3

Indeed, it is because the rich are Christians that James is able to exhort them to follow Jesus and obey the law of liberty (Jas 2:12-13).

So if James writes near the end of his letter that the rich Christians could end up in hell if they are not generous with their money, then James is teaching that a person can lose their eternal life and that entrance into heaven is based on the good works of generosity and giving.

Both of these ideas are contrary to everything else Scripture teaches.

Therefore, it is better to understand James 5:3 in light of James 3:6, along with all the other imagery of fire in Scripture.

The fire in James 5:3 is symbolic of devastation and destruction that comes upon a person’s life for failing to follow the values and principles of the kingdom of heaven.

And while this devastation can come into a person’s life now, it can also come at the beginning of the next life when a person stands at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Our life in eternity begins with standing before Jesus to give an answer for the things we have done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Cor 5:10). How we live this life helps determine how we start the next life.

James is warning rich Christians that when they hoard wealth for themselves now, they are also storing up “treasure” for themselves at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which will be the experience of seeing all their earthly work and wealth consumed in the flames as if it were nothing more than wood, hay, and stubble (cf. 1 Cor 3:14-15).

The wealth of the rich eats away at their life now, and eats away at their life in the new heavens and new earth as well. Therefore, James encourages his rich readers to use their wealth and power to help those in need and to provide fair, just, and generous pay to their laborers (Jas 2:5; 5:4).

This passage is not about how the rich will go to hell because of their riches, but is about how the rich can use their wealth to help others now and store up true, spiritual riches in eternity. If they keep their wealth for themselves, it will only destroy their life now, it will also start their life in eternity with a negative experience.

James 3:6 and James 5:3 are not warnings about everlasting torment in the flames of hell

So neither James 3:6 or James 5:3 teach about an afterlife experience for unregenerate dead where they will burn and suffer in flames of fire for all eternity. Both texts are referring to the symbolic fires of destruction that can come upon a person’s life NOW in this world, destroying everything they have worked for and everything that is of value in their life.

Yes, there are also some warnings in James 5:3 about a fiery afterlife experience, but this warning is directed toward Christians rather than non-Christians, and is not a warning about everlasting torment in hell, but is instead a warning about experiencing shame and loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:14-15).

This imagery and truth from James 3:6 and James 5:3 is key for understanding the rest of what the New Testament teaches about fire and hell. Most of the fiery and hellish imagery of the New Testament is referring to the “Kingdom of Hell” that seeks to rule and reign on this earth in direct conflict with the Kingdom of God.

James invites us to avoid fiery judgment now (and at the Judgment Seat of Christ) by living according to the ways of Jesus instead of the ways of destruction.

So what is hell?

If you want to understand what hell is, all you need to do is look at how Jesus lived and described the kingdom of heaven, and then think of its opposite. But there are numerous images and ideas from Scripture that also describe the kingdom of hell. The following chart shows some of the terms and imagery from Scripture which fit with both kingdoms.

Kingdom of Heaven Kingdom of Hell
Everlasting Life Everlasting Death
Exemplified by Jesus Exemplified by Satan
Walking in Light Walking in Darkness
Life Guided by Love Life Guided by Hate
Abiding in the Truth Abiding in Lies
Practicing Righteousness Practicing Wickedness
Hope and Healing Despair and Destruction
Fruitfulness and Creativity Fire and Corruption
Fellowship and Unity Separation and Fighting
Forgiveness and Grace Accusation and Grudges
Fulfilling our Divine Purpose Neglecting our Divine Purpose
Revealing the Image of God Hiding the Image of God
Living Fully Human Lives Living Sub-Human Lives

Note that all of the terms on both sides of the chart are available options for people here and now in this life. The two columns describe the two options we face in our present life, not in a future life after death. How we respond to the instructions and commands of God determine what sort of life experience we have here and now.

hell is a kingdom on earthSo where is hell? It is here, on this earth.

When is hell? It is now, in our lives.

And what is hell? It is the experience of life that is diametrically opposed to the life God wants for us. It is sickness and pain, death and disease, pestilence and famine, rape and murder, abuse and neglect, fear and loneliness, greed and lust. A person experiences hell to the degree that they experience such things.

This insight about the present reality of hell raises a startling truth.

The fact that the kingdom of hell exists here and now on earth rather than as an afterlife experience, means that any theological system which thinks of hell as only an afterlife experience is actually helping and aiding the kingdom of hell grow in power on this earth.

In other words, those who only think that hell is an afterlife experience for unbelievers will not be working to rescue and liberate people from the kingdom of hell that is here now.

And when the kingdom of hell goes unchallenged, it grows in power and influence. The three main view of hell (Traditionalism, Universalism, and Annihilationism) are all guilty in this regard.

Far from rescuing people from hell, by thinking that hell is only something that happens to people after they die, such views actually help keep people in hell.

The religious belief that hell exists only in the afterlife is the first step in creating hell here on earth for those whom the “religious” people think deserve to go there.

You might have heard it said that the greatest lie of Satan is that he does not exist.

If that is true, the second greatest lie of Satan is that hell exists only in the afterlife.

This lie causes Christians to ignore and neglect the many billions of people who live in hell right here on earth. We walk by them every day, ignoring their cries of pain and calls for help. Hell is here and hell is now, and until we recognize this truth, we will not work to rescue and liberate those who are trapped behind its gates.

Indeed, the traditional Christian doctrine of hell (especially Traditionalism, or Infernalism) is almost solely responsible for creating a spiritual and psychological hell in the minds of those who hear and believe it.

How can a person worship a God who sends all non-Christians (including those who never heard the gospel), along with children, mentally handicapped, and possibly our own family members to suffer forever in burning flames?

The traditional views of hell end up creating hell in the minds of those who hear them.

what is hell

In a twisted perversion of the gospel, Christians who seek to rescue people from eternal hell end up consigning people to a living hell, as people tear themselves up spiritually and psychologically by living in fear of God, fear of sinning, and fear that they have not believed in the right things or performed enough good works to please and appease God.

And even if some are convinced that they themselves are headed for eternal bliss with God, such Christians are often in emotional and psychological distress about the eternal suffering of their loved ones.

A belief in eternal conscious torment does not lead to the deliverance of people from hell, but leads instead to the creation of hell in the minds of countless millions.

When we neglect the work of bringing heaven down to earth, we allow hell to rise up on the earth. There is no middle ground. There is no neutral way of living.

If we are not expanding the rule and reign of God upon the earth, then we are allowing the rule and reign of hell to remain instead.

So stop allowing hell to rule and reign in the lives of others. Live and strive for the kingdom of heaven by introducing it into the lives of those who live in the kingdom of hell. As you do this, they will be brought out of the kingdom of darkness, despair, and depression, and will be brought into the kingdom of light, love, acceptance, forgiveness, freedom, and fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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James 3:6 and James 5:3 help us see that hell is not a place of everlasting torture for the unbelieving dead, but is instead a kingdom of destruction here on earth now. It sets our lives on fire now. As such, James 3:6 and James 5:3 help us see that hell is not a place of everlasting torture for the unbelieving dead, but is instead a kingdom of destruction here on earth now. It sets our lives on fire now. As such, the kingdom of hell is set in direct opposition to the kingdom of heaven as founded by Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus, we must live and operate according to His kingdom, rather than the kingdom of hell.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/james_3_6/ Jeremy Myers clean 36:26
What is the Lake of Fire in the Bible? Is it hell? https://redeeminggod.com/lake-of-fire-hell/ Wed, 10 Apr 2019 17:00:20 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50221 The image of the Lake of Fire in the book of Revelation has caused much consternation about the living conditions for the unredeemed dead. The thought of swimming around forever in a molten lake of lava is extremely distressing. So what is the Lake of Fire? Is it hell? This article shows what (and where) the Lake of Fire actually is. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In previous studies, we have looked at the words sheol, gehenna, abyss, tartarus, hades, and the ‘outer darkness.’ In each case, we have seen that none of these words describe a place of everlasting torment for unbelievers in a place of burning fire.

But what about the Lake of Fire? Surely this term refers to hell as a place of eternal suffering and torment in flames for unbelievers … doesn’t it?

Well … let’s see.

What is the Lake of Fire?

The image of the Lake of Fire in the book of Revelation has caused much consternation about the living conditions for the unredeemed dead.

And while the image is thought to depict the eternal torment of non-Christians in hell, it has also been used to psychologically torment lots of people in this life. The thought of swimming around forever in a molten lake of lava is extremely distressing.

Hell Lake of Fire

So what is the Lake of Fire and how can we understand it?

There are a wide variety of views, some more outlandish than others. I read one scholar who argued that the Lake of Fire was the sun at the middle of our solar system. I once talked with a seminary professor who argued that since all humans around the earth talk about “going down” to hell and the Lake of Fire, this means that all their concepts of “down” converge at the magma core of the earth, which is the Lake of Fire. (I am not making this up.)

Most concepts of the Lake of Fire, however, teach that it is a place created by God where He sends the unredeemed dead to suffer and burn in torment for all eternity.

A somewhat less horrific view is found among some Universalists who argue that the Lake of Fire is a temporary torture chamber where sinners have all their impurities burned out of them before they are allowed entrance into heaven.

Another view I have recently encountered argues that the Lake of Fire refers to the temporal destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

But whether we are talking about unending torture or a shorter period of time, many people are (rightly) concerned with the idea of God torturing and burning anyone.

Does God want us to torture people? No! We are called to love and serve.

So is it okay for God to do what He forbids us from doing? Some think so, but I do not.

I believe God’s commands to humanity are based on His own character and nature, and He sets the example for us to follow.

But if this is the case, then we must understand what John meant when he wrote about the Lake of Fire in Revelation 20:10, 14-15, and Revelation 21:8.

The Symbolism of the Lake of Fire in Revelation

Thankfully, when John wrote about the Lake of Fire, he was not thinking about tortured souls screaming in agony from being boiled in lava for all eternity. We know this because of the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation.

Very little in the book of Revelation is to be understood “literally.”

Yes, the book should be read and studied seriously, giving careful attention to its words, images, and ideas, but we must never forget that nearly every picture and event in the book of Revelation is full of allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures, Christ-centered theology, Roman politics, and ancient Mediterranean culture.

When we begin to study the symbolism of Revelation and look for clues in the first century Mediterranean world about what John might have been referring to when he wrote about the Lake of Fire, it does not take long to discover that there was an actual “Lake of Fire” in his day that he was referring to.

This lake still exists today and you can go swim in it if you would like.

But do not worry, for while you might get a sunburn, the lake itself will not burn you. But more on that in a bit.

To help us understand the imagery that John is using, as well as the identity and location of the Lake of Fire, imagine if someone today told you that they were going to live in Salt Lake. Would you think that this person would be floating around all day in the salty water of a Utah lake? No, you would understand that they were moving to the city called “Salt Lake” which is on the shore of a salty lake, and that it would be possible to live in Salt Lake for their entire life without ever setting foot in the lake of salt.

salt lake city

Or, to use another example, what if you heard that someone was going to visit the Valley of Fire on their vacation. Would you think that they were going to visit a place where they would get incinerated and tortured in flames? This would not be much of a vacation. Instead, if you were not familiar with the Valley of Fire, you might look it up online, and discover that it is a popular tourist destination about one hour from the city of Las Vegas. It would be foolish to assume that just because it mentions “fire,” this means that anyone who visits the Valley of Fire will be tormented or tortured in flames while they were there. It means no such thing. About 300,000 people go into the Valley of Fire each year, and they all come back, none the worse for wear.

Valley of Fire

A nearly identical situation occurs with “the Lake of Fire.” It was (and is) a literal place on planet earth. And since many people today (and throughout church history) do not know where this location is, they have wrongly assumed that John was describing an eternal place of fiery torture in the afterlife for the unredeemed dead.

So what and where is the Lake of Fire?

In the days of Jesus and John, what we now call the Dead Sea was referred to by some as the Lake of Fire, or the Fiery Lake (Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut, 82-87; Spencer, The Genesis Pursuit, 185-212).

the dead sea

The Dead Sea sits on a fault line, and during the several thousand years prior to the first century AD, it used to regularly erupt, spewing forth tar, pitch, bitumen, asphaltites, smoke, sulphur, and flame. As a result, the Greeks even named it the “Lake Asphaltites.”

But the Greeks were not the only ones to describe the sea in such a way. The Wisdom of Solomon also records that Lot “escaped the fire that came on the Five Cities, cities whose wickedness is still attested by a smoking waste” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:7).

Diodorus Siculus, a first century BC historian, wrote this about this region: “The fire which burns beneath the ground and the stench render the inhabitants of the neighboring country sickly and very short lived” (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, Volume II:48.6).

Philo, writing in the days before the ministry of Jesus, said that the valley of the Dead Sea was filled with fires, which were very difficult to extinguish, and that many of these fires had been smoking and burning for a very long time, even to his own day (On Abraham, XXVII:141).

When Josephus was writing his history of the Jewish wars, he said that one could still see the burnt remnants of the five cities, and that fruit from the region dissolves into smoke and ashes if plucked (The Wars of the Jews, IV:8.4.483-484).

The first century geographer Strabo called the valley “a land of fires” because there were frequent boiling outbursts of fire in the region, and the entire area smelled of sulfur and brimstone (The Geography of Strabo, XVI:2.42-44).

Even in more recent times, others have noted similar things about the valley. When the explorer Volney visited the region in 1787, he reported that “this valley [is] the seat of subterranean fire, which is not yet extinguished. Clouds of smoke are often observed to issue from the lake” (Travels, I:281-282).

In 1848, a scientific investigation of the region by a man named Lynch reported that the valley held a strong smell of sulfuret hydrogen (Journal of Royal Geographical Society, XVIII: 127). He also wrote that he witnessed a purple vapor rising above the Dead Sea, “contrasting strangely with the extraordinary color of the sea beneath and, where they blended in the distance, giving it the appearance of smoke from burning sulfur. It seemed a vast cauldron of metal, fused but motionless. In the afternoon of the same day, it looked like molten lead” (Ibid, 276, 324).

Some modern scholars and commentators have noted this as well. For example, John Gill, in his Exposition of the Entire Bible, in the section on Revelation 20:14-15, points out that the Dead Sea was also called the sulpherous lake, the lake of asphaltites, and the bituminous lake.

The Jewish people understood that the lake sat in the valley which used to be home to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so whatever idolatrous or sinful thing the Jewish people wanted to get rid of, they would cast it into the Salt Sea. Gill quotes the Babylonian Talmud as saying that “any vessels that had on them the image of the sun, or of the moon, or of a dragon, ‘let them cast them into the salt sea’” (Avoda Zara, 42.2; 49.1; 53.1; 71.2; Nazir 24.2; 26.1-2; Bava Metzia 52.2; Temura 22.2; Meila 9.2; 10:1).

This image of being cast into the salt sea is very similar to what John writes in Revelation 21:8.

Even the PBS documentary called “A Naked Planet Special” said this about the Dead Sea:

Geologists have discovered large pockets of gas trapped under the sediment … in the southern Dead Sea. [When these bubbles escape or are] released into the atmosphere by an earthquake, it would only take a spark to ignite a giant inferno; a vast ball of flame raining down.

One wonders if such a scenario ever occurred as people traveled along the edges of the Dead Sea, thereby causing it to also be named the Fire Sea. Indeed, one author even suggests that the lake itself occasionally caught on fire (Spencer, The Genesis Pursuit, 197).

It is also critical to remember that the ancient site of Sodom and Gomorrah are beneath the southern edge of the Dead Sea, where, on the western shore, there sits Mount Sodom and a rock formation called “Lot’s wife.” These images and memories of the destruction that came upon the cities of this valley help explain the list of sins that John mentions in Revelation 21:8.

So there is much historical evidence to see that in the first century, when people heard about the Lake of Fire, they understood this to be a symbol for the region that we now call the Dead Sea.

But how are people cast into the Lake of Fire?

wadi an-narAfter the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the bodies of over one million Jews were thrown into the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem, where they were then burned. When the rains come, much that is in the valley is washed down into the Dead Sea through the Wadi an-Nar, or the “Streambed of Fire” (Spencer, The Genesis Pursuit, 197).

So it is a historical fact that as a result of the destruction of Jerusalem, over a million people ended up being cast into the Lake of Fire, also known as the Dead Sea.

Furthermore, many Jews of that time believed that if a body was burned to ashes and did not receive a burial, then that person would not be raised from the dead in the future resurrection (Spencer, The Genesis Pursuit, 197).

Therefore, if a person was cast into the Lake of Fire via the Streambed of Fire because their ashes were carried from Gehenna down to the Dead Sea, that person would remain in the Lake of Fire forever, never being able to experience the resurrection. (We know from Scripture, however, that everyone will be resurrected. See John 5:29; Acts 24:15; cf. Dan 12:2.)

With all of this in mind, how then are we to understand the references to the Lake of Fire in Revelation 20:10, 14, and 21:8?

The Lake of Fire in Revelation 20:10, 14, and 21:8

Bradley Jersak sees these statements as an “apocalyptic threat of being leveled by the fire of God’s wrath, historically fulfilled through obliteration by foreign armies. In Revelation, the threat is specific to Jerusalem” (Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut, 87).

Indeed, passages like Isaiah 1:7-10 equate the city of Jerusalem with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, indicating that they will share similar fates. Other cities that behaved in similar ways also experienced similar ends (cf. Isa 34:8-10; Jer 49:17-18; Dan 7:9-11).

But the destruction of Jerusalem was not the end of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was “resurrected” from the ashes, so that one can go and visit it today. Furthermore, Jerusalem will play a significant and prominent role in the future, including in eternity when a New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from God (Rev 21:2).

In this way, the restoration of Jerusalem appears to be a foreshadowing, or firstfruits, of the restoration of other cities that also experienced fiery judgment and destruction. For example, the description in Ezekiel 16:53-55 and 47:1-12 seems to indicate that the Dead Sea valley, along with the cities that are in them (which would include Sodom and Gomorrah), will also experience a restoration to fruitfulness, life, and fertility when Jesus returns and brings healing to this world.

Destruction of Jerusalem

It seems, therefore, that there is something unique in eternity about being cast into the Lake of Fire.

Though the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were burned with fire and brimstone, they will be restored.

Though Jerusalem was brought to ruin through fire and war, it too will be restored.

But the things that are cast into the Lake of Fire do not seem to experience restoration.

Being cast into the Lake of Fire is not about the wrath of God, invading armies, or even destruction by fire in this life or the next. Being cast into the Lake of Fire is not about being tortured in any way. Instead, those that are cast into the Lake of Fire are never heard from again. They have no more influence, power, or sway on this earth.

This seems to be the symbolic significance of the Lake of Fire.

And this indeed fits with what we read about the Lake of Fire in the book of Revelation.

When Jesus comes again, He will banish the spirit of accusation and scapegoating (the devil), the idolatry of science and money (the beast), human religion (the false prophet), all useless and destructive ways of living (death), and the reign of hell on earth (hadēs).

These are the five primary enemies of humanity, and Jesus sends them all away into the Lake of Fire, never to be heard from again. (cf. Rev 21:4 where they are not even named, but are simply called “the former things.” After this, they are never heard from again. “Death” is mentioned in 21:8 for the last time, but only as the second death.)

There is no possible restoration or redemption for accusation, idolatry, manmade religion, destruction, or the reign of hell. These are sent away into the sea of forgetfulness and have no more place on earth.

The fact that intangible concepts or powers such as death and hadēs are cast into the Lake of Fire strongly indicates that the Lake of Fire itself is also intangible.

That is, one cannot put an immaterial idea, concept, power, or force into something material.

When we say that we have “love in our heart” we do not literally mean that the immaterial feeling of “love” is literally being stored in the blood-pumping organ of our body. Instead, since “love” is intangible and immaterial, this means that the word “heart” is also understood as symbolic, intangible, and immaterial.

So also with throwing the immaterial death and hadēs into the Lake of Fire.

Some might object that since I have just shown that the Lake of Fire was originally a literal place, namely, the Dead Sea, then the items thrown into it must also be literal, material objects.

But it works the other way.

Much like the symbol of gehenna, the literal place, cultural history, and theological significance of the Dead Sea provides insight into what it means to be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Again, to use the analogy of love, if I say that my love for my wife extends higher than the moon, I am using a literal place (the moon) as a symbol to describe the extent of an immaterial concept (my love).

The same is true with casting death and hadēs into the Lake of Fire.

This imagery of things that are contrary to God being cast into the Lake of Fire would have been immediately identifiable to John’s reading audience.

In the first century Jewish culture, people often made the journey to the Dead Sea to cast things into it which they considered to be sinful or idolatrous.

In his Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, John Lightfoot records that

The Talmudists devote ‘to the sea of Sodom’ anything that is destined to rejection and cursing, and that by no means is to be used (Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, 15).

Lightfoot goes on to cite several quotes from the Jewish Talmud which describe this practice being carried out.

But how are the things in the Lake of Fire Tormented Forever?

But John not only writes about things that are contrary to God being cast into the Lake of Fire, he also says that such things will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” The word for “torment” (Gk., basanizō) literally means “to rub on a touchstone.”

A touchstone (Gk., basanos) was a stone that was used to test the quality of metals, especially gold and silver coins. It was usually a fine-grained dark schist or jasper stone that was used to determine the purity of gold and silver coins by the streak left on the stone when rubbed with the metal. A basanos helped discover whether or not a coin was counterfeit.

basanos touchstone

When used in reference to people, the verb form of the word can refer to physical suffering (Matt 8:6; Rev 9:5), hard toil (Mark 6:48), and the pain of childbirth (Rev 12:2). When used of inanimate objects, it has the idea of being buffeted and battered, like a ship in a storm (Matt 14:24). In the Gospels, the demons often ask Jesus if He has come to torment them before the set time (Matt 8:29; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28).

But in Revelation, the word only applies to the devil, the beast, and the false prophet (Rev 20:10), which are not “people,” but institutions or powers that had been twisted and perverted away from God’s will and design.

These “things” will be “tormented” in that, like a counterfeit coin, they will be discarded and thrown out, having no more value, power, or influence in this world. They will be shown to be false and fake forgeries, twisted perversions of what God wanted and desired.

Death, after all, does have a role in God’s good creation, as does religion (Jas 1:27), and the proper use of judging between right and wrong (accusation is a perversion of judgment). But the perversions of these are done away with in eternity. This is a judgment of ungodly structures and institutions; not primarily a judgment upon people.

But doesn’t the text say that people are cast into the Lake of Fire?

Revelation 20:13-15 says that the sea, and death, and hadēs gave up the dead that were in them, who are judged at the Great White Throne Judgment, before being cast into the Lake of Fire.

And then Revelation 21:8 seems to list the sorts of people who are cast into the Lake of Fire, such as the cowardly, unbelieving, murderers, sexually immoral, and liars. If this judgment is not specifically upon people, then what is happening to the people who are described in these ways?

Some scholars try to argue that John is referring only to a past historical event here, in which cities and nations were destroyed by fire.

For example, since Sodom and Gomorrah were characterized by the sorts of behaviors described in Revelation 21:8, and since these cities were destroyed by fire, and since the “ruins” of these cities likely lie at the bottom of the Dead Sea (the Lake of Fire), some scholars say that this is what John is referring to in this text.

But this cannot be the case, for when people died in those historical events, this was their first death. Revelation 20:13-15 says that people are resurrected and brought back to life to face judgment, and are then sent to the Lake of Fire.

But note that the text does not say that the humans who end up in the Lake of Fire will be tormented by the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:15).

Unlike the devil, the beast, and the false prophet, humans are not tormented in the Lake of Fire. They are actually sent there to escape torment. A careful reading of Revelation shows how this works.

Earlier in Revelation, John wrote that the people who worship the beast and his image will “be tormented with fire and brimstone … and the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever” (Rev 14:10-11).

The word used for “torment” in Revelation 14:10-11 is the same word used in Revelation 20:10. But the torment that these people experience in Revelation 14:10-11 does not come from the Lake of Fire, because they are not there yet. They do not get sent to the Lake of Fire until after the Great White Throne judgment.

The torment these people experience comes from “fire and brimstone,” which is what brought the initial destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The fact that the smoke ascends forever would remind the readers that the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah was still ascending in the region of the Dead Sea to that very day.

So is John saying that humans will get tormented after all, but in a different way? No, for John subverts the violent imagery of Revelation 14:10-11 in a subtle way.

When people think and teach about the torment that people receive in the fires of hell for all eternity, they usually also teach that such people are completely separated from the presence of God. But Revelation 14:10 says that the torment these people receive is “in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”

Isn’t this strange? They are only tormented when they are in the presence of Jesus (the Lamb) and the holy angels (which might represent the spirits of the church; cf. Rev 1:20). But does this mean that our entertainment in heaven will consist of watching people burn and suffer? It cannot be, for this would be less than restful (Rev 14:13).

Quite to the contrary, it appears that John is saying that as long as these people worship the beast and his image (whatever they may represent), it is torment for them to be in the presence of Jesus and His righteous church.

How is it torment? Earlier, in Revelation 11:10, John wrote that these same people were tormented by the preaching and presence of the two witnesses.

This does not mean that the two witnesses were burning people alive with their sermons. It refers instead to the inner conviction one feels when they are presented with something that is contrary to their spirit or nature. Righteous people have this same experience when they are in the presence of wickedness (2 Pet 2:8).

Therefore, the “torment” (Gk., basanizō) of humans in Revelation is not physical torture in fire, but refers to the spiritual vexation that unrighteous people experience when they are presented with the truth or when their behavior is challenged (Rev 11:10).

In Revelation 11:10, the people who experienced this torment, tried to escape it by killing the two witnesses, but John writes in Revelation 14:10 that they will continue to experience the torment of the truth as long as they are in the presence of Jesus and the holy angels.

Therefore, since Jesus knows that the life of those who worship Him is not compatible with the life of those who worship the beast, and that each group is tormented by the other, Jesus separates them so that neither group is tormented.

In Revelation 20:14-15, out of love for the people who do not want to hear the truth, Jesus sends them to be with the beast, the false prophet, death, and hadēs in the Lake of Fire. They are not sent to be tormented, but to escape the convicting and “tormenting” presence of Jesus and the church.

So what will their existence be like? What will they do? How will they live?

What will existence be like for those in the Lake of Fire?

The truth is that we do not know. But it won’t be torment or torture. It won’t be burning and screaming in agony for all eternity. Scripture does not say what their existence will be like, or if it can even be called “existence.”

It seems that the life in the Lake of Fire (which is not a literal place of burning and flame) is a place where people are allowed to live as they want.

It is a place where they will be given true human freedom apart from God, which is what many people think they want, but which is actually not freedom; it is slavery. It will likely be similar to life on this present earth, but without physical death.

While this initially sounds like heaven, such an existence will end up being hell. People who try to live life apart of from God, live life in a way that God never intended it to be lived. This way of living does not build loving relationships, but ruins and destroys them. It is a selfish, hateful, broken way of living.

And a truly hellish existence is having no way out of this sort of living.

True hell is an eternal existence in a sin-filled world without the blessed escape through death.

living deathCurrently, we have a “way out” through death and resurrection. But if there is no death, there can be no resurrection, and so those who experience the eternal second death (living in the realm of death, but never dying) are living in a hell of their own making.

Their eternal existence will be a life dominated by the sins mentioned in Revelation 21:8. In eternity, where there is no death to deliver a person from the devastation they have brought into their lives, this ongoing death will simply continue forever and ever.

the lake of fire - eternal emptinessC. S. Lewis’ theological fantasy book, The Great Divorce, depicts what this sort of everlasting death might look like. In this life, as we destroy our families, friendships, and health, we draw into ourselves and become more and more separated from others over time.

Death stops this process of separation so that we can finally see ourselves and others as we really are. Death and resurrection provide reconciliation, so that we can forgive and be forgiven, and begin to live in eternity with the love and grace that God desires.

But in an eternal existence without God, where physical death is not an option, people will continue to separate themselves until eventually, they cut off all contact from everyone, and live solitary lives of self-centeredness and complete separation.

For people who were created for community and relationships, this truly is a living hell. But it is a hell constructed by their own choices.

So what is the Lake of Fire?

It is literally the Dead Sea, into which all things are cast that are contrary to the will and ways of God.

As a symbol, therefore, it refers to an existence without God.

People who are sent to “the Lake of Fire” for eternity will not be tortured in flames for all eternity as more than people who live in Salt Lake are covered with salt as long as they live there.

Those who exist in the Fiery Lake will be given the freedom they think they want, so they can live life as they please, apart from the guidelines and instructions of God.

the second deathThis way of living is not really “living,” however, and such people will ultimately find themselves separated, not only from God, but also from all other people. The Bible calls it the second death (Rev 21:8).

So the Lake of Fire is not traditional hell where people suffer and burn for eternity. They are not in torment there, but are sent there to escape their torment. While there, they can live according to their sinful desires, which will lead them into an eternal existence and experience of ongoing death.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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The image of the Lake of Fire in the book of Revelation has caused much consternation about the living conditions for the unredeemed dead. The thought of swimming around forever in a molten lake of lava is extremely distressing. The image of the Lake of Fire in the book of Revelation has caused much consternation about the living conditions for the unredeemed dead. The thought of swimming around forever in a molten lake of lava is extremely distressing. So what is the Lake of Fire? Is it hell? This discussion shows what (and where) the Lake of Fire actually is.<br /> <br /> To learn more about this topic, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/lake-of-fire-hell/ Jeremy Myers clean 1:08:59
What is Hades in the Bible? Is it hell? https://redeeminggod.com/hades-hell/ Thu, 04 Apr 2019 17:00:56 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50215 Is hell a good translation of the Greek word hades? No. It is not. While the most basic meaning for hades is similar to sheol, the grave, further development in the New Testament era reveals that hades can primarily be understood as the power of despair, decay, and destruction that enslaves human beings in this life. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In previous studies, we have looked at the words sheol, gehenna, abyss, tartarus, and the ‘outer darkness.’ In each case, we have seen that none of these words describe a place of everlasting torment for unbelievers in a place of burning fire.

But what about the New Testament Greek word hadēs?

In this study, we will consider the word hadēs and whether or not it refers to hell as a place of eternal suffering and torment for unbelievers.

Is Hadēs Hell?

One of Greek words that is commonly translated as “hell” in the New Testament is hadēs. But the word hadēs is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word sheol.

In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the LXX), the Hebrew word sheol is most often translated as hadēs. And since we have already seen that sheol is best translated as “grave” or “pit,” then this hints that the word hadēs should be understood in a similar fashion (cf. 1 Cor 15:55).

But hadēs is More than Just the Grave

In the days of Jesus and the apostles, Jewish teachers were rethinking the concept of the afterlife. The idea of a future resurrection was gaining prominence, and with this idea, people were beginning to speculate about what might happen to humans after they died but before resurrection.

So while most Old Testament texts which refer to sheol can be understood as only referring to a grave in which dead bodies were laid, the New Testament texts about hadēs seem to show an evolution in thinking about what happens to humans after they die.

Those who did not believe in a future resurrection (such as the Sadducees), continued to teach that after death, all people went to the grave (sheol or hadēs) and that was the end.

But those who believed in the resurrection (such as the Pharisees), began to think that there was some sort of conscious existence for the dead as they awaited the future resurrection.

For example, the apostle Peter quotes David (Psalm 16:8-11) as saying that God would not allow his body to see corruption in hadēs, but would raise Him up (Acts 2:26-27, 31). Peter used these texts to defend the idea of the resurrection, and to explain why God raised Jesus from the dead.

Therefore, those who believed in life after death also believed that people continued to exist somewhere and somehow after death while they awaited resurrection.

But they did not have a “heaven and hell” concept as many do today. Instead, people in the days of Jesus believed that all the dead went to the same place, though with different “compartments” for the righteous and the wicked (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.14).

This concept is seen in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. But Jesus’ use of this imagery should not be seen as an endorsement of it. Just as someone today might tell a story about meeting Peter at the Pearly Gates without believing that this is actually what will happen, so also, Jesus could tell a story about Abraham’s bosom in hadēs (Luke 16:22-23) without actually endorsing the concept.

What is hades is it hell

Yet those who believed that hadēs was an actual realm in which the dead consciously existed, also believe that the dead would not exist there forever. Instead, hadēs was a “holding tank” for people while they waited for the resurrection. At some point in the future, when the resurrection occurred, hadēs would be emptied because all of the dead within it would be raised to life.

But this was not an endorsement of Universalism. Though hadēs would be emptied through the resurrection of all people, the righteous would go away to everlasting life with God, while the rest would go away to everlasting death with the devil (cf. Revelation 20:13-14).

This idea does not match the modern concept of hell, for in this first-century way of thinking, the people who go to hadēs do not stay there forever.

So what is the New Testament concept of hadēs?

What did Jesus and the apostles have in mind when they taught and wrote about hadēs?

Several New Testament texts provide a shocking insight into the nature and location of hadēs.

Matthew 11:23 (Luke 10:15) and hadēs

For example, Jesus indicates that the hadēs is set in contrast to heaven. In Matthew 11:23, Jesus says that while Capernaum was exalted to heaven, it will be brought down to hadēs (cf. Luke 10:15). Does this mean that citizen of Capernaum were all headed for eternal suffering in the pit of hell? No, it cannot mean this, unless the citizens of Capernaum were all previously in heaven. Such an idea makes no theological sense. Even those who believe that it is possible for a person to lose their eternal life do not think that those in heaven can still be sent to hell.

Therefore, it is better to see that Jesus is speaking of both heaven and hadēs in symbolic ways.

In Matthew 11:23 and Luke 10:15, Jesus is speaking of heaven as a reference to the apparent blessing of God upon a city in this life and on this world. The city of Capernaum had great fame, honor, glory, wealth, power, and respect in the minds of most people.

Going down to hadēs, therefore, symbolizes the opposite. The city would lose its power, privilege, and position and would become weak, poor, and desolate, much like Tyre and Sidon (Luke 10:13) or Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 11:23-24).

The “day of judgment” to which Jesus refers in these texts does not refer to some future judgment when all the people of these cities are condemned to eternal punishment in hell, but rather to the historical events which cause the physical destruction of the cities.

So when Jesus teaches about hadēs in Matthew 11:23 and Luke 10:15, He is speaking about the destruction of cities on this earth in history; not about the torment of human souls in fiery flames for all eternity.

Matthew 16:18 and hadēs

The greatest insight into what Jesus believed about hadēs is found in Matthew 16:18. In the preceding context, Peter has just declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.

In response, Jesus states that it is on this declaration from Peter that He will build His church. Jesus then says that the “gates of hadēs” will not prevail against the church. Since the church Jesus is building exists here and now, on this earth, in and through our lives, this means that hadēs also is here and now, on this earth, and it is set against the church.

Furthermore, the church is on the offensive against the gates of hadēs, rather than the other way around. But the gates will not prevail, or stand, against the attacks of the church.

When many people read Matthew 16:18, they imagine that the church exists behind a gleaming white wall, and that hell is on the outside, trying to batter down the gates.

But as I point out in my book, The Death and Resurrection of the Church, the imagery is actually the opposite.

gates of hell matthew 16:18

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says that the “gates of hadēs will not prevail” against the church. In other words, it is hadēs that is behind a wall, and the church is attacking the gates.

And in order for the church to attack these gates, they must exist in this life and on this earth.

This further means that humans are imprisoned by these gates, so that the way Jesus builds His church is by attacking the gates of hadēs to rescue and deliver those within.

It appears, therefore, that in the mind of Jesus, hadēs is not a dwelling place for evil people in the afterlife, but is the experience of many people in this life, which is characterized by everything that is opposed to the ways of Jesus Christ and the will of God on earth.

So rather than life, light, liberty, and love, those who are trapped behind the gates of hadēs live in bondage, corruption, despair, and destruction.

Jesus leads His church to help free these people from their hellish life.

Hadēs is here and now, and Jesus leads to the church to set free those who trapped behind its bars.

The Book of Revelation and hadēs

The book of Revelation also contains several references to hadēs and while many people are most familiar with the reference in Revelation 20:13-14 where hadēs is emptied and its inhabitants are cast into the Lake of Fire, we must first understand the previous references to hadēs in Revelation (Rev 1:18; 6:8) before we can understand what John is talking about in Revelation 20.

In Revelation 1:18, we read that through His death and resurrection, Jesus gained the keys to death and hadēs.

the Greek god hadesWhat is interesting about this is that the Greek god Hadēs was occasionally depicted in Greek mythology as carrying a key to the gates of the underworld. He kept the gates forever locked so that nobody who was within could ever escape.

But in Revelation 1:18, we see that Jesus now carries the keys, and He plans to throw the gates of hadēs wide open.

When Revelation 1:18 is read in connection with Matthew 16:18, we discover that when Jesus storms the gates of hadēs with the church, there is no battle waged.

Jesus simply walks up to the gates and unlocks the door, calling those who are within to “Come forth!” The task of the church is to show people how to be free and live life.

Death and hadēs are once again paired together in Revelation 6:8. Death is depicted as riding a pale horse, though the “greenish-yellow” color of a corpse is probably a better translation for the Greek word used here.

Of the four horsemen in the context, this fourth rider is the only one who is given a name (i.e., “Death”), and is also the only one who does not have a tool or weapon. However, in place of a weapon, Death has hadēs. This means that while the other horsemen accomplish their devastation through an instrument, death accomplishes its task through hadēs.

In other words, hadēs is not a place to which people go after they die; instead, hadēs is the tool by which the rider on the pale horse brings death and destruction upon the world.

Death comes upon this world through the instrument of death, namely, hadēs.

Once again, this shows that hadēs is a present experience for some people; not a future place of existence.

In Revelation 20:13-14, we read that death and hadēs are thrown into the Lake of Fire. If we believe that hadēs is a place, then this description make little sense.

But when we recognize that death and hadēs are the powers that destroy and devastate life on this earth, then it comes as no surprise than before Jesus restores all things to the way God wants and desires them to be, He does away with death and destruction (hadēs) by throwing them into the Lake of Fire.

is hades hell

So “hell” is not a good translation for the Greek word hadēs

While the most basic meaning for hadēs is similar to sheol, the grave, further development in the New Testament era reveals that hadēs can primarily be understood as the power of despair, decay, and destruction that enslaves human beings in this life.

Hadēs operates in direct contradiction to the kingdom of God and the power of life, light, and love that accomplishes the will of God on earth.

Hadēs is not a place of burning suffering for the unregenerate dead. It is instead a destructive presence here on earth that ruins what God wants for our lives. And in the end, just as with everything else that is arrayed against God, hadēs will be cast into the Lake of Fire. But what does this mean?

We will discuss the Lake of Fire next week, so make sure you join us …

Conclusion

This brief study has shown that the word hadēs does not refer to hell as a place of eternal suffering in burning flames for the unbelieving dead.

So far in our study, we have seen the same thing about sheol, gehenna, the abyss, tartarus, and the outer darkness.

But what about “the Lake of Fire”? Surely this term in Scripture refers to a place of everlasting burning and torment for unbelievers! Doesn’t it? Join us next week to find out…

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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Is hell a good translation of the Greek word hades? No. It is not. While the most basic meaning for hades is similar to sheol, the grave, further development in the New Testament era reveals that hades can primarily be understood as the power of despai... What does the Bible mean when it refers to hades? Is it teaching about a place of eternal suffering and torment in flames of fire for the unbelieving dead? No.<br /> <br /> Is hell a good translation of the Greek word hades? No. It is not. While the most basic meaning for hades is similar to sheol, the grave, further development in the New Testament era reveals that hades can primarily be understood as the power of despair, decay, and destruction that enslaves human beings in this life.<br /> <br /> To ask a question or leave a comment, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/hades-hell/ Jeremy Myers clean 40:17
Do the words Abyss or Tartarus refer to hell? https://redeeminggod.com/abyss-tartarus-hell/ Thu, 28 Mar 2019 22:40:17 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50277 This study considers the words 'abyss' and 'tartarus' to see if they teach us about hell. The answer is that they do not. Neither word tells us about the dwelling place of the unregenerate dead for all eternity. Unbelievers will not spend eternity suffering in the abyss or in tartarus. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In a previous study, we looked at whether or not the Hebrew word sheol refers to hell. We saw that it does not. It means “grave,” and is literally the hole in the ground in which dead bodies are laid.

But what about the New Testament Greek words abyss, gehenna, hades, and tartarus? Do these words refer to hell as a place of eternal suffering and torment for unbelievers? We have already learned that gehenna does not refer to hell, and next week we will consider the term “hades.” Today we look at the other two, abyss and tartarus.

Does the “abyss” refer to hell?

The Greek word abussos is often translated as “abyss” or “pit.” The word means “bottomless” and refers to a hole or pit of immeasurable depth.

TehomIn the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), abussos is often used to translate the Hebrew word tehom, which means “the deep” and refers to the deepest parts of the sea (cf. Gen 1:2; 7:11; 8:2, 7; Psa 32:7; 35:7; 41:8; 104:6; Job 38:16; Jon 2:6; Isa 44:27; 51:10; 63:13; Ezek 26:19; 31:4, 15; Dan 3:55).

But the Hebrew concept of “the deep” (tehom) is not just equivalent to the deep parts of the ocean. As I taught in my podcast on Genesis 1:2 (and forthcoming commentary on Genesis 1), the word tehom was “an ancient, mysterious, and menacing word. To ancient minds, it was an evil word.” It carries the idea of powerful forces of chaos arrayed against the order of God’s creation.

When it comes to thinking about the relationship between “hell” and the abyss, we see that since the abyss refers to deepest parts of the sea on this world, it cannot refer to some sort of afterlife experience where people burn and suffer for eternity.

The abyss, the deep, tehom, is a symbol of the power of chaos arrayed against God and the order of creation. It is not a place where people go after they die to suffer in flames for all eternity.

The symbolic nature of the abyss is especially significant in the book of Revelation, where the word is used most frequently in the New Testament. Since the beast came out of the sea (Rev 11:7; 13:1; 17:8), this symbolizes that the beast brings chaos. And indeed, when the abyss is opened, chaos, in the form of fire and smoke, comes up out of the pit (Rev 9:1-2, somewhat like a volcano that rises from the sea).

But ultimately, just as Jesus sent a demonic horde back into the depths of the sea (Luke 8:31), so also, God will send the beast back into the abyss from whence he came (Rev 20:1-3).

So as with sheol, the abyss does not represent hell. The abyss is literally the deep waters of the ocean, and it symbolizes chaos and disorder in God’s creation. When people go down into the abyss, it symbolizes their death in the depths of the ocean (Ezek 26:19).

the abyss is not hellSimilarly, to be delivered from the abyss is to be delivered from death in the sea (cf. LXX Psa 105:9; Jon 2:6; Isa 63:13).

No reference to the abyss ever contains descriptions of fire, suffering, or the torture of people for eternity.

Therefore, the word abyss cannot refer to a place of everlasting suffering and torment in the fires of hell.

But what about tartarus?

Does “Tartarus” refer to hell?

Another word from Scripture which might possibly refer to hell is the word tartarus. The word is only used in 2 Peter 2:4 (in the verb form, tartaroō), where Peter describes God’s action of casting the angels who sinned down into hell, delivering them in chains of darkness while they awaited judgment.

To understand Peter’s words, it is important to identify the symbolism of Tartarus, and also the event to which Peter refers. Let us first consider the symbolism of Tartarus.

tartarusSince the Bible nowhere else speaks of Tartarus, we must assume that Peter had the Greek and Roman mythology of Tartarus in mind when he wrote of it. In Greek mythology, the word tartarus spoke of two things. It was first of all the name of the one of the original primordial deities. However, the word tartarus also speaks of a place. In this way, the word tartarus is like hadēs, which also refers to a place and a god in Greek mythology.

As a place, tartarus was thought to be a dungeon of suffering and torment for the Titans. The Titans were the second generation of primordial deities, and ruled during the legendary Golden Age of humanity, but were eventually defeated by the third generation of gods, the Olympians, which are the Greek and Roman gods that most people are familiar with (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, etc.).

When the Olympian deities defeated the Titans, the Titans were sent to Tartarus to suffer. Humans typically went to Hades rather than Tartarus, though later mythology describes how some of the “worst” humans were sent to Tartarus, such as King Sisyphus for violating the rules of hospitality, and King Tantalus for killing and eating his own son.

So by referencing Tartarus, is Peter endorsing the Greek and Roman mythology about this place?

No. While Peter is certainly alluding to this myth, we cannot accept that he is endorsing the idea of multiple generations of deities waging war with each other in primordial history. Peter is referring to the myth to make a point, without endorsing the myth itself. “Concepts from the cultural background may be taken up without acceptance of their underlying ideology” (Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 25.).

Even today, Christians might talk about Achilles’ heel or Cupid’s arrows, reference the days of the week or the months of the year, and even celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, all without any sort of endorsement of the pagan mythology that lies at the roots of all these terms and holidays. Peter is likely doing exactly the same thing with Tartarus.

However, having said that, the Greek and Roman myths do bear some resemblance to various events recorded in Scripture. So maybe in referring to tartarus in which angels were bound with chains as they await judgment, Peter is pointing his readers to one of these biblical events.

There are two possible options.

Option 1: The Angels Bound in Chains of Darkness Refers to the Angelic Rebellion

Some believe that Peter is referring to the angelic rebellion which is purportedly described in Isaiah 14:12-21 and Ezekiel 28:1-19 (cf. Luke 10:18; Heb 12:22; Rev 9:1; 12:3-9). As to the timing of this event, some believe it occurred before Genesis 1:1, others believe it occurred in a “gap” of time that might exist between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, while a third group thinks it occurred sometime after the final day of creation in Genesis 2:3, but before the serpent comes to tempt Eve in Genesis 3:1.

So in this view, regardless of when the angels rebelled against God, He bound them with chains of darkness and sent them to a place called Tartarus to await judgment.

Option 2: The Angels Bound in Chains of Darkness Refers to the Sons of God of Genesis 6

nephilimA second view is that Peter is referring to the flood which came upon the earth as a result of the sons of God having children with the daughters of men (Gen 6:1-4). The offspring of this union is referred to as the Nephilim, which might have also been the “giants” among men (Gen 6:4; Num 13:33; Deut 3:11; Josh 11:21-22; 1 Sam 17).

Support for this view is found in 1 Peter 3:19-20, where Peter indicates that Jesus preached to the spirits who were in prison, who sinned in the days of Noah. Jude 6 also speaks about angels who did not keep their proper abode being bound by God with chains of everlasting darkness until the day of judgment.

As a result of what happened in Genesis 6:1-4, God may also have restricted or limited the actions and behavior of the angels so that they could not sin in such ways again.

Both views, however, suffer from one significant problem.

If the angels who sinned (either during a rebellion or preceding the flood) were all bound with chains of darkness and sent away into Tartarus, how is it that Jesus encountered evil spirits during His earthly ministry?

Furthermore, how is it that Satan still prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom He may devour (1 Pet 5:8)? Satan was, after all, one of the angels who rebelled. If all the demons and evil spirits are already bound, then why are we instructed to stand against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph 6:12)?

If fallen angels are already abound, how is it that Satan can be bound again for a thousand years (Rev 20:2)?

2 Peter 2:4 is symbolic for something other than a literal chaining of angels in a place called Tartarus

It appears, therefore, that nearly all of the imagery in 2 Peter 2:4 is symbolic for something other than a literal chaining of angels in a place called Tartarus. Support for this idea is found in Wisdom of Solomon 17:17, which describes the ninth plague of darkness that came upon Egypt (Exod 10:21-29) as a “chain of darkness.”

In fact, the entire chapter of Wisdom of Solomon 17 seems to be referenced by Peter. The chapter speaks of captives of darkness and prisoners of a long night who engage in secret sins and suffer from a self-kindled fire (17:2-6). The chapter says that the darkness came upon them from Hades (17:14), and so they were kept in a prison not made of iron (17:16).

All of this imagery describes the ninth plague of darkness that came upon Egypt. Literal chains and prisons were not involved at all. The imagery instead refers to the oppressive darkness that struck the people of Egypt with fear and caused them to be immobilized, as if they were bound with chains.

This appears to be the meaning of 2 Peter 2:4.

Since fallen angels have always been active after they rebelled against God, and have apparently not been literally bound with chains in some mythical Tartarus, Peter’s words must be understood symbolically, as referring to the fear of God that fallen angels feel as they wait in trembling for the judgment of God to come upon them (Jas 2:19).

The rebellious angels are immobilized in some sense by the fear (the chains of darkness) of the judgment that will come upon them from God.

chains of darkness tartarus

Even if this view is not accepted, and someone wants to think that God truly did lock away fallen angels with chains of darkness in some mythological location called Tartarus, it is still important to note that Peter’s description says nothing about humans being sent there.

So even if Tartarus truly is a prison for fallen angels as they await judgment, Scripture does not teach in any way that humans are sent there.

Whether Tartarus is a literal spiritual prison for fallen angels or a symbolic way of referring to the fear of God that fallen angels feel and the judgment of God that is coming upon them, it is not describing a hellish place of suffering and torment for human beings.

There is no passage in Scripture which says that humans will be sent to Tartarus.

Therefore, just like sheol, abyss, gehenna, and the outer darkness, the word tartarus does not teach about a place called “hell” where humans will be sent to suffer and burn for all eternity.

Whatever Tartarus is, humans do not experience it at all.

Conclusion

This brief study has shown that the words “abyss” and “tartarus” do not refer to hell as a place of eternal suffering for the unbelieving dead. Unbelievers will not spend eternity suffering in the abyss or in tartarus.

So far in our study, we have seen the same thing about sheol, gehenna, and the outer darkness. Next week we will consider the word hades. Join us then!

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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This study considers the words 'abyss' and 'tartarus' to see if they teach us about hell. The answer is that they do not. Neither word tells us about the dwelling place of the unregenerate dead for all eternity. This study considers the words abyss and tartarus to see if they teach us about hell. The answer is that they do not. Neither word tells us about the dwelling place of the unregenerate dead for all eternity. Unbelievers will not spend eternity suffering in the abyss or in tartarus. <br /> <br /> To leave a question or view the transcript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/abyss-tartarus-hell/ Jeremy Myers clean 31:57
What is the Outer Darkness in the Bible? Is it hell? https://redeeminggod.com/outer-darkness-hell/ Wed, 20 Mar 2019 17:00:52 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50217 The outer darkness in Matthew is NOT a reference to hell, but is instead a way of describing the profound shame and regret that some Christians will experience when Jesus returns physically to this earth. Rather than celebrate in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, some Christians will be in the darkness outside the party. This article explains more. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

For now, let us discuss the term “Outer Darkness” and see whether or not it refers to hell…

the outer darkness

Is “The Outer Darkness” referring to Hell?

There are three passages in Scripture which refer to “the outer darkness” (Gk., to skotos to exōteron) and all three are recorded as teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30).

In all three instances, the phrase “outer darkness” is further described as being a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Due to these descriptive terms, many have equated the outer darkness with hell.

If this were true, however, then it would be impossible for hell to be both a place of burning flame and darkness, for the two are mutually exclusive. One or both of the descriptions must either be figurative or not referring to hell at all.

A careful consideration of each passage that refers to the outer darkness reveals that Jesus was not teaching about hell in these texts, but rather about the initial experience of some Christians at the beginning of the physical reign of Jesus Christ on earth in the future.

In other words, when Jesus physically returns in the future to finally and completely restore justice and peace upon this world, some Christians will not experience His coming with joy, gladness, and celebration, but with regret, grief, and sadness.

They will not experience the initial party of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, but will instead be left outside in the darkness, because they were not ready for the arrival of their King.

When Jesus returns, He will throw a party full of lights, music, feasting, and dancing. But not all Christians will get to experience this party. Some will be left outside the celebratory circle of lights in the darkness. They will be on the outside looking in.

Such Christians will still have eternal life, and will still enter into the new heavens and the new earth, but they will miss out on the initial inauguration party, and will instead be in the darkness outside the party (the outer darkness).

To see this, let us briefly consider the three texts that refer to the outer darkness.

what is the outer darkness

Matthew 8:12 and the Outer Darkness

The first reference to the outer darkness is in Matthew 8:12, where Jesus teaches that while many from all corners of the earth will sit down with Abraham in the kingdom of heaven, “the sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Jesus said these things after seeing the great faith of the Gentile centurion, stating that He had not even found such great faith in all of Israel (Matt 8:5-10). So Jesus is contrasting the faith of the centurion with the faith of many of the people of Israel.

The image of people sitting down with Abraham in Matthew 8:11 refers to the kingdom of heaven arriving in all its fullness and glory. While the kingdom of heaven was inaugurated during the first coming of Jesus, it will not fully arrive or be experienced by people on this earth until His second coming.

Jesus is saying that when this future event happens, and the citizens of the kingdom are invited to sit down with Abraham at the celebration feast, it will be people like the Gentile centurion who had great faith that will participate in the celebration.

wedding feast of the lambThere will be other “sons of the kingdom” however, such as many among the Israelite people, who will not participate in the feast. They will instead be in the outer darkness, which simply means that they will be excluded from the light and joy of the inauguration party.

Note that if Jesus was referring to unregenerate people who were going to spend eternity in hell, He would not have referred to them as “sons of the kingdom.” The “sons of the kingdom” are those who are members and citizens of the kingdom.

But the fact that the “sons of the kingdom” are in the outer darkness does not mean that they lose eternal life and spend eternity in hell, but that they miss out on the initial celebration at the full arrival of God’s rule and reign on earth.

Some “sons of the kingdom” fail to participate in this party because they did not have the right beliefs and behaviors to warrant a seat at the table. They will instead stand outside the glow of the joyful celebration, watching from the darkness with profound regret and shame for how they lived their life on earth.

Hell is not in view in Matthew 8:12, but rather describes the experience of some Christians who miss out on the initial inauguration party when Jesus returns to rule and reign on earth.

Matthew 22:13 and the Outer Darkness

The second reference to the outer darkness is found in Matthew 22:13. This text makes it clear that the reference to outer darkness has exclusion from the Wedding Feast in view rather than hell, for Jesus specifically tells a parable about who gets to participate in this future celebration.

In the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt 22:1-14), many people are initially invited to the celebration, but are too busy to attend. So the king sends out his servants into the highways to invite anyone and everyone they find.

As a result, many people attend the feast, both good and bad. Yet one man shows up at the feast who is not wearing a wedding garment, and so the king has him thrown out of the party into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Some have wondered how the man should have known what to wear to the wedding celebration, or if he was poor, how he could have afforded the proper attire.

But many scholars point out that it was a common practice in the Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean cultures for the host to provide proper garments for the guests (cf. Judg 14:12). So regardless of this man’s background or social position, he would have been provided with a garment to wear into the celebration.

But for some reason, the man did not put on the clothing he had been given. He came wearing his own clothes. He thought the clothes he had on were just fine, and that he didn’t need the clothes provided to him by the king.

Yet he was wrong, and so he is removed from the celebration, and sent outside, away from the lights and feasting of the party, where he experiences shame and regret.

The fact that this man is at the wedding feast proves that he is a genuine believer, for only believers are welcomed into the feast.

If he was an unbeliever, then how did he get into the wedding celebration in the first place? He could not have even entered. Therefore, he is a believer, which granted him access to the feast.

But he didn’t come wearing the proper clothing, and so he is removed from the feast. His removal from the feast is not a removal from heaven and eternal life so that he ends up in hell, but is simply a disciplinary process in which the man is not allowed to participate in the inauguration celebration.

So what is symbolized by the man’s lack of proper clothing? As Gregory Sapaugh writes,

The wedding garment is a figure for righteous living. Therefore, this man did not faithfully perform the good works that are necessary to be present at the wedding banquet. … Eternal salvation is not an issue in this passage.

The man represents a person who believes in Jesus for eternal life, but who fails to put on the righteous garments that God provides, and instead lives selfishly and sinfully throughout their life. Such a person still has eternal life, but they might miss out on the initial inauguration banquet when Jesus returns and sets up His earthly kingdom.

In his book, The Skeletons in God’s Closet, Joshua Ryan Butler argues similarly:

When the King shows up, the prodigals and prostitutes are running into the kingdom while the self-righteous and self-made are weeping outside the party. The sick, poor, blind, and lame are partying it up at God’s Wedding Feast while those who thought their own clothes were good enough are cast out into the darkness.

Here again, the outer darkness is not hell, but instead describes the initial experience of some unfaithful Christians at the beginning of the future rule and reign of Jesus Christ at His second coming.

The second coming of Jesus Christ will begin with a great time of celebration. But those who did not look for the return of Jesus, or prepare for it with their lives, will miss out on the joy and excitement of this event.

Like Scrooge in “The Christmas Carol” who stands in the cold and darkness out in the street while he peers through the window at a happy and warm Christmas celebration inside, some Christians will only be able to watch the party from the darkness outside. Scrooge missed out on the celebration because of his behavior, and so will some Christians. Such a person is represented in this parable by the man who attends the feast without the proper garments.

In the book, What is the Outer Darkness?, Zane Hodges said this:

Matthew 22 doesn’t say there were a bunch of torturers out there in the darkness who suddenly take this poor man who is tied up hand and foot and start torturing him. The imagery is one of exclusion and limitation on activity. That’s what being tied hand and foot means. [He] can’t really do anything. Exclusion from the lighted banqueting hall is a synonym for co-reigning with Jesus Christ.

Matthew 25:30 and the Outer Darkness

The third and final reference to the outer darkness is found in Matthew 25:30, near the end of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

Most Bible teachers believe that the Parable of the Talents refers to God’s gifts to believers, and our responsibility to use those gifts wisely in this life. If this view is correct, then the experience of the unprofitable servant at the end of the story can be understood in a similar way as seen in both Matthew 8:12 and 22:13.

outer darkness in MatthewAs in both of those previous situations, the unprofitable servant of Matthew 25:30 would represent a believer who failed to live as God wanted and desired during this life, and so is cast into the outer darkness during the initial stage of the earthly reign of Jesus. Rather than experience the joy of this celebration, they only experience regret for how they lived their life and shame for missing out on the greatest celebration in all of celestial history.

However, I think there is a better way of understanding the Parable of the Talents. I have written about this elsewhere, but let me summarize the view for you here.

Though many assume that the Parable of the Talents describes the return of Jesus and how He judges Christians at His return, this is not what Jesus says.

While most Bible translations do include the words “the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 25:14, these words have been added by the translators and do not exist in the Greek. Jesus is describing the kingdom of heaven in the preceding parable, the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), as well as in the following parable, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), but He is not describing the final arrival of the kingdom of heaven in the Parable of the Talents.

Instead, this middle parable is a contrast with the other two, in which Jesus shows His followers what life will be like for them if they try to live in the kingdom of this world.

Numerous lines of evidence support this view. Chief among them is the fact that the actions of this man who travels to a far country would have been understood as quite evil in the first century Mediterranean world. They not only closely follow the actions and behaviors of King Herod and how he went to Rome to become the king of Israel, but the values of this man also reveal the opposite of what Jesus taught and encouraged.

The first century Mediterranean world was guided by the cultural values of honor and shame. Modern western culture is guided by materialism. Today, we value any activity which gets more money and gains more possessions.

Yet in an honor-shame culture, such activities were great sins. They believed that money and possessions were zero-sum commodities, which meant that the only way for one person to gain more money and possessions was by taking it away from someone else. This was very shameful behavior. “Anyone who suddenly acquired something ‘more’ was automatically judged to be a thief” (John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, 164).

Therefore, in light of these cultural values about money, the first two servants, like their master, were exploiters. This means that “from the peasant point of view … it was the third slave who acted honorably, especially since he refused to participate in the rapacious schemes of the greedy, rich man” (Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, 125).

So Jesus is saying that if one of his disciples does not look with anticipation for the coming of the kingdom of heaven, their only other option is to participate with the kingdom of this world, by imitating its greedy ways.

If a person does not follow the way of Jesus, they will either behave very shamefully in stealing from their brethren, or will receive harsh judgment and punishment from the rulers of this world for not participating in their greedy game.

The rulers of this world expect and demand their subjects to follow their twisted, thieving ways to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Those who refuse to follow these marching orders will be punished by the rulers, and will be banished to the edges of society and culture.

But when followers of Jesus experience such treatment at the hands of the rulers of this world, they should not despair, for the punishment of worldly rulers is not the end of the matter.

So in this interpretation, the Parable of the Talents is not about the second return of Jesus, but about life in this world now and the two ways that people can live.

If we help the rulers steal from others, we ourselves will gain recognition and reward from those greedy rulers. But if we refuse to play their evil game, we will gain only condemnation from them, and they will even steal from us what we have and give it to others who do not need it. But Jesus surrounds this parable with two others about what it looks like to live life in light of the kingdom of heaven.

Zacchaeus is the perfect example of the two kingdoms at work.

Indeed, the Parable of the Talents in Luke 19:11-27 immediately follows the story of Zacchaeus. Prior to meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus operated according to the principles of the kingdom of this world and became very rich as a result. Yet his actions were extremely shameful as he stole from the poor to gain wealth for himself.

So when Zacchaeus started to follow Jesus, he adopted a new set of values and behaviors, which caused him to give away all of his accumulated wealth. His new behavior, however, likely cost him many rich friends, powerful politicians, and invitations to fancy parties. He also likely lost his job, and along with it, his house, servants, possessions, and status in Roman society.

Those who continued to live within that system likely looked upon Zacchaeus’ new behavior with shock and disdain, thinking that he would eventually regret his decisions.

This is also what the lord of the servants in Matthew 25:14-30 thinks of his unprofitable servant.

The rich landowner commands that the man be cast out into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). This is not a reference to hell, and in this case, is also not a reference to Christians missing out on the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Here, the imagery represents the perspective of the rich lord. Since the third servant didn’t use his talent to steal from others, nor did he even gain usury with the bankers (Matthew 25:27), this servant can no longer join the human party where there is light, laughter, feasting, and dancing.

Instead, he is sent out of the palace into the dark alleyways where there is only poverty and problems. In Matthew 25:30, the master is essentially saying, “Since this servant didn’t play by my rules, he doesn’t get to enjoy the privileges of my household. Kick him out into the street where he will experience profound regret that he didn’t do what I wanted. He passed up the deal of a lifetime, and will live to regret it.”

But this is not the end of the story.

Jesus now goes on in the final parable of Matthew 25 to show His disciples that even though they might be rejected by the kingdoms of men and miss out on the parties of men, they will not be rejected or despised by the kingdom of God.

Since the values and behaviors of the two kingdoms are diametrically opposed to one another, the consequences for actions are different as well.

While a lack of greed brought punishment from the kingdoms of the world, this same behavior brings praise and honor in the kingdom of heaven. With the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus shows the distinctive characteristics that separate the two kingdoms, and calls His disciples to choose which kingdom they will serve.

The parables represent the choice Jesus laid out earlier in His career, when He stated that no man can serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).

So once again, the outer darkness does not refer to hell, nor does the accompanying description of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

outer darkness is not hellInstead, both terms are symbolic ways of referring to “missing out on the party” and “expressing profound shame and regret” as a result. It is an image of loss. The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth is an oriental term for extreme sorrow” (Hodges, What is the Outer Darkness?, 50).

The imagery can be used of believers missing out on the inauguration ceremony of the kingdom of heaven when Jesus returns to rule and reign on earth, but it can also be used of the experience of believers who get neglected and forsaken on this earth by worldly rulers for not living according to the rules of the kingdom of this world.

But those who miss out on the party here on this earth now can expect to enjoy a better party when Jesus returns.

The truth that Jesus reveals is that believers will experience outer darkness in one form or another. If we seek the praise of kings and the riches of men now, we will lose out on such things when Jesus returns.

If, however, we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), then while we might be reviled and hated by men now, we will receive a warm and rich welcome by Jesus when He returns to rule and reign.

So what is the Outer Darkness?

So what is the outer darkness, and why is it described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth?

The outer darkness is a term which describes the place of darkness outside the lights of a party or celebration. It can describe our experience here on earth when we do not live according to the ways and rules of this world, and it can also describe the experience of some Christians at the beginning of the next life if they do not live according to the rules and ways of Jesus.

If Christians do not live in light of the kingdom of heaven, and so experience the outer darkness at His return instead of the inner light of the party, this does not mean they will spend eternity in hell.

They still have eternal life, and they will still participate in the eternal rule and reign of Jesus Christ on earth and throughout the universe, but they will miss out on the initial inauguration celebration when Jesus sets up His throne on earth.

The people who miss out on this party experience profound shame and regret. They miss out on the party of the ages!

So they weep and gnash their teeth in shame and disappointment at how they lived their life here on earth before Jesus returned. The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is not a description of suffering torment in hell, but is a Middle-Eastern idiom describing the expression of sorrow and lament for missing out on a great blessing or opportunity.

The people who weep and gnash their teeth at the return of Jesus do so because they are in the darkness outside the lights of the party, looking in at the great joy and celebration taking place inside, knowing that if they had just lived with greater obedience and expectation, they could have been participating in the party as well.

Such sadness will not last forever, of course. For after the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-9), every tear will be wiped away (Rev 21:4) so that all children of God will be welcome to participate in the never-ending joy and peace of the new heavens and new earth, where there will be no more death, sorrow, mourning, or pain.

So the outer darkness does not refer to hell.

There are no passages in Scripture which describe hell as a place of darkness where people are tormented for eternity as they wail and gnash their teeth. Jesus’ teachings on the outer darkness are a warning for believers to watch how we live our lives now, looking for the soon and blessed return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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The outer darkness in Matthew is NOT a reference to hell, but is instead a way of describing the profound shame and regret that some Christians will experience when Jesus returns physically to this earth. Rather than celebrate in the Wedding Feast of t... There are three passages in Scripture which refer to the outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30) and most people believe these refer to hell. But they do not.<br /> <br /> The outer darkness in Matthew is NOT a reference to hell, but is instead a way of describing the profound shame and regret that some Christians will experience when Jesus returns physically to this earth. Rather than celebrate in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, some Christians will be in the darkness outside the party. <br /> <br /> To leave a question or view the transcript, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/outer-darkness-hell/ Jeremy Myers clean 39:31
What is Gehenna? Is it hell? https://redeeminggod.com/gehenna-hell/ Tue, 12 Mar 2019 17:00:16 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50213 This study is pulled from my book, What is Hell? This study shows that Gehenna was an actual place that existed in the days of Jesus (and still exists today), and so when we understand what Gehenna was, we better understand what Jesus was teaching when He warned people about going to Gehenna. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

They key phrase we are looking at in this study is the word gehenna.

Does Gehenna refer to everlasting torment in hell?

gehennaThe word gehenna is a Greek transliteration from the Hebrew “Valley of Hinnom” (or Ge-Hinnom) which was a deep gorge to the southwest of Jerusalem. It was also called the Valley of Tophet.

The valley has a sordid history. It was a place of idolatry, injustice, and spiritual infidelity. It was here that child sacrifices to Molech were performed in the days of Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6; 23:10).

Furthermore, when 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died during their siege in the days of King Hezekiah, the bodies were piled in the valley of Hinnom and set on fire (Isa 30:31-33; 37:36). Jeremiah built on this history and said that if the Israelites did not turn and follow God, something similar would happen to them (Jer 7:30-34; 19:2-13). And indeed, after the slaughter of the Israelite people by the Roman military in 69-70 AD, this is what occurred.

But it was not just the history of prophecies of this valley which made it a place of horror. In the days of Jesus, the valley was used as the city dump.

The valley of Gehenna was not only filled with garbage, refuse, and sewage, but also with dead bodies that people were trying to dispose of (due to crime, sickness, poverty, or shame).

City officials occasionally sought to get rid of the garbage and also cover the stench by igniting the refuse on fire. But since there was so much garbage, and since more was added every day, the fire never really died. It burned day and night, seemingly forever and ever.

Even in places where there was no open flame, the piles of refuse would still smolder for weeks on end, sending constant billows of smoke and ashes into the air.

Yet not everything in Gehenna burned. As is the nature of flames, they go where they will, sometimes leaving entire sections untouched. In these areas, worms and maggots went to work on the refuse and corpses that were left behind.

Furthermore, as is the nature of all city dumps throughout the world (even to this day), the sick and poor often scavenged through the garbage looking for things to eat or sell. Some of these were undoubtedly lepers in various states of disease and decay who might have lived in the rock tombs on the lower end of the valley.

Imagine Going into Gehenna…

With all this in mind, imagine what it would be like to “take out the garbage” on a typical Jerusalem morning.

gehennaAs you haul your cart of trash down the hill into the valley, you first become aware of the smoke that rises continually from the dump. It is acrid and oily from the burning trash and causes your eyes to smart.

But soon, not even the smoke can cover the stench that rises from rotting food and corpses on a hot Middle-Eastern day. The smell is so bad, you struggle not to vomit and retch.

But the smoke in your eyes and the smell in your nostrils are not the worst of it. As you descend down into the pit, it becomes harder to see. The sun turns blood red due to the smoke and there is a constant gloomy haze that surrounds you.

But this is a blessing in disguise, for what you do see is difficult to forget. On your left there is a mangled corpse. It is missing some limbs and is half-burned from the fire. The remaining half is crawling with maggots and buzzing with flies.

You avert your eyes, only to see a ragged leper stumbling through the smoke while eating a moldy piece of fruit he has pulled from the trash. He is missing his nose and an arm and appears to be a walking corpse.

Horrified, you decide you have traveled far enough into the pit. You dump your trash as quickly as possible before retreating back up the slope toward Jerusalem.

As the smoke recedes and the sun brightens above you, you peer back over your shoulder at where you left your trash, only to see half a dozen walking corpses shuffling toward your pile of garbage as fast as their mangled feet will carry them. They are eager to be among the first to dig through what you have left behind, hoping to find a bit of food or clothing that will get them through another day.

You shudder and pick up your pace to leave the nightmare valley behind and return to the land of the living.

gehenna valley of hinnom

Gehenna in the Days of Jesus

In the days of Jesus, this is what came to mind when someone used the word “Gehenna.” The term conveyed “a sense of total horror and disgust. … Gehenna was a place of undying worm and irresistible fire, an abhorrent place where crawling maggots and smoldering heat raced each other to consume the putrefying fare served them each day” (Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 161-162).

Therefore, since Gehenna was a literal place outside the walls of Jerusalem, the word should not be translated in our Bibles.

We do not translate “Jerusalem” as “City of Peace,” “Bethel” as “City of God,” or “Gilgal” as “circle,” even though that is what those place names mean. So also, we should not translate Gehenna as “hell” or any other word.

gehenna is not hellIt should be left as it is, thereby alerting the reader to the fact that the text is referring to the valley called Gehenna outside the gates of Jerusalem. Translating it as “the Valley of Hinnom” would also be fine.

But even if we leave gehenna as “Gehenna,” we are still faced with the question as to whether Jesus had something more in mind than the physical and literal Valley of Hinnom when He taught about gehenna.

In other words, when Jesus spoke about gehenna, was He only speaking about the Valley of Hinnom, or was He using the imagery, history, and inherent horror of this valley to teach His listeners about the experience of some people in the afterlife?

The Symbolism of Gehenna

When the various texts are considered (cf. Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:8-9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 12:5; Jas 3:6), the answer becomes obvious. Jesus (and James, who is the only other person in the New Testament to speak about gehenna), is indeed using the Valley of Hinnom in a symbolic way, but not to teach about what happens to some people in the afterlife, but rather to teach about what can happen to some people in this life.

People who are sent to the Valley of Hinnom (usually because of crime or leprosy) lose their friends and family, and face a life filled with horror, decay, and destruction.

The warnings about gehenna are given by Jesus so that we do not destroy our health, life, family, friendships, and reputation in this life. God does not want us to live in the Valley of Death, but to instead enjoy everything God has given to us. In his book, Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright says this about gehenna:

When Jesus was warning his hearers about Gehenna he was not, as a general rule, telling them that unless they repented in this life they would burn in the next one. As with God’s kingdom, so with its opposite: it is on earth that things matter, not somewhere else.

His message to His contemporaries was stark, and (as we would say today) political. Unless they turned back from their hopeless and rebellious dreams of establishing God’s kingdom in their own terms, not least through armed revolt against Rome, then the Roman juggernaut would do what large, greedy and ruthless empires have always done to smaller countries (not least in the Middle East) whose resources they covet or whose strategic location they are anxious to guard.

Rome would turn Jerusalem into a hideous, stinking extension of its own smoldering rubbish heap. When Jesus said “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” that is the primary meaning He had in mind (Wright, Surprised by Hope176).

Gehenna is NOT hell

Therefore, a word that is commonly translated as “hell” in the New Testament, gehenna does not in fact refer to a place of burning torture or torment in the afterlife.

Instead, the word gehenna refers to a literal place outside the walls of Jerusalem.

gehenna valley of hinnom hellJesus uses the history and imagery of this place to warn His disciples about what can befall them in this life if they do not follow His teaching and take steps (sometimes drastic) to protect themselves and their loved ones from the devastation of sin.

When Jesus speaks about gehenna, He is not warning about hell in the next life, but a hellish existence in this life. We will see more about this in future studies when we look at the actual New Testament texts in which the word gehenna is used.

But for now, we have a few more New Testament words to look at which are often thought to be references to hell. We will look at the word hades next …

But whatever hell might be, it is not an eternal garbage dump where God sends some humans to rot and burn for eternity. The word gehenna in the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. It was a literal valley outside of Jerusalem that symbolized the death and destruction that can come into people’s life NOW, if they refuse to follow the ways and teachings of Jesus. The symbol of gehenna tells us nothing the afterlife.

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.
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This study is pulled from my book, What is Hell? This study shows that Gehenna was an actual place that existed in the days of Jesus (and still exists today), and so when we understand what Gehenna was, we better understand what Jesus was teaching when... This study is pulled from my book, What is Hell? This study shows that Gehenna was an actual place that existed in the days of Jesus (and still exists today), and so when we understand what Gehenna was, we better understand what Jesus was teaching when He warned people about going to Gehenna.<br /> <br /> Get my book here: https://amzn.to/2H5UWrK<br /> Take the course here: https://redeeminggod.com/courses/what-is-hell/<br /> Leave a comment or question on this topic here: https://redeeminggod.com/gehenna-hell/ Jeremy Myers clean 22:52
What is Sheol? Is it hell? https://redeeminggod.com/sheol-hell/ Thu, 07 Mar 2019 00:35:29 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50208 The word sheol occurs sixty-six times in the Hebrew Scriptures, and a few of these are occasionally translated as “hell” depending on which Bible translation you are reading. Yet “hell” is not a good translation of any of the occurrences of sheol in the Bible. What is hell bookMy book, What is Hell? is now available on Amazon. I am doing a series of podcast studies that focus on some of the content from the book. The studies look at the eight key terms that are often equated with hell, and about a dozen key passages that are thought to teach about hell.

If you want to learn the truth about hell and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

Also, if you are part of my discipleship group, there will be an online course about hell as well.

In this study, we look at the word sheol.

The Hebrew word sheol is the most common word in the Old Testament that is used in reference to the state of the dead.

Curiously, however, the word appears only one time  outside of the Old Testament, where it means ‘grave.’ So when it comes to understanding what the Old Testament authors meant with the word sheol, we are limited to its usage within Scripture itself.

Thankfully, there are numerous passages which guide our definition of this word.

The Meaning of the Word sheol

The word sheol occurs sixty-six times in the Hebrew Scriptures, and a few of these are occasionally translated as “hell” depending on which Bible translation you are reading.

Yet “hell” is not a good translation of any of the occurrences of sheol in the Bible.

The Hebrew bible never indicates any form of punishment after death, so this translation is inappropriate. This is seen in a variety of ways.

For example, both good men and evil men go to sheol (cf. Gen 37:35; Num 16:30; Jon 2:2).

sheol grave pitSince it is not a place only for wicked and evil people, for even the righteous go to sheol, it cannot be equivalent to the modern concept of hell. Some teach, therefore, that sheol was a special “holding tank” or “intermediate state” for all people who lived and died prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that after the resurrection of Jesus, people no longer go to sheol, but are immediately sent to either heaven or hell.

Texts such as Matthew 27:52, Ephesians 4:8-10, and 1 Peter 3:19 are used to defend this idea.

However, when all the references to sheol are considered together, it appears that the most likely definition of the word is also the most literal translation.

The word sheol means “grave” or “pit.”

When Hebrew authors wrote about sheol they were thinking about a hole in the ground in which dead bodies were laid. It does not represent any sort of afterlife experience.

When adjectives are used to describe sheol, it is portrayed as a wet, dank, dark, dusty, musty hole.

Support for this understanding is found in the fact that the Hebrew word bor is often used as a synonym for sheol, and bor is literally a hole dug in the ground (cf. Isa 14:11-20).

And much like any grave, sheol is characterized by the presence of worms and decay (Job 17:13-16; 24:19-20).

There is not a single Old Testament text which speaks of sheol as an eternal place of suffering and torment for the unregenerate dead.

Even when New Testament authors quote Old Testament texts which speak about sheol, they do so in connection with the bodily resurrection of people from the grave (cf. Psa 16:10; Hos 13:14; Acts 2:27; 13:35; 1 Cor 15:55).

The idea is that their bodies went into the ground, and at the resurrection, their bodies will come up out of the ground, and be made whole and complete once again. So even the New Testament supports the idea that sheol is simply “the grave.”

And since all people die and go to the grave, it makes sense for the Old Testament texts to speak about all people going to sheol.

what is sheol

The Old Testament, therefore, does not have much to say about the afterlife for either the righteous or the wicked. All it knows is that when all people die, they are put down into a grave, into sheol, where worms and decay destroy their bodies.

As such, the word sheol has nothing whatsoever to say about “hell” and should not be translated as “hell” in any of its uses (contrary to KJV texts such as Deut 32:22; Psa 16:10; Prov 9:18; Isa 14:9-10).

The best way to translate all uses of sheol is “grave,” and it literally refers to a pit or hole dug into the ground in which dead bodies are laid. When used metaphorically, it can refer to depression, sorrow, or loneliness, which are emotions often associated with death and burial.

So what is sheol?

The term, sheol, therefore, is the theological opposite of the life that God wants and desires for His people.

Since God is a God of the living, not the dead, then sheol represents the experience of those who are not functioning as God desires, whether it is because they are dead and buried in the ground, or because they are cut off from community due to loneliness and depression.

There is not a single text that describes sheol as a place of suffering and torment in the afterlife for the unregenerate dead.

what is sheol where is sheol

So the Old Testament teachings NOTHING about hell

The word sheol is the only possible Old Testament term that can refer to hell, and since it does not, this means that the Old Testament teaches nothing about hell. (The image of fire might refer to hell in a few passages, but we will discuss this in a later study. … or you can just get my book on hell …)

This helps us realize that if the doctrine of hell as a place of suffering torment is correct, then God left humanity completely ignorant and blind to this idea for most of human history.

If it is true that the vast majority of people from the days of Adam to the days of John the Baptist will end up in a place of burning torment forever and ever, wouldn’t it have been loving for God to at least warn people about such a potential fate?

Yet there is not a single such warning in all of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Yet despite the complete silence in the Hebrew Scriptures about eternal conscious torment in hell, people today continue to hold to the doctrine, primarily because they believe it is taught in the New Testament.

As we will see in future studies about hell, nearly all the evidence provided for the doctrine of eternal torment in a fiery hell comes from the New Testament.

But again, if this is truly the case, then was it just and right for God to not warn a single person prior to the birth of Jesus about the eternal torment that awaited them in eternity?

Was it Right For God to Fail to Warn Billions of People About Hell?

Is it conceivable that the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ could watch billions of humans fall into a pit of eternal suffering and torment while never saying a single word of warning about it to those who were alive?

If the traditional doctrine of hell is true, how could God have overlooked or neglected mentioning it in His revelation to humanity for the majority of human history?

People often say that it is loving to warn people about hell, just as it is loving to warn people about driving off a cliff. But if this is so, why did God not warn people about hell for most of human history?

Is God unloving? To ask the question is to answer it. God is infinitely loving, and would not have failed to warn the objects of His love about such a potential disaster.

Therefore, the only other rational conclusion is that such a disaster does not exist. God didn’t warn people because the warning was not needed.

is sheol hell

Yet despite the complete silence in the Hebrew Scriptures about eternal conscious torment in hell, people today continue to hold to the doctrine, primarily because they believe it is taught in the New Testament.

Nearly all the evidence provided for the doctrine of eternal torment in a fiery hell comes from the New Testament. But if the Hebrew Scriptures do not teach the concept of eternal torment in hellfire, it is legitimate to ask whether the New Testament does.

Maybe we have misunderstood what the New Testament teaches about hell as well.

The New Testament contains seven terms which are thought to refer to hell. They are: abyss, gehenna, hadēs, outer darkness, tartarus, the Lake of Fire, and the image of fire. We will consider all of these, along with several passages from Scripture, in future studies.

If you want to learn the truth about hell, and what the Bible actually teaches about hell, make sure you get a copy of my book, What is Hell?

I will also be teaching about hell in my Gospel Dictionary online course:

what is hellDo have more questions about hell? Are you afraid of going to hell? Do want to know what the Bible teaches about hell? Take my course "What is Hell?" to learn the truth about hell and how to avoid hell. This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free. ]]>
Sheol is not hell. Which means hell is not talked about in the Old Testament. The word sheol occurs sixty-six times in the Hebrew Scriptures, and a few of these are occasionally translated as “hell” depending on which Bible translation you are reading. Yet “hell” is not a good translation of any of the occurrences of sheol in the Bible. This study explains more.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a question, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/sheol-hell/ Jeremy Myers clean 21:31
I interviewed Frank Viola about his book, ReGrace, and he accused me of heresy. 🤣🤣🤣 (He was joking. I think.) https://redeeminggod.com/frank-viola-regrace/ Tue, 05 Mar 2019 17:04:13 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50155 Frank Viola has a new book out titled ReGrace. I interviewed him about it, and in it, he said that some of my views are CRAZY. But I think some of his views are crazy too. And this is completely fine. We ALL have some crazy views, just like every other Christian in history. So rather than condemn each other for them, we can learn how to love and live together instead. Frank Viola ReGraceThis is a BONUS episode of my One Verse Podcast. In it, I interview best-selling author, Frank Viola, about his new book, ReGrace. This book shows how Christians can get along with each other, even when we disagree with one another.

The book goes into some of the shocking and outrageous theological views that were held by several of the greatest Christians in history. This should not cause us to shun or condemn them, but simply to realize that we ALL have some crazy ideas.

Frank Viola has some crazy views … and so do I.

And you do too.

This book shows that we ALL have some crazy theological views, and so rather than condemn each other as heretics, let’s learn to live and laugh together.

By taking a humorous look at some of the crazy views of theological giants like C. S. Lewis, Marin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, Billy Graham, and others, Frank Viola shows us that all of us have some views that could be condemned as heresy by somebody.

But that’s no reason to get all worked up, frothing at the mouth, while we seek to burn people at the stake through our keyboards.

Instead, it’s an opportunity to show grace toward others, as we want them to show grace toward us. Most of all, charging people with heresy might be the biggest heresy of all.

This book shows how. It’s humorous, lighthearted, and instructive.

So let’s learn from each other and laugh with each other as we all enjoy the ride of following Jesus in this great adventure.

Links Mentioned in this Interview with Frank Viola

Here are some of the things I have written in the past about heresy as well.

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Frank Viola has a new book out titled ReGrace. I interviewed him about it, and in it, he said that some of my views are CRAZY. But I think some of his views are crazy too. And this is completely fine. We ALL have some crazy views, This is a BONUS episode of my One Verse Podcast. In it, I interview best-selling author, Frank Viola, about his new book, ReGrace. This book shows how Christians can get along with each other, even when we disagree with one another.<br /> <br /> Go here to get Frank's book: https://amzn.to/2IS8dpz<br /> See other links mentioned in this podcast episode here:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/frank-viola-regrace/ Jeremy Myers clean 40:28
How can Christians find Fellowship? A discussion with Richard Jacobson (Hebrews 10:25) https://redeeminggod.com/fellowship-richard-jacobson-hebrews-10-25/ Wed, 20 Feb 2019 20:50:13 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50115 Millions of Christians have questions about church and how to find true Christian fellowship. In this podcast interview, Richard Jacobson and Jeremy Myers discuss how to be the church and why Hebrews 10:25 does not teach that all Christians must attend a church service on Sunday morning. Church fellowship is critical, but there are a variety of ways God leads us to find this fellowship. unchurching richard jacobsonMillions of Christians have questions about church and how to find true Christian fellowship. In this podcast interview, Richard Jacobson and Jeremy Myers discuss how to be the church and why Hebrews 10:25 does not teach that all Christians must attend a church service on Sunday morning.

Church fellowship is critical, but there are a variety of ways God leads us to find this fellowship.

Links mentioned in this discussion with Richard Jacobson:

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Millions of Christians have questions about church and how to find true Christian fellowship. In this podcast interview, Richard Jacobson and Jeremy Myers discuss how to be the church and why Hebrews 10:25 does not teach that all Christians must attend... Does a Christian have to attend a church service on Sunday morning in order to get Christian fellowship? In this discussion of church, Richard Jacobson and Jeremy Myers discuss Hebrews 10:25 and a variety of other topics about what it means to be the church in the world today.<br /> <br /> Learn more about Richard Jacobson here: http://www.unchurching.com/<br /> Leave a comment on this podcast episode here:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/fellowship-richard-jacobson-hebrews-10-25/ Jeremy Myers clean 50:00
Do you ever feel like an outcast? Listen to this discussion about Mark 1:40-45 with Eric Nevins https://redeeminggod.com/eric-nevins-mark-1-40-45/ Tue, 19 Feb 2019 20:46:02 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50098 I sat down with Eric Nevins today to discuss Mark 1:40-45, a passage where Jesus interacts with a leper. If you have ever felt like an outcast, or that people reject and despise you, you will really enjoy this discussion of the interaction between Jesus and the leper in Mark 1:40-45. Eric NevinsI sat down with Eric Nevins today to discuss Mark 1:40-45, a passage where Jesus interacts with a leper. If you have ever felt like an outcast, or that people reject and despise you, you will really enjoy this discussion of the interaction between Jesus and the leper in Mark 1:40-45.

If you have a podcast and want to “trade” interviews, you can contact me here and join Eric’s Christian Podcast Association here.

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast Discussion of Mark 1:40-45

You can also watch the video below:

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I sat down with Eric Nevins today to discuss Mark 1:40-45, a passage where Jesus interacts with a leper. If you have ever felt like an outcast, or that people reject and despise you, you will really enjoy this discussion of the interaction between Jesu... I sat down with Eric Nevins to discuss Mark 1:40-45, a passage where Jesus interacts with a leper. If you have ever felt like an outcast, or that people reject and despise you, you will really enjoy this discussion of the interaction between Jesus and the leper in Mark 1:40-45.<br /> <br /> Learn more about Eric Nevins here: https://ericnevins.com/<br /> Comment on this podcast episode by visiting: https://redeeminggod.com/eric-nevins-mark-1-40-45/ Jeremy Myers clean 32:15
You can have a Relationship without Fellowship, but it’s not what God wants (1 John 1:6-7) https://redeeminggod.com/1-john-1-6-7/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 01:24:40 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=50022 Did you know it is possible to have a relationship with someone, but not have any fellowship? God wants us to have BOTH a relationship AND fellowship with Him and with other Christians. Passages like 1 John 1:6-7 show us how. There are many words in the Bible that often get confused with the concept of “gaining eternal life.” The word “salvation” is the primary word of this sort, but the word “fellowship” is similar. Often, when people read in Scripture about “fellowship with God” they think it is referring to having eternal life or being born again.

But the word fellowship does not refer to gaining eternal life, but to the experience of life within the family of God. This is especially true for the word fellowship.

The word fellowship is a translation of the Greek word koinōnia (2842). “Fellowship” is a good translation, but not if we think of “fellowship” as what typically happens on a Sunday morning in most church buildings.

fellowship 1 John 1 6-7

Your Church is Not Really a Fellowship

Though many churches call themselves a “Fellowship,” the people who gather there are not often good examples of genuine fellowship. The term refers to a friendship, a community, a partnership, of having common interests, desires, goals, directions, and even possessions.

The term “fellowship” is a favorite expression for the close, intimate friendship that exists between a husband and wife, and also for the unity one experiences in the context of brotherly love. So the word fellowship is not about gaining a relationship, but rather about maintaining the friendship, love, and unity within a relationship.

Relationship vs. Fellowship

To understand how this works, it is helpful to think of our relationship and fellowship with God as we think about these with other person.

There is a vast difference between being born into a family, and having a positive experience within that family.

For there to be a positive experience in a family, certain things need to happen. Everybody in the family needs to participate, help out, contribute, love, forgive, and work together as a team.

friendship fellowship

It is a lot of work to maintain harmonies and loving fellowship within a family.

Sometimes the friendships that are to naturally exist within a family begin to break down. A son might rebel against his parents. Parents might abuse or neglect their children. Such activities will result in a loss of fellowship, friendship, or “togetherness.”

It is even possible for families to be so broken that people who are related to one another by blood might not see or talk to each other for years at a time. In some cases, family members might spend most of their lives apart, such as when a parent abandons a child or gives them up for adoption, or when a child runs away from home and severs all contact with his or her family.

But note that even in these situations where the families are severely broken, this does not cause the relationship itself to stop.

From a biological, or “blood relative” perspective, children are always related to their parents, and vice versa, even if they break off contact for years at a time or never know each other at all. This is not an ideal situation, nor is it the way God intended families to function, but it is a very common situation for many people.

We could say that in such situations, while the relationship itself continues to exist, there is no fellowship or friendship between the separated family members.

They are related, and nothing can ever erase that relationship, but they do not have fellowship.

Even if someone changes their last name, considers their family members as dead, or gets legally-binding court documents to change their identity, the biological fact of the relationship remains unchanged and unchangeable.

This is exactly how it works with the family of God.

Once a person is born into the family of God, they cannot be unborn. Once a person is in the family of God, they have entered into an unbreakable and unchangeable relationship with God and with every other member of the family.

Even if this person says they hate God, hate Christians, and wants nothing ever to do with God or His people ever again (just as nearly every teenager says or thinks from time to time about their own parents or family), the fact of the relationship remains unchanged and unchangeable.

The relationship is eternal even if the fellowship is not.

But again, this is not God’s ideal, and this is not what God wants or desires for the people who have an eternal and unbreakable relationship with Him.

family fellowshipGod desires both relationship and fellowship with and between His children.

This also is the healthiest and happiest way to live within the family of God. This is why the Bible contains so much teaching about how to have fellowship with God and with one another.

In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that most of the Bible contains teachings of this sort. Though the word “fellowship” is not always used, the vast majority of Scripture is not about how to join the family of God or be born again into the family, but about how to live within the family of God so that we can have the healthiest and happiest relationships possible with God and with each other.

So when the Bible talks about fellowship with God, it is not telling non-believers how to gain eternal life or join the family of God, but is instead telling believers (people who are already part of the family of God) how to enjoy and fully experience their relationship with God and with other Christians.

One key passage that is helped by this understanding is 1 John 1:6-7.

Fellowship in 1 John 1:6-7

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If someone confuses the two concepts of fellowship and relationship with God, then passages like 1 John 1:6-7 will be radically misunderstood.

When people think that 1 John contains “Test of Life” then they read 1 John 1:6-7 as teaching that if we claim to have eternal life and a relationship with God, but we walk in the darkness by sinning, then this proves that we are a lair and do not actually have eternal life.

This is a very dangerous teaching.

In fact, since John goes on to say that we all still sin (1 John 1:8), then if John is saying that the presence of ongoing sin proves that a person really isn’t a Christian, then nobody is a Christian.

Thankfully, a proper understanding of the word fellowship helps clear up any confusion about this text.

John is giving instructions about fellowship with God rather than about gaining or keeping a relationship with God. He says that if we claim we are friends with God, but we walk in sin and darkness, then we’re lying, because God only walks in the light.

walk in the darknessOne cannot walk in the darkness and also be a friend with God.

While a person can be a child of God and walk in the darkness, such a child is living in rebellion and is not abiding with Christ or living in fellowship with God.  If we walk in the darkness, we obviously cannot be walking with God, because God does not walk in the darkness but in the light.

But if we walk in the light, then we will obviously be walking with God—going where God goes and doing what God does, because God walks in the light.

Walking in the light, however, leads to fellowship both with God and one another, as Jesus works to cleanse us from sin and help us live in unity and peace with each other.

This is a much more encouraging and helpful message, as it does not lead to doubt and fear about our standing with God or eternal destiny, but instead helps us move forward in our life with God on the basis of His infinite and undying love for us (1 John 4:7-19).

walk in the light 1 John 1:6-7

Fellowship vs. Relationship

Recognizing the difference between fellowship and a relationship is key to properly understanding several passages from Scripture. To see this difference, it is helpful to consider the difference between these two words in our normal, everyday relationships.

It is quite common for people to have a biological relationship with someone without participating in any fellowship with them at all.

It is not uncommon for some related family members to go days, weeks, months, and even years without eating meals together, celebrating holidays together, or even speaking to each other. In such tragic situations, the relationship still exists, even though fellowship is absent. Even where there has always been a complete lack of fellowship, the relationship remain intact and nothing can dissolve or break it.

It is the same in our relationship with God and other Christians.

All who have believed in Jesus for eternal life are part of the family of God. These relationships exist eternally and cannot be broken or dissolved. But this does not mean that all who belong to the family of God will live and exist in fellowship with God and with each other. For that to happen, we must seek to live in peace and unity with each other, while extending love, grace, and forgiveness toward others.

This is the only way to experience fellowship and friendship within the family of God.

Does this understanding of the difference between relationship and fellowship help you make sense of 1 John 1:6-7? There are other texts in the New Testament that are helped by this as well, which I discuss in my online course, The Gospel Dictionary.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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You can have a relationship without fellowship... Did you know it is possible to have a relationship with someone, but not have any fellowship? God wants us to have BOTH a relationship AND fellowship with Him and with other Christians. Passages like 1 John 1:6-7 show us how.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or question, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/1-john-1-6-7/ Jeremy Myers clean 23:30
Even the Demons Believe (James 2:19) https://redeeminggod.com/even-the-demons-believe/ Wed, 06 Feb 2019 18:00:28 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=16815 Whenever I teach that eternal life is received by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, someone always quotes James 2:19 at me, that demons also believe. But if we study James 2:19 in context, we see that James is not refuting the gospel truth of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This study shows what James truly meant in James 2:14-26. Almost every single time I write a post on my blog or on Facebook about how we receive eternal life from God by faith ALONE, someone  brings up James 2:19 and says “But even the demons believe!”

In this current series of posts on faith, I have previously taught about James 2:14-26 with a focus on the concept of “dead faith.” But in this final post on faith, I wanted to focus in on this famous verse of James 2:19, and show why people who quote it do not understand what James is saying.

(Note: ALL of these posts on faith are drawn from my book, What is Faith? So if you want them all in one place, along with an extended discussion about the nature of faith and how to know you believe, just get the book.)

Let me give you an example from Twitter… By the way, I dislike Twitter Debates. It is impossible to discuss anything tangible on Twitter.

demons believe James 2:19
This picture is ironic in so many ways. It misquotes the text in several ways to reinforce a misapplication of the text itself. But this is what often happens with James 2:19.

Here is some of what we said on Twitter:

Note that I didn’t tweet the same thing to him over and over and over… he responded multiple times to one of my tweets, and I don’t know how to get rid of that when embedding a Tweet into WordPress… if anybody knows how, let me know!

https://twitter.com/jde4zion/status/296034017327853568
https://twitter.com/jde4zion/status/296063603138781184
https://twitter.com/jde4zion/status/296176863817129984
https://twitter.com/jde4zion/status/296176943513104384
https://twitter.com/jde4zion/status/296179013016240128
https://twitter.com/jde4zion/status/296180596982546432
https://twitter.com/jde4zion/status/296180824229949440

So what does James 2:19 mean?

Here is what I was trying to say on Twitter, which didn’t get stated very clearly at all:

People believe millions of things. I believe that this chair I am sitting in will hold me up. I believe that the earth orbits around the sun. I believe that my children love me. I believe that coffee is a delicious beverage which helps me wake up in the morning.

But none of these beliefs, even though they are correct, will give me eternal life by believing them.

The same holds true when it comes to beliefs about God and Jesus Christ. I can believe a lot of things about God and Jesus. I believe that God exists. I believe that God consists of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that God created all things, that He is holy, righteous,  loving, and good. Regarding Jesus, I believe that Jesus was God in the flesh, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and rose again from the dead. I could go on and on.

But guess what? Just as believing that the earth orbits around the sun does not give me eternal life, so also, none of the beliefs I have just stated in the previous paragraph will give me eternal life by believing them. 

The Bible is pretty clear that to receive eternal life, you don’t just need to believe. You have to believe in the right person for the right thing, namely, you have to believe in Jesus for eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47).

Eternal life is not given if I believe in Moses for eternal life. Nor is it given if I believe in Jesus for infinite wealth.

If I believe in Moses for eternal life, I am believing the wrong person for the right thing, but if I believe in Jesus for infinite wealth, I am believing the right person for the wrong thing.

According to Scripture, we must believe in Jesus for everlasting life.

So, what do demons believe?

Believe it or not (ha ha!), demons are probably more correct in their theology than most humans. Though I cannot be certain, I assume that demons believe that God exists as the Trinity, and that God is holy, righteous, and good, and that Jesus was God incarnate, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and rose again from the dead.

believe in GodIn fact, demons probably know more about God than we do. Demons probably have better theology than many Christians. That is, demons probably believe more accurate truths about God than many Christians do.

The problem with demons, however, isn’t in what they know about God, or in what they believe. Their problem is that they don’t like what they know about God and believe that they can rebel against God and win (this is where their beliefs are wrong).

When it comes to the book of James, and James 2 specifically, lots of people quote James 2:19 out of context. They hear a pastor, professor, teacher, blogger, or evangelist say that to receive eternal life, all you need to do is believe in Jesus for it, and the objector says, “That’s not true! Even the demons believe!”

Right.

Of course demons believe. Humans believe things. Demons believe things. Even  animals believe things. We have three cats. When I get up in the morning, one or two of them is always there in the kitchen, looking at me, expecting me to either feed them, or let them outside to do their business. They believe that I am the one who can make these things happen for them.

But so what? Do cats have eternal life because they believe in me for food and that I can open the door? Of course not! So also, demons believe many things, but they don’t get eternal life simply because they believe.

When it comes to receiving eternal life, it is not simple belief that matters, but believing in the right person for the right thing.

So yes, demons believe. But the real question is “What do demons believe?”

More specifically, what is James 2:19 talking about? What is the argument? What is the point?

James 2, Faith, Works, Demons, and Abraham

Below is a super brief synopsis of how to understand James 2:14-26.

James is writing to believers. 

First, James is not writing an evangelist pamphlet telling people how to receive eternal life. He is writing to believers about how to live as followers of Jesus and function within the church. 

Many scholars and pastors have noted the numerous parallels between the book of James and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Just as the Sermon on the Mount is the discipleship manual of Jesus, so also the book of James is a reworking of the discipleship manual for Christians under the pastoral care of James.

He is not telling these believers how to receive eternal life, but is writing to them based on the assumption that they already have eternal life, but need some advice on how to look and live like Jesus in the world.

James 2:14-26 deals with living a profitable Christian life.

The issue in James 2:14-26 is not about gaining or proving that one has eternal life, but rather, living as a profitable servant of Jesus Christ. James mentions profit several times (cf. James 2:14, 16) and the opposite of profit–being dead or useless (James 2:17, 20, 26).

The “profit” he is talking about, of course, is not monetary gain, but living as an energized, successful, fully-committed, faithful, generous, loving, caring follower of Jesus Christ. None of us want to live useless lives, but profitable lives that are useful to God and His rule and reign on earth.

In James 2:14-26 we are told how.

Don’t just pray and believe God; Do Something!

The main point of James 2:14-26 is that believing God can do something is good, but if we really believe God can do something, we will personally seek to be part of the solution.

Specifically, if you see someone who is hungry or without clothes, it is okay if you tell them you are going to pray for them, or if you believe that God can provide for them. But more than just pray for them, and more than just believe that God will give them food and clothes, why don’t you actually be an answer to your own prayers and your own faith, and give them food and clothes!?

That is what James is saying: “Don’t just believe; Do something!”

This is why people get so upset at Christians when we are faced with a troubling situation, or a dire need, and our only response is, “I’ll pray for you!” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you!”

When people are homeless, jobless, hungry, sick, dying, struggling, they don’t need thoughts and prayers. They need Christians do actually do something. This is exactly the point that James is making as well.

James is saying, “When someone is in need … don’t just believe that God can provide for them … YOU provide for them. Don’t just tell them you’ll pray for them …. Instead, you provide for them.”

Do you see? The “believing” (or faith) of James 2:14-26 has nothing whatsoever to do with eternal life. The person is believing that God can give food and clothing to the hungry and the naked. There is nothing here about believing in Jesus for eternal life, and you do not get eternal life by believing that God can clothe and feed someone. Nor do you get eternal life by giving people clothes and food.

Again, eternal life is given to those who believe in Jesus for it.

Now, if James had stopped writing at James 2:16, there never would have been the misunderstanding about the relationship between faith and works in this passage. Everybody would have immediately recognized that James wants us to do more than just pray for people and state our belief that God can help them. We should actually do something for those in need. This point of James is pretty clear in James 2:14-16.

But he goes on to write James 2:17-26, and this is where all the problems with this passage enter. In the rest of this passage, I am not going to work though the entire passage in detail, but just provide a few of the highlights, and point you to the text of a sermon I preached on James 2 several years ago, and I also have a shorter version in Podcast episode 124 when I discussed James 2:14-26.

But here is the main argument of James 2:17-26.

1. Faith Without Works is Dead

The word “dead” does not mean nonexistent, but useless, unproductive, unprofitable. Someone may still have faith, but if that faith is not put into action, it is not doing anybody any good. It does not help those who are hungry and without clothes, and it does not help the person who has the faith. Since the context of this passage is about profitable faith, then “dead” faith is unprofitable faith.

So we must never say “Dead faith is no faith” for that is absolutely not true. Dead faith exists, it is just unproductive and unprofitable.

2. The Objector States His Opinion in James 2:18-19

Someone does not agree with what James is saying, and begins to state an objection in James 2:18. On this, every Bible translation agrees. Where Bible translations do not agree is where the objection ends. If you compare Bible translations on where they put the second set of quotation marks, you will see that they are all over the place.

However, Greek did not have quotation marks, and so authors used other methods to show where the objection ends and the refutation begins. They indicated this by calling the objection foolish (cf. 1 Cor 15:35-36; Rom 9:19-20). In this way, the objector in James 2 is saying everything in James 2:18-19. (See my article on “Epistolary Diatribe.”)

Therefore, the statement “even the demons believe, and tremble” is NOT from James, and is NOT in support of his argument, but is from someone who does not like what James is saying, and is objecting to the point James is making.

In other words, when we quote James 2:19, “even the demons believe” we are siding not with James, but taking the side of someone who disagrees with James.

The basic point of the objector is that he believes there is no connection between faith and works. James says that if we have faith, we should do something with it to live profitable and useful lives. The objector says,

That’s rubbish. The two are not connected at all. Take the cardinal theological belief of Judaism as an example: the belief that God is One. The demons believe this, but  it doesn’t affect their behavior. All they do is shudder, but beyond this, this still rebel against God.” So their faith does nothing for them.

Note, by the way, that faith in Jesus for eternal life is NOT what demons believe.

Sure, we can assume that demons believe that if people believe in Jesus for eternal life then those people will receive eternal life, but the demons themselves cannot believe in Jesus for eternal life, because eternal life has not been offered to them by Jesus.

But this is not the belief of demons that James is writing about. The only thing demons believe in this context is that God is One, which is the central and most important belief in Judaism.

The Masterful Refutation by James

In the rest of the passage (James 2:20-26), James refutes what this objector said.

He notes that the objector used the most important belief in Judaism, so James says “Oh yeah? Two can play that game,” and to prove his point he uses the most important figure in Judaism: Abraham, the father of faith.

Faith of AbrahamAnd he uses a particular event in the life of Abraham to prove that Abraham’s faith led him to obey God and perform certain actions, which in turn, allowed people to recognize that Abraham was truly God’s friend.

It is important to note that the event James is referring to takes place in Genesis 22, many years after the initial faith of Abraham in Genesis 15.

Whenever Paul refers to the faith of Abraham, he is referring to Genesis 15, when Abram was declared righteous by God. But James is referring to the events in Genesis 22, when Abraham was declared righteous by men, that is, they saw what Abraham did, and said, “Wow. He truly does believe in the God he claims to serve, and look what happened as a result! He truly is the friend of God!”

James then goes on with the knock-out punch. He has proven his point with the Forefather of Faith, Abraham, so he now takes the opposite extreme and shows how his point applies to the foreign, sinful, prostitute Rahab.

Rahab also believed something about God, and when the spies came to her, she acted on what she believed to deliver and rescue them. If she had just believed in God and done nothing, she still would have had the faith, but it would have done nothing to deliver her, her family, or the two spies. But because she acted on her faith, her faith became profitable.

James has proved his case and proved the objector wrong. If all you do with faith is believe, that is well and good, and it is still faith, but to truly be profitable, effective, energizing, and helpful in your own life and in the lives of others around us, you must act on what you believe (James 2:26).

This is the meaning of James 2.

Eternal Life IS received by Faith ALONE in Jesus Christ ALONE

So don’t let anyone tell you that faith is not enough when it comes to receiving eternal life. Of course it is! Jesus Himself promises it! 

But when it comes to helping others, and getting rid of sin in our lives, and clothing the naked, feeding the hungry (James 2:14-26), taking care of orphans and widows (James 1:27), controlling our tongue (James 3:1-12), etc., etc., etc., just believing that God can take care of these situations is not enough.

Faith is the beginning, but in all these areas where God calls us to get involved, we must do more than just pray; we must do more than just believe. We must do something!

What do you think of this explanation of James 2:14-26, and especially the statement in James 2:19 about the faith of demons? Does it help this passage make more sense to you?

Does it help it fit better with what we read in the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Paul? Has it cleared up in your own mind some of the confusion around the role of faith and works?

Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more clarification, get my book, What is Faith?

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Some people use James 2:19 and the faith of demons in an attempt to refute the idea that faith alone grants eternal life. This shows a misunderstanding of James 2:19. Whenever I teach that eternal life is received by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, someone always quotes James 2:19 at me, that demons also believe. But if we study James 2:19 in context, we see that James is not refuting the gospel truth of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This study shows what James truly meant in James 2:14-26. <br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/even-the-demons-believe/ Jeremy Myers clean 37:36
“Faithfulness” is not a good translation of pistis (Titus 2:10) https://redeeminggod.com/faithfulness-vs-faith/ Wed, 30 Jan 2019 22:31:55 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49910 There are Christian books and teachings out there which say that the Greek word pistis is best translated as faithfulness or allegiance. But is eternal life gained by allegiance to Jesus? No. This is a gospel of good works, which is no gospel at all. Indeed, I believe that there is not a single use of the Greek word pistis in the New Testament which is properly translated as faithfulness. faithfulness pistis

There are Christian books and teachings out there which say that the Greek word pistis is best translated as “faithfulness” or “allegiance.”

If this is true, then rather than eternal life being gained by believing in Jesus for it (and not by works of any kind), eternal life is instead gained by living a life of faithful obedience and allegiance to Jesus.

But is eternal life gained by allegiance to Jesus? No. This is a gospel of good works, which is no gospel at all.

Indeed, I believe that there is not a single use of the Greek word pistis in the New Testament which is properly translated as “faithfulness.”

Yes, The BDAG Greek lexicon does list six verses where pistis can be translated as “faithfulness,” but not all English translations of these passages translate it in such a way.

In fact, “major contemporary English versions translate pistis as ‘faithfulness’ or ‘fidelity’ in only three or four New Testament verses” (Brindle, “Faith in Christ Does Not Mean Faithfulness or Fidelity“). And even in these three or four verses, pistis could arguably be translated as “faith” (Matt 23:23; Rom 3:3; Gal 5:22; Titus 2:10).

Let me show you why this is so, and then we will consider a sample verse from Scripture which helps illustrate this view.

Note: The following is drawn from my book, What is Faith?

Faithfulness vs Faith for the Greek pistis)

For numerous reasons, it does not seem best to understand the word “faith” (Gk., pistis) as “faithfulness.”

faith pistis definition

While there does initially seem to be some evidence for this understanding in various biblical and extra-biblical contexts, such a view opens the door for a works-based approach to gaining, proving, or keeping our eternal life, and so should be rejected.

After all, if pistis can sometimes refer to allegiance, loyalty, or ongoing obedience, then there is nothing to stop someone from saying that most references to faith in the New Testament carry this idea, and therefore, eternal life is not gained by simply believing in Jesus for it, but instead by living loyally and obediently to Him.

This is indeed what some argue (see, for example, Michael Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone).

Yet once we properly understand that faith is a conviction or persuasion that something is true, we are then positioned to better understand the various texts in English Bibles which translate pistis as faithfulness (Matt 23:23; Rom 3:3; Gal 5:22; Titus 2:10).

When studied in their contexts, we see that these controversial passages do not require for pistis to refer to loyalty, allegiance, or ongoing obedience, but could instead refer to a persistent and ongoing faith.

Faith is like a light switch. When it comes to the various truths we can believe, faith is either “On” or “Off.” If it stays “On” for a long time, then it is persistent faith.

Not all beliefs stay “On” all the time. We often change our beliefs due to new evidence that is presented to us. Sometimes we change our beliefs as we learn more about God through Scripture and in fellowship with other believers.

In such instances, we turn away from falsehood and embrace the truth, so that our network of beliefs comes to more closely match what is actually true.

We can also stray from the truth and fall into dangerous and unhealthy teachings. It is not uncommon for true believers to fall prey to false teaching so that they come to deny the truth and turn instead toward lies and deceptive ideas.

But as long as a Christian maintains a belief in what is actually true, their belief is persistent. This persistent faith is which Scripture invites us to strive and long for.

Therefore, the texts that seem to require a translation of “faithfulness” are not referring to allegiance and obedience, but to this ongoing and persistent faith. It is a faith that remains.

The “Faithfulness of Jesus” is His Ongoing, Persistent Faith

faithfulness of GodThis is even true when the Bible refers to the faith of God or the faith of Jesus.

It is not necessary to understand these texts as referring to the faithfulness of God or the faithfulness of Jesus.

Since faith is the knowledge, conviction, or persuasion that something is true, then it is obvious that both God and Jesus can have faith.

Indeed, the Trinitarian God is the only being in the universe who has perfect faith.

All other beings in the universe do not have perfect knowledge of all things, and therefore, do not believe or know all things. Only God’s faith is eternally perfect and persistent.

Since faith or belief is the conviction that something is true, God knows everything that is true, and therefore, believes it and will always believe it.

Furthermore, He even has faith toward us. He knows what is true about us, even when we do not (Rom 3:3-4). He also knows what will be true about us, and He speaks these things to us so that we might be inspired by His testimony toward us to believe these things as well.

God wants us to live as He sees us; not as we see ourselves. God believes in us and invites us to believe in Him so that together, our belief will bring God’s vision of the future into reality.

Faith vs. Faithfulness in Tricky Bible Texts

This understanding helps clarify some of the tricky texts which seem to require “faithfulness” as a translation of pistis.

Such texts do not refer to allegiance or ongoing obedience, but to an ongoing and persistent belief.

And this belief can lead to other beliefs as well. For example, once we have believed in Jesus for eternal life, this does not mean that faith has no more place in the life of the believer. Just as we have received Jesus Christ, so also we must continue to walk with Him (Col 2:6). And how is it that we received Jesus? By faith. So we are to continue our life with Him by faith as well.

This is not only true because ongoing faith gives us the best life possible with Jesus, but also because other truths we can believe depend on continuing to believe previous truths.

Remember that all of our beliefs are interconnected like a vast Excel spreadsheet.

Many of the more advanced truths and ideas on this spreadsheet will not be discovered and cannot be believed unless we maintain our belief in some of the earlier, foundational truths.

In other words, future faith builds upon our former faith. Believing simple and elementary things allows us to later believe more difficult and hard things.

This is what Paul means when it talks about going from “faith to faith” (cf. Rom 1:17) and when he refers to faith as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). As we walk with God in faith and by the Spirit, we grow in our faith and come to believe things that draw us closer to God and make us more like Jesus.

So regardless of which stage of faith we are talking about, faith does not involve ongoing obedience.

Faith does not begin with simple belief and then end with allegiance and loyalty.

There are no works in faith, for faith is the opposite of works. While faith can lead to works, the presence or absence of works do not necessarily indicate anything one way or another about a person’s faith.

In all cases, faith is simply being persuaded and convinced about what we have been told.

When we believe in Jesus for eternal life, we are persuaded that Jesus, as the author and finisher of our faith, loves us, forgives us, and freely grants eternal life to us, not because of anything we have done but simply and only because of God’s grace toward us.

No commitment to allegiance or ongoing obedience are required.

Therefore, the word pistis is not ever properly translated as “faithfulness.”

Titus 2:10 faith

Faith vs. Faithfulness in Titus 2:10

Of the various passages that sometimes use the word “faithfulness.” as a translation of pistis (Matt 23:23; Rom 3:3; Gal 5:22; Col 2:6; Titus 2:10), I have already briefly considered Romans 3:3, Colossians 2:6, and Galatians 5:22 above.

In Matthew 23:23, the NKJV properly translates the Greek as “faith,” so let us consider the final text, Titus 2:10, here.

The first thing to note about Titus 2:10, is that it fits within the broader context of Titus 2. And Paul begins in Titus 2:1f by telling Titus to teach and encourage others to have sound doctrine and godly practices. In other words, Titus is to call others to proper beliefs and behavior.

And then Paul goes through various categories of people among whom Titus ministers. He gives instructions for older men (Titus 2:2), older women (Titus 2:3), young women (Titus 2:4-5), young men (Titus 2:6-8), and servants (Titus 2:9-10).

In each case, Paul encourages the various groups to watch their life and doctrine closely … that is, their beliefs and their behaviors. As for the beliefs, the older men are to be “sound in faith.” The older women are to be “teachers of good things.” The younger women are to be careful not to blaspheme the word of God. The younger men are to have integrity in their doctrine.

The bondservants are to have “good fidelity,” which is the controversial phrase. I propose it should be translated as “good faith” (as in the NAS).

Three lines of argument from the context show that this should be translated as “good faith” instead of “good fidelity.”

First, the word pistis is already used in the context. At the beginning of this section when he gives instructions to the older men, and most English Bibles translate this word as “faith.” The use of the same word here at the end of this section creates a nice frame for the entire section. By using  pistis at both the beginning and end, Paul shows that he desires both proper beliefs and proper behaviors from all.

And since pistis is best translates as “faith” in Titus 2:2, then it seems that it should also be translated as “faith” in Titus 2:10.

Support for this idea is found in the next phrase of Titus 2:10, where Paul goes on to write about the doctrine of God our Savior. This is the second reason “faith” is the best translation for pistis in Titus 2:10. The following phrase refers to doctrine.

What are you to do with doctrine, or theology, other than believe it? Doctrine is taught so that it can be believed.

Thirdly and finally, then, we know that Paul does not mean “faithfulness” or “fidelity” with the word pistis in Titus 2:10, because he has been referring to beliefs and behaviors of all the various groups of people throughout this passage. If the reference to pistis in this verse also refers to allegiance, fidelity, or faithful obedience, then Paul’s instructions to the servants is only about their behavior and not about their beliefs at all.

But shouldn’t servants also have proper beliefs? Of course they should! And just as Paul encourages the previous four groups of people to have good beliefs and good behaviors, he gives similar instructions to this final group, the servants. The word pistis must refer to the beliefs of the servants, while all the preceding terms refer to their behaviors.

Conclusion

It is not helpful to translate pistis as “faithfulness, allegiance, or fidelity” in any passage in the Bible. When Scripture wants to use terms for obedience and dedicated allegiance, it has good words to use in those cases.

But pistis always refers to faith or belief, and includes no actions or obedience whatsoever.

Don’t allow good works to sneak in the back door of the gospel by thinking that pistis can sometimes refer to faithfulness or ongoing obedience. Such a gospel is no gospel at all, for if we receive eternal life by ongoing, faithful obedience to God, then no person would ever receive eternal life, for no person can ever be “faithful” enough.

Thankfully, good works do not help us earn or keep the free gift of eternal life. It is freely given by God’s grace to anyone who simply and only believes in Jesus for it.

Get my book, What is Faith? to learn more about faith.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Faith is the best translation of pistis There are Christian books and teachings out there which say that the Greek word pistis is best translated as faithfulness or allegiance. But is eternal life gained by allegiance to Jesus? No. This is a gospel of good works, which is no gospel at all. Indeed, I believe that there is not a single use of the Greek word pistis in the New Testament which is properly translated as faithfulness.<br /> <br /> To read the manuscript or ask a question, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/faithfulness-vs-faith/ Jeremy Myers clean 29:32
Bob Dutko Interviews J. D. Myers about Faith https://redeeminggod.com/bob-dutko-jd-myers-faith/ Tue, 29 Jan 2019 22:02:55 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49898 The Bob Dutko Show (noon – 4pm, Mon-Fri) is Detroit’s number one talk Christian radio show. He is heard on radio stations across the country, making him one of the most listened to Christian talk show hosts in the United States. Today he interviewed me about my book, What is Faith? Bob Dutko Jeremy MyersThe Bob Dutko Show (noon – 4pm, Mon-Fri) is Detroit’s number one talk Christian radio show. He is heard on radio stations across the country, making him one of the most listened to Christian talk show hosts in the United States. Go here to learn more about Bob Dutko.

Today he interviewed me about my book, What is Faith?

Here is a replay of this interview.

http://feeds.soundcloud.com/stream/566815209-redeeminggod-142-bob-dutko-interviews-jeremy-myers-about-faith.mp3

 

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The Bob Dutko Show (noon – 4pm, Mon-Fri) is Detroit’s number one talk Christian radio show. He is heard on radio stations across the country, making him one of the most listened to Christian talk show hosts in the United States. Bob Dutko hosts the #1 Christian radio talk show in Detroit, and is one of the top Christian talk show hosts in the United States. Bob Dutko interviewed J. D. Myers (Jeremy Myers) on January 29. 2019 about his book "What is Faith?" Here is a replay of that interview.<br /> <br /> Go here to learn more about Bob Dutko: <br /> https://wmuz.com/programs/bob-dutko/<br /> <br /> Go here to leave a question or comment about this interview:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/bob-dutko-jd-myers-faith/ Bob Dutko and Jeremy Myers clean 24:10
What is childlike faith? (Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:17) https://redeeminggod.com/childlike-faith-matthew-18-3/ Wed, 23 Jan 2019 23:31:41 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49713 Some Christians say that they don’t need reasons or explanations for what they believe, because they have faith like a child or childlike faith. When they say this, they mean that they don’t ask questions about their beliefs, nor do they wonder if what they believe is true. Childlike faith is often described as a faith that does not doubt, question, or seek explanations; it just believes. But this is not childlike faith. So what is childlike faith? What is faithI have previously written about faith like a child here, but in light of the release of my new book on faith, let me revisit the idea of childlike faith.

Some Christians say that they don’t need reasons or explanations for what they believe, because they have “faith like a child” or “childlike faith.”

When they say this, they mean that they don’t ask questions about their beliefs, nor do they wonder if what they believe is true. Childlike faith is often described as a faith that does not doubt, question, or seek explanations; it just believes.

But this is not childlike faith.

So what is childlike faith?

what is childlike faithIn seeking to understand what childlike faith actually is, let us look at four reasons why the lack of desire to ask questions is not “childlike faith.”

1. Those with “Childlike faith” sometimes look down on those who ask questions

First, while it is completely fine if a person does not want to ask questions about what they believe or seek answers about why they believe what they do, they should not look down upon those who do ask questions. Nor should they prohibit people from doing so.

Some who claim to have “childlike faith” wear it as a badge of honor, seeming to indicate to others that their unquestioning faith is superior to those who ask questions and seek explanations.

For this reason, “childlike faith” could actually be called “arrogant faith” for those who claim to have it sometimes look down on those who require reason, logic, and explanations for what they believe.

People who have this attitude will often say “I just believe the Bible” or “God says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

In reality, they don’t “just believe the Bible.” They believe a particular interpretation or explanation of the Bible, and often claim to “just believe the Bible” when someone comes along and presents a different perspective or explanation.

When faith is thought of as “blind faith” or a “leap into the void” in a way that does not require reason, logic, or explanation, those who are able to maintain this sort of faith sometimes have the tendency to look down on those who require reason, logic, and explanation for their beliefs.

Of course, the opposite is also true. People who use reason and logic to support their beliefs often condemn those who don’t for having an “ignorant and uneducated faith.” This is not good either.

So if a person does not want to ask questions, there is no requirement to do so.

Many people do not enjoy the “life of the mind” and should not be expected to engage in such practices.

However, this preference should not be equated with childlike faith.

Those who do not seek to dive deep into theology and seek answers to questions should not look down on those who do seek such answers as having a “lesser faith” (and vice versa).

So rather than say that a faith which does not question is “childlike faith” it might be better to simply call it an unquestioning faith.

childlike faithThis is the second reason that childlike faith cannot be equated with the lack of desire to ask questions.

2. Children ask LOTS of Questions

Childlike faith is not about the avoidance of questions, for children ask many, many questions.

As any parent will tell you, the unrelenting barrage of questions from a two-year old can become quite exhausting.

Therefore, it could easily be argued that true “childlike faith” is actually a faith that asks lots of questions.

So the desire (or lack of desire) to ask questions has nothing to do with whether or not a person has childlike faith.

3. Children always have reasons for what they believe

The third reason that a faith which does not ask question or seek explanations cannot be called “childlike faith” is because there are explanations and reasons for what a child believes … even if they themselves are not aware of what those reasons are.

In other words, children do not believe anything without reason. The most common reason that children believe what they believe is because someone they trust told them what to believe. Children often simply believe whatever their parents and teachers tell them.

Therefore, true childlike faith is not an unthinking faith, for the authority of the person who teaches is a factor that faith takes into consideration.

Something similar occurs whenever a person has a so-called “unquestioning faith.” They do not believe without reason; they simply have not thought through what the reasons and explanations for their beliefs might be.

Instead, they believe what a pastor or teacher taught them, or what seems to be the “plain reading” of Scripture (though careful, contextual studies of the text often reveal that the “plain reading” is not the best reading).

There is nothing wrong with not knowing exactly why you have the beliefs you have, but a lack of understanding about why should not be confused with a lack of explanation. There are explanations for why you believe what you believe, even if you don’t know what these explanations are.

And that’s okay.

Nobody has a complete explanation and understanding for why they believe what they believe. \

But everybody, over time, naturally and normally grows in their understanding and gains explanations for their beliefs. While initially, a belief might be gained because “I learned it in Kindergarten,” this belief will either remain unquestioned and unchallenged throughout life, or it will be challenged and questioned.

If it is challenged and questioned, the belief will either be supported and affirmed, or disproven and denied.

But nobody’s beliefs all stay the same throughout all of life. Instead, everybody matures and grows in what they think and believe. This is normal, natural, and just as God intended.

faith like a childJust as children grow and mature, so also does faith. This is the way God made humans, and this is the way God made faith.

4. The term “childlike faith” is not found in the Bible

Which brings up the fourth and final reason that unquestioning faith cannot be equated with childlike faith. And it is this: “childlike faith” is not found in the Bible.

There is no such thing as biblical “childlike faith.”

When people refer to “childlike faith” or “faith like a child,” they have in mind the sorts of things Jesus says in Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:14, and Luke 18:17, where He teaches that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children.

But in these passages, Jesus isn’t talking about faith. In fact, He doesn’t mention “faith” at all. Instead, Jesus is talking about entering the kingdom of heaven, and He encourages His listeners to humble themselves like a child and receive Him like a child (Matt 18:4-5; Mark 10:14) if they want to see the kingdom of heaven.

In other words, there is something essential about the childlike perspective for the person who wants to see the kingdom of heaven.

But what is Jesus talking about? What is this childlike perspective that Jesus has in mind?
faith like a child Matthew 18:3

What does Jesus mean in Matthew 18:3 about entering the Kingdom like a child?

To begin with, it is critical to recognize that the kingdom of heaven is not eternal life. The phrase “see the kingdom of heaven” does not mean “go to heaven when you die.”

Similarly, “Seeing the kingdom of heaven” is not the same thing as “going to heaven.”

The two concepts of entering (or seeing) the kingdom and going to heaven when you die are not equivalent in the Bible.

It is important that we recognize this, because Jesus says that seeing the kingdom of heaven requires humility. If seeing the kingdom of heaven was the same as going to heaven, then the good work of personal humility would be required for entrance into heaven after death.

But eternal life is received by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47); not by living humbly before God.

Good works are not required to gain entrance into heaven.

What then is the kingdom of heaven?

In the Gospels, the phrase “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God” refers to the rule and reign of God in our lives now on earth. It is about God’s will being done on earth, as it is done in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

All the kingdom imagery and terminology in the Gospels is not about “leaving earth and going to heaven when we die” but about “heaven coming down to earth while we live.”

Seeing the kingdom of heaven is not about life after death, but about living and experiencing God’s life in this life here and now.

This is what Jesus has in mind when He teaches about becoming like a little child. Experiencing the life of God in this life requires humility like a little child.

In what way? Not by remaining ignorant, for God gave us Scripture so that we might learn, grow, mature, reason (Isaiah 1:18), and become students, disciples, and followers of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2).

Instead, becoming like a little child means that we maintain the wonderful and beautiful characteristics and qualities of children that life in this sinful world tends to beat out of us.

Like what?

Like tenderness of conscience.

Openness about emotions and feelings.

Creativity and imagination.

Wonder and awe.

Joy.

Eternal hope.

Playfulness and humor.

Trust.

Easy forgiveness.

Undying love.

Boundless exuberance and energy.

Always thinking the best about life and other people.

Being willing to learn and grow.

These are the sort of qualities that tend to define children, but which get stripped out of people as they encounter the sin and brokenness of this world.

As adults, we get bored with flowers, bugs, and sunsets. We lose delight in talking with others about nothing.

We become jaded and disinterested.

Adults hold grudges, harbor fears, and stay angry.

Adults refuse to forgive.

Adults remember slights.

Adults lose hope because their hopes have been dashed and destroyed so many time.

Adults do things “because they’ve always been done that way” and have trouble imagining anything different.

But children do not behave in any of these ways. Nor did Jesus.

One of the things that attracted people to Jesus is that He was “childlike.”

Does this mean He lacked wisdom and understanding? Far from it. Jesus was “childlike” because He was full of the wonder of life, the hope for humanity, and the beauty of creation.

Jesus lived in awe of life, awe of God, and awe of humanity.

And this awe was contagious. People who saw how Jesus lived began to see how life should be lived. Jesus revealed how God intended life to be lived. In other words, those who begin to live life like Jesus are those who begin to see heaven come down to earth.

They begin to see the rule and reign of God unfold in their own life with all its beauty, majesty, glory, and creativity. This is what Jesus Himself lived, and this is what Jesus invited others to live also. He taught that if you want to experience God’s life in this life (the kingdom of heaven), then you need to become like a little child once again.

Do you want to enter the Kingdom like a child?

If so, then ask questions. Lots of questions.

But also have fun. Laugh. Play. Imagine. Sing. Dance. Hope. Dream. Forgive. Create. Trust. Live life to the full. Be excited. Be adventuresome. Be tender of heart.

And most of all, love. When you live this way, you will become like a little child, and will see the kingdom of heaven rise again in your life.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Some Christians say that they don’t need reasons or explanations for what they believe, because they have faith like a child or childlike faith. When they say this, they mean that they don’t ask questions about their beliefs, Some Christians say that they don’t need reasons or explanations for what they believe, because they have faith like a child or childlike faith. When they say this, they mean that they don’t ask questions about their beliefs, nor do they wonder if what they believe is true. Childlike faith is often described as a faith that does not doubt, question, or seek explanations; it just believes. But this is not childlike faith. So what is childlike faith?<br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/childlike-faith-matthew-18-3/ Jeremy Myers clean 29:12
Faith is NOT a Gift from God (Ephesians 2:8) https://redeeminggod.com/faith-is-not-a-gift/ Wed, 16 Jan 2019 22:53:35 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49709 Faith is not a gift from God. Every person is able to believe in Jesus for eternal life just as they are able to believe any other fact or piece of knowledge that is presented to them. Not even Ephesians 2:8 teaches that faith is a gift from God. faith is not a gift from god

Some teach that faith is a work of God performed in the heart or mind of a person. Another way of saying this is that faith is a gift from God to the heart of human beings.

Those who hold to this view say that God gives faith to those whom He has chosen for eternal life. There are three reasons that some people teach that faith is a gift of God.

People are Dead and Trespasses and Sins, and so Cannot Believe

First, some believe that since unregenerate people are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), and have had their minds darkened or blinded (cf. (Eph 4:18; 2 Cor 3:14), they cannot do anything good, including believing in Jesus for eternal life.

Those who hold to this view teach that if a person is going to believe in Jesus for eternal life (or even believe anything good and pleasing about God at all), they can only believe if God sovereignly bestowed up them the gift of faith.

Various texts are often referenced in defense of this idea (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 13:48; 16:14; Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 12:8-9; Eph 2:8-9; Php 1:29; 2 Tim 2:25; 2 Pet 1:1). But in several of these, faith is not even mentioned (e.g., Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25), and the others can all be reasonably explained in the context.

Sadly, I cannot look at all of these texts in this post … but we will consider the primary text below, Ephesians 2:8-9. (I also explain several of the other texts in my book, What is Faith?)

Note, however, that this entire line of thought stems from thinking that faith is a good work.

In other words, the idea that faith is a gift derives from the false idea that faith is somehow meritorious. After all, if faith is a work, then we must say that faith is a gift from God, for we cannot teach that humans are able to work for eternal life.

But Scripture is clear about faith, that it is not a work; it is not meritorious. Faith is the opposite of works (cf. Romans 4:4-5). Faith does not earn, achieve, or gain good standing with God in any way.

Therefore, faith does not need to be a gift from God. People are persuaded about all sorts of things, and no such persuasion is ever considered to be a good work or a meritorious action, or a gift from God.

So the faith to believe in Jesus is also not a gift from God.

But there is a Spiritual Gift of Faith!

The second reason that some people believe and teach that faith is a gift of God is because they confuse this idea with the biblical teaching about the “spiritual gift” of faith.

Even though Paul does write about the gift of faith in 1 Corinthians 12:9, this is the spiritual gift of faith, and is not the same thing as the so-called “gift of faith” which some teach God gives to people before they can believe in Jesus for eternal life.

Furthermore, Paul is quite clear that we all have different spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6). If everyone had to receive the “gift of faith” from God in order to receive eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47), then this would mean that all Christians have the spiritual gift of faith, which Paul says we do not.

So what is the spiritual gift of faith? As I wrote in my book on the spiritual gifts, a person  has the spiritual gift of faith when they firmly persuaded of God’s power and promises to accomplish His will and purpose and to display such a confidence in Him that circumstances and obstacles do not shake that conviction (1 Cor 12:8-10; cf. Heb 11).

People with the spiritual gift of faith know what they believe and why they believe it, and are able to inspire action in others based on their beliefs. Those with the gift of faith are often called upon to encourage others to step out in faith and follow God to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.

The spiritual gift of faith to some Christians for the edification and encouragement of others is not the same thing as God giving faith to all Christians so that they can believe in Jesus for eternal life.

So biblical passages about the spiritual gift of faith cannot be used to support the idea that God gives faith to unregenerate people so they can believe.

But Ephesians 2:8 says God gives the gift of Faith

The third reason that some people think faith is a gift from God is because of what Paul seems to say in Ephesians 2:8.

Ephesians 2:8 faith is not a giftHe writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Some people see the phrase “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” as referring back to the word “faith.”

They read Ephesians 2:8 this way: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and faith is not of yourselves, faith is the gift of God.”

There are numerous problems with this approach to Ephesians 2:8, the greatest being that it reveals a complete disregard for the Greek text.

Greek words have gender: masculine, feminine, and neuter. When relative pronouns (such as “that” and “it”) are used to refer back to a noun, they always agree with the gender of the noun. The word “faith” in Greek is feminine. Therefore, if Paul was intending to say that faith is not of ourselves, but faith is a gift of God, he would have used a feminine relative pronoun for the word “that” (the word “it” is not actually in the Greek).

But the word “that” is not feminine; it is neuter.

Therefore, it is impossible for Paul to be thinking about “faith” when he wrote “and that is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

It is grammatically impossible for the word “that” to refer to “faith” in Ephesians 2:8.

So what was Paul referring to, if not to faith?

Ephesians 2:8-9 in Context

You can read my longer explanation of Ephesians 2:8-9 here, or in my book What is Faith?but let me summarize the meaning of the text for you here.

As stated previously, Greek pronouns must agree with their antecedent in gender, number, and case. Faith is feminine, and the pronoun “that” is neuter, so the pronoun cannot be pointing back to faith.

So to what does the pronoun refer?

The problem is that there is no neuter noun in the preceding context.

So what was Paul referring to, if not to faith?

The answer is that Paul is referring to the entire “salvation package” that he has written about in Ephesians 2. The description of Paul about what God has provided to us in Jesus contains a mixture of masculine and feminine nouns. So Paul uses a neuter pronoun to refer to the entire “salvation package.”

Paul’s overall point in Ephesians 2 is about how God solved the problem of human division and strife that is caused by racial, religious, and political differences (Eph 2:1-4). Paul shows how God revealed the problem and the solution through the crucifixion of Jesus (Eph 2:5-10) so that we can all live in peace and unity with one another in this life (Eph 2:11-22), as God has always wanted and desired.

Everything Paul mentions in Ephesians 2 is the gift of God to us.

The gift is not faith itself, but everything else that God has done and taught and provided through Jesus Christ, and which we can benefit from when we believe in Jesus for it.

faith is not a gift

So faith is not the gift of God.

The gift of God is His revelation to humanity and the salvation which comes to us by His grace. When we see, understand, and believe what God has revealed to us and done for us through the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, it is then that the peace of God starts to become a reality in our life here and now.

It is then that all who were formerly at enmity with each other are fitted together to grow into the holy temple in the Lord, as a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph 2:21-22). This is the mystery of the church, which Paul goes on to explain in Ephesians 3–4.

All of this is the gift of God, and when we receive it by faith, we begin to experience this new reality in this life and on this earth.

See my article here for more reasons why Faith is Not a Gift From God.

Therefore, since faith is not a gift from God, this means that every person is able to believe in Jesus for eternal life. Just as any person can believe that 2+2=4, or that gravity is a force of nature, so also, anybody is able to believe in Jesus for eternal life, once the truth is presented to them.

Since faith is not a work, but is the opposite of works, a person who believes in Jesus is not doing anything meritorious for eternal life, but is only accepting the free gift of God.

So … have you believed in Jesus for eternal life? If not, what is holding you back?

If you want to learn more about this, try my online course mentioned below, or get my book, What is Faith?

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Faith is not a gift from God. Every person is able to believe in Jesus for eternal life just as they are able to believe any other fact or piece of knowledge that is presented to them. Not even Ephesians 2:8 teaches that faith is a gift from God. Faith is not a gift from God. Every person is able to believe in Jesus for eternal life just as they are able to believe any other fact or piece of knowledge that is presented to them. Not even Ephesians 2:8 teaches that faith is a gift from God. <br /> <br /> To view the manuscript or leave a comment on this study, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/faith-is-not-a-gift/ Jeremy Myers clean 25:28
What is Great Faith and Little Faith? (Matthew 8:10; 15:28; Luke 7:9) https://redeeminggod.com/great-faith-little-faith/ Thu, 20 Dec 2018 01:28:30 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49642 Many people get confused when Jesus talks about great faith and little faith in the gospels. This article shows the difference between great faith and little faith, and uses the faith of the Centurion in Matthew 8:10 as an example of great faith. What is FaithIf faith is best understood as reasonable certainty then this means that we either believe something or we don’t. If we doubt something, then we don’t believe it.

If we think of our network of beliefs as a vast Excel spreadsheet with each individual cell holding a single statement that we either agree with or not, then this means that there are no degrees of faith. You cannot have 10%, 50%, 90%, or even 99% faith. Each individual belief on the spreadsheet of faith is either “On” or “Off.”

But if this is true, then what are we to make of the statements by Jesus about people having “little faith” and “great faith”? (cf. Matt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 4:14-30; 12:28).

There are also numerous passages in the Bible which seem to indicate that we must have “enough faith” before God answers our prayers (cf. Matt 13:58; 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 7:9, 50; 18:42; Jas 5:15-16).

But if there are no degrees of faith, then what do these descriptions of faith mean?

What is “Great Faith” and “Little Faith”?

The terms “Great faith” and “Little faith” simply mean this: Some truths are easy to believe while others are difficult. If you believe something that is difficult to believe, then you have great faith. If you do not believe something that is relatively easy to believe, then you have little faith.

Since faith is the conviction or persuasion that something is true, people who have little faith have not been persuaded or convinced of even the basic truths, whereas, people who have great faith have been persuaded or convinced of some of the hard and difficult truths which few people come to believe.

You and I do not have faith containers in our souls which overflow when our faith is great, but are nearly empty when our faith is little. Faith does not work like that.

Great faith and little faith have nothing to do with the size, amount, or degree of faith.

Rather, the terms “great faith” and “little faith” describe the difficulty of the truths that are believed.

When a person fails to believe even some of the simple or easy truths, this means that some of the basic, fundamental cells in their network of beliefs are turned “Off.” Since they do not believe these simple truths, vast segments of their spreadsheet are also turned “Off.”

Their spreadsheet is darkened with unbelief because they don’t even believe some of the simple, foundational, basic truths of life or Christianity.

They have little faith, that is, an undeveloped and unexamined spreadsheet of beliefs. On such a spreadsheet of faith, most of the basic truths are still turned “Off.”

On the other hand, there are some people who have great faith. These are those people who are persuaded or convinced of some difficult things to believe.

People who have great faith believe truths and ideas that relatively few people understand and believe.

There are truths in Scripture, life, and theology that are hard to believe, but people with great faith believe them. Such ideas often take great thought, insight, understanding, research, investigation, or deep spiritual experiences in order to believe them.

When people come to believe these things, they believe something that few others believe, and can therefore be described as having great faith. Vast segments of their spreadsheet of beliefs are lit up with the light of the truth of God.

faith

Some examples about great faith and little faith from Scripture

There are numerous truths from Scripture that are easy to believe.

These might include the statements that “A man named Jesus existed” or that “I am a sinner.” Almost everybody believes these, including most non-Christians.

Yet people with little faith do not even understand or believe these truths. People with little faith have trouble believing some of the simple, elementary, and introductory truths of Scripture, such as “God is love” or “Jesus gives eternal life to anyone who believes in Him for it.”

It is a telling fact of the condition of faith in our churches when most Christians don’t truly believe these things. As simple as these truths are, many do not believe them.

However, there are other truths in Scripture which are hard to believe. People who believe these difficult truths have great faith. For example, it is difficult to believe that “God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19).

Frankly, since I often worry about tomorrow, this means that I don’t believe this promise. I don’t believe that God will supply all my needs, and often find myself trying to supply for my own needs. So this means I don’t yet believe this statement. But those who have great faith believe it. (See “Now That’s Faith!“)

So great faith and little faith have nothing to do with the amount of faith one has, or the percentage to which one believes a particular fact. Faith does not come in degrees or amounts.

great faith

An Example of Great Faith from Matthew 8:10

There are two kinds of faith that amazed Jesus: great faith and little faith. As seen above, there were times when Jesus marveled at the little faith of His disciples (cf. Matt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 4:14-30; 12:28).

But in Matthew 8:10, Jesus was impressed by the great faith of a Gentile. He said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (See my sermon on Luke 7:1-10 for a longer explanation of this text.)

In Matthew 8:10, Jesus praises a Roman Centurion for having great faith.

What did the Centurion believe that few others believe? He believed two advanced truths that are quite rare for people to believe (even today).

First, he believed in his own lack of merit. Though he was courteous, humble, and a good man, though he loved the Jewish people and built a synagogue for them, he knew he didn’t deserve anything from God, or from Jesus Christ. Despite his high standing and all he had done, he knew he was unworthy to meet with Jesus (Matt 8:8).

Most people do not believe this.

Most people think they do deserve favors from God. Most people think they are pretty good people and that God owes them something. It is much harder to believe that all we have and all we are given is simply and only by the grace of God. But the centurion believed this, and told Jesus that he was not worthy to have Jesus visit his house.

The second thing the Centurion believed is that healing could be done at a distance. He believed in the divine authority of Jesus, even over sickness and disease through space and time. He likened Jesus to a military commander who simply had to give orders for them to be followed (Matt 8:9).

The Centurion knew that what Jesus commanded would be done, even if Jesus was not present where the healing was to take place. He knew that the words of Jesus were sufficient to accomplish whatever He said.

Most people do not believe this. Most people believe, even today, that if a person is going to be healed, they need to be touched by the person praying for them. They believe that they have to go visit the healer, and have the healer lay hands on them, say special prayers over them, and anoint them with oil.

If a person was seeking healing for their friend and they want to one of the “miracle healers” of today for help, and the healer said, “Go home, your friend will be fine,” that person would feel like they had been ignored, slighted, or brushed off.

But this Centurion knew differently. The Centurion believed some truths that few others believed. He believed that if Jesus wanted to heal someone, He could do it with a simple word and from a great distance.

He told Jesus, “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matt 8:8).

This truly is great faith, and few believe such an idea, either in the days of Jesus or today. As a result, Jesus marveled at this man’s great faith, and healed his servant from a distance, simply by the power of His word.

All of the other “great faith” passages in the Bible can be understood in similar ways. The context always reveals that someone is believing something that is difficult to believe, and that few people do believe.

So great faith is not a large amount of faith or a high percentage of faith. Great faith simply believes truths that are difficult to believe.

Do you have more questions about faith, how it works, and what various passages in Scripture teach about faith? Try taking my online course, The Gospel Dictionary:

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Many people get confused when Jesus talks about great faith and little faith in the gospels. This article shows the difference between great faith and little faith, and uses the faith of the Centurion in Matthew 8:10 as an example of great faith. Many people get confused when Jesus talks about great faith and little faith in the gospels. This study shows the difference between great faith and little faith, and uses the faith of the Centurion in Matthew 8:10 as an example of great faith. <br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/great-faith-little-faith/ Jeremy Myers clean 22:16
Faith is Like an Excel Spreadsheet https://redeeminggod.com/faith-excel-spreadsheet/ Thu, 13 Dec 2018 00:37:34 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49608 In an attempt to get people to not be afraid of questions and doubts, some suggest that faith includes doubt. I disagree. But how then do we keep our faith from collapsing like a house of cards? We do this by using a better illustration for faith, namely, an Excel Spreadsheet. This post explains the illustration and uses John 11 as an example of the Excel Spreadsheet of faith at work in the mind of Martha. I originally went to college to be a Mechanical Engineer. I have always enjoyed tinkering with things, trying to learn how they work so that I can understand what is happening, and either fix or improve whatever I am working on.

As a result of my engineering background, I often approach my study of Scripture and theology in the same way. I try to understand things and how they work, so that I can attempt to explain them more clearly to others.

This is also true when it comes to the inner workings of faith. For me, as a theologian and Bible scholar who has an engineering background, it is not enough for the Bible to call me to believe … I want to know how belief works … how faith works … so that I can not only believe, but also know why I believe, and how to help others believe as well.

So the following article might be a bit technical for some people as I try to explain how faith works, but I do provide an illustration for how faith works to help it make sense.

The reason I want to explain faith this way is because there is so much misinformation out there about faith. People write emails to me all the time, and when I teach in live settings, I get questions and objections all the time, about how a person can know if they have really believed, or if they have believed enough.

In seeking to answer these questions, I first had to figure out what faith is and how faith works.

In a previous study, we learned that Faith is defined as a certainty or conviction that something is true.

house of cardsSome do not like the idea of faith as certainty. For example, author and pastor Greg Boyd once criticized the idea that faith is certainty by comparing faith to a house of cards.

Greg Boyd argued that if we believe that our faith must be certain, then any time a challenge or question comes along which threatens this certainty, our entire belief system comes tumbling down like a house of cards.

I agree with Greg Boyd that we cannot have a “house of cards” faith in which all of our beliefs stand or fall together. But how can we avoid this if faith truly is defined as certainty?

The solution is to use a better analogy.

Rather than thinking about faith as a house of cards, a better analogy is to think about our network of beliefs as a giant Excel spreadsheet (I first heard this analogy from Dr. Dave Anderson, pastor in The Woodlands, TX).

Faith as an Excel Spreadsheet

If you are not familiar with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, it is an accounting tool which contains a series of rows and columns. At the intersection of each row and column, there is a “cell.” This cell can contain a bit of data.

Excel Spreadsheet faith

For example, a cell could contain a number or some sort of mathematical calculation. Spreadsheets are usually set up so that as you enter data into the cells, it automatically makes calculations in other cells.

Advanced Excel spreadsheets might contain thousands of cells set in a way so that a change in one single cell might affect the numbers or calculations in thousands of other cells. Each little change can have a ripple or cascading effect throughout the rest of the spreadsheet.

It is helpful to think about our network of beliefs in a similar way. We can think of our belief system as a giant Excel spreadsheet.

But rather than numbers and math calculations, each cell contains an individual fact. Since there are a nearly infinite number of facts, this giant spreadsheet has a nearly infinite number of cells.

“The sky is blue” is in one cell, “I exist” is in another, and “There is a God” is in third.

Furthermore, just like on any complex Excel spreadsheet, nearly all the cells are interconnected by functions, so that when one cell changes, it causes a cascading, rippling effect throughout the rest of the spreadsheet.

If we think about our beliefs in this way, we can see that when it comes to each individual statement, we can either believe it or disbelieve it. We can either know it to be true, or we can doubt that it is true. We can either assent and agree with the statement in the cell, or dissent and disagree.

While we will be reasonably certain about several statements on this spreadsheet, we will be either ignorant or uncertain about the vast majority of statements. And as we change what we think about any particular fact, this change will have a cascading, ripple effect through the related and connected cells on the spreadsheet of beliefs.

What this means is that as we come to believe new ideas, some of the beliefs which have not changed for decades might need to be reconsidered in light of new evidence. Therefore, while we can have reasonable conviction or confidence about the accuracy of any single cell (or belief), we nevertheless know that the content of that cell is based upon the ideas of other related cells, about which we are less confident.

To put it another way, the complete confidence of one belief in one “cell” can be based upon less confident beliefs of other “cells.”

This way of thinking about faith provides adequate responses to many of the objections that some pastors and theologians have to the concept of faith as certainty. Many who criticize the idea of “faith as certainty” seem to think that the entire system stands or falls together.

But this is not the true nature of faith. When we think about our system of beliefs as a giant Excel Spreadsheet, we see that it is impossible for the entire system of faith to collapse.

Instead, our beliefs constantly shift and change as additional information is presented to us, so that new beliefs are turned “On” in the spreadsheet while other beliefs are corrected and turned “Off.”

Best of all, with each cell that changes you gain a spreadsheet that is more accurate than it was before. One of these truths you discover quite soon (if you allow God to teach it to you), is that God does not require a spreadsheet of beliefs that is free of error.

faithQuite to the contrary, He desires a spreadsheet of beliefs that is constantly shifting and changing as we bring our life and thoughts into conformity with Jesus Christ and the revelation of Scripture. But this is a process, a journey, or an adventure that will last a lifetime (I suspect this adventure will last into eternity as well, as we forever unravel the infinite mysteries of glorious vistas of God), and so God is patient with us as we fill out our spreadsheet of beliefs with Him by our side.

Viewing faith in this way helps you see that although one changed belief often does cause a change in many other related beliefs, your entire belief system never collapses like a house of cards. It may initially feel like this has happened, but by taking a deep breath and examining the new evidence you have been given, you will discover that most of your beliefs remain intact.

You will also discover that you now have a better and more accurate belief system through which to view God, Scripture, yourself, others, and life in general.

The Spreadsheet at Work

Let us briefly see how this works with the truth claim that “Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him for it.”

I believe this truth with absolute certainty. I have many reasons for this belief, all of which reside in their own individual cells.

For example:

  • I believe that there is a God, and that only He gets to decide who has eternal life with Him and how they get it.
  • I furthermore believe that Jesus is God, and so He knew what He was talking about when He offered eternal life.
  • I also believe that the Bible can be trusted as an authoritative revelation from God.
  • I believe that I have properly understood the simple promises of Jesus to give eternal life to those who believe in Him (cf. John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47).
  • I believe that Jesus does not lie.
  • I believe that I am not able to earn or work for my eternal life on my own, because I can never be good enough to qualify for God’s perfect standard of complete righteousness.

If all these things are true, as I believe they are, then it is completely logical to be convinced and persuaded that Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him for it. And since I believe in Jesus, I know that I have eternal life.

But if any of these beliefs were to change, then this would likely cause me to stop believing that Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him for it.

If I stopped believing that God existed, or that the Bible accurately records the teachings of Jesus, I might stop believing in Jesus for eternal life.

However, the more I study and learn, the more evidence I find that supports all these beliefs. I now know too much to turn back on any of these truths and cannot imagine a situation that would cause me to reject them.

The more I study and learn, the more beliefs I gain, each of which further supports the belief that Jesus gives me eternal life.

Is it possible that the authors of the Gospels failed to accurately record what Jesus said? It’s possible, but not likely, so I don’t believe this.

Is it possible that those who copied the Bible and passed it down through the generations made a mistake? It’s possible, but manuscript evidence proves that this is unlikely, and so I don’t believe it.

Is it possible that I have incorrectly understood what Jesus said and meant? Well, this is the most likely factor that could cause me to stop believing in Jesus. But since the teachings from Jesus about how to receive eternal life are some of the simplest teachings He gave (even a child can understand and believe these promises), I do not think this is likely, and therefore, I believe I have properly understood His promises.

Since my belief in Jesus for eternal life is based on a large number of other reasonable beliefs, if any one of these other beliefs were to change, there would indeed be a cascading effect of changing beliefs. As numerous beliefs changed, it might indeed feel like Greg Boyd’s house of cards, as if everything I thought I knew was tumbling down around me.

However, note that there are many beliefs that can safely change without affecting my belief in Jesus whatsoever.

faith is certaintyMy belief in Jesus is not affected at all by belief (or lack thereof) that Methuselah lived to be 969, that the universe was created in seven 24-hour days, or that Jesus is going to return in the future to slaughter all His enemies with a reign of terror and blood (I actually don’t believe this).

These beliefs can change back and forth numerous times (as they have over the years), but such changes will not cause my entire belief system to come tumbling down like a house of cards.

Now the same sort of belief changes can be observed even with beliefs that are not “theological.” The “network of belief” concept applies to any individual belief.

For example, I believe the sky is blue because I believe I know what “blue” is, and because I believe my eyes are not deceiving me. I furthermore believe that I truly exist in this world rather than in a dream world or computer simulation as in “The Matrix.” Since all of these are reasonable beliefs, I can confidently believe (know) that the sky is blue.

However, if someone could persuade me that I did not exist, or that this world was a computer simulation, or that I have color-blindness and so do not accurately understand “blue,” then I might realize that I am wrong about the blueness of the sky.

But until these other beliefs change (which is extremely unlikely), I am fully confident that the sky is blue. (As a side note, I now actually believe that the sky is violet. I explain why in my book on faith.)

Let us consider an example from Scripture where we see this concept of spreadsheet faith being played out in real time.

An Example from Scripture

In John 11, Lazarus has died, and Jesus goes to Bethany to grieve with Mary and Martha. When Jesus arrives, Martha comes out to meet Him on the road and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

Jesus responded by saying, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23).

So Mary says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24).

Martha Jesus Lazarus John 11

Do you see what is going on here? Each of these statements is a factual statement that exists on Martha’s spreadsheet of beliefs. She believes that if Jesus had been present, Lazarus would not have died. Remember, they sent word to Jesus when Lazarus was sick, but he delayed in going to them until after Lazarus had died. So Martha is chiding Jesus a bit. She believes that Lazarus died because Jesus didn’t show up when she wanted Him to.

But then Jesus makes another factual statement. He says, “Your brother will rise again.” Now, does Martha believe this? She does. For she goes on to say, “Yes, I know, believe, agree that he will rise again … but on the future day of resurrection.”

Based on these beliefs, Jesus goes on to teach her some new ideas about Himself. He is going to make some factual statements to see if they are turned “On” or “Off” in her spreadsheet of beliefs.

So Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus makes three factual statements here. Each one is a truth claim about Jesus, and each one is dependent upon the others, and dependent upon what Martha has already stated about the resurrection. Jesus is inviting her to build upon her previous beliefs and add some new beliefs to them.

Jesus claims that (1) Resurrection and life resides in Him, (2) that those who die in Him will also live in Him, and (3) that who live and believe in Him will never die.

After Jesus makes these three factual statements, He says, “Do you believe this?”

Notice how Martha responds. She doesn’t say, “Yes, Lord, I believe these three things. I believe that (1) Resurrection and life resides in You, (2) that those who die in You will also live in You, and (3) that who live and believe in You will never die.”

She does not restate the beliefs and affirm her agreement with them.

Instead, she says something that has confused a lot of people over the years. She says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Lots of people read these words and get confused. They see Martha state her agreement with Jesus, but then she seems to say something back to Him that is not a restatement of what Jesus just said. She doesn’t state her agreement by summarizing what Jesus just said; instead, she states her agreement by stating her belief in something else entirely.

So people get confused by this and say, “Well, maybe to believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life is the exact same as believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

And while we could say that the two concepts are related, the two concepts are not identical beliefs. That is, to say that Jesus is the Christ is not the same thing as saying that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We know this for a variety of reasons. There are lots of people in the days of Jesus who believed that He was the Christ, but did not believe that He could raise people from the dead, or even that He Himself would be raised from the dead.

Furthermore, there were many people throughout biblical history who were thought of as “Messiahs” or “Christs” (that is, deliverers, saviors), but nobody ever thought that these people could raise others from death.

So since believe that Jesus is the Christ is not the same thing as believing that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, why does Martha answer the way she does?

She answers the way she does because she is saying that because Jesus is the Christ, then she trusts and accepts whatever else Jesus says, including these recent three statements about the resurrection.

To put it another way, Jesus makes three truth claims about Himself, and then asks Martha if she believes what He has said. These are new ideas to her, and she has never been told these ideas before.

So she can either accept, acknowledge, and agree with what Jesus has just said, thereby believing His words, or she can disagree with Him, thereby not believing.

But since Martha already knows and believes something else on her spreadsheet of faith, namely, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the son of God, this therefore causes Martha to realize that everything Jesus says can be trusted and accepted.

Therefore, because of her belief in Jesus as the Christ, Martha also believes these new statements about Jesus, that He is the resurrection and the life, that those who die in Him will live again, and that those who live in Him will never die.

Do you see? A cell on her spreadsheet of faith which said “Jesus is the Christ” was turned “On.” As a result of this cell, another cell on her spreadsheet of faith which said, “Everything Jesus says is true” was also turned on.

So when Jesus comes along and says something she has never heard or thought of before, and then Jesus asks her if she believes these new ideas, it does not take her long to turn these cells on as well. She didn’t fully understand the ramifications of what Jesus was saying, but she did know that Jesus was saying it, and that because He was the Christ, His words could always be trusted and believed.

So she believed Him.

Then, of course, to provide further support and proof that her believe in Him was well-founded, Jesus went and raised Lazarus from death.

believe in Jesus

This is just one example of how the network of beliefs that exists on our spreadsheet of faith works together to consider new ideas and incorporate new beliefs. We see it work very quickly with Martha, but it doesn’t always move this fast. Sometimes the process is much slower.

But regardless, I hope that with this illustration of faith, it can help you understand how faith works, and how you can come to consider and accept the various truth claims that bombard you each and every day.

No one is asking you to take a leap of faith. Each belief is built upon others that you might or might not have. Also, your faith is not a house of cards that can be knocked down by a passing wind of doubt or a troublesome question. Instead, your faith is a vast network of individual beliefs that are constantly moving, shifting, changing, and developing over time. It is not something to be afraid of, but can be enjoyed and anticipated as we continue to follow Jesus wherever He leads.

Now, I imagine that this illustration of faith might raise some further questions. For example, if this is how to think about faith, then what does the Scripture mean when it refers to great faith or little faith? How do these terms fit in with this concept of faith as a network of beliefs?

We will consider this question in the next study.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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In an attempt to get people to not be afraid of questions and doubts, some suggest that faith includes doubt. I disagree. But how then do we keep our faith from collapsing like a house of cards? We do this by using a better illustration for faith, In an attempt to get people to not be afraid of questions and doubts, some suggest that faith includes doubt. I disagree. But how then do we keep our faith from collapsing like a house of cards? <br /> <br /> e do this by using a better illustration for faith, namely, an Excel Spreadsheet. This podcast study of faith explains the illustration and uses John 11 as an example of the Excel Spreadsheet of faith at work in the mind of Martha.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or read the manuscript for this study on faith, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/faith-excel-spreadsheet/ Jeremy Myers clean 37:15
Is faith like getting in a wheelbarrow to be pushed across Niagara Falls? https://redeeminggod.com/faith-wheelbarrow-niagara-falls/ Wed, 05 Dec 2018 23:27:27 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49539 Have you ever heard the wheelbarrow tightrope walk over Niagara Falls as an illustration for faith? It is a terrible illustration, because it does not accurately portray what faith really is or how faith works. This post considers the illustration and defines faith from Scripture. How do you define and explain faith? How do you know you have faith? What is faith?

What is FaithI have a new book coming out on January 15 which answers all of these questions about faith. The book is titled, What is Faith? and is available for preorder on Amazon.

But between now and then, I wanted to publish several Podcast episodes which talks about faith, and looks at several tricky and troublesome texts in the Bible about faith.

We will discuss the concepts of great faith and little faith. We will look at whether there is such a thing as head faith and heart faith. We will also discuss the faith of demons mentioned in James 2.

In today’s study, I just want to introduce some of the key concepts about faith that will help you understand what the Bible is talking about when it talks about faith.

Let me begin by telling you a story, which you have probably already heard.

The Niagara Falls Tightrope Illustration of Faith

There once was a man who walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. After the tightrope had been fixed in place, he started gathering a crowd to watch his daring and dangerous feat. “Come one! Come all!” he shouted into his bullhorn. “Watch me walk above Niagara Falls, balancing on nothing more than this little rope!”

faith tightrope walk

As people started gathering, he passed around a sample of the rope so people could see how small it was. “One little slip, and I will tumble to my death in the waters below!” he shouted. “You never know when I might fall. The rope is getting wet from the misting water. A wind is coming up the gorge. I don’t want to die, but today could be the day!”

As the crowd swelled even more, he shouted to those who had gathered, “Who believes I can walk across the falls and back without falling to my death below?”

Most of the crowd shouted that they believed he could do it. Many of them cheered him on to try it. So he climbed up onto the rope, and balanced his way across Niagara Falls. When he reached the far side, he turned around and came back. He didn’t slip. He didn’t fall. In fact, he barely wobbled or wavered. So when he returned to the safety of the shore, he motioned with his hands for the cheering crowd to quiet down.

“That was too easy!” he yelled. “That wasn’t a challenge for me at all! Let’s make it more difficult! Who believes I can do again, but this time, while pushing a wheelbarrow? If my hands are on the wheelbarrow, I will not be able to use them to balance on the rope. Shall I give it a try? Do you believe I can do it?” He motioned to a nearby wheelbarrow, which he had brought for this very purpose.

The crowd cheered their approval, which caused the number of gathering people to swell even further. So with the help of two nearby men, he lifted a wheelbarrow up onto the rope, and then started pushing it across the Falls. He went more slowly this time, and even had a few wobbles, which caused the crowd to gasp and cry out with fear, but he made it to the other side and back without any great problem.

The crowd went wild.

“That was too easy!” he yelled. “Who believes I can do it again, but this time, with another person inside the wheelbarrow?” The crowd roared their approval. “I would not only be risking my own life, but also the life of the person in the wheelbarrow,” the man shouted to the crowd. “With a show of hands, let me see how many of you believe I can do this!” Almost every person in the large crowd raised their hand. It was nearly unanimous.

“Wonderful! I am so glad to see that you have such faith in me! I think I will give it a shot!” the man yelled. “Now … among all of you who raised your hand, do I have a volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow?” Every hand in the large crowd went down. “What?” said the man. “You’ve seen me walk across Niagara Falls twice without any problems, once while pushing this wheelbarrow! And most of you believe I can do it with someone else in the wheelbarrow with me! But when I ask which of you wants to get into the wheelbarrow, none of you volunteer? Do you believe I can do it or not?”

But there were no takers, so the crowd did not see him push someone across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow that day.

This story is likely fictional, but it is often used by pastors and preachers as an example of faith. They say, “You see? It’s not true faith unless you get into the wheelbarrow. Those people didn’t really believe. They just said they believed. They raised their hand claiming they had faith the man could do it. But it is not enough to say you believe. It is not enough to claim you have faith. If you really believe, you have to get into the wheelbarrow. Otherwise, you have false faith. Spurious faith.”

faith tightrope walk niagara falls wheelbarrowThen the pastor goes on to tell the audience how they can have true and effective faith. Usually the pastor says that they need to “prove” the reality of their faith by their good works.

If they don’t have the good works which proves the existence of their faith, then they are just like the people who claimed to have faith, but didn’t prove it by getting into the wheelbarrow.

Most people go away from such a sermon wondering if they’ve really believed, and therefore, whether they are really a Christian.

But you can know that you are really a Christian and that you have really believed.

You can know that you have eternal life.

You can know that you are already in the wheelbarrow, and that it is the safest place you can be.

This knowledge of your safety and security in Jesus Christ begins by properly defining the word “faith.”

The Definition of “Faith”

When we begin to define the word “faith,” it is important to recognize that modern, English usage of the word “faith” does not match the ancient Hebrew or Greek usage. The way this word is used today bears little resemblance to the way the word was used in biblical times.

Today, when we use the word “faith” or “believe” we tend to use it as a synonym for “hope.” We say, I believe the Red Sox will win the Word Series. But really, we only hope they win. We do not know for sure that they will win.

But this is not how the word “faith” was used in biblical times. In the Greek New Testament, the word “faith” is most commonly used in reference to something that a person knows to be true.

For New Testament era Christians, to believe something, or to have faith, meant that they were persuaded or convinced of the truth of it. They knew it to be true.

Good synonyms for “faith,” therefore, are not “hope or wish” but rather “persuasion, conviction, or knowing.”

faith is certaintyNew Testament Greek Lexicons typically provides three basic definitions for pistis. When used with an article, as in “the faith,” it typically refers to the body of Christian beliefs that separates Christianity from other religious faiths. It is used this way thirteen times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 6:7; Rom 4:11; Gal 1:23).

Second, the word can be translated as “faithfulness” or “fidelity.” But even most of these could arguably be translated as “faith” (Matt 23:23; Rom 3:3; Gal 5:22; Titus 2:10). We will discuss this concept in a future podcast episode.

The third possible definition for pistis is also the most common. Over 180 times in the New Testament, pistis refers to “believing.” In context, this belief occurs when a person knows something to be true.

Therefore, the primary lexical definition for the verb is “to consider something to be true, to believe.”[1] Faith (and the verb “believe”) is a confidence, persuasion, or conviction that something is true.[2] We have faith when we are fully persuaded by the evidence presented to us. “To believe is to be persuaded that some declaration is true. … If you think something is true, you believe it.”[3]

Joseph Dillow says,

Faith is located in the mind and is persuasion or belief. It is something which “happens” to us as a result of reflection upon sufficient evidence … Saving faith is reliance upon God for salvation. It does not include within its compass the determination of the will to obey, nor does it include a commitment to a life of works. To believe is to be persuaded and be reliant and includes nothing else.[4]

So what then is biblical faith (or belief)?

We can do no better at defining faith than does the author of Hebrews, who writes: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The author of Hebrews is saying that faith substantiates, or sees as reality, that which we have previously only hoped to be true.

Faith is the evidence, conviction, or confidence in things we cannot see. Certainly, we also believe the things we have seen, but the faith described in the rest of Hebrews 11 is the faith that is confident in God’s promises based on what is known about God’s character and God’s Word.

A Second Look at the Tightrope Illustration

This brings us back to the illustration of the tightrope walker pushing a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls. The people truly believed that the man could walk across the tightrope above Niagara Falls. They had seen him do it. They also believed that he could do it with a wheelbarrow. They had seen him do this as well.

In both cases, their faith was real and genuine. Based on what they had seen him do, they also stated their belief that he would be able to push someone across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow.

However, none of them were willing to get into the wheelbarrow themselves. Does this mean that they didn’t actually believe?

No, it does not. They did believe and their faith was genuine.

So why didn’t they want to get into the wheelbarrow?

First, walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope has inherent risks. This is why it is so thrilling to watch. And given all the various things that can go wrong in such a situation—many of which are completely out of the control of the man on the tightrope—there is no guarantee that he will make it across.

Even if he performed this feat a thousand times in a row and became so good at it that he could run across while blindfolded, there is still no guarantee that he would be able to do the one-thousand-and-first time. Maybe a stronger than normal gust of wind would knock him off balance. Maybe it would start to rain and he would slip. Maybe a reckless bird would hit him in the head. There are just too many variables.

No matter how many times the man completes this feat, it is a statistical certainty that eventually he will slip and fall to his death.

So while the crowd could state their genuine belief every time that the man will make it across the falls, they also believe that a time will come when the man will fall. None of the people on the shore wanted to be in the wheelbarrow when that happened.

So the people on the shore had two genuine, but conflicting, beliefs.

They believed that the man could walk across Niagara Falls, and would be able to do it many times, even with a person in a wheelbarrow. However, they also believed in statistics and science, both of which say that eventually, the tightrope walker will fall.

Related to this, while the people on the shore might have had full faith in the tightrope walker’s ability to maintain his balance, none of them had faith in their own ability. It is logical and reasonable to think that the man could take someone across the Falls in a wheelbarrow if the person stayed completely still and did not move.

After all, if the person in the wheelbarrow starts flailing about, screaming in terror, or even sneezes, such movement could throw off the balance, causing both people to plunge to their death below. And as all people know, we cannot always keep fear at bay, nor can we easily hold back a sneeze.

Therefore, here again, while a person might properly believe that a well-trained tightrope walker can push a person in a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls, there are too many unknown and uncontrollable variables for any person to believe that they themselves could hold still enough to complete such a dangerous journey.

The bottom line truth is that that this fictional illustration about how nobody from a watching crowd would get into a wheelbarrow so that they might be pushed across Niagara Falls on a tightrope does not illustrate the lack of faith in the watching crowd.

To the contrary, it shows their true and genuine faith in a variety of truth claims. They believed the man could do it. But they did not believe in their own ability to sit still enough inside the wheelbarrow. They also knew (i.e., believed) that there were millions of random variables in nature that could create problems as well.

So did they believe the man could push a person across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow? Yes, they firmly believed that the man could do it.

But did each individual person believe the man would do this for themselves if they got into the wheelbarrow? No, they did not believe this, for the various reasons mentioned above.

They probably had somewhere over fifty percent certainty that he would, maybe even approaching ninety percent certainty in some cases. But this was not enough reasonable certainty for them to gamble their lives on it.

God is not a Tightrope Walker!

But notice how different it is when it comes to the promises of God made to us through Jesus Christ.

God is not a tightrope walker who will eventually make a mistake if we just give Him enough time. If He promises to take us across a spiritual tightrope, He will fulfill that promise every single time forever and ever without fail.

There are no spiritual or natural variables which can wreak havoc with the promises of God.

faith in God

The same goes for Jesus. When Jesus makes a promise, it is a promise with a 100% guarantee. Like God, Jesus is fully reliable.

Eternal Life is Not a Wheelbarrow

Furthermore, many of the promises of God are not at all dependent upon our own effort or involvement.

If we were to equate eternal life to getting into a wheelbarrow for a trip across Niagara Falls, then we would also have to say that on this trip, we could jump around and do flips inside the wheelbarrow and Jesus will still not lose His balance or let us fall into the waters below.

We could even try to jump out, but He will not let us fall. Eternal life is His gift to us, and this gift has an everlasting guarantee. We are safe and secure in His hands, and He will never let us go (John 10:27-29). This is His promise.

When we refuse to believe His promises, it is simply because we are refusing to believe that Jesus knows what He is talking about and can be trusted to do what He says.

Jesus is fully trustworthy and reliable. So you can believe in Him for what He says. And when He offers eternal life to anyone who believes in Him for it, you can know that if you have believed in Jesus, then you have eternal life.

When you believe in Jesus, you are already in the wheelbarrow and He is taking you across the falls, and there is nothing that you, or anyone (or anything) else can do to stop Him (Rom 8:38-39).

Nevertheless, I imagine that you still have some questions about the nature of faith and how faith works. You also might still have some lingering doubts about whether or not you really believe. Maybe you have also heard people talk about head faith, heart faith, true faith, false faith, small faith, and great faith, and you want to know how these sorts of descriptions fit with what we have learned in this chapter.

We will continue to look at these sorts of questions and issues in future podcast episodes.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

Notes for this Podcast Study on Faith

[1] Walter Bauer et al., BAGD,  816.

[2] Wilkin, Confident in Christ, 5, 7.

[3] Shawn Lazar, Beyond Doubt, 106.

[4] Dillow, Final Destiny, 276.

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Have you ever heard the wheelbarrow tightrope walk over Niagara Falls as an illustration for faith? It is a terrible illustration, because it does not accurately portray what faith really is or how faith works. Have you ever heard the wheelbarrow tightrope walk over Niagara Falls as an illustration for faith?<br /> <br /> It is a terrible illustration, because it does not accurately portray what faith really is or how faith works. This podcast episode considers the illustration and defines faith from Scripture. <br /> <br /> To read the manuscript or leave question about this study, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/faith-wheelbarrow-niagara-falls/ Jeremy Myers clean 36:15
Evangelism is Gospelism. But what is Gospelism? https://redeeminggod.com/evangelism-is-gospelism-part-1/ Wed, 21 Nov 2018 16:00:35 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=555 What is evangelism? What needs to be said in evangelism? Who do you say it to? How long does evangelism take? What Scriptures should you use? How do you know when someone has been evangelized? Since there is so much confusion around evangelism, maybe we should start talking about gospelism instead. What is evangelism? What needs to be said in evangelism? Who do you say it to? How long does evangelism take? What Scriptures should you use? How do you know when someone has been “evangelized”? Ask these questions to 10 people, and you will get 11 answers (because there’s always that one guy who gives two answers).

There is a lot of confusion today about how to evangelize and what to say and do in evangelism. I believe the primary problem lies in the word itself. The word proves the truth of the saying, “The translation is the traitor!” Let me show you what I mean.

Evangelism from the Greek

You would never know it in English, but in Greek, the words “gospel” (Gk. euangelion) and “evangelism” (Gk. euangelizomai) have the same root. In fact, the word “evangelism” isn’t really a translation of the Greek word at all, but is instead a transliteration. The translators, rather than translate euangelizomai, just changed the Greek letters into English, and left it:

euangelizomai
evangelism

evangelism is gospelismSometimes, the English translations use the phrase “preach the gospel” which is better than “evangelism” but tends to make us think that the gospel is spread only by preaching, which as we saw in a previous post, is simply not true.

Let me suggest a new term instead of evangelism.

How about “gospelism” (evangelizing = gospelizing)? This would help show a clearer connection between the gospel itself and the activity of spreading the gospel. This would really help clarify what gospelism is (i.e., what evangelism is) and how to carry it out.

What is Gospelism?

If (as we saw in a previous post) the gospel is more than a set of propositions which must be believed to receive eternal life, then gospelism is way more than just sharing a set of propositions to a person in the hopes that they will believe and receive eternal life.

Put another way, gospelism takes place whenever the gospel is revealed. 

And if the gospel contains all sorts of truths about the temporal and eternal benefits that are offered through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, then logically, any time we share (either by word or deed) any of the truths related to the gospel, we are gospelizing.

Since the gospel contains truths about how to live life in light of the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus, “gospelizing” is not only done with words, but with actions as well. Ideally, since the gospel is related to all aspects of life, our entire life – all we say and do – will be gospelizing.

Sermon Application

More concretely, since the gospel affects how we interact with others, how we spend our money, how we use our time, etc., we are gospelizing not only when we preach and teach about the gospel, but also when we treat others with kindness, fairness and honesty, when we show forgiveness and grace, when we stand up for the poor, the neglected, and the outcast, and any time we reveal the changes that the gospel has brought about in our own life.

When evangelism becomes gospelism, and we see that the gospel is for all of life, then gospelism is for all of life as well.

Gospelism is not just about eternal life, but about all of life … just like the gospel. 

Read these posts to learn more about gospelism:

Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 1)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 2)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 3)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 4)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 5)
Evangelism is Gospelism (Part 6)

The Gospel According to ScriptureWant to learn more about the gospel? Take my new course, "The Gospel According to Scripture."

The entire course is free for those who join my online Discipleship group here on RedeemingGod.com. I can't wait to see you inside the course!

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What is evangelism? What needs to be said in evangelism? Who do you say it to? How long does evangelism take? What Scriptures should you use? How do you know when someone has been evangelized? - Since there is so much confusion around evangelism, What is evangelism and how is it performed? By studying the word in the Greek, we discover that evangelism is not what most people think it is. <br /> <br /> This study looks at the word evangelism in the Bible and suggests that it should be translated as gospelism. We then look at three Bible verses where this understanding helps explain the texts. <br /> <br /> To view the transcript for this study, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/evangelism-is-gospelism-part-1/ Jeremy Myers clean 26:35
Does Jesus tell the Rich Young Ruler how to earn eternal life? (Matthew 19:16-21; Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:17-22) https://redeeminggod.com/rich-young-ruler-matthew-19/ Wed, 14 Nov 2018 21:47:45 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49363 There have been lots of strange teachings about the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-21 (and Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:17-22). Did Jesus really mean that the rich can earn eternal life if they give all their possessions away? No. By understanding the cultural and theological view of riches in the days of Jesus, we can better understand what Jesus was telling the Rich Young Ruler. In the account of Matthew 19:16-21 (and the parallel passages of Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:17-22), a rich, young ruler approaches Jesus and asks Him what he must do to have eternal life. (Luke also contains the account of a lawyer who asks a similar question Luke 10:25-28. I have written about the Rich Young ruler before here.)

Jesus points the young man to the law, and specifically to the Ten Commandments. The man responds that he has kept all of the commandments since he was a boy.

So Jesus says that the man still lacks one thing: he must go out and sell everything he owns, and then give the money to the poor.

At this, the rich young ruler becomes forlorn and goes away, because he was very rich.

What is the Story of the Rich Young Ruler about?

Many pastors and scholars point to this passage as primary evidence that good works and obedience to the commandments are required to receive eternal life.

believe in Jesus for eternal lifeBut there are numerous considerations from the text which reveal that this is not what Jesus is saying, and this is not how we should understand the passage.

1. We must first understand the meaning of “eternal life”

What is eternal life, and how is it gained?

To answer this, let me briefly summarize some of what I teach in my online course, The Gospel Dictionary.

There are three main truths to remember about eternal life.

First, eternal life begins the moment we believe in Jesus for it.

Since eternal life is the life of God given to those who believe in Jesus Christ, it begins the moment we receive Him (John 3:16; 5;24; 6:47; etc).

Eternal life is not some future possession, but is something we receive now, at the moment we are placed in Christ Jesus through faith.

Since eternal life is the life of God, and since this life is in Jesus, then anyone who shares this life with Jesus, also shares this life with God. To put it more succinctly, since Jesus is eternal life (cf. 1 John 1:2), we receive eternal life when we receive Jesus.

Second, eternal life is eternal.

In other words, everlasting life is everlasting.

This means that once you have eternal life in Jesus, you can never lose it.

Earl Radmacher used to say that “If you can lose your everlasting life, it has the wrong name.” Just as you cannot be unborn after you are born, so also, when you are born again into the family of God, you cannot ever go back and become unborn.

Once a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, they receive it permanently, and no matter what they say, think, or do in the future, their new birth into God’s family is a historical fact and cannot be undone.

Every single passage in the Bible which appears to teach that eternal life can be lost is not in fact talking about eternal life, but is instead referring to something else, such as physical life here on earth, inheritance and reward in the future, or to some sort of deliverance (salvation) from temporal catastrophe or disaster.

There is no verse in the Bible which teaches that a person can lose their eternal life.

Finally, since eternal life begins the moment we believe, and since eternal life is forever, this means that we can begin experiencing eternal life now.

Some seem to believe that eternal life does not begin until we die, at which point we will float around on clouds and play harps. When people have such an idea, it is no wonder they are not all that excited or thrilled about experiencing eternal life.

But once we understand that eternal life begins in this life, when we receive the life of God through faith in Jesus, it becomes much more thrilling to think about it.

To experience eternal life with God means that we live up to our full creative, adventurous potential as human beings, so that we begin to experience true life now.

It refers to experiencing “the age to come” here and now in this age. Eternal life is not just a future experience to be longed for, but is a way of life that can be lived here and now.

It is helpful to think of eternal life as a whole new life in a whole new world.

We pass through the doorway into this new this world by faith in Jesus Christ. And the doorway is not a revolving door. It is a one-way door. Once you are through the door and in the new world, you can never go back.

But once we are through the door, there is a whole world to explore. Those who sit at the entrance, bemoaning what they have left behind, have not yet begun to experience all the lies ahead.

Newcomers are encouraged to do more than just sit at the doorway, content that they have entered into a new life with Jesus Christ. Instead, they are encouraged to follow Jesus into all the beauty and adventures that awaits them in this new world. Jesus calls people who have entered into new life with Him to follow Jesus wherever He leads, to go higher up and further in.

In this way, it is not wrong to recognize that while eternal life is a free gift and a present expression, it not only refers to the quantity of life (life that never ends) but also the quality of life (the experience of God’s life that only gets better over time).

This clarification is extremely helpful when trying to understand various tricky texts in the Bible about eternal life, and especially in those texts that seem to imply that eternal life can be earned or inherited. Such texts are not talking about how we can earn or work for the free gift of eternal life, but are instead referring to the ongoing experience of eternal life here and now.

Let me summarize these three truths about eternal life:

Eternal life is God’s life in us so that we can have life with Him that never ends, and it is freely given to all who believe in Jesus, and experienced in greater degrees as we follow Jesus.

While it is an eternal possession that is received by faith alone in Jesus, it can also be a present reality that is experienced when we follow Jesus in discipleship.

Eternal life refers to both an eternal possession we receive by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and a present experience we can enjoy here in this life as we follow Jesus by faithful obedience to His leading.

This brief study of eternal life helps us understand the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-21 (cf. Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:17-22)

The Rich Young Ruler Matthew 19:16-21

2. Matthew 19:16-21 is about inheriting eternal life, not earning eternal life

First, the passage is clearly about inheriting eternal life, not receiving it (cf. Matt 19:29; Mark 10:17, 30; Luke 18:18, 30).

Support for this is found in the following context where Jesus says that it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23; Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24), and then equates the Kingdom of heaven with inheriting eternal life (cf. Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30).

So the rich young ruler is not technically asking about how to receive eternal life, but how to inherit it, or experience it, in this life. Jesus answers accordingly.

The man felt that he should be experiencing eternal life because of his strict obedience to the law, but he also felt that something was lacking. So he asked Jesus about how to inherit, or experience, eternal life now. Jesus ran a quick diagnostic test on the man, and quickly determined two sources of the man’s problem.

First, the man was proud.

He thought he had perfectly obeyed the law. He said he has obeyed it from his youth.

This, of course, is completely impossible, as Jesus knew. Yet rather than challenge the young man on his perceived moral perfection, Jesus “upped the ante” on the man as a way to show the man that he was not as righteous as he thought.

Jesus told the man to do something which the man could not do. He should sell all his riches and give the money to the poor. Yet even this was not the end, for after he did this, Jesus told the man to “Come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22).

The point of Jesus was that the young man would never “arrive.” The main thing holding the young man back from experiencing the life of God was his self-righteous spiritual pride. The words of Jesus were intended to begin dismantling this pride.

Rich Young Ruler

Second, Jesus recognized that wealth was the source of the rich young ruler’s problem.

This is why Jesus focused on the riches of this young man, instead of on some other area where the young man was blind to his own sin.

After all, even though Jesus asked about the commandments, there is no commandment or statement in the Mosaic Law to sell everything and give it away. So why does Jesus seem to shift from focusing on the commandments to giving up riches?

The answer is found within the law itself. The law promised wealth and riches to those who completely obeyed the law (cf. Deut 28:1-14). This young man was rich and wealthy at a very young age, which made him believe that he must have obeyed the entire law since his youth.

This is why Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give away all his wealth. It wasn’t exactly about the money. It was about the false sense of moral perfection that the money created in the man’s heart. When Jesus told the man to give up his wealth, He was saying that the man could not look to his wealth as a sign of God’s blessing.

In fact, it is quite possible that this young man did not keep the law as well as he thought. In the Ancient Mediterranean world, it was thought that wealth was a “zero sum game.” They believed that there was a fixed amount of material wealth in the world, so that the only way people gained more money and riches was if others lost it.

Of course, from a theological perspective, the only way someone would lose their riches and wealth is if they were sinful, and God displayed His displeasure by taking away their wealth and giving it to someone else who pleased Him.

But is this how the world really works? Is it only the righteous who are rich and only the wicked who are poor? No. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The same was true in biblical times as well, which is why some of the prophets wonder why the wicked prosper and the faithless live in ease (cf. Jer 12:1).

The sad reality is that the rich often (but not always) become rich because they murder, steal, and bear false witness, which are exactly the sins Jesus questioned the rich young ruler about (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 19:20). It is entirely possible that the rich your ruler became rich at such a young age because he, or his family, engaged in various practices which made them rich at the expense of the poor.

But this young man was ignorant or blind to such things, and thought that because he was rich, he was blessed by God, and therefore, obedient to the law. By telling him to sell his riches and give his money to the poor (who, according to this line of thought, were poor because they were sinners), Jesus was challenging this entire way of thinking.

So although eternal life is mentioned in this passage, the rich young ruler is not asking, and Jesus is not explaining, how to gain eternal life.

The rich young ruler isn’t asking about how to go to heaven when he dies. He is asking about the new world that God is going to usher in, the new era of justice, peace, and freedom God has promised his people. And he is asking, in particular, how he can be sure that when God does all this, he will be part of those who inherit the new world, who share in its life.

Jesus and the rich young ruler are talking about how to experience God’s life (eternal life) in this life.

While the commandments are mentioned, the instructions of Jesus are not even about keeping the commandments, but about spiritual pride and arrogance.

What is the Meaning of Matthew 19:16-21 and the Rich Young Ruler?

Therefore, when all the factors are considered, we see that the passage is primarily about how Jesus challenged the status quo theological belief that the rich are loved by God while the poor are under His judgment.

camel through eye of a needleJesus sought to reverse this entire line of thought, as the following contexts make quite clear (Matthew 19:23-30; Mark 10:23-30; Luke 18:24-30). It is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven because they rely on their riches as evidence that they are already living the life God wants for them.

Many of the rich people in the days of Jesus (and even many today) believe that their riches prove that they are under God’s blessing and are part of His family. Jesus is saying, “If you think your riches prove that you have eternal life, give up your riches. They don’t prove anything about eternal life one way or the other.”

Eternal life is received by believing in Jesus for it. And there is no amount of good works you can do to keep, earn, or prove that you have eternal life.

But once you have eternal life through faith in Jesus, you can gain a better experience of eternal life by following Jesus on the path of discipleship. This might require you to make some difficult decisions in life.

Bottom line: You DO NOT need to give away your wealth to receive eternal life … but you might need to be more generous with it if you want to experience the reality of God’s life in you.

Do you want to inherit, or experience, eternal life in this life? You first, of course, need to make sure you have received the free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

But after that, to experience eternal life, you must not depend on your riches or worldly success, nor your self-deceived ability to obey all of God’s law (which doesn’t lead into love anyway, see Law), as signs that you are fully experiencing all that God has for you.

Instead, to live within the Kingdom of God and experience the joys and blessings of eternal life, you must humbly follow Jesus wherever He leads, even if it is into poverty and obscurity.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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There have been lots of strange teachings about the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-21 (and Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:17-22). Did Jesus really mean that the rich can earn eternal life if they give all their possessions away? No. In Matthew 19:16-21, a rich young ruler asks Jesus how he can gain eternal life. Jesus tell him to give away all his money. <br /> <br /> Is Jesus saying that you can earn eternal life by giving away your money and possessions? Can you WORK for eternal life? <br /> <br /> No. By understanding a few key things about eternal life, and also by recognizing a few truths from Matthew 19:16-21, we see what Jesus was REALLY teaching. <br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the transcript, visit here: https://redeeminggod.com/rich-young-ruler-matthew-19/ Jeremy Myers clean 29:20
Jeremy Myers interviews Shawn Lazar about his book, Chosen to Serve https://redeeminggod.com/shawn-lazar-chosen-to-serve/ Wed, 31 Oct 2018 15:00:24 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49316 In this interview with Shawn Lazar, we discuss his book "Chosen to Serve" and how divine election is to service; not to eternal life. After presenting the concept of election as it is taught in Scripture, we discuss Acts 13:48, 1 Peter 1:2, and 2 Peter 1:10-11. By listening to the episode, you can learn how to get 50% off his book. Shawn Lazar

I have been teaching a series on the doctrine of divine election in Scripture, and so am pleased to welcome Shawn Lazar onto the show to discuss his book, Chosen to Serve.

Chosen to ServeIn his book, Shawn shows what the Bible teaches about election, and discusses several key passages which are used to defend various views of divine election. Shawn shows us how to understand these passages in light of the rest of biblical revelation about this tricky doctrine.

When you properly understand divine election, you will no longer find yourselves in angry and heated debates about who God chose for heaven from eternity past … nor will you be anxious about whether or not you yourself are chosen by God.

Instead, you will discover the beautiful biblical truth that election is to service, not to eternal life.

By listening to the podcast episode, you will also learn how to get 50% off Shawn’s book, Chosen to Serve. Or you can pay full price on Amazon … if that is what you really want.

Here are other links we mentioned in the podcast interview:

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In this interview with Shawn Lazar, we discuss his book "Chosen to Serve" and how divine election is to service; not to eternal life. After presenting the concept of election as it is taught in Scripture, we discuss Acts 13:48, 1 Peter 1:2, In this interview with Shawn Lazar, we discuss his book "Chosen to Serve" and how divine election is to service; not to eternal life. <br /> <br /> After presenting the concept of election as it is taught in Scripture, we discuss Acts 13:48, 1 Peter 1:2, and 2 Peter 1:10-11. <br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the shownotes, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/shawn-lazar-chosen-to-serve/ Jeremy Myers clean 47:19
Did God choose who would be Christians before the foundation of the world? (Ephesians 1:4-5) https://redeeminggod.com/election-ephesians-1-4-5/ Wed, 24 Oct 2018 20:23:11 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49218 In this teaching on Ephesians 1:4-5, I explain the biblical concepts of election, predestination, and adoption, showing you that God does NOT choose some to receive eternal life while everyone else receives eternal death. Election is to service; not to eternal life. Many people believe that in eternity past, before the foundation of the world, God chose (or elected) certain individuals to receive eternal life. Everybody else remains in a state of eternal condemnation. We looked at Romans 9 last week, and Ephesians 1:4-5 is another text that some people use to support the idea of God choosing who becomes a Christian. The verse says this:

… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will …

chosen elect Ephesians 1:4

In this study, we are going to briefly consider Ephesians 1:4-5, showing that while God has elected and predestined us, this does not mean that He chose whom to give eternal life to, and whom to condemn. Election is not to eternal life, but to service in the plan and purposes of God.

A longer version of this study can be found in two of my sermons on Ephesians:

Ephesians 1:4-5 is not teaching how God chose, predestined, or elected some people to receive eternal life (while condemning or passing over all the rest).

A careful reading of the text reveals the same truth we have seen elsewhere, that election is to service. These verses teach that it was God’s plan from eternity past to adopt all who believe in Jesus as His heirs so that we will become holy and without blame before Him.

This is seen in two main ways.

We were Elected to be Holy and Blameless (Ephesians 1:4)

First, in Ephesians 1:4, Paul writes that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

Note that the text does not say that we were chosen “to be” in Him (Christ), but rather that we were chosen “in Him.” This means that Jesus Christ is the primary elect one, and believers are chosen, or elect, because of our connection with Jesus.

We are among the elect because we are in Christ, and He is elect.

Ephesians 1:4-5

It should be obvious as well, that God did not choose Jesus so that Jesus could have eternal life. Eternal life is in God and is in Jesus Christ (John 17:3), and therefore, God did not elect Jesus to eternal life, but to serve a particular role and function within His sovereign plan for this world.

Therefore, just as the election of Jesus is to a specific task and purpose, so also, all those who are elect “in Christ” share the same task and purpose as Jesus. Jesus came to be a blessing, to serve others, to reconcile the world to God, and to reveal God to the world (cf. Luke 4:17-19).

Since are in Jesus, then we are to do similar things. As the elect in Christ, we must follow Jesus Christ wherever He leads and in whatever He does.

Since we are to do what Jesus does and to follow Him wherever He leads, there is a danger to the evangelical proclamation that “Jesus has done it all.”

While it is absolutely true that He has “done it all” in regard to what is necessary for making eternal life available to all humanity, He has not “done it all” in regard to God’s plan and purpose for this world. All that Jesus still intends to do, He does through His elect followers, the church.

Through us, Jesus does greater things than He did during His ministry (John 14:12).

The fact that we were chosen in Jesus for service is further supported by the fact that Paul goes on to write that we were chosen in Him to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4).

We were not chosen to receive eternal life, but to a way of living that reflects God’s holiness and righteousness to the world.

We were not elected to eternal life, but to a way of living life. We are to live holy and blameless lives before a watching world.

We were Predestined to the Adoption as Sons (Ephesians 1:5)

Paul states much the same thing in Ephesians 1:5 when he writes about predestination. He says that God “predestined us to adoption as sons.” Predestination is about God’s goals for His people; “not the selection of who will become His people.”[2]

predestination Ephesians 1:5

Predestination is about the benefits, privileges, and blessings that God determines to give to all those who become His children by faith in Jesus Christ. Some of these blessings include adoption into God’s family (Eph 1:5), future glory (1 Thess 5:9, Rom 8:29-30; 9:33; 1 Cor 2:7), and the opportunity to do good (Eph 2:10).

One reason many people think that predestination refers to God’s choice about who receives eternal life is because they misunderstand Paul’s use of the word “adoption” here in Ephesians 1:5. The word “adoption” was defined earlier in this dictionary (see Adoption), but a brief summary of what this word means will help us better understand Paul’s point here.

Typically, when people read about adoption in Paul’s writings, they think of the modern practice of adoption where a mother and father, through legal processes, make a child their own who was not biologically their own. They find an orphan who has no mother and father and adopt this child into their family.

But this is not how adoption worked in biblical times.

In the Roman world of Paul’s day, adoption was not about making a child your own, but was instead about naming a child as an heir. While the firstborn son was usually the heir, a father might adopt one of his other biological children as his heir, or the child of some other family so that the two families could become one through adoption.

adoption Ephesians 1:5One famous example is when Julius Caesar adopted Octavian (who became Caesar Augustus) to be his heir, even though Octavian was not Caesar’s son. Caesar had a biological son with Cleopatra named Caesarion, but he was not named as heir.[3]

So biblical adoption has very little to do with picking a parentless child to join your family, and has more to do with choosing someone as an heir. In other words, adoption is not about bringing someone into your family, but with giving a child privilege and position within the family.

While God did predestine from eternity past that there would be a people whom He would adopt as His heirs, this does not mean that God individually selected which people would become those heirs.

Instead, He set in motion a series of events which would bring about the creation of this family of God called out from among all the people of the earth.

When viewed this way, we see that Ephesians 1 is in agreement with multiple other passages in Scripture that election is to service in God’s Kingdom.

Election is to Service in God’s Kingdom

We see that elect people are not “in Christ” before the foundation of the world, but rather, it is Christ Himself, as the ultimate Servant of God, who was chosen before the foundations of the world to perform a service to God in redeeming the world and revealing God to the world.[4]

Paul’s point in Ephesians 1:4-5 is that when we join with Christ by faith in Him (Eph 2:8-9), we automatically become connected with the eternal and divine purpose of God in Jesus Christ so that we can perform the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).

Jesus is the one was chosen before the foundations of the world, and so all who join with Jesus in faith will be caught up together with Him in His purpose to love, serve, and redeem the world.

[NOTES]

[1] See my book God’s Blueprints for Church Growth (Forthcoming) for more on this way of understanding Ephesians.

[2] William W. Klein, The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1990), 279.

[3] There is some dispute about whether or not Caesarion was actually Caesar’s son. During the tense period of time when Mark Antony and Cleopatra ruled in Egypt while Octavius Caesar Augustus ruled in Italy, Mark Antony declared that Caesarion was “the son of God” the “king of kings” and the rightful heir to Rome. This led to a war, which Octavius Caesar eventually won, after which time, Octavius took the titles of divinity for himself, along with Augustus (Most High) and Prince of Peace, for now there was peace in Rome (Pax Romana). As they say, history is written by the victors, and so the stories about Caesarion being illegitimate were spread and encouraged, thereby supporting Octavian’s claim to the throne.

[4] Some have noted that the term “the foundation of the world” does not refer to the creation of the world, but rather to the foundational principles and values of this world, that is, the values and activities that make human civilization possible. See, for example, Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God (New York: Waterbrook, 2017), 113. According to Scripture, the foundation of civilization is accusatory scapegoating violence (Listen to my podcast episodes on Genesis 3–4).

So when biblical writers talk about something “before the foundation of the world,” they are not saying “before the world was created” but “before we fell into our habits of blame, accusation, scapegoating, and violence. In this view, the preposition “before” does not necessarily mean “before in time” but might mean “before in location.” Jesus did die “in front of” or “before the face of” the founding principalities and powers of this world, and in this way, exposed and humiliated them by showing the world a better way to live (Col 2:14).

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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In this teaching on Ephesians 1:4-5, I explain the biblical concepts of election, predestination, and adoption, showing you that God does NOT choose some to receive eternal life while everyone else receives eternal death. Does Ephesians 1:4-5 teach that before the foundation of the world, God elected some people to receive eternal life, and everyone else to eternal death?<br /> <br /> In this teaching on Ephesians 1:4-5, I explain the biblical concepts of election, predestination, and adoption, showing you that God does NOT choose some to receive eternal life while everyone else receives eternal death. Election is to service; not to eternal life.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the manuscript, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/election-ephesians-1-4-5/ Jeremy Myers clean 24:43
What Romans 9 REALLY teaches about election https://redeeminggod.com/romans-9-election/ Thu, 18 Oct 2018 00:03:35 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49181 What does Paul mean about divine election in Romans 9 when he writes about God loving Jacob and hating Esau, making what he wants from clay, and hardening Pharaohs heart? This article answers these questions from Romans 9, and also looks at what Romans 11 teaches about divine election. In a previous post I introduced the concept of what the Bible means when it talks about election. You will want to go read that post, or listen to the podcast, before you read this post, as it forms the foundation for the ideas presented below.

And if you really want to learn more about what I discuss in this article, you will want to get my book, The Re-Justification of God. It provides more information about how to understand Romans 9:10-24. (And yes, I know the title is strange and the cover is boring, but you can find out the reason for WHY by using the “Look inside” feature at Amazon. This will allow you to read the Author’s Note and the Preface to the book, which explains more.)

The Re-Justification of God

Here are the texts about election from Romans 9 that we want to briefly consider here:

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger” (Romans 9:11-12).

For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (Romans 9:17).

Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show … wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Romans 9:21-24).

Brief Overview of Romans (for Context)

It is first of all helpful to recognize the overall message and meaning of the book of Romans.

Despite what some think, Paul’s letter to the Romans is not about justification, or even the righteousness of God. It is not about how great God is or how to go to heaven when we die.

Romans 9 in contextInstead, Paul’s letter to the Romans is about how the gospel “saves” believers and unbelievers alike (Romans 1:16-17) from wrath. This becomes clearer still when we recall that the word “saves” does not mean “justifies” but “delivers” (see my study on the word ‘saved’) and “wrath” does not mean “go to hell when you die” but refers instead to the devastating and destructive consequences of sin

Paul’s letter to the Romans is about how the gospel not only delivers people from the eternal and spiritual consequences of sin, but also from the temporal and physical consequences.

Romans 9 fits squarely within the second part of this theme.

Up to this point in Romans, Paul has argued that although sin is a universal human problem (Romans 1–3), God has a divine purpose and significance for all believers, so that if we live in light of our justification (Romans 4–5) and walk by faith (Romans 6–7), God will bless us and work with us to accomplish His will on earth (Romans 8).

In the last part of Romans 8, Paul sets out to encourage his readers that nothing can get in God’s way of accomplishing His purposes (Romans 8:28-39).

Yet there is one main problem with Paul’s logic up to this point.

Though Paul says that nothing can get in God’s way of Him accomplishing His purposes in us, the biblical record seems to indicate that something got in the way of God accomplishing His purposes for Israel.

Israel too was God’s elect, but by all appearances, God “set them aside” and turned to the Gentiles instead. So if God’s purposes failed with Israel, how can Paul say that God’s purposes will not fail for the church?

Romans 9–11 contains Paul’s response to this objection.

In Romans 9–11, Paul explains that God’s purposes for Israel did not fail, and for the most part, Israel herself did not fail.

Nevertheless, if we understand what happened to Israel, we will then be better able to protect the church from something similar happening to us.

Jacob and Esau in Romans 9

In the first part of Romans 9, Paul uses three biblical examples to show that God’s election of people and groups is to service.

Jacob Esau Romans 9The first example is Jacob and Esau, and it is important to note that both Jacob and Esau were elected, or chosen, by God. It is often assumed that only Jacob was chosen by God, but Paul clearly indicates that God chose the older brother, Esau, to serve the younger brother, Jacob.

This once again proves that election is to service.

Through the way Paul structures his argument and Old Testament quotations, he indicates that that while Isaac and Jacob were chosen to be recipients of the promise, Ishmael and Esau were still chosen by God, but for other purposes and tasks.

God’s choosing and election in Romans 9 is not to eternal life, but to vocation, mission, purpose, and service.

Esau’s election certainly was a different service than the one to which Jacob was called, but it is clearly a call to service nonetheless.

This call to various forms of service was not only true of the individuals, Esau and Jacob, but also to the nations that came from them, Edom and Israel. Just as Israel was chosen to perform a particular type of service to the world, so also Edom was chosen to perform a particular type of service to Israel.

Therefore, just as Paul is not saying that all Israelites have eternal life, so also, Paul is not saying that all Edomites (the descendants of Esau) are destined for eternal damnation.

The passage is not about eternal destinies at all.

Any Edomite has just as much opportunity to believe and receive eternal life from God as any Israelite. God chose Israel so that they might be a blessing to the surrounding nations, and God chose Esau and the Edomites to help Jacob and Israel in this task.

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart in Romans 9

The same truths are then applied by Paul to why God raised up Pharaoh during the Exodus events.

The way Paul structures his argument in Romans 9:14-18, Paul shows that Pharaoh too was chosen, or elected, by God. But this says nothing about Pharaoh’s eternal destiny.

Romans 9:14-18 is not referring to where Pharaoh will spend eternity.

did God harden Pharaohs heartInstead, God raised up Pharaoh and solidified the proud and stubborn rebellion that was in Pharaoh’s heart so that those who witnessed and heard of what happened in Egypt would know that the God of Israel alone was God. Could not God, in His gracious sovereignty, do such a thing with Pharaoh without affecting whatsoever Pharaoh’s ability to believe in God’s promises and thus become part of God’s redeemed people?

Of course He could!

The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, whether it is done by God or Pharaoh, or by some symbiotic combination of the two, has absolutely nothing to do with Pharaoh’s eternal destiny.

Even if the Exodus account laid all the responsibility for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart upon God Himself, and none upon Pharaoh, this still would tell us nothing about whether or not Pharaoh concluded His life as one of God’s redeemed.

Pharaoh’s eternal destiny is not under discussion in Exodus or in Romans, and so Pharaoh’s heart can be hardened so that God’s purposes are achieved, while still leaving plenty of room for Pharaoh to believe in God’s promises and become one of God’s people.

When Pharaoh’s kingdom came crashing down around him through the Ten Plagues and the destruction of his army in the Red Sea, one wonders if Pharaoh learned the lesson God had sought to teach him, and had returned back to his empty throne room where he threw himself upon the mercy of the One True God, recognizing God’s sovereignty and power over all—even over Pharaoh himself.

The Bible does not say this happened, but we can hope.

The Potter and the Clay in Romans 9

Paul uses the image of the potter and the clay from Jeremiah 18 as his third example of how election works. There are numerous interpretive issues with this portion of Paul’s argument, which I explain in more detail in my book, The Re-Justification of God. In that book, I propose that the following translation of Romans 9:22-24 best summarizes Paul’s point:

What if God, wanting to reveal wrath for what it is and make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of dishonor which were headed for destruction, so that He might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of honor—which is the plan He has prepared beforehand for glory—and He did this not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles?

potter and the clay Romans 9Read this way, God does not create two classes of people, one to destroy and one to bless. God does not create vessels for dishonor, but instead, endures with patience those who are dishonorable in the hopes that they would see His mercy and become vessels of honor.

God is longsuffering toward those who are in rebellion so that He can display His grace and mercy to them, with the hope that the vessels headed for destruction might instead become vessels headed for glory.

Either way, God’s creative wisdom enables Him to use honorable vessels for honorable purposes and dishonorable vessels for dishonorable purposes.

Once again, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the eternal destiny of these vessels, but instead concerns their role, function, and purpose within this life.

Romans 9 and Election

So Paul believes that election can be both corporate and individual, and that election is not to eternal life, but to service in this life.

Paul illustrates this teaching on election by pointing to Jacob and Esau and the nations that came from them, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and God’s choice to use both honorable and dishonorable vessels to accomplish His purposes of blessing, reconciling, and redeeming the world.

Romans 9 is not about some strange act of God whereby He chooses some to receive eternal life while others get damned to hell by God’s sovereign eternal decree.

No, the point of Romans 9 is that God sought to bless the entire world by raising up Israel to be a light and a blessing to others. Having completed this task, God did not set Israel aside.

Instead, He transitioned from having an elect group of people in part of the world to calling all people in the world to join Him in the new elect people. So although Israel was elect, she fulfilled her task and became a non-elect nation so that the non-elect world could become elect.

This is what Paul continues to explain in Romans 11 as he answers the objection about how God’s promises and purposes do not fail even if God’s elect people do.

Romans 11 Supports this Reading of Romans 9

Paul returns to discuss election in Romans 11. Here are the pertinent texts:

Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11:5).

What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Romans 11:7).

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Romans 11:28).

As seen in the discussion above about Romans 9, the entire discussion in this part of Romans is about how God’s promises to the church can be trusted, since God’s promises to Israel seem to have failed.

Since Paul argued near the end of Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from God’s loving plan for us, the natural objection to this is, “But what about Israel? Weren’t they separated from God’s plan due to their sinful rebellion and failure to serve as a blessing to the world?”

Paul’s initial response in Romans 9 is that election is not to eternal life and glorification, but to service in this life.

divine electionHaving made this point, Paul goes on to argue in Romans 10 that Israel did not fail, but actually succeeded, and in fact, can continue to be elect by joining the elect people of God in the church. This is why Paul calls the church to proclaim the gospel to the Jews as well.

If the church does her job of proclaiming the gospel, any Israelite who believes in Jesus will become elect and join God’s plan and purposes in this world. This is what Paul goes on to describe in Romans 11.

The church has not replaced Israel in God’s plan for the world, but has been grafted in to supplement God’s plan, which, as it turns out, was God’s plan from the very beginning.

Even within Israel as a whole, there is always a remnant of believers who carry on the original task and purpose which God gave to the people of Israel (Romans 11:5). Though most of Israel is blinded, those Israelites who believe in Jesus for eternal life are thus part of the church and elected to participate in God’s purposes for this world (Romans 11:7).

Furthermore, a day is coming when Israel will return to her true calling, thereby bringing about the resurrection of the world (cf. Romans 11:12-15). Though many Israelites are antagonistic to the gospel, they nevertheless continue to serve role in God’s plan, and will do so in the future as well. In this way, though they are “enemies” to the gospel, they are beloved friends regarding election (Romans 11:28).

Note that, once again, nothing in this part of Romans 11 has anything whatsoever to do with people’s eternal destinies.

Paul is not talking about whether or not people can lose their eternal life. He is talking about positions of service in God’s plan for the world. God wants to bless the world, and while He chose Israel for this purpose, He now seeks to do it through the church, until ultimately all will be blessed by God (Rev 21:23-26; 22:2).

Just as God elected Israel to serve His purposes in the world, God chose the church for similar purposes.

God’s election of Israel and the church is not His choice of who will receive eternal life, but His choice of who will serve Him by being a blessing to this world.

Such an understanding helps make sense of some of the notoriously difficult verses in Romans 11. For example, Paul writes in Romans 11:17-21 that the elect branches were cut off so that non-elect branches could be grafted in, which in turn will lead to the elect-which-became-non-elect to be re-grafted back in and become re-elect.

If Paul is referring to eternal life when he speaks of election, none of this makes any sense. How can a people or a nation whom God elected “to eternal life” before the foundation of the world go from being elect to non-elect and then re-elect?

Romans 11:17-21 makes perfect sense, however, when we recognize that election is not to eternal life but to service. God wants to bless the world through His people. Israel accomplished their role in this, which led to the birth of the church.

But this does not mean that the church replaced Israel in God’s plan, but that God grafted Gentiles into His overall plan, and now invites all Israelites to be included in this ongoing plan, just as God invites all Gentiles as well.

branches grafted in Romans 11 electionIn this way, when Paul writes about branches being cut off so others can be grated in which will lead to the cut off branches being grafted back in again, he is not talking about people losing and regaining eternal life, but about losing and re-gaining places of privilege and purpose in God’s plan for this world. God’s plan of redemption started with Israel, shifted to the church (consisting of both Jewish and Gentile believers), so that “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

Israel, the elect nation, became non-elect once she had completed her task of bringing Scripture, the Messiah, and the elect church into the world.

God now joins believing Gentiles with believing Israelites together to form the church so that as the elect people of God, they will be a blessing to the world.

God’s plan did not fail, but simply transitioned from one group (Israel) to another (the church), so that the second group (the church) could be a blessing to the first (Israel) as well as to the whole world.

Election, Romans 9-11, and the Theme of Romans

This understanding fits perfectly with Paul’s overall theme in Romans about the gospel as the power of God unto salvation for all believers.

Remember, salvation is not about believing in Jesus for eternal life (though that is a central part of the gospel), but is also about living with purpose and significance as members of the new creation in this life.

This is Paul’s message in Romans, and Romans 9–11 fit perfectly into this overall theme. The gospel is good news for all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile.

It tells believers that our God is on the move in and through us; that His plan is moving forward. If we follow Him in faith, we will play a thrilling part in His plan for this world.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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What does Paul mean about divine election in Romans 9 when he writes about God loving Jacob and hating Esau, making what he wants from clay, and hardening Pharaohs heart? This article answers these questions from Romans 9, Romans 9 is the most controversial text in the Bible about divine election. But when you see that election is to service, this passage makes more sense.<br /> <br /> What does Paul mean about divine election in Romans 9 when he writes about God loving Jacob and hating Esau, making what he wants from clay, and hardening Pharaohs heart? This article answers these questions from Romans 9, and also looks at what Romans 11 teaches about divine election.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the manuscript for this study, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/romans-9-election/ Jeremy Myers clean 35:35
Election is to Service https://redeeminggod.com/election-is-to-service/ Wed, 10 Oct 2018 15:00:33 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49156 The biblical teaching on election is a controversial issue in the church. But it need not be so. By carefully defining our terms and then looking at how the word election is used in context, we see that what the Bible teaches about election is not something to be debated, but celebrated. The biblical teaching on election is a controversial issue in the church. But it need not be so. By carefully defining our terms and then looking at how the word “election” is used in context, we see that what the Bible teaches about election is not something to be debated, but celebrated.

So let us look at what the words mean, and then consider several texts which contain them.

The word election comes from the Greek noun eklogē (1589), the adjective eklektos (1588), and the verb eklegō (1586). All the words mean “chosen, select,” and I wish that Bible translators would have consistently translated them as “choose” or “chosen” as this would have reduced some of the confusion surrounding the term “elect.”

divine electionThere are many related terms as well, such as calling, foreknowledge, ordained, and predestined, but by considering the term election, or to choose, the basic meaning of these others words will become clear.

The key truth to remember about election, or “God’s choice,” is that God chooses certain people and groups of people to perform certain tasks in this world so that He can accomplish part of His plan in and through them.

And what does God elect, or choose, these people for?

God does not choose which people will receive eternal life and which ones will not. Instead, God chooses which people will have a prominent role in helping Him move forward His plan for this world.

In other words, election is not to eternal life, but to service.

Biblical Election and Governmental Elections

It is helpful to think of biblical election the way we think of any other type of election. Most modern countries occasionally have some sort of “election” process. During these elections, individual people or groups of people are chosen to serve in a specific role or office so that they can perform a particular purpose.

When those who cast their votes elect a person or group to an office or role, they are not saying that such elected people have eternal life. No, they are saying that these are their chosen people to perform certain tasks in society.

It is the same with divine election.

When God “elects” people or groups, He is not choosing who will receive eternal life, but is selecting them to perform certain tasks in His plan and purposes for this world.

Whom Does God Elect?

Since this is how to understand election, it is obvious that God can elect individuals or entire nations.

election of GodHe can elect believers or unbelievers.

Sometimes, the people God elects will later believe in Him and be justified (cf. Gen 12:4; 16:16; 17:1), while other times, they will not believe, and remain elect unbelievers (cf. John 6:70; Rom 9:10-24).

Of course, all who believe in Jesus are automatically elected by God, because all believers are “in Christ” and Jesus is the primary elect person in Scripture (cf. Luke 23:35; Eph 1:4-5).

Furthermore, just because God chooses, or elects, someone to fulfill a purpose in His plan for the world, this does not mean that the person will do what God wants.

God never forces anyone to do anything.

But if a person, or group of people, fails to fulfill the purpose for which God chose them, this does not thwart God’s plan or ruin His divine will. Instead, God, in His infinite wisdom and creativity, simply elects someone else to do what the first person or group failed to do.

When Peter failed to take the gospel to the Gentiles, despite being repeatedly instructed to do so, God raised up Saul (Paul) to become the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 9–11; Gal 2:8; 1 Cor 15:8).

Ultimately, of course, God desires that those whom He chooses will carry out the task that He assigns them to do, but if they do not, God can even raise up people for Himself from stones (Luke 3:8; 19:40).

God can even choose groups of people, such as Israel or the church, to accomplish His will in the world. Again, just as with God choosing individuals, God’s choice of a nation, such as Israel, does not mean that all Israelites have eternal life. Election has nothing to do with eternal life. God can choose all Israel to perform a certain task in this world without requiring that all Israelites have eternal life.

It’s sort of similar with the church as God’s elect (cf. Rom 8:33; Eph 1:4; Col 3:12; 1 Thess 1:4; 2 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet 1:1-2; 2:8-9; 5:13; Rev 17:14), except that all members of the church do indeed have eternal life. But God’s election of the church is not because all Christians have eternal life or so that all members of the church will receive eternal life.

All Christians have eternal life and all Christians are elect, but this is not the same thing as saying that all who are elect have eternal life.

Maybe we could put it differently: All who have eternal life are elect, but not all elect have eternal life.

Election is to service; not to eternal life.

While all who have eternal life are elect, not all the elect have eternal life. God raises up whom He wills to perform tasks He desires so they will accomplish His plan and purposes in this world. With this central idea in mind, let us look at several key texts from Scripture that reveal this truth in more detail.

Matthew 20:16; Matthew 22:14

For many are called, but few are chosen.

Many people seem to think that the calling and election of God are two synonymous terms (cf. Romans 8:30). Yet here, Jesus clearly indicates that while many are called, only few are chosen.

In an attempt to explain this passage, some scholars tend to talk about two different types of calling, a general call and an effectual call, and then say that this text is only referring to the general call of God to all people.

But once we recognize that the election of God is not to eternal life, but to a role and purpose within God’s plan for the world, it is no longer a problem to think of God’s calling as simply an invitation to participate with Him in what He is doing in the world. While this calling can go out generally to all, God can also individually select certain people to serve Him in specific ways.

individual election corporate electionSo Jesus is not referring to the calling or election of some to eternal life, but is teaching the consistent biblical message that while God desires that all people will serve Him, not all do, and so God chooses to work with those who participate with Him in what He is doing in the world.

God issues a general call to everybody, but only chooses those who respond to the call and indicate a willingness to serve Him in this world.

This is exactly the truth taught in the context by the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15). The vineyard owner needs workers to harvest his grapes, and so he makes several different invitations over the course of the day for anyone in the marketplace who might want to work. He chooses to hire and pay any who response to his invitation.

Note that if this parable were about God’s unconditional election of some to eternal life, then the landowner would not have issued a general invitation at all, but would have gone throughout the marketplace and hand-picked several to be his workers, and none of them could have said “No.”

Furthermore, if this parable is about election to eternal life, the fact that they then work during the day and get paid when the harvest is brought in would indicate that eternal life is based on works.

Thankfully, this parable is not about eternal life, nor the false idea that we have to work to earn it. Instead, it is about Gods’ willingness to work with anyone who wants to work with Him, even if it is the eleventh-hour workers who have supposedly been standing around the marketplace all day waiting for someone to hire them (Matthew 20:7).

These men are either liars (if they had truly been there all day, they would have been hired to work), lazy (maybe they were there and heard the call, but didn’t want to work), or greedy (maybe they kept hoping a better-paying opportunity came along), but the landowner hires them anyway.

Jesus is showing here (and in the following two chapters of Matthew, as revealed by the inclusio of Matthew 20:16 and Matthew 22:14) that while many people are called to participate in how He runs the world, only those who show up are “chosen” to do so.

When God invites all to participate with Him in His rule and reign on earth, He does so without partiality or favoritism. All are invited, and it does not matter who shows up first or last; all will be welcomed.

Those who accept the invitation, however, must recognize that while they will be given blessings and benefits from the overabundance of God’s generosity, these blessings and benefits must be gained in the right way (by entering through the front door, which is Jesus), and must be used in the service of others.

God calls all to join Him in spreading His kingdom upon the earth, and those who respond to the call are chosen by Him to accomplish specific tasks and purposes.

Matthew 24:22, 24, 31

And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:22).

For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).

And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:31).

To understand what these passages teach about election, several things must be noted.

First, the word “saved” in Matthew 24:22 cannot refer to “receiving eternal life” (cf. Matthew 24:13). In Scripture, this word means to be delivered from something, and context determined what kind of deliverance is in view. Here the deliverance is from physical death due to the calamities that come upon the world. The salvation in Matthew 24 is not about going to heaven, but is about deliverance from physical death during times of tribulation.

Second, note that the elect cannot refer to a select group of individuals whom God sovereignly chooses to receive eternal life, for the text says that some of them will be deceived by false christs and false prophets. If God sovereignly controls the beliefs and behaviors of His elect, how is it that they could be deceived by false teaching?

election and human freedomThird, the gathering of the elect from the four winds does not refer to some sort of future rapture event, but to God gathering Jewish people from all over the world to return to Israel so that His plan and purposes for them can be fulfilled. In the context, Jesus mentions the people of Judea (Matthew 24:16), and references the image of the fig tree which is a symbol for Israel (Matthew 24:32-35).

So Matthew 24:15-28 is not teaching that God elects some people to eternal life while passing over the rest. The passage is about God’s plan for Israel, and how dark and terrible days are coming for her.

Yet so that God’s purposes with Israel can be fulfilled, God will cut those days short and gather the people of Israel back together so that He can complete His plan and purposes through them. If God didn’t cut short those days, most of the elect would die and many would be deceived, and so God’s plan would not be accomplished.

The passage is not about who gets eternal life and who does not. If it was about this, as some assume when they see the word “saved” in Matthew 24:13, 22, then this passage only becomes more difficult to understand, for it then would be teaching that those who have eternal life can be deceived, and might ultimately not be “saved.”

Instead, it is much better to recognize that eternal life is not in view anywhere in the text. The election of Matthew 24 is an election to service, so that God’s plan and purposes are fulfilled through Israel to the world.

John 6:70

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”

In this text, Jesus says that He has chosen all twelve of His disciples, but one of them is a devil. Understandably, this verse causes great problems for those who teach that God’s election is only to eternal life. Jesus clearly chooses Judas, just as He chooses the other eleven. Yet Judas “is a devil.”

There are only three possible ways of understanding this text:

First, it is possible that this text teaches the doctrine of reprobation, which is the idea that while God elects some to spend in eternity with Him, He elects others to spend eternity in hell. Judas would be one such person.

The second possibility is that Judas was actually elect unto eternal life. There are, in fact, some who hold this view.

The third option is to recognize that election is not to eternal life, but to some task or service. This would allow Judas to be chosen by Jesus to fulfill a task, even though Judas may never have received eternal life.

Clearly, that third view is the most theologically attractive and reasonable. Jesus has chosen some from among His many followers (not all of whom were believers; See Disciple) to fulfill a specific task and purpose within His mission and ministry to this world.

Judas, whether he ended up as a regenerate believer or not, definitely fulfilled a specific and vital role in what Jesus intended to accomplish in this world. Judas was elect, yet just like the other eleven apostles, he was not elected to eternal life, but to a specific task and purpose in God’s plan (cf. Matthew 27:9-10).

John 15:16

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

John 15:16In John 15:16, Jesus provides an extremely clear statement about what it means to be chosen and why certain people are chosen by God, and by Himself.

Furthermore, we see exactly why Jesus chose those whom He did. He did not choose certain people to receive eternal life, but so that they could “go and bear fruit.”

In the context, the picture of bearing fruit is related to abiding in Jesus Christ so that He can do His work in and through us. It is a picture of fellowship and faithful living. The choice is not to eternal life, but to service.

That the choice of Jesus in John 15:16 is to service and not to eternal life is seen by comparing this text with the passages that actually describe the even where Jesus chose His apostles. One of these is found in Mark 3:13-14, where we are told that Jesus chose twelve apostles “that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.”

Very clearly, these twelve were chosen to a specific task and purpose, which included proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. This is how we can also understand Jesus’ statements to these same apostles in John 15:16. He is reminding them of the purpose for which they were chosen.

It is helpful as well to remember who Jesus is speaking to in John 15. This chapter is part of “The Upper Room Discourse” of John 14–16, where Jesus is speaking to the eleven remaining apostles (Judas already left, John 13:30).

The eleven apostles have many questions about what is going to happen to Jesus and what is going to happen to them, and Jesus explains over the course of these three chapters that He is going to die, but that this will enable to the Holy Spirit to arrive, so that they can continue with the work that Jesus began of advancing the Kingdom of God on earth.

So when, in John 15:16, Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” He is specifically speaking to His eleven apostles and reminding them that He chose them out of the wider mass of His followers for the specific task of learning from Him so that they could do the things He did (cf. John 6:70; 14:12-14; Luke 6:12-16).

This does not mean that Jesus has only chosen these eleven to do His work, for numerous other texts in the Scripture indicate that all who believe in Jesus are chosen, or elected, by Him to have a place in helping Him advance the Kingdom of God on earth.

Just as Jesus chose the eleven for this task, so also, now that the Holy Spirit has come, all believers are similarly chosen.

We too, like the eleven, were not chosen to receive eternal life, but, having received eternal life by faith in Jesus, we are chosen to serve God and love others.

So this is the basic teaching about election in Scripture. Election is to service; not to eternal life.

Future articles will be considering the famous election passages of Romans 9-11 and Ephesians 1, so make sure you come back! You can also get my book, The Re-Justification of God, which also addresses the biblical teaching on election.

For now, what do you think of this understanding of election? Does it make sense? Do you see how it will clarify various passages of Scripture? Does it improve your understanding of how God works in this world? 

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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The biblical teaching on election is a controversial issue in the church. But it need not be so. By carefully defining our terms and then looking at how the word election is used in context, we see that what the Bible teaches about election is not some... The biblical teaching on election is a controversial issue in the church. But it need not be so. By carefully defining our terms and then looking at how the word election is used in context, we see that what the Bible teaches about election is not something to be debated, but celebrated.<br /> <br /> Though many Christians believe and teach that God elects people eternal life, the Bible teaches instead that election is to service. This study explains more.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the manuscript, visit <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/election-is-to-service/ Jeremy Myers clean 32:45
Eternal Life vs. Discipleship in the Gospel of John https://redeeminggod.com/eternal-life-discipleship-gospel-of-john/ Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:00:14 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49055 While the Gospel of John shows that eternal life is the free gift of God to anyone who believes in Jesus for it, it also shows that the path of discipleship has numerous other conditions and requirements. The Gospel of John does a great job showing the different conditions and results between eternal life and discipleship. Many Christians seem to think that all who believe in Jesus for eternal life will automatically becomes a disciple of Jesus, and if someone says they believe in Jesus but don’t do a good job following Jesus, this proves they are not truly a believer. But this is not what Scripture teaches.

The Bible shows that there is a difference between believing in Jesus for eternal life and following Jesus on the path of discipleship. It is possible to be a believer but not a disciple, and it is possible to be a disciple and not a believer.

eternal life discipleship Gospel of John

The Gospel of John is the gospel of belief. It presents, better than any other book in the Bible, the single condition for receiving eternal life. The Gospel of John shows that eternal life is given to anyone who simply and only believes in Jesus for it (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; etc.).

But the Gospel of John is also great for discipleship. While the Gospel of John shows that eternal life is the free gift of God to anyone who believes in Jesus for it, it also shows that the path of discipleship has numerous other conditions and requirements. The Gospel of John does a great job showing the different conditions and results between eternal life and discipleship.

Over and over we see that after a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, He then invites these believers to follow Him on the path of discipleship. We also see that when some unbelievers have been following Him as disciples for a while, He invites them to believe in Him for eternal life.

Once you see the difference between believing in Jesus for eternal life and following Jesus on the path of discipleship, many texts in Scripture will make much more sense.

Understanding the differences between eternal life and discipleship will also liberate you from fear and legalism. You will see that God gives you eternal life freely. No good works are required to earn it, keep it, or prove that you have it. And you will see that all the passages in the Bible which call for obedience and good works are not conditions for eternal life, but for the path of discipleship and following Jesus.

Several passages from the Gospel of John make this distinction quite clear. Let us look at a few.

Gospel of John gospel of belief

Disciples who became believers (John 2:11)

This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

John 2 presents the first sign in the Gospel of John, the turning of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-12). At the end of this sign, John records that some of Jesus’ disciples believed in Him (John 2:11).

In this way, John clearly reveals that these men were disciples before they were believers, but now that they had followed Jesus for a time, heard some of His teachings, and seen one of His miracles, they believed in Jesus.

Now, they were no longer just disciples; they were disciples who also believed.

So you see? It is possible to be a disciple of Jesus who has not believed in Jesus for eternal life. Jesus calls all such people to believe in Him for eternal life, and when they do, they continue on the path of discipleship as believing disciples.

But it is also possible to be a believer and not a disciple! John 2:23-25 shows this.

disciple

Believers who did not become disciples (John 2:23-25)

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

Some look at this text and think that these people who believed in Jesus were not “true believers” because Jesus did not commit Himself to them. But nothing in the text indicates that they were not true believers.

Since John writes that they believed in Jesus, and since John consistently writes that anyone who believes in Jesus receives eternal life, the most logical and straightforward reading of this text is to take John at his word and understand that these people believed in Jesus, and therefore, had eternal life.

But if this is so, then why did Jesus not commit Himself to them?

The reason is stated within the text.

Jesus did not commit Himself to them because he knew what was in men. And what is in men? It is that humans are reliably unreliable. You can trust that humans are untrustworthy.

So when John writes that Jesus did not yet commit Himself to these new believers, this does not mean that they were not truly believers. No, it means that Jesus knew that some of these believers might not follow Him for very long, or might not stand by Him when things became difficult.

Jesus was not yet ready to decide which of these believing disciples would form His twelve apostles. He was not yet ready to trust these new believers with all of His plans and goals for His ministry.

Jesus knew that these people who believed in Him had eternal life. But He also knew that most of them had expectations and ideas about what the Messiah would do, and very little idea about what Jesus actually intended to do.

And so while most of them would have immediately “signed on the dotted line” to become a member of Jesus’ inner circle, Jesus wisely waited. He knew that many of them would stop following Him after they learned a little bit more about Him and what He had come to do.

But again, remember, even though they might stop following Him, this does not mean that they never believed in the first place. The text says they did, and only those who deny what the text says can argue that these people were not “true believers.”

And Jesus was wise to not entrust Himself to these believers, for a few chapters later, some of them do indeed turn away from Him. In fact, John 6:60-66 shows that there are five possible combinations of believers and disciples.

eternal life hard to believe

 

There are FIVE combinations of Believers and Disciples (John 6:60-66)

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? … But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. … From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6:60-61, 64, 66).

As John’s Gospel account of Jesus continues into John 6, we are introduced to some of the hard teachings of Jesus that caused some of his disciples to stop following Him. Jesus taught that His disciples that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood if they were going to participate with Him.

He was, of course, speaking figuratively, but some of His disciples did not like what He said, and so they turned away and stopped following Him.

Yet many of the listening Jewish audience also did not like to hear such things.

We do not know how many disciples were present when Jesus said this, yet John writes that Jesus knew which of them believed in Him and which did not. This means that among this large group of disciples, some of them were believers while others were unbelievers. But they were still all disciples.

However, after the hard teaching of Jesus, many of these people stopped being a disciple. The text says they “walked with Him no more.”

While the reader is tempted to think that it was only the unbelieving disciples who turned away from Jesus, John flips the table on such an understanding by revealing in John 6:71 that Judas Iscariot was among those who stayed. Since Judas appears to be an unbelieving disciple who continues to follow Jesus, it seems possible that there were believing disciples who stopped following Jesus.

Believing in Jesus is no guarantee of ongoing discipleship to Jesus.

So here in the context of John 6, there are five groups of people who relate differently to Jesus:

First, there are the unbelieving non-disciples of Jesus who do not follow Him and do not believe in Him (John 6:41-59).

Second and third, there are believing and unbelieving disciples who stop following Jesus (John 6:66).

Fourth, there are unbelieving disciples who continue to follow Jesus. Judas might have been one of these, though the text does not say if there were others (John 6:70-71).

Finally, there were the believing disciples who committed themselves to following Jesus no matter where He led, because He had the words of eternal life (John 6:67-69).

The reader of this text is supposed to ask which group they themselves belong to. Which group do you belong to?

John 8:30-32

As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

This passage is important because it clearly shows the two different conditions for becoming a believer and becoming a disciple.

In John 8:30, a group of people believe in Jesus, and since we know from elsewhere in the Gospel of John that whoever believes in Jesus receives everlasting life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47) we can know that those who believed in Jesus here received everlasting life (see Everlasting Life).

However, in the very next verse, Jesus speaks to those who believed in Him and says that if they abide in His word, they will also be His disciples (John 8:31). To “abide” means to remain, stay, continue, or dwell (see Abide).

follow Jesus

If they stayed with Jesus in this way, they would come to know the truth, and the truth would set them free. The implication is that they were not yet His disciples, but if they remained with Jesus, and followed His teachings, then they would become His disciples.

Of course, the opposite is also true. If they stopped abiding in the teachings of Jesus Christ, then they would no longer be His disciples. They would not learn the truth, and would instead remain enslaved to sin and their rebellious ways.

But would they still have eternal life? Yes, of course!

Abiding is not a condition of eternal life; eternal life is a free gift of God’s grace to all who believe in Jesus for it.

Bob Wilkin says this:

The context clearly distinguishes between being a believer (John 8:30) and being a disciple (John 8:31-32). The former occurs at a point in time and is conditioned only upon believing in Christ. The latter occurs over time and is conditioned upon ongoing obedience and good works.

Many pastors and scholars go on to note, however, that in the following context, Jesus speaks to some Jewish leaders who were there and says that they are of their father the devil, and even says that they do not believe Him (John 8:44-45).

These pastors teach that these nonbelieving Jews are the same as the believing Jews that Jesus speaks to in John 8:30-32. But how can this be? If John says that these Jews did believe, and then a few verses later, Jesus says they did not believe, this is a clear contradiction in the Bible.

There best solution to this problem is to recognize that there appears to be two different groups of Jews in the context: believing Jews and non-believing Jews.

Most of the dialogue in the context is between Jesus and the nonbelieving Jews. Many of them are among the religious Pharisees (John 8:13) who only want to challenge what Jesus says and does.

They do not believe in Him, nor do they follow Him. In the context, they raise one objection after another to everything Jesus says (cf. John 8:19, 22, 25, 33, 39, 41). Charlie Bing says that such objections are “totally out of character with the inclination of those mentioned in John 8:31-32.”

So there are two groups of Jews in the text: a group of believing Jews, whom Jesus addresses in John 8:31-32, and a group of unbelieving, antagonistic Jews, whom Jesus addresses in the rest of the passage.

Admittedly, the pronouns in the text make it appear that Jesus is speaking to one group throughout the entire text, but if this is so, then the Bible has a contradiction within just a few verses, where John says they do believe and Jesus says they don’t.

It is far better to recognize that there are two types of people in a larger group. In this one large group, there are some who believe and some who don’t (this also fits with modern church contexts).

Jesus warns those who do not believe in Him that they will die in their sins (John 8:24) and are of their father the devil who leads only to murder and violence (John 8:44), while at the same time, He encourages those who believe in Him to follow Him further into freedom and liberty (John 8:32, 36).

Believing in Jesus is the sole condition for receiving eternal life, but abiding in Jesus and His word is one of many the conditions of being His disciple so that we can fully experience freedom in Him.

So if you have believed in Jesus for eternal life, what are some of the conditions for following Jesus as a disciple? The Gospel of John includes many of these as well.

Love the Poor

Love one another to be a Disciple of Jesus (John 13:35)

“By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In John 13:35, Jesus provides the defining characteristic of one of His disciples. He says that they will love one another.

Love for others is how people can recognize true disciples of Jesus Christ.

It is critically important to recognize that loving one another is not a condition for receiving eternal life, or else nobody would have eternal life, for nobody fully loves all the Christians they interact with.

Many Christians are quite difficult, if not impossible, to consistently love, and so if this were a condition for receiving eternal life, nobody would have it.

So thankfully, Jesus is not talking here about how to receive eternal life, but how to be recognized as one of His disciples.

Note as well that this is not even about saying that you love other Christians, but about being recognized by others for your love.

Far too often, the world looks at Christians and says that we are unloving.

Oddly, the default Christian response to such an accusation from the world is to argue. We say things like, “Well, you only say that because we don’t condone sin. We are only standing up for what is right. It’s not loving to hide the truth. I love the sinner, but I hate the sin. If you come to our church, then you will see how truly loving we are.”

If a non-Christian says that Christians are not loving, and our only response is to argue, we should not wonder why they don’t believe us.

In fact, far from being known for our love, some Christians seem to strive to be known for their hate. They seem to think that a true Christian will be hated.

I overheard two guys in the store the other day who were both wearing Christian t-shirts. One was saying to the other, “Yeah, they all hate me at work, but that’s okay, because I’m standing up for Christ.”

But Jesus says that we should be known by our love, which means that we will not only love others, but will also be loved by others. Just like Jesus was. The only people who hated Jesus were the religious elites. So if religious people love you, but “sinners” hate you, you are probably not following Jesus.

As a side note, the ironic thing about Christian T-shirts themselves is that people often depend on them to tell others that they follow Jesus.

But Jesus says that if you are His disciple, you won’t have to tell people. They will know it by your love. If you have to depend on a T-shirt to tell others that you are following of Jesus, you might not be following Him very well.

Jesus does say, of course, that His disciples will be known by their love for one another. Some take this to mean that love for other Christians is our priority, and we shouldn’t worry about whether or not non-Christians feel loved by us.

Jesus does say, after all, the since the world hated Him, it will also hate His followers (John 15:18; cf. 1 John 3:13). John writes elsewhere that we should not love the world or anything in the world, for friendship with the world is enmity with God (1 John 2:15-17; cf. James 4:4).

The best way to understand these texts, however, is to recognize that the term “world” is referring to the “world domination system” that is opposed to God and His ways. We should love all the people in the world, but not how they are enslaved to the values and domination system of this world.

In fact, religious people tend to be more enslaved to the world domination system than non-religious people. This is why it is mostly religious people, rather than the “sinners,” who hated Jesus during His ministry.

In the Gospels, the only people who really hated Jesus were the religious leaders who had sold out to the world domination system and were using it to control and manipulate others. It was those whom many would consider “worldly” that loved Jesus and were loved by Him. So if sinful, “worldly” people hate you but religious people love you, you might not be following Jesus.

Jesus friend of sinners

If you are not a friend to sinners, you are not a friend to Jesus.

So yes, Christians will first and foremost be known by their love for “one another.” But this love must overflow into love for “the other,” that is, into love for people in this world.

If we want to tell people we are followers of Jesus, we do it by loving them and loving one another.

The person who loves others unconditionally but doesn’t claim to follow Jesus is closer to the Kingdom of God than those who claim to follow Jesus but doesn’t love others unconditionally.

If love is of God, and everybody who loves is born of God and knows God because God is love (1 John 4:7-8), then it only makes sense that love will be the prevailing characteristic of one who is born of God and know God.

It is not a person’s words that make him or her a Christian, or what they post on Facebook or wear on their T-shirts, or even how many Bible verses they can quote, how often they attend church and Bible studies, or whether they can “take a stand for Christ.”

They will know we are Christians by our love.

If you have not love, they will never know you are a Christian, no matter how much you tell them you are.

In light of John 13:35, then, the question we should be asking is not “Am I a follower of Jesus?” but rather, “Do I love others like Jesus so that they know I am His disciple?” This question leads to related questions:

  • Do my words sound like words Jesus might say?
  • Do my actions look like things Jesus might do?
  • Do I love unconditionally, forgive freely, serve sacrificially, and accept all?
  • Do I challenge the religious status-quo for setting up barriers to God and creating groups of us vs. them?
  • Do I break down the walls of religion by eating with the so-called ‘tax-collectors and sinners’?

These are the sort of ways that others will know that you are a disciple of Jesus. When we love others in this way, we will be bearing much fruit as a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is what He talks about in John 15:8.

disciple of Jesus

Bear Fruit to be a Disciple of Jesus (John 15:8)

“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

There is a lot of debate over vine and branches imagery of John 15, and whether or not the branches which do not bear fruit are truly Christians or not.

Note that this passage is not about how to receive eternal life, but rather about living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Those who abide in Jesus Christ and His teachings will bear fruit (see Abide), and in this way, they will show that they are His disciples.

If a person does not bear fruit, all it proves is that they are not His disciple. Nothing is said one way or the other about whether or not such a person has believed in Jesus for eternal life.

Just as both believers and unbelievers can follow the teachings of Jesus and see positive results in their lives (and the lives of others), so also, both believers and unbelievers can ignore the teachings of Jesus and experience negative consequences in their lives as a result. These negative consequences are symbolized by the fire in John 15:6 (see Fire).

So neither good works nor the lack of good works prove anything about whether or not a person has eternal life.

Good works can indicate whether or not a person is following the teachings of Jesus, and while most disciples are also believers, this is not always the case, and so we should avoid trying to determine someone’s eternal destiny based on their works.

Instead, we should invite all people to look to Jesus Christ alone, and believe in Him for eternal life. Once they have done this, we can also invite them to follow Jesus so that they will bear much fruit and live the abundant life (see Abundant Life).

believer vs disciple

Be a Believer AND a Disciple

For the best experience of this life, it is important to BOTH believe in Jesus for eternal life AND follow Jesus on the path of discipleship.

But we must always make sure we understand the differences between these two.

Eternal life is the absolutely free gift of God by His grace to anyone and everyone who simply and only believes in Jesus for it. There are no strings attached. There is no fine print. There are no ongoing good works attached on the back end.

Eternal life is freely received, and once it is given, it cannot be revoked or taken back.

Discipleship, however, is where the real joy and fulfillment in Christianity comes from. It has numerous conditions, and requires much sacrifice and persistence. It is not free. It calls you to love, serve, and give.

Following Jesus as a disciple is the greatest challenge you will face in life, but also the greatest thrill, and it prepares us for what life will be like with God in eternity.

So for the best experience NOW in this life, and the best foretaste of what life will be like in eternity, believe in Jesus for eternal life AND ALSO seek to follow Jesus on the path of discipleship.

When you understand the difference between these two offers, all of Scripture will make more sense, and you will better understand where you are at with God and as a follower of Jesus.

Questions? Let me know in the comment section below! And also join the discipleship group, where we learn a lot more about these types of topics and questions.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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While the Gospel of John shows that eternal life is the free gift of God to anyone who believes in Jesus for it, it also shows that the path of discipleship has numerous other conditions and requirements. The Gospel of John does a great job showing the... While the Gospel of John shows that eternal life is the free gift of God to anyone who believes in Jesus for it, it also shows that the path of discipleship has numerous other conditions and requirements. The Gospel of John does a great job showing the different conditions and results between eternal life and discipleship.<br /> <br /> There is a difference between believing in Jesus for eternal life and following Jesus on the path of discipleship. The Gospel of John shows this difference.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the notes for this study, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/eternal-life-discipleship-gospel-of-john/ Jeremy Myers clean 41:56
Does the Sermon on the Mount tell you how to receive eternal life? (An Interview with Kent Young) https://redeeminggod.com/sermon-on-the-mount-kent-young/ Wed, 26 Sep 2018 15:00:09 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=49001 It is critical to recognize that the Sermon on the Mount does not contain the offer of eternal life, because if we get confused on this fact, we will think that one gains eternal life by fulfilling the conditions and requirements Jesus talks about in this Sermon. As part of this article on the Sermon on the Mount, I introduce the proper way to read and understand the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and then I also interview Kent Young about his excellent commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.

In our discussion we look at these three Bible verses:

Matthew 5:22: “… But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that once of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

Matthew 7:13a “… Enter through the narrow gate …”

Kent’s commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, titled Theirs is the Kingdom, is available as a free download on his website, or as a paperback on Amazon.com

Sermon on the Mount

How to Read and Apply the Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:1 begins the famous “Sermon the Mount” in Matthew 5–7.

At the beginning of this teaching, Jesus notices a multitude of people following Him, and so He goes up on a mountain to teach His disciples. At this point in His ministry, Jesus had not yet selected the twelve disciples to be His closest followers (cf. Matt 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16), and so this time of teaching was not just to a select few disciples, but to the entire multitude of followers.

It cannot be imagined that every single person in the multitude of disciples was already a believer, and so this is a message that invited the followers of Jesus—whether they were believers or not—to listen to His teachings about a better way to live.

Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount does Jesus talk about how to receive eternal life. Eternal Life isn’t even mentioned.

Why not? Because the Sermon on the Mount contains instructions about how to live this life, not instructions about how to receive eternal life.

And anybody, believer and unbeliever alike, can benefit from the instructions of Jesus about how best to live.

The Sermon on the Mount is not about Eternal Life

It is critical to recognize that the Sermon on the Mount does not contain the offer of eternal life, because if we get confused on this fact, we will think that one gains eternal life by fulfilling the conditions and requirements Jesus talks about in this Sermon.

For example, if Jesus is telling people how to receive eternal life, then we gain eternal life by being mournful, meek, and merciful, by being poor in spirit, peacemakers, and persecuted (Matt 5:3-12).

If Jesus is teaching about how to receive eternal life, then we must make sure our righteousness exceeds that of the most religiously righteous people in Jesus’ day (Matt 5:20).

If Jesus is teaching about how to receive eternal life, we must not hate or lust (Matt 5:21-28). If you do lust, you better pluck out your eye and cut off your hand if you want to spend eternity with God (Matt 5:29-30).

If Jesus is telling people how to receive eternal life, then according to Him, you must refrain from making oaths, go the second mile, and love your enemies even when they hate you and try to kill you (Matt 5:33-47).

Ultimately, if Jesus is teaching about how to have eternal life, you need to be perfect just as God is perfect (Matt 5:48).

All of the preceding statements come from the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. There are two more to go.

Matthew 5-7 sermon on the mount

If you believe the Sermon on the Mount is about eternal life, you will fall into legalism

When people think that the Sermon on the Mount is about “how to gain eternal life” they end up adding all sorts of good works to the free offer of eternal life through “faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.”

And when a person adds all the calls to obedience of the Sermon on the Mount to the free offer of eternal life, this causes many people to despair of ever gaining eternal life from God.

Indeed, if the Sermon on the Mount contains the conditions for receiving eternal life, not a single person would ever achieve it.

How to Understand the Sermon the Mount

Thankfully, there is a much better way of understanding this Sermon from Jesus.

Jesus is not telling people how to gain eternal life. Instead, Jesus is teaching His disciples about the best way to live this life.

Jesus teaches sermon on the mountJesus is teaching people about the requirements of following Him and being His disciple. Clearly, nobody can ever fulfill or accomplish all these requirements, yet there is something in here for everyone, and nobody will ever get bored in trying to follow Jesus.

So whether you are a believer or not, the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount will challenge you to live in the way that God wants and intends for humanity.

But never think that these teachings will help you earn or gain eternal life for yourself. To receive eternal life, the only thing that is needed is to believe in Jesus for it.

Difficult Texts in the Sermon on the Mount

With this understanding of the Sermon on the Mount, we are in a better position to understand some of the troublesome texts it contains.

To help with some of the tricky texts of the Sermon on the Mount, listen to the podcast interview I did with Kent Young, and then get his book, Theirs is the Kingdom, as a free download on his website, or as a paperback on Amazon.com

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

]]>
It is critical to recognize that the Sermon on the Mount does not contain the offer of eternal life, because if we get confused on this fact, we will think that one gains eternal life by fulfilling the conditions and requirements Jesus talks about in t... It is critical to recognize that the Sermon on the Mount does not contain the offer of eternal life, because if we get confused on this fact, we will think that one gains eternal life by fulfilling the conditions and requirements Jesus talks about in this Sermon. I interview Kent Young about the Sermon on the Mount. He provides a paradigm for understanding the Sermon on the Mount, and we discuss several key texts. <br /> <br /> To view the manuscript and shownotes for this study, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/sermon-on-the-mount-kent-young/ Jeremy Myers clean 1:02:39
Are “believers in Jesus” and “disciples of Jesus” the same thing? https://redeeminggod.com/believers-vs-disciples/ Wed, 19 Sep 2018 15:00:57 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=48993 Here is a truth that will help you unpack many tricky and often-misunderstood Bible passages: Though all believers have eternal life, not all believers are disciples, and not all disciples are believers. Once you understand the difference between believing in Jesus for eternal life and becoming a disciple of Jesus during this life, many tricky Bible texts will make a lot more sense. Here is a truth that will help you unpack many tricky and often-misunderstood Bible passages:

Though all believers have eternal life,
Not all believers are disciples, and
Not all disciples are believers.

It seems a little confusing at first, but if we think through each statement a little more slowly, it all makes sense.

believer vs disciple

Let’s unpack the statements one at a time:

All believers have eternal life

We know from numerous Bible passages that anyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

Jesus makes this claim over and over in the Gospel of John (cf. John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47).

There should be nothing too controversial about this statement by Jesus, but strangely, many Christians don’t agree with Jesus on this matter. Many say that faith alone in Jesus Christ alone is not enough, for we also need to submit our lives to Jesus, obey Jesus, follow Jesus, and perform all sorts of good works to prove that we truly belong to Jesus.

But if you look at all of the Bible passages which contain instructions for these sorts of things, they ALL are talking about becoming a follower, or disciple, of Jesus. They are NOT talking about receiving the free gift of eternal life from Jesus.

This leads to the second statement from above:

Not all believers are disciples

Ancient discipleship was very close to what we call apprenticeship. A person would follow and learn from a master teacher or craftsman in order to become like him and do what he did (Matt 10:25; Luke 6:40).

This usually progressed in four stages: First, he listens to the master’s instructions. Second, he watches the master perform the action. Third, he performs the action with the master’s help. Fourth, he is able to perform the action on his own, and starts teaching it to others.

A mathētēs (disciple) who only listened to the master teach but never progressed out of the classroom, would never be considered a true disciple, even if they could recite from memory everything the teacher had ever said.

While “classroom” teaching and learning was part of the discipleship process, it was only the very first part. A student who never progressed past the classroom would not be considered successful. While learning was important, putting into practice what had been learned was the most important.

A true disciple not only learns what the teacher knows, but also practices what the teacher does (cf. Luke 6:40).

All of this means, of course, that true discipleship is a lifelong process, especially when we think of being a disciple of Jesus.

follow Jesus on path of discipleshipSince no person can ever fully learn everything Jesus has to teach, and no person can ever fully resemble and practice everything that Jesus leads us to do, all who are disciples of Jesus will spend their entire lives learning from Jesus and following in His footsteps.

Since this is so, is should be immediately obvious that there are major differences between believing in Jesus for eternal life and being a disciple of Jesus.

For example, once a person receives eternal life through faith in Jesus, they have eternal life forever. They receive the free gift of eternal life immediately upon believing in Jesus, and nothing they can say or do in the future will cause God to take away this eternal life from them.

Discipleship, however, is not instantaneous, is not a free gift of God, and has numerous ongoing conditions.

While a person cannot lose their eternal life, they can stop being a disciple if they fail to meet the conditions.

Therefore, as you can see, it is possible to believe in Jesus for eternal life, but fail in several aspects of discipleship. Such a person is still part of the family of God, but they are not properly participating in the activities of the family of God.

God will not kick them out of His family for such inactivity, but will continue to seek to teach, train, call, and maybe even discipline these children so that they will grow up from infancy and become productive members of His family.

But this leads to another surprising insight … the third statement from above:

Not all disciples are believers

Just as it is quite possible for someone to believe in Jesus, but not become a fully-committed follower of Jesus, it is also possible for someone to follow Jesus as a disciple, but never actually believe in Him for eternal life.

Judas Iscariot might be one example, but there are other examples in the Gospel accounts, such as those who follow Jesus for a while, but then leave Him when the going gets tough (cf. John 6). It appears that many of those who left didn’t believe in Jesus for eternal life.

believers and disciples

Even in modern times, we all know people who consider Jesus to be a good moral teacher, and try to follow His example and teaching, and yet who still believe that their own good works and moral living is how they will earn eternal life for themselves.

Such people are certainly disciples of Jesus, for they listen to much of what He says and follow His example, but they do not have eternal life because they have not believed in Jesus for eternal life.

Mahatma Gandhi repeatedly said that he did his best to follow the teachings and example of Jesus, especially what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. It is too bad we Christians do not follow the example of Gandhi in this regard! However, as far as we know, Gandhi never believed one of the main things that Jesus taught, which is that God gives eternal life to anyone who believes in Jesus for it.

Sadly, there are probably many who call themselves Christians who do their best to follow Jesus, and yet who have not believed in Jesus for eternal life but instead continue to trust in their own good works and effort to earn everlasting life for themselves.

Seek to be BOTH a believer AND a Disciple

If you want the full experience of the Christian life, you should not only believe in Jesus for eternal life, but also seek to follow Jesus in the path of discipleship. This way, you not only have eternal life from Jesus, but the abundant life with Jesus.

You not only get to be part of the family of God, but also get to join in the thrilling adventures that God goes on with His active family members.

Let me provide one example of how this helps us understand Scripture.

Matthew 10:37-39 is about discipleship; not eternal life

Matthew 10:37-39 contains several more costly and difficult conditions for the person who would be a disciple of Jesus.

In the previous context, Jesus said that His teachings would create division and strife between family members (Matt 10:34-36). Jesus says that if this happens, His disciples must choose to follow Him rather than stay committed to their family. In the parallel passage of Luke 14:26-33, Jesus says that His disciples must even “hate” their family members.

These passages have been widely misunderstood, primarily because we do not live in the honor and shame culture of Jesus’ day. In a culture that was governed by honor and shame, turning away from family business, family traditions, and family culture to follow other traditions was akin to hating your family.

In that culture, there was no greater way to bring shame on your family. If a person told their family that they were going to give up the family inheritance, not follow through on the family business, and not following the family traditions, the other family members would feel slighted, insulted, shamed, and even hated. They might say, “Why do you hate us so much to turn your back on your traditions?”

Jesus is saying that in such situations, there might not be anything one of His followers can do.

We should never hate our family members or treat them in unloving ways, of course. Such behavior has nothing to do with following Jesus.

But when we follow Jesus, other family members are likely to misunderstand. They might even (wrongly) feel that we hate them.

And while we are to always show our family members love, and invite them to follow Jesus along with us, if they force us to choose between Jesus and family, Jesus is saying that His disciples will choose Him.

This is not easy. It will feel like dying, which is exactly what Jesus says.

He invites His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him. Following Jesus is following Him into the death of our old life.

We will die to old habits, old traditions, and old beliefs. We will lose our old life. But in the process, we will gain a new way of living with Jesus Christ. When we lose our life for the cause of Christ, we gain a new life with Him (cf. Matt 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26).

This discussion in Matthew 10:39 about finding a new life with Jesus has caused some to think that Jesus is referring to eternal life. But typically, when Jesus is referring to eternal life, He refers to it as such. When He is simply talking about life, He is referring to the temporal, physical life here on earth, as is the case here.

This world has a certain set of values and goals, but they always and only lead to death. So when we try to hold on to our life in this world, we lose it. However, when we give up the values and goals of life in this world, and instead adopt and accept the values and goals of Jesus, it is then that we discover how to properly live this life with God and with others.

So do you want to follow Jesus on the path of discipleship? It won’t be easy. It might even cause some of your family members to condemn and hate you. But the life you will gain as an active member of the family of God will make it all worth it.

Matthew 10:37-39 is not telling you how to receive eternal life, but is telling you what you can expect if you truly follow Jesus on the path of discipleship. Following Jesus can be quite costly, but it is more than worth the cost.

A chart showing the differences between believers and disciples

Eternal Life Discipleship
Free Gift Costly
Received through faith Received through commitment and obedience
Not by works By works
Instant justification Life-long sanctification
Jesus paid the price The Christian
pays the price
Believe in Jesus Follow Jesus
as Lord
Believe in Jesus Obey the commands
Cannot be earned Earns reward

Are you a believer AND a disciple?

So … have you believed in Jesus for eternal life? Good! Now listen for where Jesus wants to lead you…

Are you trying to follow Jesus, but you are not sure you have eternal life? That’s a good start … but let me be one of the first to invite you to believe in Jesus so that you can KNOW that you have eternal life, and so that you can better follow the leading of Jesus in your life.

Make sure you understand the differences between believing in Jesus for eternal life and following Jesus on the path of discipleship. They condition and results of both are completely different, but both are necessary to experience ALL that God wants for us in the life.

Once you understand the differences, however, many troubling texts in Scripture will make a whole lot more sense.

If you want to learn more about this topic, join my online discipleship group and take the Gospel Dictionary online course:

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Here is a truth that will help you unpack many tricky and often-misunderstood Bible passages: Though all believers have eternal life, not all believers are disciples, and not all disciples are believers. Once you understand the difference between belie... Here is a truth that will help you unpack many tricky and often-misunderstood Bible passages: Though all believers have eternal life, not all believers are disciples, and not all disciples are believers. Once you understand the difference between believing in Jesus for eternal life and becoming a disciple of Jesus during this life, many tricky Bible texts will make a lot more sense.<br /> <br /> To view the manuscript and shownotes for this study, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/believers-vs-disciples/ Jeremy Myers clean 24:23
What is the second death? (Revelation 21:8) https://redeeminggod.com/second-death-revelation/ Tue, 11 Sep 2018 15:00:45 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=48989 Just as eternal life is a life lived in eternity where we live life to its full potential, so eternal death, or the second death is a life lived in eternity where people achieve none of their potential. It is a life of everlasting death. Of no escape from the consequences of selfish human decisions. Revelation 21:8Revelation 20:6, 14 and Revelation 21:8 describe an event called “the second death.” It is contrasted with those who did not participate in “the first resurrection,” which is the resurrection of all believers at the return of Jesus Christ. Those who are not believers end up experiencing the second death.

So what is this second death?

To put the question another way, if Hebrews 9:27 says that it is destined for humans to die once, then how can John write in Revelation 20:6, 14 and Revelation 21:8 that there is a second death?

Here is what Revelation 20:6, 14 and Revelation 21:8 say about the second death:

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power … Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. … But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

The “Second Death” is not Annihilation

Some argue that the second death is annihilationism … that is, a person who experiences the second death will no longer exist in eternity. They say that at the first death, people die physically, and then at the second death they die spiritually, which means that they cease to exist.

This view would be possible if “death” means “non-existent.” But it doesn’t. The word “dead” never means “non-existent” in Scripture. 

Instead, “death” means to be separated from the plan and purposes of God.

When something dies, it no longer functions the way God intended. This is true of physical bodies, sexual reproductive organs, interpersonal relationships, and faith.

So here in Revelation 20:6, 14 and Revelation 21:8, the person who experiences the second death will not be living out God’s plan and purposes for them in eternity.

The second death is simply being separated in eternity from what God originally wanted and planned for humanity.

God wanted humans to live in perfect harmony and unity with Himself, each other, and all creation. But when a person dies apart from Jesus Christ, they will experience eternity apart from Jesus Christ as well.

Then how is the Second Death related to the Lake of Fire?

While John describes this eternal existence apart from Jesus Christ as “the lake of fire,” this does not mean that the unregenerate are swimming around in a lake of fire and brimstone any more than anyone who lives in “Salt Lake” is actually swimming around in a large, salt-filled lake in Utah.

the second deathThe “Fiery Lake” might be the place that unregenerate people live for eternity, but this does not necessarily mean that they are suffering and burning for eternity within the lake. Furthermore, as I point out in my forthcoming book on hell, the term “Lake of Fire” referred to the body of water we now call the Dead Sea.

So to say that someone was going to be case into the Lake of Fire, or the Dead Sea, is a symbolic or metaphorical way of saying that such people will end up in a place devoid of life.

This is what John goes on to describe. In the afterlife, as part of the second death, people will be subject to the same “lusts of the flesh” that humans are subject to right now here on earth. Just like in this life, people who live in the second death will be cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and liars.

So what is the Second Death?

The second death is not annihilation or eternal torment in flames of fire.

Instead, it is the continuation for eternity of what we experience in this life, but in an amplified way.

It consists of God allowing human beings to live life completely separated from Him. It is allowing them to live as slaves to hatred, violence, envy, immorality, deception, greed, lust and every evil thing.

As such, the second death is the opposite of eternal life. Eternal life is life lived as God always wanted, planned, and desired; eternal death (or the second death) is life lived in the complete opposite way, separated from everything that God intended for humanity.

It is existence in everlasting death. It is ongoing existence that is filled with all the problems and frustrations of this life, but without any end to them. The first death is a blessed escape from the frustrations of this life (which is why death is a blessing). But the second death has no end. It is an eternal existence without an end, while facing the frustrations of life lived without God.

second death in eternityJust as being “born again” does not mean to “start your life all over again,” but instead refers to the transformation of a person’s life so that they head in the direction God wanted, so also, to “die again” does not mean that a person dies a second time, but that a person’s life goes in a direction that is even further away from God wanted and desired.

The “second death” therefore, is not annihilation, or the death of the eternal soul. Instead, it is the act of being entrenched or solidified in the way of rebellion against God.

The second death is an irreversible step on a path that leads away from what God wanted and desired.

Did C. S. Lewis write about Hell?

C. S. Lewis’ theological fantasy book, The Great Divorce, depicts what this sort of everlasting death might look like. (He claims he was writing fiction … but was this really his view of hell and he was afraid of being called a heretic?)

The Great Divorce is a fascinating story of a man who gets on a bus in hell to take a trip to heaven. In the second chapter, Lewis describes what life is like for those who live in hell.

When people first arrive, Lewis writes that people find themselves in the center of a vast, sprawling town, which is very much like any town you mind find on earth, except that everything is free and nobody has any needs. So people move into any house they want, and start living in their new existence. But within a few days or weeks, they have a quarrel with one of their neighbors, and decide to move to a different street.

Lewis writes that this process continues forever, until some people get to the point where they live millions of miles away from anybody else.

In the everlasting second death, each person is allowed to be as selfish and mean as they want, and this causes them to eventually separate themselves from everyone else so that they finally live in complete isolation for all eternity, wrapped up in their own thoughts of everybody else’s faults and failures.

The Second Death is Everlasting Existence without God

In this life, there is an end to the choices we make. As we destroy our families, friendships, and health, we draw into ourselves and become more and more separated from others over time. Death stops this process of separation so that we can finally see ourselves and others as we really are, offer forgiveness and be forgiven, and begin to live in love and grace as God desires.

But in an eternal existence without God, where physical death is not an option, people will continue to separate themselves until eventually, they cut off all contact from everyone, and live solitary lives of self-centeredness and complete separation. For people who were created for community and relationships, this truly is a living hell. But it is a hell constructed by their own choices.

So just as eternal life is a life lived in eternity where we live life to its full potential, so eternal death, or the second death is a life lived in eternity where people achieve none of their potential. It is a life of everlasting death. Of no escape from the consequences of selfish human decisions.

Those who experience the eternal second death (living in the realm of death, but never dying) are living in a hell of their own making. Their eternal existence will be a life dominated by the sins mentioned in Revelation 21:8.

In eternity, where there is no death to deliver a person from the devastation they have brought into their lives, this ongoing death will simply continue forever and ever.

What are your thoughts about this concept? Do you agree? Disagree? Does it still sound like “hell” to you? Is it just and fair for God to let people live in eternity in such a way? Would annihilation be more loving? 


Do you want an MP3 teaching about the word "Fire" in Scripture?

After reading this blog post, I bet you have questions about passages in Scripture which refer to "everlasting fire" or the "Lake of Fire."

Download my 2-hour study on the word "Fire" by entering your email address below. I will also send you some emails with a special invitation to join my discipleship group.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Just as eternal life is a life lived in eternity where we live life to its full potential, so eternal death, or the second death is a life lived in eternity where people achieve none of their potential. It is a life of everlasting death. The second death is part of the lake of fire in Revelation 20:6, 14 and Revelation 21:8. But is it a fiery torture chamber that never ends? No. <br /> <br /> Just as eternal life is a life lived in eternity where we live life to its full potential, so eternal death, or the second death is a life lived in eternity where people achieve none of their potential. It is a life of everlasting death. Of no escape from the consequences of selfish human decisions.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript and leave a comment, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/second-death-revelation/ Jeremy Myers clean 29:57
What does “passed from death to life” mean in 1 John 3:14? https://redeeminggod.com/death-to-life-1-john-3-14/ Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:30:42 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=48979 When John writes in 1 John 3:14 that we know we have passed from death to life because we love our brethren, he is not talking about how we know we have eternal life, but how we know we are in fellowship with God and one another. In 1 John 3:14, we read this:

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.

meaning of 1 John 3:14Is John saying that in order to receive eternal life, you need to love other Christians? Lots of other pastors and Bible scholars teach 1 John 3:14 in just this way, but is that really what John meant?

If so, then how can eternal life be received “by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone”?

If eternal life is also earned by making sure we love other people, then eternal life is partially earned by good works, and is no longer by grace alone through faith alone.

So what is the meaning of 1 John 3:14?

The Theme of Fellowship in 1 John

To understand 1 John 3:14, it is first of all important to understand why 1 John was written.

The first letter of John is written so that the readers may live a life of fellowship with God and with one another (1 John 1:3).

What is 1 John all about

With this as his primary theme, John provides instructions throughout his letter about how to have fellowship with God and with one another.

Note that fellowship is not the same thing as a relationship (see Fellowship). You can be related to someone while not having any fellowship with them. Children are often estranged from parents, so that while they are still related, they never gather together to enjoy each other’s company.

The same thing can happen to those who are related to God and to one another through Jesus Christ. We can be spiritually related while failing to be in daily fellowship.

John writes his letter to make sure that those who read it maintain their fellowship with God and with one another.

With this theme in mind, John paints many contrasts in his letter, comparing the life out of fellowship with darkness and death, while describing life within fellowship as light and life (cf. 1 John 1:5-7; 2:8-10; 3:14-16; 5:11-13).

And while eternal life is mentioned in this letter (cf. 1 John 2:25; 3:15; 5:11), this is not because John is equating eternal life and fellowship, but because ongoing fellowship with God and one another is based on the unchanging fact of eternal life from God.

While you can have relationship without fellowship, you cannot truly have fellowship without relationship.

John knows his readers have the relationship with God and writes so that they might maintain their fellowship as well (cf. 1 John 2:12-14). To live out of fellowship is not to lose our eternal life, but to live away from light and love and in the realm of death and darkness.

1 John 3:14 is about fellowship with God and others

So when John writes in 1 John 3:14 that we know we have passed from death to life because we love our brethren, he is not talking about how we know we have eternal life, but how we know we are in fellowship with God and one another.

One way to know you are in fellowship with God is because you are in fellowship with other believers, that is, because you love one another.

The opposite is also true. Anyone who does not love his brother “abides in death.” The word “abide” means “remain, or to continually dwell” (see Abide), and so the one who hates his brother is not living in the fellowship that God wants and desires for us, but is instead continuing to live in the realm of death, from which Jesus rescued and delivered us.

1 John 3:14 is about escaping the realm of death in which we live, and experiencing true life

As seen in my studies on the word “Death,” the world is controlled by death. We engage in rivalry and accusation which leads to the death of others, and we kill others in the attempt to avoid our own death. We also believe that the death of our enemies will bring peace, but violence against our enemies only results in an increase of their violence against us.

passed from death to life 1 John 3:14

Jesus came to rescue and deliver us from this never-ending cycle of escalating violence, but if we Christians continue to hate our brothers and live in rivalry against them, we have not escaped the control of death but continue to dwell in it and be ruled by it.

So, John invites his readers to love one another instead of hate, and in this way, escape the realm of death.

The context provides further evidence that physical violence against other human beings is what John has in mind when he writes about death. He is not talking about spiritual death or the loss of eternal life, or even that the one who hates his brother proves that he really wasn’t a Christian in the first place.

The context has nothing to do with such ideas.

Instead, John directs the reader to the first death in Scripture, when Cain murdered his brother Abel (1 John 3:12). John also goes on to describe death as “murder” (1 John 3:15).

While John does go on to say that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15), he does not mean that no murderer can be a Christian, or that no Christian can murder someone.

He means that when a Christian hates someone or murders someone (for this does happen), it is because they are continuing to follow the ways of this world, rather than the ways of God (see the discussion of 1 John 3:14-15 under Abide).

The meaning of 1 John 3:14

1 John 3:14 is not about gaining or keeping eternal life, or proving that you have it. Instead, it is about living in the way of life that God wants for His people, rather than the way of death that this world is accustomed to.

So, do you want to know that you are living in God’s way of life rather than the world’s way of death? You can know this if you have true and genuine love for other people.

Does this help you understand 1 John 3:14? Please ask any follow-up questions you might have in the comment section below.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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When John writes in 1 John 3:14 that we know we have passed from death to life because we love our brethren, he is not talking about how we know we have eternal life, but how we know we are in fellowship with God and one another. When John writes in 1 John 3:14 that we know we have passed from death to life because we love our brethren, he is not talking about how we know we have eternal life, but how we know we are in fellowship with God and one another.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript and shownotes for this study, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/death-to-life-1-john-3-14/ Jeremy Myers clean 16:53
Frank Viola gives me the shivers (in a GOOD way!) https://redeeminggod.com/frank-viola-insurgence/ Thu, 19 Jul 2018 16:11:02 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=48466 Frank Viola, author of Insurgence, joins me to discuss the Gospel of the Kingdom and what it really means to seek the Kingdom of God in our lives here and now. They also look at Luke 17:20-21 and Matthew 11:12 and what these passages teach about the kingdom of God. I interviewed Frank Viola for my podcast today. We discussed his new book, Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and as we talked, I literally got goosebumps because of some of the things he said.

You’ll need to listen to the podcast episode to see if the same thing happens to you.

Frank Viola Insurgence

Along with presenting some revolutionary ideas about the kingdom of God, baptism, the world system (principalities and powers), and how to approach the divisive political landscape today, he also explained the tricky texts of Luke 17:20-21 and Matthew 11:12.

These two texts say this:

Luke 17:20-21. Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said, “The Kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!” or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.

Matthew 11:12. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

Listen to the podcast to learn what these verses mean.

Here are the links that were mentioned by Frank Viola in the discussion:

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Frank Viola, author of Insurgence, joins me to discuss the Gospel of the Kingdom and what it really means to seek the Kingdom of God in our lives here and now. They also look at Luke 17:20-21 and Matthew 11:12 and what these passages teach about the ki... Frank Viola, author of Insurgence, and Jeremy Myers discuss the Gospel of the Kingdom, and what it really means to seek the Kingdom of God in our lives here and now. They also look at Luke 17:20-21 and Matthew 11:12 and what these passages teach about the kingdom of God. <br /> <br /> To view the shownotes, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/frank-viola-insurgence/ Jeremy Myers clean 45:15
What is dead faith? (James 2:14-26) https://redeeminggod.com/dead-faith-james-2-14-26/ Wed, 27 Jun 2018 18:36:56 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=48349 When James writes about dead faith in James 2:14-26, many people think he is referring to faith that does not exist. But this is not the message of James. What is dead faith? It is useless faith. It is faith that does exist, but is not accomplishing what God wants or desires for it.

When James writes about dead faith in James 2:14-26, many people think he is referring to faith that does not exist. But this is not the message of James. What is dead faith? It is useless faith. It is faith that does exist, but is not accomplishing what God wants or desires for it. Despite what many teach, dead faith is NOT non-existent faith any more than a dead body is a non-existent body.

I have written elsewhere on James 2:14-26 and the often-heard statement that “even the demons believe” (James 2:16). This passage is also discussed in my book, What is Faith?

To properly understand James 2:14-26, it is also important to understand three key terms in the passage.

Three Key Terms in James 2:14-26

what is dead faith James 2:14-26The three terms are faith, save, and dead. These three key terms in James 2:14-26 help bring clarity to this much-debated text.

The word faith is defined as the belief, conviction, or persuasion that something is true (see Faith).

The word save is defined as “deliver” (see Salvation). It does NOT refer to gaining forgiveness of sins so we can escape hell and go to heaven when we die. It instead refers to some sort of deliverance, usually from some sort of temporal calamity, such as sickness, enemies, physical death, etc.

And the word dead means to be separated from the life, purpose, or goal which God planned or intended (see Death).

With these three terms in mind, the troublesome text of James 2:14-26 becomes much clearer.

The Context of James 2:14-26

The context of James 2 also helps us understand what James is saying.

The immediately preceding context is that the church is showing favoritism to some of the wealthier members. The rich receive more attention and better seats at fellowship meals than do the poor (James 2:1-13).

Following this, James continues to address how the poor and needy in the church are treated. James says that when it comes to helping the poor and needy in their community, faith is not enough. It is not enough to tell someone that you believe God can clothe them and provide for their needs. It is not enough to promise someone that you will pray for them.

Such faith in God, while real and genuine, does absolutely nothing to clothe the poor or feed the hungry (James 2:15-16).

What good is it, James asks, if you tell the poor that you believe God will clothe them, and you tell the hungry that you have faith in God to feed them, but you yourself don’t do anything to feed or clothe them?

Will your faith do anything to feed or clothe the poor and hungry? No, it won’t.

faith without works is dead James 2:26If you are genuinely concerned about the poor and hungry in your midst, it is fine to believe that God can do something about it, if you also believe that God is going to do something about it through you.

Faith, by itself, is worthless when it comes to helping the poor.

Note that James is not saying anything whatsoever about faith in Jesus for eternal life.

This is not the point of this passage. He is talking about how our faith in God to feed the hungry and clothe the poor should lead us to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.

If you believe God can meet these needs, but you yourself do nothing to meet them, then your faith is dead and worthless. This does not mean that your faith does not exist. It does exist. But your faith is separated from its intended purpose.

God wants our faith in Him to spur us to step out and do things that turn our faith into action.

When we pray for something, God then wants us to seek to become the answer to our own prayers.

When we tell God that we believe He can do something, He turns to us and says that He will do it through us if we step out in faith and let Him. Faith in God is not us “letting go and letting God” but is us “stepping up and taking action” trusting that God will work in and through us to accomplish His work in this world.

what is dead faith James 2:14-26

So what is DEAD faith in James 2:16, 26?

So the word dead in James 2:16, 26 is a symbolic way of referring to faith that is not accompanied or empowered by works.

Dead faith is real faith. It does exist.

But dead faith is nothing more than faith that is by itself (James 2:17). All James is saying is that if the Christian life is going to be powerful and effective, both faith and works are needed. To save our relationship with other Christians and to accomplish God’s work in this world, both faith and works are needed (See Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings, 187-194; Zane Hodges, Dead Faith: What is it? (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1987); John Hart, “How to Energize Our Faith: Reconsidering the Meaning of James 2:14-26,” JOTGES (Spring, 1999).

At the end of this section, James illustrates this point by equating faith and works with the body and the spirit (James 2:26). Just as a body without the spirit is dead, so also, faith without works is dead.

dead faith James 2:14-26When a person’s spirit leaves their body, does this mean that the body does not exist, or that it never existed? No, of course not. The body is still there, even after the spirit departs. But the body is no longer accomplishing the purpose and goal which God intended for it.

So also with faith and works. If a person has faith, but they do not have works, this does not mean that their faith does not exist, or that it never existed. No, the faith is still there, even though the works are not.

But in such a situation, faith is not accomplishing the purpose and goal which God intended for it. The faith is dead. The absence of works is not allowing the faith to carry out God’s plan and purposes in the world. This is the meaning of James 2:14-26.

James 2:14-26 has nothing to do with eternal life

I cannot emphasize enough that James 2 has nothing whatsoever to do with the gaining, keeping, or proving of eternal life.

James 2:14-26 is not teaching that if a person fails to have good works, then this proves that they do not have eternal life. The question of eternal life is not in view at all.

Instead, James is telling us that rather than just pray for someone, or bless someone, or tell someone that God can provide for their needs, it is we who should answer our own prayers, seek to be a blessing to them, and provide for the needs out of our own pocket or pantry.

dead faith is useless faithOnly in this way does our faith get put into practice and fulfill the plans and goals of God.

So what is dead faith? Dead faith is NOT non-existent faith. Dead faith very much exists.

People who have dead faith truly do have actual and real faith. But their faith is inactive and useless. It is not accomplishing what God wants their faith to accomplish in this life.

So do you believe God can help others? Great! Now go out and do something about it, and actually help those whom God places in your life.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

You can also get a copy of my book, What is Faith? on Amazon.

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When James writes about dead faith in James 2:14-26, many people think he is referring to faith that does not exist. But this is not the message of James. What is dead faith? It is useless faith. It is faith that does exist, When James writes about dead faith in James 2:14-26, many people think he is referring to faith that does not exist. But this is not the message of James. What is dead faith? It is useless faith. It is faith that does exist, but is not accomplishing what God wants or desires for it.<br /> <br /> To view the manuscript or leave a comment, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/dead-faith-james-2-14-26/ Jeremy Myers clean 21:42
How are we “dead in trespasses and sins”? (Ephesians 2:1) https://redeeminggod.com/ephesians_2_1/ Thu, 21 Jun 2018 01:44:07 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=48299 Is Paul teaching in Ephesians 2:1 that unbelievers cannot even believe in Jesus for eternal life unless God first regenerates them? Must God give unbelievers new life (regeneration) before they believe and so that they can believe? No. This is not what it means to be dead in trespasses and sins.

Ephesians 2:1 is a favorite passage among some theologians to defend the idea that unregenerate people cannot do anything in their life to move toward God.

In other words, some say that because people are “dead in the trespasses and sins” (shortened as “dead in sins“) they cannot do anything good, including believe in Jesus.

But is this what Ephesians 2:1 is teaching? The verse says this:

Ephesians 2:1. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

Ephesians 2:1

Is Paul Teaching that Unbelievers cannot Believe in Jesus?

So is Paul teaching in Ephesians 2:1 that unbelievers cannot even believe in Jesus for eternal life unless God first regenerates them? Must God give unbelievers “new life” (regeneration) before they believe and so that they can believe?

Do people receive eternal life from God before they believe in Jesus or because they believe in Jesus?

The answer is that Jesus and Paul and all Scripture consistently agrees that we believe in in Jesus for eternal life; we do not receive eternal life to believe in Jesus (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; Rom 4:4-5).

Since Faith is not a Work, Unbelievers are Able to Believe

The idea that unregenerate people cannot do anything good is silly. Unbelievers can do all sorts of good spiritual things, which includes believing in Jesus for eternal life (cf. John 5:25; 20:31; Rom 1:20; Gal 3:26; Col 2:12-13; 1 Pet 1:23-25; Heb 10:39).

But this does not mean that the person who believes in Jesus for eternal life has earned their eternal life, has worked for it, or has done anything good to merit it.

Since faith is not a work, but is the opposite of works (Romans 4:4-5), then faith is not meritorious.

Those who receive the free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus do not in any way get “credit” for eternal life.

Faith is the persuasion that something is true, and when God persuades us that we can have eternal life through Jesus Christ alone, at that moment of faith we have received eternal life from Him (see the Gospel Dictionary entry on Faith).

When we believe, no works are performed. No effort is expended.

So what is Paul teaching in Ephesians 2:1?

Dead in sin Ephesians 2:1-3This entire line of thought is completely foreign to what Paul had in mind when he wrote Ephesians 2.

The debate about spiritual death and spiritual life in Ephesians 2 has been imported into the passage from outside theological systems that rip various verses in this chapter out of context so that they can then be used as proof texts to defend ideas that are not actually found in Paul’s line of thought.

A couple of factors contribute to the widespread failure to understand Paul’s point in Ephesians 2.

We must understand the word “saved”

The most significant contributing factor to this misunderstanding is the word “saved” in Ephesians 2:8-9.

When most Christians hear the word “saved” or “salvation,” they immediately think of “eternal life,” “going to heaven when you die,” or some similar concept.

But the Bible never uses the word “salvation” or “saved” as an equivalent term for eternal life. Instead, the word “saved” (and the entire “salvation” word family) means “deliverance” or “to be delivered” and the context determines what kind of deliverance is in view (see The Gospel Dictionary entry on Salvation).

To be “saved” in Ephesians 2 is to be “delivered from sin”

When Ephesians 2:8-9 is examined in the broader context (see the first several paragraphs of this post on Ephesians 2:1-3 to see the context of Ephesians 2), we learn that salvation in Ephesians is not about receiving eternal life so you can go to heaven when you die, but is instead about being rescued and delivered from our addiction to accusation, scapegoating, and violence, so that we are brought into the way of life, love, and liberty that God always wanted and desired for humanity.

So what does Ephesians 2:1 mean?

When this point about salvation is grasped, we then see that the phrase “dead in trespasses and sins” in Ephesians 2:1 is not talking about some sort of “spiritual death” in which the unregenerate cannot even respond to God or believe in Jesus.

Instead, the phrase “dead in trespasses and sins” is referring to the pervasive and controlling disease of death which covers the whole earth.

The point Paul is making here is the same exact point made in Genesis 4–6. Sin was introduced to the world, and death came with it, not primarily the death that comes with old age, but the death that comes from human violence against one another.

In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul is saying that the whole world is addicted to the destructive power of sin, which leads us to scapegoat and kill others, rather than accept, forgive, and love them.

Paul describes this further in Ephesians 2:2-3. In speaking of the course of the world, Paul is saying that sin and death guide and control the world.

dead in sins Ephesians 2:1

Rivalry, scapegoating, and violence form the foundation of all human civilization, culture, and interaction (see the Gospel Dictionary entry on World). This is also what Paul is referring to when he mentions the prince of the power of the air which works in the sons of disobedience.

This is, of course, a reference to Satan, who is the accuser (see the Gospel Dictionary entry on Satan). The desire of sin which God warned Cain against (Gen 4:7) is what Paul describes in Ephesians 2:3.

So the great problem of Ephesians 2:1-3 is indeed sin.

Sin is the realm of death in which all humans live and function. Sin is seen through accusation and scapegoating that comes from the desires and lusts of the flesh. All humans live in this realm and know of no other way to live.

Further Evidence from the context of Ephesians 2:1

Ephesians 2 (the whole chapter) follows a Problem-Solution-Application outline. And to see what the “Problem” of death and sin actually are, we can reverse engineer the chapter by beginning at the end, and seeing how Paul applies the chapter.

And in Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul talks about doing away with hostility and dividing walls of separation that we use to keep human separate from one another and hating one another. Instead, we are called to live in unity, love, and peace, just like Jesus Christ.

Jesus teaches peace Ephesians 2

So if that is the application, then the problem is the opposite. If peace and the removal of human hostility on this earth is the goal, then the problem is not about how we’re headed for hell and need to go to heaven. No, if the goal is the end of hostility between humans, then the problem is hostility and violence between humans.

And of course, the solution to the problem is what was accomplished in Jesus Christ, which is what Paul discusses in Ephesians 2:4-10.

We can briefly summarize Ephesians 2:1-22 this way:

Since sin and the death that comes from human hostility is the great problem of the world (Ephesians 2:1-3), God took the initiative to send Jesus Christ and show us a way out of this problem (Ephesians 2:4-10), so that those of us who see and understand what Jesus did on the cross, can now live as He lived, in love and unity for one another (Ephesians 2:11-22).

“Dead in Sins” in Ephesians 2:1

So the term “dead in sins” in Ephesians 2:1 is not referring to some sort of “spiritual death” which makes people unable to hear or respond to God, or to believe in Jesus for eternal life.

No, Paul is instead describing human culture and civilization. He is describing the “atmosphere” of sin and death in which we all live, and which we all assume is normal.

dead in trespasses and sins Eph 2:1This is what it means to be “dead in sins.” We are surrounded by an atmosphere, a system, a world of sin, which leads to death … death through murder, warfare, hatred, killing, condemning, scapegoating, and all things related to this.

But this way of “life” is not normal, and it is not what God wanted, planned, or intended. This worldly way of life is actually death.

So Jesus came to show us another way to live … an actual way to live. Because of what Jesus showed us, we can now live in a heavenly culture and civilization, even while we are here on earth.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Is Paul teaching in Ephesians 2:1 that unbelievers cannot even believe in Jesus for eternal life unless God first regenerates them? Must God give unbelievers new life (regeneration) before they believe and so that they can believe? No. Is Paul teaching in Ephesians 2:1 that unbelievers cannot even believe in Jesus for eternal life unless God first regenerates them? Must God give unbelievers new life (regeneration) before they believe and so that they can believe? No. This is not what it means to be dead in trespasses and sins.<br /> <br /> In Ephesians 2:1, Paul introduces the problem of human sin, which is characterized by death, and then shows the solution in Ephesians 2:4-22.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the transcript, visit: https://redeeminggod.com/ephesians_2_1/ Jeremy Myers clean 23:01
Adventures in Fishing for Men – A Humorous Satire of Evangelism https://redeeminggod.com/adventures-in-fishing-for-men/ Wed, 13 Jun 2018 17:00:56 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=12396 Most Christians are doing more harm than good with how they attempt to share Jesus with others. Many of the modern evangelistic efforts of Christians only do harm to the cause of Christ and the message of the gospel. If you want to see what I mean, I explain it all in parable form through my new book, Adventures in Fishing for Men. Don’t tell one more person about Jesus until you read my new book. Don’t attempt any more evangelism until you read it.

Seriously.

Most Christians are doing more harm than good with how they attempt to “share Jesus” with others.

Many of the modern “evangelistic” efforts of Christians only do harm to the cause of Christ and the message of the gospel.

If you want to see what I mean, I “explain” it all in parable form through my new book, Adventures in Fishing for Men.

This book is an allegory, or parable, about evangelism. In it, a nameless man (Is it you? Is it me?) attempts to become a world-famous fisherman … all without ever catching any fish.

The book is funny, hilarious, entertaining, and most of all, insightful and instructional.

Here is what some others are saying about Adventures in Fishing for Men.

Adventures in Fishing for Men

Adventures in Fishing for Men

Adventures in Fishing for Men

Adventures in Fishing for Men

Adventures in Fishing for Men

Adventures in Fishing for Men

Adventures in Fishing for Men

Adventures in Fishing for Men

This book was originally published back in 2012, but it has been significantly revised and expanded. It contains 50% new material, and also has a set of Discussion Questions to go along with each chapter.

These discussion questions will help you use this book for your small group class or Bible study. And since this book is humorous, if you use it for your small group Bible study or discussion group, it will be unlike any other study you have done. You will still learn, but through story and humor instead!

Did you want to learn about evangelism through humor?

Adventures in Fishing for MenJoin my discipleship group and take the course which is related to this book. When you take this course, you will also gain background information about each chapter in the book, as well as some discussion questions to help you think through the content of the chapters. If you just want to buy the book, you can get it on Amazon here. ]]>
Most Christians are doing more harm than good with how they attempt to share Jesus with others. Many of the modern evangelistic efforts of Christians only do harm to the cause of Christ and the message of the gospel. If you want to see what I mean, Most Christians are doing more harm than good with how they attempt to share Jesus with others.<br /> <br /> Many of the modern evangelistic efforts of Christians only do harm to the cause of Christ and the message of the gospel.<br /> <br /> If you want to see what I mean, I explain it all in parable form through my new book, Adventures in Fishing for Men.<br /> <br /> This podcast episode contains the first three chapters of the book. Enjoy!<br /> <br /> To learn more about the book, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/adventures-in-fishing-for-men/ Jeremy Myers clean 28:57
How did Death enter the world through Adam? (Romans 5:12-21) https://redeeminggod.com/death-romans-5-12/ Wed, 06 Jun 2018 19:08:45 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=48101 In Romans 5:12, Paul writes that through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Almost everybody thinks that Paul is referring to the event in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But is this what Paul has in mind? It doesn't seem so ...

In Romans 5:12, Paul writes that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Almost everybody thinks that Paul is referring to the event in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Romans 5:12But is this what Paul has in mind?

It doesn’t seem so …

Let us consider the contexts of Genesis 3 and Romans 5 to see what Paul is thinking. And while we are doing that, we will also seek to define the word “death” as it is used in Scripture.

Death in Genesis 3 (in the context of Genesis 2-7)

Questions about death have plagued humanity since the very beginning. Where did death come from? How can we escape death? What is death? What happens after death? Is there a way to return from death?

The Bible answers many of these questions, and the foundation for these answers is laid in Genesis 2–7. If we fail to understand these opening chapters, this failure has ramifications for how we understand the rest of the Bible as well.

For example, vast segments of Christianity believe that death is a curse from God which came as a result of human sinful rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Many believe that because Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God cursed them with death, and all humanity as well.

This way of thinking then gets carried over into how we understand other texts related to the gospel, and it also colors our view of God and death.

Genesis 3But a careful study of what Genesis 2–7 teaches about death and dying leads us in a very different direction.

Now, it is true that physical death came upon humans as a result of eating the forbidden fruit. But it is not true that God sent death upon humans or cursed humans with death. Many people do not realize this, but death was built in to creation, as part of creation. If that’s a challenging idea for you, go and listen to Episode 9 of the One Verse Podcast, where I teach about death and creation from Genesis 1:11-12.

So death was inherent within God’s good creation, but this does not mean that God wanted humans to die. This is why God gave humans the Tree of Life. Eating from this tree would keep death from coming upon humans.

When Adam and Eve ate fruit from the forbidden tree, death did come upon humans, but not because God cursed humans with death. Instead, death came upon humans because humans could not longer eat from the Tree of Life.

But is this not a curse after all? Is it not God’s “fault” that humans die? No. While, it is true that God is the one responsible for keeping humans from eating from the tree of life, this is not a curse; it is a blessing.

Death is a Blessing

Despite the way most people feel about it, death is actually a blessing from God. The real curse would be to live forever in a sinful body.

When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they permanently damaged their relationship with each other, with creation, with God, and even within themselves (This is what is seen and described in Genesis 3:7-21).

The only way for God to repair these connections is by allowing our bodies to die so that He could give us new, glorious bodies that accomplished everything He planned and intended for us. In other words, once our flesh was damaged, the only way to repair it is through death.

Death, therefore, is not a curse, but a cure. Genesis 5 shows that everyone experienced this kind of death as time and time again we are met with the phrase, “… and he died” (Genesis 5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31).

Yet this type of death is not the only type of death mentioned in Genesis 1–7, nor is it the type of death that Scripture as a whole is most concerned with. And this is not the type of death Paul has in mind in Romans 5:12-21.

Natural death is natural, and while God did not want or intend for us to die natural deaths, it is not primarily this type of death that Jesus came to rescue and deliver us from.

The first real death in the Bible is encountered in Genesis 4, and it is this death that is most concerning to God, and which Scripture everywhere warns us against.

The Introduction of Sin and Death (Genesis 4:4, 8)

Genesis 4The first death in the Bible is when Cain murders his brother Abel as a result of jealous rivalry (Genesis 4:8). Many Christians believe that the first death in the Bible occurs when God sacrificed a sheep in Genesis 3:21 or when Abel made a similar sacrifice in Genesis 4:4.

But a careful study of these texts reveals that no animal blood was shed. There is no animal sacrifice in Genesis 3:21 or Genesis 4:4. I have podcast episodes on these verses as well. No sacrifice in Genesis 3:21 and no sacrifice in Genesis 4:4-5.

So the first death of any kind in the Bible is when Cain murders his brother in Genesis 4:8.

The significance of this cannot be overstated. Since the first death is between brothers, it reveals that all violence between humans is violence between family members. When we stop to think about it, all of us are related, which means that any violence against anyone else is violence against a member of our own family.

Cain kills AbelBut beyond this, the source of the violent murder is Cain’s desire to have what Abel has, and the rivalry he engages in to obtain it (cf. Genesis 4:5-7). Furthermore, Cain then goes off to found a city (Genesis 4:17), which shows that murder and violence is at the foundation of all human civilization.

But it is not just the murder of one against another that concerns God. God is concerned with the human tendency to escalate violence through retaliation and revenge. This is why God puts a mark on Cain (Genesis 4:15).

God knows that the death of one tends to lead quickly to the death of many, and He wants to stop the process from beginning with Cain.

This truth is further seen when Lamech kills a young man for hurting him (Genesis 4:23). Lamech goes on to say that if Cain would be avenged sevenfold, then he should be avenged seventy sevenfold (Gen 4:26).

As all humans who engage in violence against others, Lamech feels completely justified in his own actions, and believes that any retaliation against him would be completely unjustified. But note how the sevenfold retaliation has already exponentially increased to seventy sevenfold.

death in Genesis 4In Genesis 6 we see that this seventy sevenfold vengeance has overtaken the whole earth so that now, everyone is only evil all the time and violence has covered the whole earth (Genesis 6:5, 11). The one thing that God did not want to happen has happened. In Genesis 6 all humans are engaged in violence against all other humans. The earth is suffering from an all-consuming contagion of violence.

So the overall truth about death in Genesis 2–7 is that there are two main types of death.

One of the physical death which comes upon all people as a result of being blocked from the tree of life. This death is not a curse, but a blessing, as it is the necessary doorway to the resurrection and the glorified bodies that we have for eternity.

The second form of death, however, is the main concern of God, not only in Genesis 2–7, but also in the rest of Scripture. This is the death that comes as a result of violence, and which is closely associated with sin.

The death that plagues humanity and which Jesus can to rescue and deliver us from is not the primarily the death of humans dying from old age, but the death of humans killing other humans.

Sin has consequences both to ourselves and others. Yes, we die physically from old age because we have been separated from the tree of life, but we also die (as do others) as a result of the consequences of sinful violence.

This brings us then to what Paul is teaching in Romans 5.

Death Through Adam in Romans 5:12-21

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. … Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come (Rom 5:12, 14).

Paul argues in Romans 5:12-21 that sin and death are not linked to the law. Both existed prior to the Mosaic Law (Romans 5:13-14), and the law serves to reveal and exacerbate the human problem of sin (Romans 5:20).

death of Adam death of Jesus Romans 5:12-21Paul goes on to contrast this with the righteousness that is in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:16-18). Therefore, as with many other words in this dictionary, the concept of death in Romans in closely connected with other key words that must also be understood in order to grasp Paul’s overall argument.

For the purposes of this entry, it is only necessary to point out that Paul writes how death came as a result of sin, and sin entered the world through one man, Adam (Romans 5:12). The order of events is that Adam introduced sin into the world, and sin brought death.

Many who read Romans 5:12 believe that the sin Paul is referring to is the act of eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which resulted in Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden so that they later died of old age.

But when we go back and carefully examine the order of events the terminology used in Genesis 3–4 as we have done above, we see a different truth emerge.

Yes, through Adam’s disobedience, sin was introduced into the world. But in Genesis, sin is not mentioned until Genesis 4:7, where it is connected with Cain’s desire to engage in rivalry and revenge against Abel.

Adam and Eve had previously engaged in some of this rivalry when they started blaming each other, blaming God, and blaming the serpent for why they ate the fruit (Genesis 3:11-13), but the overall picture of what sin is and how it leads to death is not described until Genesis 4 where sin is first mentioned and the first death occurs.

Yes, Adam introduced both sin and death to the world in Genesis 3, but both are not fully revealed until Genesis 4.

So when Paul writes in Romans 5:12-21 that sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, we should not be thinking about Genesis 3, but about Genesis 4.

The death that is most concerning to Paul is the death that comes as a result of violence.

When Paul goes on in Romans 5:12-21 to write about how death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned, we should be thinking about Genesis 5–7, where while some people died from old age, most of the people in these chapters died as a result of violence.

None of this is how God intended or desired for humans to interact with each other. When God created humanity, He planned for us to live and work together in peace and harmony, as partners in the task of multiplying on the face of the earth, taking care of the plants and animals, and expanding the borders of the Garden to cover the whole earth (cf. Genesis 1:26-28).

This was the righteous life that God wanted for us. But instead, we chose the sin of blame, accusation, finger-pointing, rivalry, and scapegoating, which leads to death, the violent death of brother murdering brother. But Jesus came to lead us back into the righteous life that God originally desired. Paul goes on to explain how this works in Romans 6-8.

The transition from death unto life in the book of Romans is a transition from the sins of rivalry, scapegoating, and violence based on the law (Romans 1–3), to the reception of eternal life and the principles of the righteous life as revealed in Jesus (Romans 4–5).

These truths then lead us into freedom from sin and the law (Romans 6–7), so that we no longer have to live in condemnation from God or from one another (Romans 8). Paul concretely applies all these truths in Romans 9–15.

As can be seen, a proper understanding of what the Bible teaches about death helps make sense of Paul’s argument in Romans, and especially what he is teaching in Romans 5:12. While receiving eternal life is part of Paul’s message in Romans, it is only a small part.

In Romans 5:12-21, Paul is more concerned with how we live our lives in Jesus Christ free from slavery to sin and the power of death.

So what does the Gospel teach about Death?

Yes, it is true … the gospel teaches that while humans die from sickness and old age, these things will be done away with in the future.

But this truth about death is not the primary teaching in the Gospel about death. The Bible is not just concerned about future death, but present death.

The gospel contains truths about death for this life here and now, and how to avoid it. The Bible says that the big problem of death is not that we will eventually die from old age or disease, but that we engage in the practices of death every day when we accuse, slander, and blame our fellow human beings.

We engage in the practices of death when we approve of scapegoating, condemning, and killing other human beings. The first death in the Bible is when Cain murdered his brother Abel, and when we call for the death of other human beings today, we are following in the way of Cain.

death of Jesus Romans 5

Jesus came and died to reveal this truth to us, and to call us to stop it. Rather than seek revenge and retaliation, we are to love and forgive. This is the way of Jesus and this is the call of the gospel.

The gospel reveals how we participate in the killing of our brothers and sisters, and calls us to abandon these practices and follow Jesus in the way of love.  This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 5 as well.

The main concern of Scripture regarding death is the death that comes from scapegoating violence. This is the foundational sin of the world, and is the type of death Jesus subjected Himself to so that He might reveal to us how we humans are enslaved to death and show us a different way to live.

We gain deliverance from this type of death by choosing to follow Jesus in the way of love and forgiveness, rather than in the worldly way of rivalry, accusation, and blame.

Once we have seen what death is and how we have deliverance from all forms of death in Jesus Christ, it is then that we lose our fear of death. It is then that we can say with Paul:

Death is swallowed up in victory.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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In Romans 5:12, Paul writes that through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Almost everybody thinks that Paul is referring to the event in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate from the... In Romans 5:12, Paul writes that through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Almost everybody thinks that Paul is referring to the event in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But is this what Paul has in mind? It doesn't seem so ...<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the manuscript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/death-romans-5-12/ Jeremy Myers clean 34:19
What is the Crown of Life? https://redeeminggod.com/what-is-the-crown-of-life/ Wed, 30 May 2018 18:03:28 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=13188 The Crown of Life is not eternal life. Eternal life is a free gift. The Crown of Life is special reward for a special act of service and dedication to the King. Just as you win an award for winning a race, so also God gives rewards to people who run well in this life. This article looks at the crown of life and what we learn about it in James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10.

Have you ever wondered about the crown of life? A reader recently sent in the following question about what the crown of life is, though it might also be important to understand how we gain the crown of life. But let us begin with her question. Here is what she wrote:

I just finished reading your article on Yeshua drinking the bitter cup. I am just amazed at this view. I was searching for what it meant because a few years back I was told to drink a bitter cup. All I know is I have never felt lost until that time. To drink the dregs of it is a horrible thing, and all I had was a taste. But Jesus drank the dregs for us! I am still stunned at what you have shown. Your article makes me appreciate even more what He has done for us. It makes perfect sense to me.

I would like to ask you if you have written anything on the crown of life? After all this incident, I was told on April 19 that I had made it through my tribulation and received the crown of life. Can you help explain what this means?

First, thank you for the encouragement about the article where Jesus prayed to “Let this cup pass.” I must give credit to one of my seminary professors for that view.

From your question, it sounds like maybe you are attending a church or Bible study that gives prophetic “Words of knowledge” to its members. Is that true?

Be careful about what people tell you through these “words of knowledge.” My experience is that usually the messages they give are designed to control you and instill fear in you, rather than help or encourage. In the case of the two things you were told, it looks like someone quoted some poorly-misunderstood Bible passages at you, and then misapplied them to your life so that you lived in fear.

Remember, God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). If a message comes “by the Spirit” and results in you feeling lost and fearing for your life, it is not likely a message that originated with God.

But let us move on to your question about the crown of life.

The Crown of Life

So what about the Crown of Life? What is the crown of life and how can we gain it?

laurel crownThere are five crowns mentioned in Scripture. They are the Everlasting Crown (1 Cor 9:25), the Crown for the One who Wins Souls (Php 4:1; 1 Thess 2:19), the Crown of Righteousness (2 Tim 4:8), the Crown of Glory (1 Pet 5:4), and the Crown of Life (Jas 1:12; Rev 2:10).

Part of the difficulty with these crowns is that most cultures today do not use crowns, and those that do reserve the crowns for royalty. But the word used for “crown” is stephanos, which can also refer to a “reward” or “laurel wreath.” In the original Greek Olympics, the winner of the sporting contests was awarded the stephanos, a laurel crown.

So each of the crowns mentioned above represents a reward for some particular special act of service or perseverance within the Kingdom of God. By all appearances, the crowns will be some sort of actual reward handed out to believers when Jesus returns again in the future. This will be at the Bema — the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Therefore, none of the crowns are equivalent to eternal life itself. That is, while eternal life is the absolutely free gift of God to anyone who simply believes in Jesus for it (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47), the various crowns are rewards that are given to Christians who complete certain tasks and practice certain behaviors.

Each of the five crowns deserves its own study, but let me just focus on the Crown of Life. (There is a short study of the other crowns in my Gospel Dictionary Online Course, in the lesson on “Crown.”)

The Crown of Life is NOT Eternal Life

James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 indicate that the Crown of Life is for those who persevere in faith through temptation, tribulation, and persecution.

Some people wrongly teach, however, that if you fail to persevere in faith through temptation, tribulation, or persecution, that you prove you do not have life, or that God will take away your life. This is not true.

the crown of lifeEternal life is a free gift to everyone and anyone who believes in Jesus for it. You do not have to work your way to eternal life. Eternal life cannot be earned or kept by good works.

The Crown of Life, however, is a reward for special acts of service and perseverance under trial.

The Crown of Life is special reward for a special act of service and dedication to the King.

So if you are experiencing severe temptation, trials, or persecution, be encouraged and persevere through them.

Just as a runner perseveres through the difficulties of the race so that he reaches the finish line and receives the reward, so also Jesus wants to put the Crown of Life upon your head when you reach the finish line after persevering through pain, trials, and persecution.

It will probably not be an actual crown or ring of leaves, but will be some sort of special blessing, honor, privilege, or recognition in the future, eternal reign of Jesus.

By offering this Crown, Jesus encourages us to stay strong, keep the course, and remain faithful.

Let us look in more detail at the two texts which mention the Crown of Life.

The Crown of Life in James 1:12

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

crown of life James 1:12The crown of life that James mentions here is often confused with eternal life.

But as with every other crown, we know that the crown of life cannot be the same thing as eternal life because eternal life is the free gift of God to everyone who believes in Jesus for it, but the crown of life, as described here by James, is given to those who endure temptation.

In other words, Jesus gives the crown of life to those who persevere in faith through temptation, tribulation, and persecution.

Therefore, the crown of life is a reward for a life well-lived. It is an honor that Jesus bestows upon those who endure the trials and temptations of this life.

Some people wrongly teach that those who fail to persevere in the midst of temptation prove that they not actually Christians or that as a result of their failure, God takes away their eternal life. But this is not what James is teaching.

Eternal life is a free gift to everyone and anyone who believes in Jesus for it. The crown of life, however, is a reward for special acts of service and perseverance under trial.

This is actually a great encouragement for those who face trials and temptations. It is much easier to endure in the midst of trials when we know that we are safe and secure in the arms of God, and that even if we fail to stand up in the temptation, He will not abandon or forsake us, but will always be there to love, comfort, protect, and restore us.

This sense of safety gives us strength to stand in the midst of temptation. It allows us to run the race with perseverance, rather than giving up out of fear and frustration.

This crown is an encouragement to stay strong, keep the course, and remain faithful. As with the other crowns, it is likely not a literal crown, but is symbolic of praise, honor, and glory that Jesus bestows upon those who faithfully stand with Him in the midst of trial and temptation.

The Crown of Life in Revelation 2:10

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

crown of life Revelation 2:10The crown mentioned in Revelation 2:10 is also the crown of life mentioned in James 1:12. In both cases, the crown of life is a special honor, reward, or recognition given by Jesus to those who stand up against the temptation and trials of the devil.

The crown of life is not eternal life, but is a way that Jesus recognizes and honors those people who faithfully serve Him and remain steadfast in the storms of life (cf. Revelation 3:11).

Here in Revelation 2:10, Jesus warns the Christians in Smyrna that the devil is coming to accuse and test them. Some of them will be thrown into prison, and they may even lose their lives. But Jesus says that if they remain faithful, He will bless and honor them with the crown of life when they stand before Him in the resurrection. They will be shown special honor in the life to come.

One further piece of evidence that the crown of life is not the same as eternal life is that all seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2–3 contain promises of rewards and special blessings for those Christians who persevere and overcome.

Just as eating from the tree of life (Rev 2:7), getting a new name (Rev 2:17), receiving power to rule the nations (Rev 2:26), being recognized before God in heaven (Rev 3:5), and being made a pillar in the temple of God (Rev 3:12) are not the same thing as receiving eternal life, so also, the crown of life is not the same thing as eternal life.

These are all special ways that Jesus rewards and recognizes those who faithfully serve and honor Him.

What is the crown of life

So What is the Crown of Life?

The crown of life is not equivalent to eternal life. Eternal life is the free gift of God to all who believe in Jesus for it. The crown of life (like all the crowns mentioned in Scripture) is a form of honor and recognition that Jesus bestows upon those who faithfully serve and honor Him.

It is helpful to think of these crowns as a medal for winning a race, or as some form of public recognition where we receive praise for a job well done. This recognition and reward will be received at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is especially true of the crown of life.

So as you live your life, be eager for the Lord’s coming, faithfully love and serve one another, teach and train each other in the truths of the gospel, and stand strong in the face of trial and temptation. If you do these things, you will receive crowns from Jesus so that you may cast them at His feet in eternity.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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The Crown of Life is not eternal life. Eternal life is a free gift. The Crown of Life is special reward for a special act of service and dedication to the King. Just as you win an award for winning a race, so also God gives rewards to people who run we... What is the crown of life, and how is it earned? Is the crown of life the same thing as eternal life? This study answers these questions, and also looks at James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10, the two passages that discuss the crown of life. <br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the transcript, go here: https://redeeminggod.com/what-is-the-crown-of-life/ Jeremy Myers clean 26:51
Do I need to confess Jesus to be saved? (Romans 10:9-10) https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/ Wed, 23 May 2018 19:56:29 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47949 There are several verses in the Bible which seem to teach that you need to make a public confession of Jesus in order to be saved. One of these is Romans 10:9-10. Many people interpret this to mean that if you do not let others know that you are a follower of Jesus, then you do not truly have eternal life and will therefore not spend eternity with God in heaven.

There are several verses in the Bible which seem to teach that you need to make a public confession of Jesus in order to be saved. Many people interpret this to mean that if you do not let others know that you are a follower of Jesus, then you do not truly have eternal life and will therefore not spend eternity with God in heaven.

There are numerous passages from Scripture which seem to teach this idea of making a public confession about following Jesus, but none of them actually teach what many people think. This article will briefly consider several of these verses, with an emphasis on Romans 10:9-10.

Romans 10:9-10The bottom line truth we will learn is that a public confession of Jesus is not required to receive (or prove that we have) eternal life. Not even Romans 10:9-10 teaches this idea.

To see this, it is important to first define the word “confess.”

The Meaning of the Word “Confess”

As discussed previously, the word “confess” simply means “to agree.” God teaches us many things in Scripture, and when we agree with what He has revealed, we are “confessing” or “agreeing” with the truth.

The word “confess” is defined in more detail in my online course, “The Gospel Dictionary.”

So when Scripture tells us to confess that Jesus is Lord, it is telling us to agree that Jesus is Lord.

Do you agree with what God has revealed in Scripture, that Jesus is Lord? That He is the Master, Ruler, Judge, and King of all things? If you do, then you confess that Jesus is Lord, and are invited by Scripture to live in light of this truth.

So is Confession Required for Eternal Life?

But is this confession of Jesus as Lord required to receive eternal life?

No, it is not. You do not need to confess that Jesus is Lord in order to receive eternal life.

The consistent truth of Scripture (and Jesus Himself) is that we receive eternal life simply and only by believing in Jesus for it (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47). You do not receive eternal life by submitting your life to the Lordship of Jesus, confessing your sins, walking an isle, saying a prayer, asking Jesus into your heart, or any of the other popular messages some Christians teach today.

Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him for it. Period. No action, effort, commitment, dedication, repentance, confession, or work is needed on your part.

Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus is very important for sanctification and becoming more like Jesus in this life, but we do not need to submit to Jesus on confess Jesus in order to receive eternal life.

But what about the verses that seem to teach that we must confess that Jesus is Lord in order to receive eternal life? Well, let’s look at few…

Matthew 10:32 (Luke 12:8)

Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is heaven (Matthew 10:32).

take a stand for Jesus

Nothing this this text refers to receiving eternal life. Instead, Jesus is teaching a discipleship truth. He is saying that if you want to figure out what your life is all about (Matt 10:39), what your purpose is, and how you can live a life of significance, then you must first align yourself with Jesus and be proud of your connection with the family of God.

You cannot follow Jesus wherever He leads in life if you don’t want to be associated with Him. When we are proud of our connection to Jesus, and let others know that we are part of God’s family, then Jesus will lead us where He wants us to go, and will also boast about us before God in heaven.

This might be a bit like how God boasted about Job to the angelic host in Job 1:8. Of course, in that context, God is boasting about Job to Satan, whereas here, it is Jesus boasting about us to God, but the idea is similar. God is proud of His children when they are proud of being part of His family.

Note that nothing is said about these people not actually being Christians or not being part of the family of God. Though Jesus does say in Matthew 10:33 that He will deny those who deny Him, this does not mean that they are denied eternal life and entrance into heaven.

All it means is that they will not receive recognition and praise from Jesus when He boasts about His faithful brethren to His Father. Instead, He might actually express some disappointment. But He will never take away their eternal life, for that would be tantamount to denying Himself, which He cannot do. A similar idea is expressed in 2 Timothy 2:12.

2 Timothy 2:12

If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us (2 Timothy 2:12).

The word confess is not mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:12, but the word deny is, which is the opposite of confess.

The immediate context of 2 Timothy 2:12 mentions salvation (2 Timothy 2:10), and the following contexts refers to being approved and unapproved by Jesus (2 Timothy 2:15), all of which is connected to naming the name of Christ and turning from sin (2 Tim 2:19).

confess Jesus before men

So Paul is not referring to gaining or losing eternal life, but to submitting our lives to Jesus as Lord and Master so that we can deliverance from the destructive power of sin in our lives and gain honor and recognition from Jesus when we stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Gaining eternal life and remaining within God’s family is solely by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. However, having a position of honor and prominence within the family, having God be proud of us and what we have done with Him in His Kingdom is quite another matter.

For God to be proud about us and to boast about us to others, we must be strong, endure hardship, suffer trouble, be diligent, shun idle arguments, depart from iniquity, flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Tim 2:1-26). If we fail to do such things, and deny Jesus rather than confess and proclaim our alignment with Him, then He will deny us the ability to rule and reign with Him in His Kingdom, even though we will still remain part of the family of God.

This is the exact same truth Paul teaches in Romans 10:9-10, which is the passage most often used to teach that confession of Jesus is required for eternal life.

Romans 10:9-10

… that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).

Romans 10:9-10Many use Romans 10:9-10 to teach that if a person is going to truly be a Christian, they are required to make a public confession of faith in front of other people.

How this occurs varies from teacher to teacher. Some say that it occurs at baptism, while others say that standing up in church to share a conversion story is what is needed.

Most argue, however, that the only thing required is that a Christian never publicly deny that Jesus is their Lord and Master. When asked to take a stand for Jesus in the public arena, we are required to not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16), and instead be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

According to many, the one who fails to take such a public stand for Jesus proves that he never really a Christian in the first place.

But is this really what Paul is teaching? Is Paul saying that we need to make a public confession that Jesus is Lord in order to receive eternal life? No, this is not what Paul is saying.

The reason this text is so widely misunderstood and misapplied is because few people understand that the words “saved” and “salvation” do not refer to receiving eternal life.

People see the words “saved” and “salvation” in these verses and think that Paul is writing about how to receive eternal life. But he is not. The words “saved” and “salvation” in the Bible never refer specifically to receiving eternal life by faith in Jesus.

Instead, the salvation word family refers to some sort of deliverance or rescue, and can include deliverance from premature death due to sickness or enemies, deliverance from running one’s relationships, or even to deliverance from shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.

It is this last idea of “salvation” which Paul primarily has in mind when he writes about salvation in his letters, and especially in his letter to the Romans.

Paul not only wants his readers to receive eternal life through faith in Jesus (Romans 4-5), he also wants his readers to experience the life of God in their day-to-day lives right now (Romans 6-8).

Paul not only wants his readers to be justified (Romans 4-5), he also wants them to be sanctified (Romans 6-8).

He not only wants them to be declared righteous in the sight of God (Romans 4-5), but also to live righteously in the sight of men (Romans 6-8).

So when Paul writes about salvation, it is this day-to-day journey into discipleship and sanctification that Paul has in mind.

“Salvation” in Romans is NOT about gaining forgiveness of sins so we can escape hell and go to heaven when we die. It is about following Jesus in the path of discipleship so that we can avoid the destructive and devastating consequences of sin in this life.

We see this quite clearly right here in Romans 10:9-10.

The word Paul uses for righteousness in verse 10 is the same exact Greek word he uses elsewhere for justification (see Justification). And how is a person justified? According to Paul, a person is justified when they believe in Jesus (cf. Romans 4:4-5). This belief takes place in their heart, that is, in their inner being. It is not something that necessarily has any outward sign, activity, or manifestation.

When we believe in Jesus, He gives us eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47). We are justified, or declared righteous by God.

But being declared righteous by God is not the same thing as the daily experience of freedom from sin.

Deliverance from the penalty of sin is not the same thing as deliverance from the power of sin in our lives. All Christians know that even after they become a Christian, they continue to struggle with disobedience and rebellion against God. Paul knows this very well (cf. Romans 7), and so a constant theme in his letters is to teach Christians how to experience the freedom for which they have been set free (cf. Gal 5:1).

Though justification truths are central to Paul’s thinking and teaching, sanctification truths are more constant.

So here in Romans 10:9-10, one key to gaining deliverance from the addictive and destructive power of sin in our lives is by publicly confessing our allegiance to Jesus.

We are justified by faith alone, but one key to experiencing salvation, that is, deliverance from the power of sin in our lives, is by boldly proclaiming with our mouth that Jesus is our Lord and Master.

As long as we hide the fact that we are aligned with Jesus, it will be easier for sin to continue to have mastery over us. But when we let friends, family, and co-workers know that we follow Jesus and obey His instructions, it will be easier for us to stand up for what is right and do what He commands. In this way, we will begin to experience salvation; we will begin to find deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in our lives.

confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord Romans 10:9-10

So is public confession with the mouth important? Yes, of course!

Taking a public stand for Jesus is essential for finding freedom from the power of sin in our lives. But this public stance is not required to receive eternal life. God declares us righteous when we believe in Jesus.

We believe in Jesus for eternal life, and we confess Jesus with our mouth to experience deliverance from sin.

How will this public stance look? Well, it will be different from person to person and from place to place. Baptism might be part of it, as well as possibly sharing a testimony in the church. But taking a public stand for Jesus is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing way of life that requires daily commitment and discipline. Taking a public stand for Jesus is part of every conversation, interaction, and decision with friends, family, coworkers, and even in our personal life.

Paul’s message in Romans 10:9-10 is that while being justified by faith alone is wonderful, it is not enough to deliver us from the power of sin in our lives here and now.

The first step toward this salvation from sin is to publicly confess and agree that we belong to God, that Jesus is our Master, and that we will follow Him and do what He says.

Note that this way of understanding Romans 10:9-10 can be easily understood by reversing the “order of events” in Romans 10:14-15. In these verses, Paul writes this:

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

The “calling on Him” is equivalent to confessing Jesus, so let us take these events in reverse order:

1. A person is sent
2. That person preaches to people
3. The people hear what is preached
4. They believe what is preached (and are therefore justified)
5. Those who believe call on the name of the Lord.

Do you see? A person cannot call on the name of the Lord until they have first believed. In other words, the “calling” or “confessing” that Paul has in mind is a discipleship activity. It is for believers who are already justified. This calling and confession helps “save” believers from the destructive power of sin in our lives.

One does not gain eternal life by calling on the name of the Lord or by making a public confession that Jesus is Lord. We receive eternal life by believing in Jesus for it.

But having believed, we can gain victory over sin in our life (salvation) by confessing Jesus, calling on His name, and taking a public stand for Him. If we fail to do this, it does not mean we don’t have eternal life; it just means we will not experience victory over sin in our life.

Jesus is King for life

So Do You Need to Confess that Jesus is Lord?

Well, it depends … what are you trying to do?

If you want to gain eternal life from God, then no, you do not need to confess that Jesus is Lord. Simply believe that Jesus has given eternal life to you. That’s it. Eternal life is a free gift received by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

But if you want to break free from the besetting, addicting, and destructive power of sin in your life, then yes, confession that Jesus is Lord and submission to Him in your life will be necessary. Only when we commit to following Jesus and take a stand for Him will we gain “salvation” from the power of sin in our lives here and now.

Does this make sense? I hope so! Leave any comments or questions you might have in the comment section below.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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There are several verses in the Bible which seem to teach that you need to make a public confession of Jesus in order to be saved. One of these is Romans 10:9-10. Many people interpret this to mean that if you do not let others know that you are a foll... There are several verses in the Bible which seem to teach that you need to make a public confession of Jesus in order to be saved. One of these is Romans 10:9-10. Many people interpret this to mean that if you do not let others know that you are a follower of Jesus, then you do not truly have eternal life and will therefore not spend eternity with God in heaven.<br /> <br /> To comment on this study, or read the transcript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/ Jeremy Myers clean 31:35
Do you need to confess your sins before God forgives you? (1 John 1:9) https://redeeminggod.com/confess-1-john-1-9/ Wed, 16 May 2018 22:27:43 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47929 Does 1 John 1:9 mean that if we do not confess our sins to God, He will not forgive us? No, the truth is that God has already forgiven you for all your sins, past, present, and future. So what does 1 John 1:9 mean? This article explains more.

In 1 John 1:9, we are invited to confess our sins so that God will forgive us. The verse says this:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But does this mean that if we do not confess our sins to God, He will not forgive us? No, the truth is that God has already forgiven you for all your sins, past, present, and future.

1 John 1:9So what did the Apostle John mean when he wrote 1 John 1:9? To understand this verse, we need to understand three things. We need to understand the meaning of the word “confess,” the meaning of the word “forgive” and the overall message and theme of 1 John.

Let us look at these three key ideas.

The Meaning of the Word “Confess”

The word confess comes from the Greek word homologeō, and it literally means “to say the same thing.” The word means more than just to admit, proclaim, or declare something. Instead, it has in view a conversation with God or others about what is true, and we agree with them about what they are saying.

The opposite of confession is denial (arneomai). When God makes a statement about some truth, we can either agree with God or disagree (John 1:20; 1 John 2:23). Therefore, the word “agree” might be the best translation of homologeō.

To confess is to align with what God is saying, or to agree with Him about something.

confess our sins

Obviously, there are lots of truths we can agree with God about. Almost every statement in Scripture requires us to either agree or disagree. Yet when we study the word confess in Scrip-ture, we discover that confession, or agreement with God, has nothing whatsoever to do with gaining or keeping our eternal life, but rather with aligning ourselves with God’s perspective on things.

Never forget that we gain the free gift of eternal life simply by believing in Jesus for it. No confession or agreement is necessary. No turning from sin. No submission to Jesus as Lord and Master. No public declaration about being part of the family of God.

All such things are good works that are important for the life of the Christian, but which are not requirements for receiving eternal life.

Yet after we believe in Jesus for eternal life, God begins to work with us as His children to mold us and conform us into who He created us to be. When we are born again into the family of God, we begin our life as one of His children.

But God does not stop with just giving us new life in Jesus. No, once we have life, He wants us to grow and mature and become productive members of His family. So through Scripture, the church, and the Holy Spirit, God begins to teach us things about Himself, about ourselves, and about how to follow Jesus. And when we see these truths, we can either agree with God or disagree.

If we agree with what God teaches us, then we align ourselves with what God has said, and we begin to make the necessary changes in our lives that come from this agreement.

But if we disagree, if we deny the truth of what God has said, then we continue to live in ignorance and self-deception, and we will not make progress in our lives as Christians. We will remain part of the family of God, but we will remain immature and fruitless.

So the word confess means to agree with about the things He teaches, especially regarding those things that help us live up to our identity as children of God.

This definition of “confess” will help us understand 1 John 1:9, but before we consider the verse, let us look at the word “forgive.”

The Meaning of the Word “Forgive”

I have gone over the meaning of the word “forgive” multiple times on this website, so I won’t go through it in depth again.

The main point to remember is that there are two kinds of forgiveness in the Bible. There is charizomai forgiveness, which is free and unconditional. God freely extends charizomai forgiveness to all people throughout all time for all sins, no matter what. Believers and unbelievers alike have charizomai forgiveness. It does not require confession or repentance. All sins–past, present, and future-are freely forgiven by God with this type of forgiveness.

The second type of forgiveness is aphesis forgiveness. It is always conditional, and is for our benefit; not God’s. Though God has freely forgiven us for all our sins, if we want to experience the release from the bondage of sin, then there are things we need to do … such as confess, repent, and purify our lives.

You can probably already guess which type of forgiveness is mentioned in 1 John 1:9. Yes, since confession is mentioned, then it makes sense that the second type of forgiveness, aphesis forgiveness, is in view.

See this article on forgiveness for more or you can also take the lesson on “Forgiveness” in my Gospel Dictionary Online Course.

forgiveness

And while this key helps our understanding of 1 John 1:9 the most, let us turn to the third key, which is the overall theme of 1 John.

The Overall Theme of 1 John

Some people think that the letter of 1 John is about how to know whether or not you have eternal life. Some people teach that 1 John contains “Tests of Life” and if you pass these tests, then you can know that you have life.

But this is not at all why John wrote this letter. Instead, as if evident from the opening verses, John wrote this letter because He had fellowship with Jesus, and wanted to share this fellowship with others.

“Fellowship” is just a biblical word for “friendship.” (This word also will be covered in the Gospel Dictionary Online Course).

fellowship 1 JohnYou can have a relationship with somebody, but not fellowship. For example, if you had a fight with one of your parents several years back, you are still related to them and are still part of the family, but you might not call them on the phone or get together for holidays. You are related, but do not have fellowship. You are not abiding or remaining with them in an ongoing friendship.

So John is writing his letter to Christians, to people who are in a relationship with God and with each other, as members of the family of God, and is telling them how to have fellowship with God and with each other. John wants His readers to be friends with God and friends with one another.

This also helps us understand 1 John 1:9.

Confession in 1 John 1:9

So let us take the three keys we have learned and put them all together as we seek to understand 1 John 1:9. Once again, the verse says this:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If you are in a relationship with someone, such as a spouse, a parent, or a child, and you want to maintain a friendship with them, then one of the things you will need to do is regularly own up to the things you have done wrong in that relationship.

Similarly, if someone wrongs or hurts you, this pain and betrayal causes a rift between the two of you, so that you probably don’t want to talk to them or hang out with them again. Oh yes, you are still related to them by the bonds of blood or marriage, but you might not want to spend much time in their presence.

But that rift, that pain, that sense of betrayal can be healed, right? And how can it be healed. By the other person owning up to what they did wrong, and by agreeing with you that what they said or did was hurtful to you. In other words, they need to confess their sin.

It is the same when you have wronged someone else. If you wronged somebody, you can’t just move on in the relationship acting as if nothing happened. The other person was hurt, and they need to know that you are sorry for what you did, and will work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

All of this is also true in our relationship with God. When we sin, God is saddened by our behavior. As a result, our fellowship with God is broken. Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when we sin, we often go hide in the bushes because we do not feel like God wants to see us.

1 John 1:7The first step in healing this brokenness is by confessing our sin and agreeing with God that what we did was wrong.

So while God unconditionally extends forgiveness (charizomai) to all people, and so we are all forgiven for all our sins, if we want to actually experience a release (aphesis) from our bondage to sin, the first step is to agree (confess) with God that we have sinned.

If we do this, we will gain release from our slavery to sin, and He will work to cleanse us and purify us from all our unrighteous practices, and in this way, our fellowship with God will develop and grow.

So do you want to be friends with God? One of things that will help is letting Him point out your sin to you, so that you can agree (confess) with Him where you have indeed done wrong. Then, once you agree, let Him further guide you into breaking free from this sin so that you can no longer be addicted and enslaved to it.

This is the message of 1 John 1:9. If you agree with God when He points out your sin to you, He is faithful and just and will help release you from this sin, and will help guide you into all the ways of righteousness. This way of living will help you grow in friendship with God and others.

Does this help you understand 1 John 1:9 and the role of confession? If you still have questions or comments, leave them in the comment are below!

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Does 1 John 1:9 mean that if we do not confess our sins to God, He will not forgive us? No, the truth is that God has already forgiven you for all your sins, past, present, and future. So what does 1 John 1:9 mean? This article explains more. Does 1 John 1:9 mean that if we do not confess our sins to God, He will not forgive us? No, the truth is that God has already forgiven you for all your sins, past, present, and future. So what does 1 John 1:9 mean? This podcast episode explains more. <br /> <br /> To leave a comment or read the transcript for this study, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/confess-1-john-1-9/ Jeremy Myers clean 27:34
“Christ” is not the last name of Jesus … It’s a title https://redeeminggod.com/christ-jesus/ Wed, 02 May 2018 16:36:24 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47874 The titles Christ or Messiah refer to someone who has received a special anointing by God to perform a specific task or purpose. Such a definition is true of every anointed person, whether it is a king, a prophet, a priest, or Jesus Himself. This article defines the word Christ and considers John 20:31 and how a proper understanding of the title Christ helps us understand the offer and invitation of the Gospel.

When someone talks about Christ, everybody knows they are talking about Jesus. Yet few people realize that the word “Christ” is not a name, but a title.

Defining Christ

Christ the KingThe word Christ comes from the Greek word christos, and is not actually a translation of the word, but a transliteration. The Greek letters of christos have simply been changed into English letters so that we get the word Christ. The same is true of the Hebrew equivalent, Messiah (Heb., Mashiach; cf. John 1:41).

The words themselves mean “anointed one” and can refer to someone who has been specially chosen by God to fulfill a function or complete a specific task, such as a king (1 Sam 9:16; 2 Sam 2:4-7; 1 Kings 1:34-45; Isa 45:1), priest (Exod 28:41; 30:30), or prophet (Isa 61:1). While the anointing upon these individuals was initially performed with oil, it later came to be thought of primarily as a spiritual anointing by God.

However, it is important to note that the term Christ has nothing to do with being divine. That is, while it is a biblical and theological fact that Jesus was fully God, we do not get this idea from the fact that Jesus is the Christ.

Yes, Jesus Christ is God incarnate. Yet “Christ” does not mean “God.” Even though I can say “The sky is blue” and “The sky is up,” this does not mean that the word “blue” means “up.” It doesn’t.

So also, even though the Bible teaches that “Jesus is the Christ” and that “Jesus is God,” the two statements are not theologically equivalent. Both statements are true, but both statements are saying different truths about Jesus.

After all, if Christ, or Mashiach, meant “God,” then what would the Bible be saying about those other individuals in Scripture, such as David, Saul, or Cyrus, who also called Mashiach?

It is best therefore, to think of the titles Christ or Messiah, as referring to someone who has received a special anointing by God to perform a specific task or purpose. Such a definition is true of every anointed person, whether it is a king, a prophet, a priest, or Jesus Himself.

“Christ” means “Anointed One”

In the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the title of “anointed one” (Mashiach or Christos) is used almost solely in reference to Jesus Christ. Paul takes the term even further so that it often refers not just to Jesus, but also to all who are in Jesus as part of His church (cf. Gal 3:27; Eph 3:4).

Eventually, the term “Christ” became so closely associated with the followers of Jesus, that eventually we became known as “Christians.”

So what is the best translation for the term Christ? While “anointed one” might be the most accurate translation, it is a bit of a mouthful to say “Jesus the Anointed One” all the time.

So is there a shorter term that might be preferable? Since most of the examples of anointed people in Scripture refer to prophets, priests, and kings, it is best to understand the term Christ in similar ways when it refers to Jesus.

Jesus is the pre-eminent prophet (Acts 3:18-24), priest (Heb 4:14-16), and king (Rev 19:16). Jesus is authoritative in how He judges, what He says, and where He leads.

Jesus is prophet priest king

Due to the wide variety of Messianic descriptions in the Old Testament, the Hebrew people often wondered what the Messiah would be like when He came. Would He be a king? A priest? A judge? A prophet? A deliverer? Would He be some combination of these, like the Priestly-King Melchizedek (Heb 5:5-11)?

When Jesus finally did arrive and declare Himself as the Messiah, the answer to all such questions was “Yes!” To speak of Jesus as the Christ is to speak of Him as our King, Priest, Prophet, Judge, Lord, Master, and Savior.

To speak of Jesus as the Christ is not only has the governmental role of ruler and king in view, but also the spiritual roles of prophet and priest, the legal roles of judge and counselor, and the personal roles of friend and brother.

So as it turns out, maybe the term Christ, left untranslated from the Greek christos, is the best word after all, as long as we recognize the rich significance and meaning of this term.

If you take all the roles from all the anointed leaders through all of biblical history, and combine them all together into one person, He looks just like Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the anointed King-Priest-Prophet-Judge-Lord-Master-Ruler-Savior.

As such, Jesus Christ rules and reigns not just over eternity, but also over every aspect of our lives here on earth as well.

Jesus the Christ

“Christ” and the Gospel

This understanding of Christ is critical for a proper understanding of the biblical gospel. There are some people in Christianity who think that the gospel is only about how to go to heaven when you die.

The truth, however, is that while the gospel does tell us how to have eternal life so that we can go to heaven when we die (I call this “The Target Truth” in The Gospel According to Scripture), this truth is relatively small compared to the large number and wide variety of gospel truths contained within the Scriptures.

The gospel message of Jesus Christ is not primarily about how to go to heaven when we die, but is instead about how to follow Jesus on this earth while we live.

The gospel is more about this life than about the next. And Jesus as “the Christ” shows and instructs us how to live this life.

When we see that Jesus as the Christ claims authority and preeminence over every aspect of our lives, this helps us learn to follow Him and seek His guidance as we go about our days and interact with others. Serving Jesus as our Lord and Master reminds us that we do not serve human kings or presidents, but only King Jesus. Our affiliation is not to a political party, but to the Kingdom of God (Acts 17:2-7).

Jesus is King for lifeSo when we read about Jesus Christ in the Bible, or when we read about how Christians are in Christ, it is important to not over-spiritualize word Christ, but instead to recognize that a statement is being bad about the Lordship and Mastery of Jesus over all things.

Yes, the term Christ itself means “anointed one” but Jesus was anointed to rule and reign over all things. The term Christ reminds us that as Christians, we follow Jesus as our Lord, Master, Ruler, and King.

In this way, the term Christ is central to the gospel because without Jesus as the Christ, there is no gospel. The good news message about Jesus is often described by Paul as “the gospel of Christ” (cf. Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 9:12; Gal 1:7).

If we want to understand the gospel, we must understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Kingly and Priestly Ruler of all.

There are over 500 references in the New Testament which mention the term Christ. We cannot look at all of them, so let us consider one key text which reveals what it means for Jesus to be the Christ.

John 20:31 – Jesus is the Christ

… but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

I stated above that the word Christ is not directly equivalent to being divine. That is, even though Jesus is God, and even though Jesus is the Christ, the two statements are not equivalent.

Though the title Christ carries rich theological symbolism and significance, one idea it does not carry is that of divinity.

Nevertheless, there are verses that seem to teach this connection. John 20:31 is one such verse. Some people use John 20:31 as evidence that divinity is included within the concept of Christ, for this text defines the word Christ with the phrase “the son of God.” A closer inspection of this passage reveals what John is really saying.

John 20:30-31 contains the purpose statement for the Gospel of John. He says that he wrote his Gospel account so that those who read it might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing they might have life in His name. This does indeed fit with what John writes in his Gospel.

Many refer to the fourth Gospel as “The Gospel of Belief” for it explains over and over that God gives eternal life to anyone who believes in Jesus for it (cf. John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47).

Since Matthew, Mark, and Luke are written more for Christians to help us learn how to follow Jesus in the path of discipleship, the purpose of John’s Gospel makes it the best one for unbelievers to read. John specifically wrote his Gospel account so that unbelievers might believe in Jesus.

Jesus ChristHowever, John did not write this Gospel account only for unbelievers. While he emphasizes over and over how a person can believe in Jesus for eternal life, John also knows that God wants much more for us than to just believe in Jesus.

Though it is critically important for someone to believe in Jesus for eternal life, this is only the beginning of all that God has for us in Jesus Christ.

God not only wants us to have life; He wants us to have it in abundance (John 10:10; see Abundant Life).

The Gospel of John is not just about how to receive eternal life, but is also about how to fully experience this life in Jesus.

So although John is the best Gospel for nonbelievers to read, there is lots of discipleship truth in this Gospel for believers as well.

John wants Christians to have all of the life that Jesus has for us, not just eternal life, but also the full experience of eternal life in Jesus Christ. And this comes, not just by believing in Jesus for eternal life—which is emphasized all over in the Gospel of John—but also by believing that Jesus is the Christ, that is, that He is King, Ruler, Master, Lord, and Savior.

Does saying that “Jesus is the Son of God” mean “Jesus is God”?

But what about that phrase “Son of God”? Does not this mean that Jesus is God?

Well, like “Christ,” the term “Son of God” is also a title. The way John uses this title in the verse shows that the two terms mean the same thing. John explains the word “Christ” with the term “Son of God.”

Since many people think that the title “Son of God” means “God,” they then conclude from this text that the term “Christ” also means “God.” But it does not.

During the Roman Empire, especially beginning with Caesar Augustus and following, the Caesars often referred to themselves as sons of God. By this, they were not claiming to be God incarnate, nor were they claiming (in most cases anyway) that they were the biological offspring of a Roman deity and a human woman.

By taking the title “the son of God,” the Caesars were saying that while they had been born as a human being to human parents, they had now become the adopted child of the gods. This status as adopted sons of God conferred upon them all the power and privilege that came with being part of the divine family, which meant that the Caesars had the divine right to rule over the Roman Empire.

So the title “son of God” is not primarily about being God or becoming a God, but is instead about ruling with the authority of God. Like the title “Christ,” it is about being King, Lord, Ruler, and Master over all things.

When a Caesar declared himself to be a son of God, he was not saying he was God, but was instead claiming that he had the right to rule and govern the Roman Empire.

This also is what it means to refer to Jesus as the Son of God, except that Jesus does not only rule over the Roman Empire, but over every kingdom, empire, and country on earth.

So here at the end of his Gospel account, John explains that he wrote his Gospel so that those who read it might believe that Jesus has the right to rule over all areas of life.

Not just over every corner of ever countries, however, but also over every act and thought of all people. John wants people to believe in Jesus not just for eternal life, but also for every other aspect of life as well.

Those who believe this will have the full experience of life that God wants for us. This is what it means to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (cf. 1 John 4:2-3, 15).

To learn more about the title “Christ,” and the meaning of other texts that use this term, take the Lesson on Christ in my Gospel Dictionary online course.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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The titles Christ or Messiah refer to someone who has received a special anointing by God to perform a specific task or purpose. Such a definition is true of every anointed person, whether it is a king, a prophet, a priest, or Jesus Himself. The titles Christ or Messiah refer to someone who has received a special anointing by God to perform a specific task or purpose. Such a definition is true of every anointed person, whether it is a king, a prophet, a priest, or Jesus Himself. This article defines the word Christ and considers John 20:31 and how a proper understanding of the title Christ helps us understand the offer and invitation of the Gospel. <br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the transcript, visit: <br /> https://redeeminggod.com/christ-jesus/ Jeremy Myers clean 30:20
Can I be blotted out of the Book of Life? (Revelation 3:5) https://redeeminggod.com/book-of-life-revelation-3-5/ Wed, 25 Apr 2018 23:32:36 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47833 The reason that some people wonder if they can be blotted out of the book of life is because passages like Revelation 3:5 seem seem to indicate that this is a distinct possibility. However, when you understand what the Book of Life actually is, you will also come to understand what Revelation 3:5 actually means. Have you ever wondered if you can be blotted out of the book of life? Many people have this fear.

The reason that some people wonder if they can be blotted out of the book of life is because there are a few verses in the Bible which seem to indicate that this is a distinct possibility.

However, when you understand what the Book of Life actually is, you will also come to understand what these tricky Bible passages mean.

This article is a summary of what people in my discipleship group learn when they take my online course, The Gospel Dictionary. The lesson on the book of life defines the term and looks at several key Bible passages which teach about it.

This post defines the term and looks at just one passage: Revelation 3:5. Let us begin with defining the term “book of life.”

What is the Book of Life?

Book of Life Revelation 3:5The Book of Life is a translation from the Greek phrase tō biblō tēs zōēs. The phrase “the Book of Life” or “the Book of the Living” are fine translations for this phrase.

What matters more than the translation, however, is the nature of this book. What is this book? Why was it written? What does it mean to have your name written in the book? Can your name be removed from the book? If so, how does this happen and what does it mean?

All these questions must be answered as we seek to understand the Book of Life in Scripture.

Three Ways the Book of Life is mentioned in the Bible

There are three main ways the Book of Life is mentioned in the Bible. There is the Book of the Living (Ps 69:28), the Book of Life (Php 4:3; Rev 3:5; 20:12, 15), and the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev 13:8; 21:27).

Generally speaking, it appears that the first two phrases refer to a book which contains the names of every person who has physical life upon the earth.

The third phrase, the Lamb’s Book of Life, refers to a book which contains the names of every person who has eternal life in Jesus Christ.

There are numerous questions about the Book of Life. For example, some wonder whether or not these books actually exist, or if they symbolize some sort of divine mental list about who has life and who does not. And then there is the debate about how many books there are. Is it one, two, or three books? But such a debate hardly matters.

Whether Scripture is talking about keeping your name in the one Book of Life or having it transferred from the Book of Life to the Lamb’s Book of Life, the point remains the same: Whoever has their name written in the Book of Life (whether it is one book or two) is still alive. More importantly, there is a way to keep your name written in the Book of Life, even after you die.

One common view (which I held for many years) is that there are two books, the Book of Life, which contains the list of everyone who is alive, and the Lamb’s Book of Life, which contains the list of everyone who has eternal life in Jesus.

The alternative view, which is the view I now hold, is that there is only one Book of Life. When people die, their names are removed from the Book of Life. However, those who have everlasting life in Jesus Christ can never have their names removed from this book.

When a person believes in Jesus, their name, which had been written in “erasable” pencil, is now copied over with the permanent ink of the Blood the Lamb. Once this happens, it can never be removed or erased.

Therefore, eventually, at the end of human history, the Book of Life will contain only the names of people who have eternal life in Jesus. At this point, the Book of Life becomes known as the Lamb’s Book of Life, for it contains the list of everyone who has life in Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Book of Life Rev 3 5Whichever approach you choose, it is important to note that while Scripture does teach about getting blotted out of the Book of Life, this does not ever refer to losing eternal life. While a person might get their “penciled” name erased from the Book of Life when they die, once a person’s name is written in permanent ink, it cannot ever be blotted out.

However, lots of people struggle with various passages in the Bible which seem to indicate that a person can lose their eternal life by being blotted out of the book of life. Revelation 3:5 is one such text.

Being blotted out of the book of Life in Revelation 3:5

Revelation 3:5 says this:

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Revelation 3:5 has caused a lot of angst among Christians over the years, for it seems to imply that Jesus might, in fact, blot their names out of the Book of Life.

This verse appears in the Letter to the church in Sardis, and Jesus says that if they overcome, they will be clothed in white garments and will not be blotted out of the Book of Life.

To be an overcomer, one must not just live their life as a Christian, but must faithfully love, serve, and honor Jesus throughout their Christian life (Overcomer is another term I discuss in the Gospel Dictionary online course).

Some take from this, therefore, that those who fail to faithfully love, serve, and honor Jesus throughout their life will in the end have their name blotted out of the Book of Life, thus losing their eternal life.

Due to such teaching about this verse, many Christians live in fear of losing their eternal life if they do not follow and obey Jesus faithfully.

But this is not what Revelation 3:5 is teaching.

Citizenship Rosters in Sardis

The first thing to recognize is that numerous towns in John’s had citizenship rosters which contained the names of citizens. When a person died, they were removed from the roster.

But if a person brought great shame upon the town through committing various crimes, this also might lead to being removed from the roster. There are records of this happening to various citizens in Sardis.

Notice that Jesus says that He will never remove the name of an overcome from the roster. Quite the contrary, Jesus promises to praise their name in the heavenly courts, before God and the angels. This is a great honor that Jesus promises to those who faithfully serve and obey Him.

Jesus says there are a few names in Sardis who are on track for receiving this great honor (Rev 3:4). But what about those who fail to overcome? What about those who have defiled their garments and who have brought shame upon Jesus and His church?

The answer is that Jesus says nothing about them. Just because Jesus says He will greatly honor those who overcome, this does not mean that He will shame or dishonor those who do not.

Revelation 3:5He says he will come like a thief in the night (Rev 3:3), but this does not mean that He will come to kill them or take away their eternal life. Jesus says that unfaithful servants will not be honored the same way that faithful servants will be, but He is not saying that unfaithful servants will be cast out, killed, or have eternal life removed from them.

Litotes in Revelation 3:5

Support for this approach is found in the fact that John is using a figure of speech called litotes. Litotes is when we state a positive as a negative as a way of emphasizing the positive.

We use this figure of speech all the time.

Let us say that your favorite football team is having a fantastic year and have gone undefeated. This coming Sunday, they are facing a team that so far has not won a single game. If I ask you whether you think your team will win, you could simply say “Yes, they are certainly going to win,” but you might also say, “If they play like they’ve been playing, they will definitely not lose.”

In that second statement, do you see how a positive is stated in a negative way? When you state that they will definitely not lose, you are using a negative to emphasize the almost certain fact that they will indeed win.

But notice something interesting about litotes. Although you use a negative to emphasize the positive, this does not mean that the opposite is true.

Take your undefeated football team again. Let us say that instead of playing as they have been playing all year, they instead play the worst game of the season. The quarterback throws interceptions. There are numerous fumbles and penalties. The defense never really gets going. They play an absolutely terrible game.

But even so, does this mean that they will automatically lose the game? Not necessarily. Even though they play poorly, they might still win the game. It might not be the absolute blowout that it could have been, but they might still squeak through with a victory.

Maybe another example of litotes will help.

What you think if you overheard a man say, “If my wife makes me an apple pie, I will not stop loving her”?

Would you assume from that statement that if this man’s wife did not make me an apple pie that he would stop loving her? No, probably not.

Instead, you would understand that he does love her, and that if she makes him an apple pie, he would love the pie, and would show great appreciation to his wife.

This is also how to understand Revelation 3:5.

One of the blessings pronounced on overcomers is that they will not be blotted out of the Book of Life. When we understand this as litotes, we understand that Jesus is saying that those who overcome will not only keep their name in the Book of Life because they are believers, but will receive greater blessings from God and greater experience of life with God. They will receive white robes and will receive special recognition before God and the host of angels.

Notice, of course, that just as with the football and apple pie examples, the opposite of the Revelation 3:5 litotes is not true.

Many pastors and teachers say that if someone does not overcome, then their name will be blotted out of the Book of Life. But Revelation 3:5 doesn’t say that at all. Revelation 3:5 does not say that those who fail to overcome will be blotted out of the Book of Life.

Even if your football team does not play up to their ability, this does not necessarily mean they will lose the game this weekend.

Even if a man’s wife does not make apple pie, this does not mean that he will stop loving her.

Even if a Christian fails to overcome, this does not mean that their name will get blotted out of the Book of Life.

So no Christian can Ever be Blotted out of the Book of Life

The Book of Life can be understood simply as the roster of the living. It is a list, or register, of all living people. When a person dies, their name is removed from this list.

However, when a person receives everlasting life from Jesus, their name remains in the Book of Life, for even though they die, they will live again, and will live forever.

At the end of time, when the only people who remain are those who have eternal life in Jesus, the Book of Life becomes known as the Lamb’s Book of Life, for the only names that will remain in the book are those written in the permanent ink of the blood of the Lamb.

Do you have further questions or comments about the book of Life? Leave them in the comment section below, or (better yet) join my online discipleship group and take the lesson on this important word from the Bible. See you there!

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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The reason that some people wonder if they can be blotted out of the book of life is because passages like Revelation 3:5 seem seem to indicate that this is a distinct possibility. However, when you understand what the Book of Life actually is, Can you be blotted out of the book of life? Some think so. The reason that some people wonder if they can be blotted out of the book of life is because passages like Revelation 3:5 seem seem to indicate that this is a distinct possibility. However, when you understand what the Book of Life actually is, you will also come to understand what Revelation 3:5 actually means.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the transcript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/book-of-life-revelation-3-5/ Jeremy Myers clean 26:45
How does the blood of Jesus cleanse us from our sin? (1 John 1:7-10) https://redeeminggod.com/blood-of-jesus-cleanses-1-john-1-7-10/ Wed, 18 Apr 2018 21:25:55 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47732 According to 1 John 1:7-10, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin by exposing sin for what it is and then calling us to no longer live in the way of sacred violence. The blood of Jesus is not a spiritual antidote to sin which somehow removes the polluting presence of sin from our lives. Instead, the blood of Jesus exposes our sacred violence to us so that we can see in our own lives how we make scapegoat victims out of others, and then calls us to no longer live in this way. One of the members of my online discipleship group recently asked me about 1 John 1:7-10 and how the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin. Here is what he wrote:

I really appreciate your ministry and have been blessed by your books. I have a question for you regarding 1 John 1:7, where it says the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin. I just listened to your podcast about the two different words for forgiveness, but I’m wondering how this verse plays into it all, since it uses the word “cleanses” – what do I need to know to understand this well? -Eli

Thanks for the question, Eli!

1 John 1:7-101 John 1:7-10 does get discussed in various ways through my online course “The Gospel Dictionary,” but let me try to summarize here some of what I teach in that course. For a fuller understanding, you would need to take the lessons on Blood, Confess, Fellowship, Forgiveness, and Sin. Of course, not all of those lessons are available yet, but they will be soon… But while you wait, you can also read about forgiveness and sin in my book, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, which discusses these terms.

So here is my basic answer for how to understand 1 John 1:7-10.

Cleansing from Sin (1 John 1:7, 9)

Let us begin by quoting the pertinent verses:

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. … If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7, 9).

There are five key terms which help us understand 1 John 1:7-10. We must understand what is meant by the words “sin, blood of Jesus, confess, forgive, and cleanse.” Let us briefly consider all five.

Sin in 1 John 1:7-10

The term “sin” in 1 John does not simply refer to breaking God’s law or doing bad things. Most Christians understand the word “sin” this way, but this is not primarily the way the Bible defines sin.

In Scripture, as in 1 John, sin is primarily the activity and actions that lead to and involve accusing and scapegoating other people. Yes, John says that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) but the laws were only given to keep us from accusing, condemning, scapegoating, and killing others in God’s name.

So lying and stealing are sinful, but only because they are part of the actions and behaviors that lead us to accuse, condemn, and scapegoat others. One premier place we see this in 1 John is when John gives the example of Cain murdering his brother Abel (Gen 4). This murder is the first sin in the Bible, and sets the stage for all sinful behavior that follows. (For a longer explanation, listen to my podcast episodes on Genesis 4.)

So sin is the ancient and universal human practice of wrongly accusing, condemning, scapegoating, and killing others in God’s name. This helps us understand what is meant by the term “the blood of Jesus.”

Blood of Jesus in 1 John 1:7-10

Few people actually believe that they engage in the practice of wrongly accusing, condemning, or scapegoating others. We believe that our judgments of others are righteous, valid, and correct. We believe that the people we accuse and condemn truly are guilty of the things we accuse them of.

Jesus died to reveal the source of violenceAnd while it is true that they might be guilty of some of the things we accuse them of, the human tendency is to amplify the sinful behavior of others so that we can turn them into monsters, and dehumanize them, so that we can condemn them, or send them into exile, or even kill them in the name of God.

But few humans recognize that we do such a thing. We don’t admit that our judgments are unjust. We think we rightly accuse and condemn others.

So Jesus came along to reveal the truth to us. And though He was innocent of all wrongdoing, we accused, condemned, and killed Him … and we did this all the name of God. But since He was completely innocent, His unjust crucifixion revealed that we humans have a problem with unjustly accusing and condemning people.

The blood of Jesus reveals this truth to us. And nothing but the blood of Jesus could reveal this truth to us. Only someone who was completely innocent could show us that we humans have a problem with unjustly condemning and accusing other people.

But the sad reality is that even though Jesus revealed this truth to us, few of us recognize our involvement in such behaviors. But we must recognize it, and we must agree that we are indeed guilty of these sorts of accusatory, condemning, scapegoating practices.

Confession in 1 John 1:7-10

The word “confess” means to agree. When Jesus revealed the truth to us by His blood, we are faced with a choice.

We can either agree with what Jesus has revealed, or we can disagree. We can either confess or we can deny that we do indeed engage in falsely accusing and condemning others.

Of course, if we deny that we are involved in such practices, then we’re simply deceiving ourselves and have not yet recognized the truth.

Forgiveness in 1 John 1:7-10

But if we do agree and confess that we have been involved in falsely condemning, accusing, and scapegoating other people, it is then and only then that we can begin to break free from such practices and start loving other people as God wants and desires.

Forgiven and forgivenessThere are two words for forgiveness in the Bible. One is freely extended by God to all people throughout time for all their sins, past, present, and future. The second is only experienced when we humans take certain actions to change our thought patterns or behavior.

It is this second type of forgiveness that is mentioned in 1 John 1:9. So while God has always and freely forgiven us for all our sins, we will not experience this forgiveness in our own lives unless we take some actions to see the truth about ourselves, and take steps to change our behavior.

But this change begins with agreeing or confessing that we practice sin.

Cleansing in 1 John 1:7-10

Only when we agree and confess that we do indeed engage in falsely accusing, condemning, and scapegoating other people will we begin to be cleansed from our practice of this sin in our lives.

The cleansing of our sin is not a spiritual cleansing, but is a cleansing and changing of our actual behaviors going forward. As we are cleansed in this way, we will grow in fellowship with God and with one another.

An Amplified Summary of 1 John 1:7-10

With these five terms in mind, we can now easily understand what John is saying in 1 John 1:7-10. Here is an amplified paraphrase:

1 John 1:7. God walks in the light and we can walk in the light with Him if we agree with the light of truth He has revealed. When we live in light of this, we will live in peace with God and with each other and will no longer engage in the sinful practices of accusing, condemning, scapegoating others, which was revealed to us through the blood of Jesus. When we turn from such practices, we will be cleansed from living in such violent ways.

1 John 1:8. Of course, not everybody wants to admit that they engage in such practices. We humans tend to think that our judgments of others are just, and that our accusations of them have the backing and support of God. But if we believe this way, then we are simply deceiving ourselves, and we have not yet understood the truth.

1 John 1:9. However, if we agree that we do indeed engage in the sinful practices revealed through the bloody death of Jesus on the cross, then God is faithful and just and will help us gain deliverance and freedom from our bondage and enslavement to these practices, and He will help us stop engaging in them any longer. (God has freely forgiven us of all these sins, but if we want to practically be cleansed from them, we need to admit that we engage in them, and then follow the example and teachings of Jesus in how to live with love and free forgiveness instead.)

1 John 1:10. So once again … if you deny that you engage in this basic human practice of accusing, condemning, and scapegoating others … if you think that the people you call “monsters” and “heretics” truly are guilty of everything you accuse them of … if you think that some people truly deserve to burn in hell for all eternity … if you think that war is righteous and good and we need to bomb some groups of evil people off the face of the planet … then you are calling God a liar, and you have not understood the first thing about God and what He taught through Jesus (cf. 1 John 4:7-11).

So what is John teaching in 1 John 1:7-10?

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin by exposing sin for what it is and then calling us to no longer live in the way of sacred violence. His blood cleanses us through calling us to practice non-violence.

1 John 1:7The blood of Jesus is not a spiritual antidote to sin which somehow removes the polluting presence of sin from our lives.

No, the blood of Jesus exposes our sacred violence to us so that we can see in our own lives how we make scapegoat victims out of others, and then calls us to no longer live in this way. Instead, we are to walk in the light of Jesus and have fellowship with Him, with God, and with one another (1 John 1:3).

Of course, as John goes on to explain, if we deny what Jesus reveals to us through His blood, and say that we are not guilty of sacred violence toward others, then we simply have not yet seen the truth about the blood of Jesus and have not owned up to our own duplicity and participation in human scapegoating and violence.

Only once we admit it and own up to our role in making victims of others can we then be cleansed from it and work in fellowship with God and others (1 John 1:8-10).

But what about our PAST sins?

While this understanding helps cleanse our life from present and future sins, how does the blood of Jesus cleanse us from past sins?

In other words, while the understanding proposed here helps us turn from our violent, sinful ways in the future, what does 1 John 1:7-10 have to say about our past sins?

The answer is that the text doesn’t say anything about our past sins. It is only concerned with our present and future behavior.

love of GodJohn is primarily interested in make sure that his readers recognize how they have been involved in the violent, bloody, accusatory, scapegoating practices that run this world, and turn from such behaviors to walk in the light of God’s love.[1]

Nevertheless, other passages in Scripture tell us how we are cleansed and forgiven by God from our past sins. Passages such as Romans 3:25-26, 2 Corinthians 5:19, and Colossians 2:13 reveal that God simply overlooks our sin, does not count our sin against us, and freely forgives all people of all their sin.

The instruction in 1 John 1:9 to confess our sins so that we might be forgiven is referring to a conditional type of forgiveness which is not the same thing as God’s free and unconditional forgiveness. Here in 1 John 1:7-10, the issue is not so much about being cleansed from our past sins, but about our present and future behavior as we seek to live in fellowship with God and one another.

So how are you going to live?

First of all, do you see what is revealed through the violent and bloody death of Jesus? Do you see how He revealed the truth that we humans accuse, condemn, scapegoat, and even kill other people in God’s name … but that none of this has anything to do with God, but is in fact the exact opposite of what God wants and desires?

Second, you you agree that you have engaged … and might still be engaging … in some of these practices today? Maybe you are engaging in this practice toward Muslims … or gays … or Democrats … or Republicans … or President Trump … or the Media … or your boss … or your neighbor … or … whomever.

Third, if you recognize you have engaged in some of these practices, then what are you to do about it? Well, that’s what the rest of 1 John is all about, which you can read on your own. But the bottom line is that you need to unconditionally love and freely forgive, just as God loves and forgives us.

But all of that will have to be saved for another study.

If you have questions or comments, leave them in the comment section below … and also, consider joining us in the online discipleship group where we regularly discuss these sorts of topics and passages. If you are already in the group, make sure you have signed up to take “The Gospel Dictionary” course, which is free for you to take inside the group.

Notes:

[1] The Greek word for “cleansing” in 1 John 1:7 is present indicative, and in 1 John 1:9 is aorist subjunctive. Though aorists can indicate past time, the subjunctive mood indicates probability or objective possibility. Therefore, due to the inherent contingency of the subjunctive mood, the implied timing is usually future, so that aorist subjunctive tends to have a future timing, and can even be used as a substitute with the future indicative. See https://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/subj-detail-frame.htm

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According to 1 John 1:7-10, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin by exposing sin for what it is and then calling us to no longer live in the way of sacred violence. - The blood of Jesus is not a spiritual antidote to sin which somehow removes the ... According to 1 John 1:7-10, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin by exposing sin for what it is and then calling us to no longer live in the way of sacred violence. <br /> <br /> The blood of Jesus is not a spiritual antidote to sin which somehow removes the polluting presence of sin from our lives. Instead, the blood of Jesus exposes our sacred violence to us so that we can see in our own lives how we make scapegoat victims out of others, and then calls us to no longer live in this way.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the shownotes, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/blood-of-jesus-cleanses-1-john-1-7-10/ Jeremy Myers clean 30:52
Is the Shedding of Blood Required for the Forgiveness of Sins? (Hebrews 9:22) https://redeeminggod.com/hebrews-9-22-shedding-of-blood-forgiveness-of-sins/ Wed, 11 Apr 2018 15:00:15 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=38525 You and I can forgive others without requiring them to shed their blood. So why do some Christians teach that God requires the shedding of blood in order to forgive us? One reason is because of Hebrews 9:22 which says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. But the text does not teach what most people think it teaches. This post gives 10 reasons why Hebrews 9:22 does not teach that the shedding of blood is required for the forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22 provides the main reason Christians believe that if Jesus had not shed His blood for us, we could never have been forgiven for our sins. Hebrews 9:22 refers to Leviticus 17:11 as saying this:

… without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins.

So there we go! The blood of Jesus is important – necessary even – for the forgiveness of sins.

End of story. The question is answered. The post stops here.

Except … hmm … something doesn’t seem quite right with that quick and tidy answer …

For example, I forgive people all the time without requiring that they shed blood for me. And I’m really glad that people forgive me all the time without asking that I open a vein or kill my cat for them.

So if I can offer forgiveness without the shedding of blood, and so can other people, what is going on with God? Doesn’t He freely forgive (Col 3:13)? Since when are there conditions for unconditional love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness? Is God’s forgiveness of a lesser sort than ours? Or maybe His forgiveness is of a more powerful type of forgiveness that requires blood?

And if God’s forgiveness is greater and so requires blood, then my next question is, “Why blood?” I mean, if God is the one making the rules, and sin is a serious affront to His holiness, then why did He decide that blood would appease Him? Why not require … I don’t know … spit? Or hair? Yes, I like the hair idea.

Why didn’t God simply say “Without the cutting of hair, there can be no forgiveness of sins”? Of course, that might not be fair to bald people, but I digress …

Hebrews 9 22

What’s the deal with blood?

Yes, yes, I know. I’ve been to “the seminary.” They tell us:

It’s because the life is the blood.

That’s from Leviticus 17:11. In the Bible. And since we have a verse, the discussion is over.

But wait! That’s no answer. The question still stands. So okay, God wants blood, and it has something to do with the life of a person being in the blood. But God makes the rules, so why did He decide He wanted blood? Why does God want to kill people (or animals in the place of people) because people sin?

In fact, come to think of it, the issue isn’t with blood any more. The issue now is with God. Why does God want blood?

I could follow this line of reasoning further, but I think you get the point. In fact, some of that conversation might sound very similar to conversations you have had with atheists. At least, much of what I wrote above echoes conversations I have had with atheists. Atheists are atheists for a variety of reasons, but some of them have real issues with a god who demands blood so that He can forgive sins.

And you know what I tell them? I say this:

God Doesn’t Want Blood

God doesn’t want blood. God wants life! It is WE who think that God wants blood (when He doesn’t).

The idea of God demanding blood is borrowed from pagan religions. Jesus went to the cross, not to reinforce and support this idea, but to expose and redeem it. That’s a huge idea which would take us down a whole new rabbit trail.

Hebrews 9:22 shedding of bloodBut if God doesn’t demand blood, then how does God forgive? Doesn’t Hebrews 9:22 teach that God needs blood in order to forgive us? No, it does not. Let us read carefully what Hebrews 9:22 says in context.

1. Hebrews 9:22 contrasts Jesus with Moses

The first thing to notice about the context of Hebrews 9:22 is that the author is clearly contrasting the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law with what Jesus accomplished in His death on the cross.

One way to note this is by looking back to Hebrews 9:15, which is the opening statement in the larger context of this discussion about sacrifice and blood. In Hebrews 9:15, the author writes about the “redemption of the transgressions.” The word used there is not the normal word for “sin” in the NT, but is parabaino (STR: 3847), and means to overstep or go beyond the boundaries.

The TDNT says that parabaino is closely connected with sin in the New Testament, but primarily in the sense of using human tradition to disobey the law of God while claiming to be the fulfillment of the law.

In other words, parabaino takes place when someone tries to explain and apply the law of God, but actually ends up doing the exact opposite of what the law says.

The author of Hebrews indicates that Jesus came to redeem sin, that is, to redeem the parabaino type of sin. More specifically still, Jesus came to redeem the sin of misusing the law. It is this issue that concerns the author of Hebrews.

2. Hebrews 9:22 says there is purification and forgiveness Without Blood

Second, it is important to note that even in Hebrews 9:22, the author pretty adamantly states that there is purification and forgiveness apart from the shedding of blood. The author says, “almost all things are purified with blood …”

If we went back to read the Levitical law, we would see that purification and forgiveness was extended under a variety of circumstances, including the washing with water (Lev 15:16-17; 17:15), anointing with oil (Lev 14:29), burning flour (Lev 5:11-13), giving money (Exod 30:11-16), or releasing an animal into the wild (Lev 16:10).

And in fact, when it comes to intentional sins, there was no offering of any kind which was prescribed by the law. All the sacrifices and offerings of the law are for unintentional sins only. This means that when an Israelite sinned intentionally (as they most certainly did, just as we do), the only way they could receive forgiveness from God was to look to Him for it in faith (just like us)!

The author of Hebrews knows all this, which is why he says that almost all things are purified by blood.

3. Hebrews 9:22 is not about Sin; but about the Covenant

Of course, even this requires further modification, for it is not true that almost all things required blood for purification. A quick reading of the Law reveals that most things did not require blood.

So what does the author of Hebrews mean?

The context indicates that the author specifically has in mind the tabernacle and the religious items within the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:21). The author is talking about the initial dedication ceremony of the first tabernacle built by Moses. This purification and dedication ceremony initiated the Mosaic Covenant (Hebrews 9:18-19).

So the author of Hebrews is not giving a general principle in Hebrews 9:22 for how we receive forgiveness of sins, but is instead referring to how the covenant of Moses was initiated by blood.

4. Hebrews 9:22 says that Shedding of Blood came from the Law

Fourth, notice that the author of Hebrews specifically states where the instruction about offerings of blood came from. He does not say, “and God commanded that all things be purified with blood, for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

No, Hebrews 9:22 specifically states that this these things are “according to the law.” Of course, those of us who hold to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture don’t see much difference between something the law stated and something God stated, and yet we must be careful because numerous Old Testament prophets emphatically declared that God is not the one who gave the law or commanded that the people offer sacrifices, and He was not pleased with these sorts of religious rituals, nor did He ever want them (cf. Jer 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8).

This is the same point the author of Hebrews makes in 10:5-6.

Reconciling the words of these inspired prophets with the modern understanding of inspiration and inerrancy is a difficult task indeed. I have a way that works for me, but again, to travel down that rabbit trail would take us too far afield.

But however we understand that thorny issue, we can all agree that in Hebrews 9:22, the author is simply contrasting how the law inaugurated the Mosaic Covenant with how Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant.

shedding of blood for forgiveness of sins

5. The Shedding of Blood Never Brought Forgiveness!

In light of this contrast, notice fifthly, that the author of Hebrews deftly shows how the Mosaic covenant, with all its bloody sacrifices, was never able to accomplish what it promised.

The author of Hebrews points out that it is “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Though it was the law that promised the forgiveness of sins through blood sacrifices, the simple fact that the law required perpetual sacrifices revealed that the law could not deliver what it promised.

Nobody was ever actually forgiven through the blood of a sacrifice! So according to the author of Hebrews, though the law required blood for forgiveness, blood didn’t provide any forgiveness! The law didn’t work!

6. Hebrews 9:22 is not about Forgiveness OF SINS

This leads to a sixth point about Hebrews 9:22 which should not be missed.

I intentionally misquoted Hebrews 9:22 above. I quoted it as saying that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

But Hebrews 9:22 does not include those final two words. Hebrews 9:22 says nothing about sin. Yes, sin is mentioned in Hebrews 9:26-28, but only in reference to the sacrifice of Jesus. The first time the author references sin in connection to the sacrificial blood of the Mosaic covenant is in Hebrews 10:4, where, as we have just seen, the only connection between sin and blood is that sin cannot be taken away by the blood of bulls and goats.

So what is the blood for in Hebrews 9:22? Again, as we saw above, it was for the purification of the tabernacle and its vessels when Moses inaugurated the first covenant. Modern western Christians are so infatuated with sin, that we see sin everywhere and believe that our biggest problem in the world is sin and that God is sitting in heaven trying to figure out how to stop us all from sinning.

I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.

God is not nearly as concerned with sin as we are.

Before the majesty of God’s holiness and love, all the sin of the world is little more than an annoying flea jumping around on the ground by his foot. Sin is not that big of a deal for God. The only reason He is concerned at all about sin is because sin hurts and damages us, and since He loves us beyond all imagination, He wants to do something about that annoying flea, because it has bitten us and injected us with all sorts of harmful toxins.

Also, God must do something about sin because sin is a big deal for Satan, and Satan uses sin to lay claim to our lives, which is something God does not want. But this too is another rabbit trail which we must avoid for now. The bottom line is that sin is not a big deal for God, and sin is not the issue in Hebrews 9:22.

7. Hebrew 9:22 isn’t even about “Forgiveness”

But what about the word “forgiveness” in Hebrews 9:22? Doesn’t that indicate that sin is the issue? No, it does not. This is the seventh point about this important text.

The word which the author uses here is the Greek word aphesis. This word does not mean “forgiveness” in the way that modern, English-speaking people think about forgiveness. Instead, aphesis is something closer to “deliverance” or “release.”

It has in mind the picture of someone who is enslaved and in chains, and someone else come along with the key to unlock them and set them free. I have written previously about aphesis.

In Scripture, we are freely forgiven of all our sins, past, present, and future, completely and only by the grace of God. We are, however, called upon to obey God so that we might enjoy the freedom from sin that He wants for us. Sin injects us with toxins that further enslave us, which God wants to liberate us from.

This sort of release often requires something on the part of the one who is being released, lest they fall right back into slavery after having been released! In this way, aphesis is a symbiotic forgiveness. It not only requires that the liberator unlock the chains; it also requires that the liberated run away from what had chained them.

blood of Jesus shed for us forgiveness of sins

8. The “Release” of Hebrews 9:22 is a Release of the Covenant

In Hebrews 9, it is not people who are being released, but the covenant itself! This eighth point is that the blood of Hebrews 9:22 has absolutely nothing to do with the removal of sin.

Instead, the blood was for the enactment of the Mosaic Covenant. The author of Hebrews could not be more clear. He says that a testament, or will, is not put into effect until the one who wrote it dies (Hebrews 9:16-17). My wife and I have Wills, and as is the case with all Wills, they do not go into effect until we die. A “Last Will and Testament” has no power while we live.

So after Moses wrote the Covenant, or the testament, he enacted a death over it to make it effective and active upon the people (Hebrews 9:19-21).

Whose “Last Will and Testament” was this? It was God’s! It was God’s covenant to the people.

But since God Himself could not come down to die and so enact the covenant, Moses symbolized the death of God with “the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop” (Hebrews 9:19).

The “release” in Hebrews 9:22 then, is the release of the covenant.

Prior to the shedding of the blood of the bulls and goats, the covenant was not active. It was under lock and key. A death was needed to free it, liberate it, or enact it.

And since God was the “testator” (Hebrews 9:16), but God could not die, Moses killed calves and goats to symbolize the death of God, and in so doing, enacted the covenant of God with His people, Israel.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with sin.

Nor does Hebrews 9:22 have anything with the conditions of forgiveness, for as we have seen above, the covenant offered numerous ways for people to receive purification from sin, and when it came to forgiveness for intentional sins, the Israelites believed on the grace of God for forgiveness just as we do.

9. The People were also Released from Slavery

But the “remission” or “release” of Hebrews 9:22 is not just of the covenant. The implementation of the first covenant with Moses took place after the Israelite people had been delivered and redeemed from captivity in Egypt.

From a purely legal standpoint, they were runaway slaves. And according to the laws of slavery, as long as a slave is still living and has not yet been set free, the slave is still a slave, even if they run away.

So the redemption enacted as part of the Mosaic covenant was the redemption of the slaves from Egypt. The death of the calves and goats symbolized the death of the Israelite people to their former life of slavery in Egypt.

Through the Mosaic covenant, the people of Israel died to their old identification as slaves to the household of Pharaoh (i.e., Egypt), and were raised again to a new identification as members of the household of God. This is why the water and the blood was sprinkled not just on the book of the covenant, but also on all the people (Hebrews 9:19).

They were dying to their past and were being born again into a new family. As members of this new family, they had new household rules to live by, which were enumerated in the Mosaic covenant.

10. Hebrews 9:22 in the context of Hebrews 9-10

All of this together helps us understand the discussion in Hebrews 10 that follows about how the New Covenant, which was enacted through the death of Jesus, is far superior in all ways to the Old Covenant which was enacted through the blood of animals.

This also helps explain why Hebrews 10 talks about sin so much. Though we have seen that Hebrews 9:22 is not talking about the forgiveness of sins, we often get confused about the rest of Hebrews 9 and on into Hebrews 10 because there are many references to the sacrifice or offerings of Jesus Christ for our sins.

blood of Christ Hebrews 9-10

The best way to understand this is to remember what we have learned from Hebrews 9:16-22 about why the blood of the calves and goats was sprinkled over tabernacle and its instruments, along with the book of the covenant and the people, on the day the Mosaic Covenant was instituted among them. The blood was to inaugurate the covenant and indicate to the people that they had been set free from slavery.

All of this is exactly the same with the death of Jesus.

Jesus did not die to rescue us from the wrath of God. Nor did Jesus die to secure for us the forgiveness of sins. God has always freely forgiven people of their sins.

No, the death of Jesus on the cross was to inaugurate the new covenant of God with the entire world, and to indicate to all people that we were no longer slaves to sin.

That second point is critical. Jesus did not die for God because of sin. Jesus died for sin.

God’s holiness did not demand that Jesus be put to death. No, it was the devil that demanded death and blood (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Sin was the certificate of ownership which the devil held over the heads of humanity.

By dying, Jesus cancelled this debt of sin so that the devil could no longer have any claim upon us. This happened because just as all sinned in Adam, and so became slaves to death and the devil, so all died and were raised to new life in Jesus, and so were liberated and redeemed from our slavery to death and the devil.

Just as the Israelites in the wilderness died to Pharaoh, and were raised to new life in the family of God, so also, all people in Jesus died to sin, death, and devil, and were raised to new life in the family of God. This is the basic meaning of the discussion in Hebrews 10 about the sacrifice of Jesus for sin.

But the discussion goes beyond this as well. The author of Hebrews intentionally subverts the sacrificial elements of the Mosaic covenant by transitioning away from images of blood and death, and writing instead about offerings and purification.

Let just a few of these be noted.

Following immediately after Hebrews 9:22, we read that Jesus also purified the heavenly sanctuary. And just as the first ceremony indicated the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant and the death of the people to their past enslavement to Egypt, so also, the actions of Jesus indicated the inauguration of the New Covenant and the death of the people to their enslavement to sin.

In Hebrews 10:1-4, the author emphasizes the complete failure of the Mosaic law to do anything about sin. In Hebrews 10:2, we are informed that if the law could have taken away sin, the people would have stopped making sacrifices, for they would have had no more consciousness of sins. Yet the sacrifices themselves are a reminder of sins, even though they do nothing about the sins.

Then in Hebrews 10:5-10, the author indicates his understanding that the sacrificial system was never intended to take away sins, and that God Himself never wanted such sacrifices or took any pleasure in them. Again, God is a God of life; not death. What God did want, however, was a life lived in obedience to the will of God, which is exactly the “offering” which Jesus brought. This understanding of “offering” and “sacrifice” as the life of Jesus rather than His death is critical for the rest of the chapter. While it is true that Jesus died a bloody and gruesome death on the cross, it is critical to recognize that the death of Jesus on the cross was for sin, while the life of Jesus was for God. God did not want nor desire the death of Jesus. God always and only wants life.

Building upon this truth, Hebrews 10:11-18 moves on to compare and contrast the covenant enacted by Moses and the covenant enacted by Jesus Christ. After explaining that the sacrifices and offerings of the priests could never do anything about sins, Hebrews 10:12-13 shows that Jesus not only dealt with sin once and for all through His death, but actually perfected forever those who are in Him. The author then makes the absolutely shocking statement that God (and Moses) knew from the very beginning that the Law of Moses was obsolete and useless for doing anything about sin.

The author of Hebrews points at what the Holy Spirit said through the prophet Jeremiah about the new covenant (Jer 31:33-34), and then ties this together with the word “remission” (aphesis) which was used in Hebrews 9:22. In so doing, the author indicates the truth that Moses knew from the very beginning that his law was temporary, obsolete, and ineffective for doing anything about sin.

In Exodus 20, after God had given the 10 Commandments, God wanted to speak to the people of Israel Himself. But they were too scared of God, and declared that they would rather have Moses to speak to God for them (Exod 20:19). What follows in Exodus 21 through most of the rest of the Pentateuch is called “the Mosaic Law” for good reason.

It was how Moses believed God wanted the people of Israel to live out the 10 commandments. But forty years later, Moses saw that what he had given to the people was a complete failure. He had been with them for forty years (Deut 29:5), and knew that the law would be completely ineffective in helping them follow God and live rightly (cf. Deut 31:16-21).

As a result, Moses knew that what he had given to the people would be replaced by what God had wanted all along. Before Moses died, he prophesied that his law would pass away and would be replaced with the law of God written upon men’s hearts (Deut 30:6-20). Long before Jeremiah ever prophesied that God would do away with the written law and write His law upon our hearts and minds, Moses had said the same thing (cf. Deut 30:6, 14). Paul understood Deuteronomy 30 in this way as well (cf. Rom 10:7-8). In fact, in a recent book on the Pentateuch,

John Sailhamer has argued that one of the central points of the Pentateuch is to show that the law was ineffective, obsolete, and not what God had wanted for His people at all. God wanted faith, humility, mercy, and righteousness, which are the things the law could not provide.

But Jesus provided what the law could not, which brings us back to Hebrews 10. Jesus lived the way God intended, and in so doing, accomplished several things.

First, Jesus crucified the law of sin and death (Hebrews 9:26-28).

Second, Jesus revealed what God had always wanted for His people (Hebrews 10:16-17).

Third, Jesus revealed how God’s people could live for love and life instead of sin and death (Hebrews 10:20-23).

In Jesus, we learn that God no longer wants death, and He never did. God always and only wants life.

Hopefully, all this provides a deeper understanding of what Hebrews 9:22 is actually teaching (and not teaching) about the shedding of blood and the forgiveness of sins.

God always forgives sins freely. He does not need or want blood.

Note: This article by Brad Jersak on Hebrews 9:22 is also helpful.

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You and I can forgive others without requiring them to shed their blood. So why do some Christians teach that God requires the shedding of blood in order to forgive us? One reason is because of Hebrews 9:22 which says that without the shedding of blood... You and I can forgive others without requiring them to shed their blood. So why do some Christians teach that God requires the shedding of blood in order to forgive us? One reason is because of Hebrews 9:22 which says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. But Hebrews 9:22 does not teach what most people think it teaches. This study gives 10 reasons why Hebrews 9:22 does not teach that the shedding of blood is required for the forgiveness of sins.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the transcript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/hebrews-9-22-shedding-of-blood-forgiveness-of-sins/ Jeremy Myers clean 41:22
How the blood of Jesus Redeems and Rescues Humanity (Ephesians 1:7; 2:13) https://redeeminggod.com/blood-of-jesus-ephesians-1-7/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 20:13:55 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47696 In Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 2;13 we learn that we have redemption through the blood of Jesus because He redeemed us from our sinful and violent way of living and revealed to us God's way of living. His bloody death released us from addiction to sin and scapegoating, and showed us how to live in the way of love and forgiveness. In Ephesians 1:7, Paul writes that “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

I have written previously that the blood of Jesus does not purchase forgiveness of sins for us from God. But does Ephesians 1:7 refute this idea? No. In fact, it supports it. Let me show you why.

Ephesians is a book that has been widely misunderstood, especially in light of what it teaches about salvation. Some of my sermon manuscripts on Ephesians might help clarify the book as a whole, but most of the main ideas can also be found in various entries in my Gospel dictionary.

The Basic Summary of Ephesians

redeemed by the blood of JesusThe basic message of Ephesians is that due to religion, humans have lived in rivalry and violence with each other since the foundation of the world, but now, in Jesus Christ, we have been shown a new way of living life so that all the hostilities can now cease.

There is still a struggle, but it is not against each other, but against the forces which seek to drag us back into rivalry, accusation, and scapegoating violence.

The Introduction to Ephesians

Paul introduces some of these themes with one long sentence in Ephesians 1:3-14.

Leading up to Ephesians 1:7 where Paul refers to redemption through the blood of Jesus, it is important to also understand what Paul means when he writes about adoption and election as these words also form a foundation for Paul’s ideas about the blood of Jesus. These words are also carefully defined in my Gospel Dictionary online course.

The basic idea in Ephesians 1:3-14 is that God made us His heirs so that we can have the resources necessary to fulfill our purpose and role within His family.

So what is Paul teaching in Ephesians 1:7?

It is in the context of these ideas that Paul mentions redemption through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7).

Redemption is when God takes something that is already His, and buys it so that it is twice His. So redeemed us, or bought us back, through His blood.

redemption through his blood Ephesians 1:7

When Paul writes about Jesus redeeming us through His blood, however, we must not think that Jesus was paying off God or Satan with His blood. It is not as though there was a debt of sin to God or to Satan which could only be paid with the blood of Jesus. This is not a biblical idea. (We’ll look at Hebrews 9:22 next week.)

So what did Jesus redeem us from? What did He buy us back from?

The redemption that Jesus accomplished through His blood was a rescue or deliverance of humanity from humanity.

We had enslaved ourselves to an endless cycle of sacred violence and the spilling of blood in God’s name.

By dying as He did, Jesus exposed the myth of redemptive violence and the lies of sacred violence for what they were so that we can be redeemed, bought back, or rescued from this endless cycle of violence and bloodshed once and for all.

We know that this is what Paul means because he explains the phrase “redemption through His blood” with the phrase “the forgiveness of sins.”

The two phrases explain each other, so let’s look at the forgiveness of sins first.

The Forgiveness of Sins

As we discussed previously, there are two main types of forgiveness sin the Bible, one that is free and one that is conditional. The type of forgiveness Paul mentions here is the conditional forgiveness (aphēsis). A good synonym for this type of forgiveness is “release.”

Furthermore, the term “sin” in the Bible primarily refers to the sacred violence that has enslaved all of humanity in a never-ending cycle of rivalry, accusation, and scapegoating sacrifice. I defend this idea in my book, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.

So when Paul writes about “the forgiveness of sins,” he is referring to our release from the cycle of sacred violence.

And since this phrase explains or defines the first phrase about the redemption through the blood of Jesus, it too can be understood similarly.

Redemption through His blood

Jesus redeemed us, bought us back, rescued us, released us from the never-ending cycle of sacred violence and sin by subjecting Himself to it. He went to the cross and shed His blood for us, not as a payment to God or to Satan, but as a revelation to humanity about the sin which had enslaved humanity since the foundation of the world.

Now that we have this redemptive revelation through the sacrificial death of Jesus, we are able to live in a new way with other human beings.

We can now live at peace, no longer subjecting ourselves to the ways of death and violence founded upon religion, but instead follow Jesus by faith into the ways of love and grace.

If some of this sounds similar to what Paul writes in Ephesians 2, that’s because it is. Paul takes this theme of how humanity has been delivered from violence and death through the blood of Jesus and expands upon it in Ephesians 2.

How Paul Elaborates on this Theme in Ephesians 2:13

Here is what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Ephesians 2 is a powerful chapter, but it has been terribly misunderstood and misapplied by the church today. The traditional understanding of Ephesians 2 goes something like this:

We humans are evil sinners, under the control of the devil and our sin nature. We were dead and unable to do anything to change. Worse yet, because of sin, God’s wrath burns against us, and He wants to send us all to hell (Ephesians 2:1-3).

But God also loved us, and so wanted to do something to fix what had gone wrong. Someone had to pay the price for our sin, and God knew we couldn’t, so He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place and pay for our sin. Now, if we believe in Jesus, we get eternal life. But this still doesn’t get us off the hook. God still wants us to obey Him and do the good works He prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:4-10).

But these good works don’t involve keeping the law and commandments, because those have been done away with. Instead, let’s just live in peace and unity with each other (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Yet this sort of summary of Ephesians 2 does not logically follow what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1, nor does it fit well with the rest of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Furthermore, it does great injustice to the expanded discussion about peace in Ephesians 2:11-22. Most Christian sermons and messages on this chapter focus an inordinate amount of time and space on Ephesians 2:8-9, and very little on Ephesians 2:11-22, which is where Paul focuses his time.

The best way to approach Ephesians 2 is to “reverse engineer” it. By beginning where Paul concludes, we can better understand how Paul starts.

Reverse Engineering Ephesians 2

Paul has a clear progression in Ephesians 2, following the “Problem (Ephesians 2:1-3)—Solution (Ephesians 2:4-10)—Application (Ephesians 2:11-22)” format. By starting with the application, we can better understand the solution and the problem.

The Application (Ephesians 2:11-22)

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul explains how groups of people who formerly were hostile enemies can now live together in peace and unity because of what Jesus Christ has done. Feuding groups throughout history have used race, religion, and politics (the Jew-Gentile division was a toxic combination of all three) to look down upon each other and accuse one another of being less than human and less-loved by God.

But now Jesus has broken down the walls of hostility and brought everybody into one family where we live by new rules. This new way of living was revealed and explained through the life and death of Jesus Christ.

When we build upon the foundation He laid, we grow into the people that God has always wanted and desired, and it is then that God is truly manifested in us, just as He was in Jesus.

The Solution (Ephesians 2:4-10)

So if Paul’s concluding “Application” is that people who were formerly at odds with one another (in an accusatory violent way) can now live at peace by following the example of Jesus, it only makes sense that in the “Solution” section, Paul talks about how Jesus brought the warring groups together and showed us how to live in peace.

Not surprisingly, this is exactly what Paul explains in Ephesians 2:4-10. These verses, though quite popular as texts about how to receive eternal life by grace alone through faith alone, are actually about what God has done to rescue us from the condition described in Ephesians 2:1-3 (see below), so that we can become what is described in Ephesians 2:11-22.

blood of Jesus redeems usPaul’s point in these verses is that even though we humans accusation, blame, condemn and kill others in God’s name (Ephesians 2:1-3), God Himself does not behave that way toward us.

God does not bring an end to life, but raises us up to new life in Jesus Christ. Beyond that, He also raised us up with Jesus Christ and seated us with Him in the heavens so that we can live according to the heavenly rules, rather than the ways of this world.

God acted this way toward us by grace. And by grace, we can act this way toward others since we now are seated with Christ in heavenly places.

But we can only live this way if we follow Jesus by faith. Ephesians 2:4-10 is not talking about how to receive eternal life, but is instead talking about how God rescued us from our enslavement to the sin of death and showed us a new way of life in Jesus Christ.

This new way of life is what we were made for originally, and what God has always modeled for us, and what we are now to walk in, as we follow Jesus by faith. In other words, this text is not about how to go to heaven when you die, but rather about how to go from slavery to death in this world as we war against others (Ephesians 2:1-3), to unity and peace with others as we live in the family of God (Ephesians 2:11-22).

The Problem (Ephesians 2:1-3)

This brings us back to the beginning of the argument in Ephesians 2:1-3 where Paul presents the human “Problem.”

A proper understanding of this passage requires us to accurately define the words “dead,” “flesh,” “sin,” and “wrath” (which I will do in the Gospel Dictionary course), and to understand what Paul means when he refers to the ruler of the kingdom of the air.

When all of these concepts are understood, we see that Paul begins Ephesians 2 by teaching that we humans live in a world of sin and death, which we inflict upon ourselves by accusing, condemning, and killing one another, and justifying it all by doing these things in God’s name. We do these things because in our flesh, we know of no other way to live.

Even we religious people kill and are killed, just like everyone else (Ephesians 2:1-3). This is the human problem, and we are enslaved to it because we know of no other way to live (though such life is ruled by death).

So the overall summary of Ephesians 2 is that while we humans tend to live in hatred and violence toward one another (thinking that this was also God’s way), now Jesus has revealed a better way, and we can follow Him in this way by faith.

If we do, we will live at peace with one another and in so doing, truly reflect God to a watching world.

What is Paul teaching in Ephesians 2:13?

So then, with all this in mind, the explanation of Ephesians 2:13 is quite simple.

The violent death of Jesus on the cross revealed the truth about religious-political violence: that it is we humans who want and desire it; not God.

The blood of Jesus reveals that God never wanted or needed blood sacrifice or sacred violence of any kind in order for people to draw near to Him. All people were always welcome.

As a result, Gentiles are just as near to God as anyone else. Gentiles are not to be kept at a distance from God, nor are they more sinful or less pure in God’s eyes. There is no dividing wall of separation or religious commandments and ordinances which keep some people cut off from God’s love and grace.

No, all are invited in. All are welcome.

The blood of Jesus has brought everyone near, by proving that no one was ever kept at a distance.

All divisions of men are nothing more than man-made divisions, and now Jesus has torn them all down.

So how does the blood of Jesus Redeem us?

Ephesians 1:7 redemption through his bloodBy looking at Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 2:13, we now understand how the blood of Jesus redeems us.

Jesus did not buy off God or pay the debt of our sin to God. After all, if God had been “paid for our sins” then He would not be able to forgive us. (When someone owes you a debt, you can either get re-paid or forgive their debt, but you cannot do both. Payment of debt and forgiveness of debt are mutually exclusive.)

But Jesus did need to die, and He needed to die in a bloody, violent, sacrificial way. Why? To redeem, rescue, and deliver humanity from the sin and violence that we have always committed against each other (but blamed God for doing).

Jesus wanted us to be released from our sin, and so He died to reveal our sin to us.

Now that our eyes have been opened, we can live in a new way with God and with others. We can live in peace, without the dividing walls of hostility, and without the blame, violence, and scapegoating that we perform in God’s name.

Jesus came to show us a new way to live, which is exactly what He did through His life, death, and resurrection.

We have redemption through His blood because He redeemed us from our sinful and violent way of living and revealed to us God’s way of living. His bloody death released us from addiction to sin and scapegoating, and showed us how to live in the way of love and forgiveness.

Here is how to understand Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 2:13:

Through the blood of Jesus, we have been bought back from our slavery to sin and violence. We have been released from our addiction to scapegoating others in God’s name. He did this out of His great love and grace for us. Therefore, now we who were once far off from God have been brought near to God through the blood of Jesus. Through Him we see a new way to live, a way which leads to peace with God and peace with one another.

If you want to learn more about this entire idea, read my book Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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In Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 2;13 we learn that we have redemption through the blood of Jesus because He redeemed us from our sinful and violent way of living and revealed to us God's way of living. His bloody death released us from addiction to sin ... In Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 2;13 we learn that we have redemption through the blood of Jesus because He redeemed us from our sinful and violent way of living and revealed to us God's way of living. <br /> <br /> His bloody death released us from addiction to sin and scapegoating, and showed us how to live in the way of love and forgiveness.<br /> <br /> To leave a comment or view the transcript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/blood-of-jesus-ephesians-1-7/ Jeremy Myers clean 39:35
No, the blood of Jesus did not buy forgiveness of sins from God (Matthew 26:28) https://redeeminggod.com/blood-of-jesus-forgiveness-of-sins/ Wed, 28 Mar 2018 20:37:52 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47632 Some people say that Jesus died to buy forgiveness from God, and they use passages like Matthew 26:28 to defend this idea. In this study, I provide a different explanation of Matthew 26:28, showing you that the blood of Jesus was NOT shed to purchase forgiveness from God. In Matthew 26:28, Jesus says, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Does this mean that the blood of Jesus had to be shed so that He could buy forgiveness of sins for us from God?

Let’s see … what is the best way to answer this question? … Let me try this:

NO!

Ha!

blood of Jesus ChristBut I bet you want a better explanation …

I know that there are several verses in the Bible that some use to argue for the idea that Jesus had to shed His blood to purchase forgiveness of sins from God, but when carefully studied in their contexts, none of these Bible passages are teaching this idea.

God has always forgiven all people of all their sins simply because this is who God is. He did not need to be paid off or bought before He could forgive us. (That wouldn’t be forgiveness anyway…. you can either forgive a debt or be repaid, but not both.)

Matthew 26:28 is one of the passages that sometimes is quoted in defense of this idea that Jesus paid for our sins with His blood.

During the Last Supper on the night before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus shared the Passover Meal with His disciples and imbued new symbolism into the bread and wine.

He said that the bread represented His body broken for them and the wine represented His blood shed for them. He then said that these things point to the new covenant in His blood, which is for the forgiveness of sins.

Some seem to assume through this description of events that Jesus was teaching His disciples that His blood would purchase the New Covenant and the forgiveness of sins from God.

But there are two keys which provide a better understanding of this text. A careful look at the context and what the rest of the New Testament teaches about the New Covenant and forgiveness reveals something different.

Let us briefly consider both concepts and how they relate to Matthew 26:28.

Matthew 26:28 and the New Covenant

Jesus was not teaching that His blood was the purchase price for forgiveness and the New Covenant, but that His blood was the sign of such things.

crucifixion of JesusIn reference the New Covenant, the blood of Jesus signaled that this New Covenant was now in effect. In essence, Jesus died to inaugurate or enact the New Covenant.

It is important to think of the New Covenant, not as a new system of laws and regulations to keep, but instead as a Last Will & Testament. And indeed, the term Jesus uses here does have this idea in view. Jesus is not sharing a new legal Contract, but new legal Will.

When we think of the Covenant as a “Last Will & Testament” rather than as a legal contract (as the Greek words used seem to indicate), it becomes clear that a Last Will & Testament is not put into effect as long as the one who made it still lives (cf. Hebrews 9:15-17).

For a Last Will & Testament to be enacted, the one who made it must die. Yet since this is God’s Last Will & Testament, and since God cannot die, it was impossible for the Will to come into effect unless God became human and died as a human, which is what He did in Jesus Christ.

So when Jesus speaks of His blood representing the New Covenant, He is pointing out the fact that the New Covenant which had been promised through the Old Testament prophets (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34) would now be put into effect because the one who made this Last Will & Testament was now here and was about to die.

All of this is explained in more detail in Hebrews 9–10.

So when we understand that Jesus is talking a Last Will instead of a legal contract in Matthew 26:28, we then understand that the blood of Jesus was for the purpose of enacting the legal terms of this new Last Will & Testament. The death of Jesus was not needed to buy forgiveness, but to enact a new Will.

But what about the statement in Matthew 26:28 about the forgiveness of sins? Doesn’t that prove that Jesus did, in fact, die to purchase forgiveness of sins from God?

Matthew 26:28 and the Forgiveness of Sins

When it comes to the forgiveness that Jesus mentions in Matthew 26:28, it is critical to recognize that there are two types of forgiveness in the Bible.

cup of new covenantThere is charizomai forgiveness and aphēsis forgiveness. Charizomai forgiveness is based on the free grace (charis) of God and is freely extended to all people throughout all time for all sins, with no strings or conditions attached.

Aphēsis forgiveness, however, does have conditions, such as repentance and turning from sin. But aphēsis forgiveness has nothing to with our standing with God or what He thinks about us. Aphēsis forgiveness is not about our relationship with God.

Instead, aphēsis forgiveness is about our relationship with sin. Aphēsis forgiveness is only about one thing, and that is whether or not we are addicted to sin or break free from sin. This is why a better English translation for aphēsis is “release” or “remission.”

Aphēsis forgiveness is not about getting forgiveness from God, but is instead about breaking free from the addictive and destructive power of sin in our lives.

If you are addicted to a certain type or pattern of sin in your life, God has 100% forgiven you for this sin. This is charizomai forgiveness. But God’s charizomai forgiveness doesn’t help you much in breaking free from sin. For this, you need to repent, confess, and take steps to turn away from this sin, and start following God instead. When you do this, you will gain aphēsis, release, from the power of sin in your life.

So what kind of forgiveness is Jesus talking about in Matthew 26:28? It is aphēsis, release. This is why many Bible translations use the word “remission” here instead of “forgiveness.”

Jesus is not talking about how He is going to get God to forgive our sins. No, Jesus is talking about how His life and death, about how His shed blood, is going to help us break free from the power of sin in our lives.

Jesus is telling His disciples that through His blood, that is, through His violent death as a sacrificial scapegoat, they will gain deliverance and release from the sin that has enslaved humanity since the foundation of the world.

And this is exactly what happened. The violent death of Jesus on the cross exposed the lie of scapegoating and sacrificial violence for what it was. Those who see this lie are then able to live their lives in freedom from it.

How to Understand Matthew 26:28

So Jesus’ words at the Last Supper closely mirror what we have seen about blood in Genesis 4:10 and Hebrews 12:24 above. The murder of Abel by Cain represents the fratricidal, murderous violence upon which all human civilization is built. In unveiling this sin, the author of Hebrews compared the word spoken by the blood of Abel with the Old Covenant, and then contrasts this with the word spoken by the blood of Jesus and the New Covenant.

Matthew 26:28 blood of new covenant

Whereas the Old Covenant and the blood of Abel was concerned with sacrifice, vengeance, and retaliation, the New Covenant based upon the blood of Jesus speaks of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

And this is what Jesus says to His disciples during their Last Supper.

He brings them to the table and says, “I’m going to inaugurate a New Covenant, a new way of doing things, a new Last Will & Testament. And it’s going to be put into effect through my death. And when you see what I am revealing through my death, you will gain release from the addictive and destructive power of sin that has enslaved humanity since the foundation of the world.”

Do you see? There is no mention in here of buying forgiveness from God. Quite the opposite in fact. Jesus is not saying, “I am going to die so God can forgive you.”

No, Jesus is saying, “I’m going to die so that you can learn that God has ALWAYS forgiven you, and my death will show you how to live in a similar way toward others. My death is going to show you how to extend unconditional love and free forgiveness toward others, as God has always extended toward you. And when you live this way, you will break free from the sin of violent, bloody, sacrificial scapegoating that has plagued humanity since the very beginning.”

So do you see?

The Old Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, enslaved us to sin, and thus, to sacrificial and scapegoating violence.

But the New Covenant in Jesus, introduced to us and inaugurated for us through His own violent death on the cross, shows that we are completely forgiven and have always been forgiven, and that there is nothing for which God will not forgive us.

The New Covenant enacted through the death of Jesus which brings release from our bondage to sin.

Therefore, we too can forgive. Rather than lash out in violence against those who wrong us, we can, like God, simply extend love and forgiveness.

By seeing God’s loving, forgiving, non-retaliatory character through the death of Jesus, we are shown the way to live in loving, forgiving, non-retaliatory community with other people. Observing the Lord’s Supper serves as a reminder of the way we are to live with one another.

In the Last Supper, Jesus used the cup of wine to symbolize how He was making a new Last Will & Testament with humanity. This time, the Testament will be put into effect by His own blood.

When we see Him do this, it is then that our eyes are opened to the truth about sin. What we see in the death of Jesus helps us finally break free from the destructive power of sin that has plagued humanity since the foundation of the world.

This is how the death of Jesus reveals our sin to us, and releases us from the bondage of sin in our lives.

Jesus did not buy forgiveness of sins for us from God, but instead revealed that God has always loved and only forgiven, and we can live this way as well.

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Some people say that Jesus died to buy forgiveness from God, and they use passages like Matthew 26:28 to defend this idea. In this study, I provide a different explanation of Matthew 26:28, showing you that the blood of Jesus was NOT shed to purchase f... Did Jesus die so that God could forgive your sins? In other words, did God need a blood sacrifice in order to love and forgive you? Did Jesus purchase the forgiveness of sins for us from God? <br /> <br /> Some people say Yes, and uses passages like Matthew 26:28 to defend this idea. In this study, I provide a different explanation of Matthew 26:28, showing you that the blood of Jesus was NOT shed to purchase forgiveness from God.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/blood-of-jesus-forgiveness-of-sins/ Jeremy Myers clean 25:46
Why is the Bible so Bloody? Jesus tells us why in Matthew 23:29-35 https://redeeminggod.com/bible-so-bloody/ Wed, 21 Mar 2018 20:28:33 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47611 Why is the Bible so bloody and violent? It is not because God is violent and bloody. Jesus reveals quite the opposite. Through His life, death, and teachings, Jesus reveals that God is not violent at all, but always loves and only forgives. So why is the Bible so violent? Jesus explains why in Matthew 23:29-35. Lots of people wonder why the Bible is so bloody … that is, why there is so much violence and bloodshed in the Bible. (I am going to provide a brief explanation below, but if you want a more detailed explanation, you can read my book, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.)

Many Christians often condemn the Muslim Qu’ran for being a violent book, but did you know that the Bible is far more violent than the Qu’ran? And this is not just descriptions of violence. There are more endorsements and commands to violence by God in the Bible than in the Qu’ran.

Of course, many Christians rightly point out that Jesus came and changed all that. That Jesus revealed a new a different way, a way of love and forgiveness.

I agree.

blood to horses bridles Revelation armageddonBut then many Christians turn right around and say, “But in the future, Jesus is going to return to this earth, and slaughter millions of people. There will be the greatest, bloodiest war the world has ever seen. When Jesus returns at the battle of Armageddon, the Valley will be filled with blood up to the horse’s bridle.”

So … wait. Is Jesus violent and bloody or not?

Are we saying that God in the Old Testament was violent and bloody, and then Jesus showed up to try love and forgiveness, but at the end of the world, even Jesus realizes that violence and bloodshed is the only solution after all? That love and forgiveness doesn’t actually work?

I think something is terribly wrong with this way of reading the Bible.

And by the way, this way of reading the Bible causes people to become violent themselves. I have heard Greg Boyd say that we become like the God we worship. If we worship a God who is violent at heart, and even though He tries love and forgiveness for a bit, He ultimately resorts to violence and bloodshed … then this is how we will act toward others.

This is why we hear Christians say, “Well, we tried to love and forgive those people over there …we really did, but they didn’t change, so now we are forced to drop bombs on them.”

Maybe we don’t drop bombs on them … but we do feel justified to hate other people when they don’t respond to our attempts to love and forgive them.

I had a conversation on Facebook Messenger the other day which reveals this attitude pretty well. Here is a screenshot:

(By the way, if you want to Message me on Facebook, you can do so here.)

Do you see? When we believe that God loves for a while, but then turns to hate when people don’t respond to Him, this causes us to hate those who don’t respond quickly enough to our evangelism efforts.

Now, if this is truly the way God is, then I agree that this is how we can behave as well.

But I do not believe that God is hateful, angry, violent, or bloody. I believe that Jesus reveals that God is quite the opposite. I believe that Jesus shows us what God is like, and that God has always been and always will be just like Jesus in the Gospels.

Jesus says “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Paul says in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” The author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the exact representation of God, the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:3).

Now when Jesus, Paul, and the author of Hebrews were teaching these things, they were talking about how Jesus lived during this life on earth as recorded in the Gospels.

During His life and ministry, Jesus did not engage in bloody violence or acts of vengeance upon anyone. Instead, He always loved and only forgave.

If we believe that Jesus, Paul, and the author of Hebrews knew what they were talking about, then we are forced with a decision: We must either decide that Jesus was hiding the dark, bloody, and violent side of God so that He did not actually reveal to us the full and perfect image of God (and therefore, Jesus, Paul, and the author of Hebrews are not telling the truth), or we must decide that Jesus did, in fact, fully reveal God to us (as He claims to have done), and so God has never been violent and bloody, and never will be.

does God hate us while Jesus loves us

For myself, I believe that Jesus is telling the truth, and so is Paul and the author of Hebrews.

Which means we need to figure out why the Bible is so violent and bloody. We need to figure out why the Bible contains so much bloodshed. We need to figure out why God apparently commands so much violence and bloodshed in the Old Testament. We need to figure out why John writes in the book of Revelation about the return of Jesus in such violent and bloody ways.

Thankfully, this is not something we have to figure out on our own. Jesus Himself told us why the Bible is so violent. He did this in numerous ways and at various times during His life and ministry.

The greatest explanation was provided through His crucifixion, of course, but many of the parables and teachings of Jesus were also directed at revealing the truth to us about why the Bible is so bloody and violent.

Jesus tells us why the Bible is Bloody (Matthew 23:29-35)

One of the key texts where Jesus reveals this is Matthew 23:29-35 (cf. Luke 11:49-51):

[You] say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” … Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

why is the Bible so bloody and violentIn this text, Jesus provides a summary of how He reads and understands the Old Testament. This is “The Old Testament according to Jesus.” And according to Jesus, the Bible is filled with violent bloodshed.

From Abel to Zechariah, from A-to-Z, the Bible reveals the violence of the human heart as we kill others in the name of God. According to Jesus, the Hebrew Scriptures are primarily about a revelation of bloodshed.

They reveal what the origins of bloodshed, and how sacrificial religion is often at the root of bloodshed, as human beings kills others in the name of God.

And it is not just evil sinners who are killed in the name of God, but righteous, innocent victims, such as Abel, Zechariah, and the prophets.

Jesus also says that the people in His day are doing the same thing.

This violent murdering of others in God’s name is the constant human sin of every culture and every generation. Yet no generation thinks that they themselves are guilty of it. The people in Jesus’ day say that if they had lived in the days of the prophets, they would not have participated in killing the prophets. Yet the people in Jesus’ day killed Jesus.

Today, we say that if we had lived in the day of Jesus, we would not have participated in killing Jesus. But is this true?

If you had lived in the days of Jesus, do you think you would be among those who cried out for His arrest and crucifixion? Or would you instead be among those who stood faithfully at His side and wept for Him as He bled and died?

Do not be too hasty to answer.

In Matthew 23:29-35, Jesus explains that the religious people who claim they would not have participated in murdering the prophets are the very same people who are planning to kill the prophets of their own day.

In this context, Jesus clearly equates blood with murder and violence, and especially the bloodshed that is religiously motivated. When the Bible speaks of blood, it primarily has in mind the sacrificial and religious bloodshed which takes place when we kill and murder in God’s name.

Of more importance, however, is the shocking truth that this text contains for us modern Christians. We Christians like to say that if we had lived in the days of Jesus, we would not have been among those calling for His crucifixion, but would have sided with Him instead, defending His innocence and calling for His release.

Sadly, Jesus disagrees with our assessment. The human condition and tendency is to side with the mob in calling for the death of the innocent scapegoat victim. The religious people in Jesus’ day claimed that they would not have participated in killing the prophets of old, yet it is they who led the charge in accusing, condemning, and killing Jesus.

Just as with every other violent text in Scripture, Matthew 23:29-35 is a serious call to take a careful look at the condition of our own hearts toward others.

This text, like so many others, was not primarily written so that we can condemn the ignorance of those in the past, but so that we can allow this text to expose the darkness in our own hearts. Just as the people in Jesus’ day were guilty of the same sins they condemned in their ancestors, so also, we are guilty of the same sins we condemn in them.

We say we would not have condemned Jesus, yet it may very well be that the people we think God should kill today are the very prophets whom God has sent to us to reveal our sin. Who is it that you want to see dead?

Who is it that you believe God could (and should) “righteously” kill? Could it be that you only think this about them because they are exposing your sin to you, just like the prophets of old?

This reveals why the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, is so violent.

Jesus died to reveal the source of violence

Why is the Old Testament so Violent?

Much of the Old Testament is filled with blood, whether it is the blood spilled in the sacrificial rituals of the Mosaic Law or the blood spilled during Canaanite Conquest and subsequent wars of Israel.

It is not without reason that some have called the Bible the bloodiest religious book in human history. Such a charge is not unfounded, for when the actual calls for violence and bloodshed are tallied, the Bible has more bloody texts than the Muslim Qur’an or any other religious holy book.

The proper response to all this bloodshed in the Bible, however, is not to try to explain it away and justify God as the bloodiest deity in the history of religion, but instead to embrace the revulsion that we feel and recognize that the reason the Bible is so bloody is not so that we emulate the behavior we read about in its pages, but instead to see these events as though they were a mirror being held up to our own faces (James 1:23-24).

In Matthew 23:29-35, Jesus says that the Bible is so violent and bloody, because it reveals what we ourselves are doing in our own day. Jesus says that the Bible is so violent and bloody, not so that we can condemn the people of the past, but so that we can see how we ourselves participate in the same exact bloodshed and violence.

Jesus says that the Bible is so violent and bloody, not because it reveals what God is like (for only Jesus does that), but because it reveals what mankind is like. And therefore, what we are like.

The Old Testament does not reveal God to us as much as it reveals mankind to us.

The bloody passages of the Old Testament provide a better glimpse into the heart of man than they do the heart of God.

This is how to read the violent portions of the Bible, so that when we turn away from them in revulsion, we are trained to turn away from similar violent tendencies in our own heart as well.

Until we read the Bible this way, we will forever be confused about why there is so much blood and violence in the Old Testament. But once we read the Bible through this lens, we see that the Bible reveals man to us so that in Jesus Christ we receive both a perfect revelation of what God is like and a perfect revelation of what mankind is supposed to be like.

Through His death on the cross, Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the violent death of ritualistic sacrifice as a way of exposing to humanity the sin to which humanity is enslaved.

Jesus died, not to affirm and reinforce the idea that God wants blood sacrifice, but to unveil and expose the truth about sacrifice, the truth that it is we who want sacrifice; not God.

It is we who shed blood; not God.

By letting us kill Him in such a violent and bloody way, Jesus unveiled the truth about humanity and the truth about sin, and in so doing, called us to abandon these scapegoating, sacrificial rituals in our own lives.

By letting us shed His blood, Jesus revealed that all such scapegoating sacrificial rituals have nothing whatsoever to do with God and originate instead within the hearts of mankind.

Jesus fully exposed and unveiled the mystery of the scapegoat sacrifice by fully submitting Himself to it.

Through His life and death, Jesus revealed how to live:

We are not to make sacrificial scapegoat victims of others, while at the same time we are to willingly lay down our lives for others.

The blood of Jesus reveals that true life does not come through the death of others, but through the death of self for the sake of others. While seeking life through the death of others leads only to more death, seeking life through the death of self leads to life for all.

The blood of Jesus teaches that while humans seek death, God seeks life, and so when the life of God is in us, we will stop seeking the death of others.

To learn more about this, get my book, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, or take my online course, The Gospel Dictionary, which you can take for free by joining my online discipleship group:

The Gospel DictionaryUnderstanding the Gospel requires us to properly understand the key words and terms of the Gospel. Take my course, "The Gospel Dictionary" to learn about the 52 key words of the Gospel, and hundreds of Bible passages that use these words.

This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.

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Why is the Bible so bloody and violent? It is not because God is violent and bloody. Jesus reveals quite the opposite. Through His life, death, and teachings, Jesus reveals that God is not violent at all, but always loves and only forgives. Lots of people wonder why the Bible is so bloody ... that is, why there is so much violence and bloodshed in the Bible. Jesus explains why in Matthew 23:29-35. His shocking summary of the Bible will cause you to read Scripture and understand humanity in a completely new way.<br /> <br /> To view the transcript or leave a comment, visit:<br /> https://redeeminggod.com/bible-so-bloody/ Jeremy Myers clean 28:49
1 crazy suggestion about Matthew 28:19-20 that just might solve the baptism debate https://redeeminggod.com/matthew-28-19-20/ Wed, 14 Mar 2018 21:47:51 +0000 https://redeeminggod.com/?p=47517 When you were baptized, what words were said? Do you remember? Some people look to Matthew 28:19-20 as the proper words for baptism, while others look to the practice of the Apostles in Acts. In this post, I dispel this entire baptism debate with one crazy suggestion. Read it and let me know what you think! Did you know there is a debate about whether we are supposed to be baptized “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19-20) OR “in the name of Jesus”?

Yes, we Christians argue over some silly things.

In my book, Dying to Religion and Empire, I talk about how some Christians view baptism as a magical incantation in which the right words need to be said in order for the magic spell to actually work. The whole thing is ridiculous.

But when Christians think that baptism is required to gain eternal life, then it also becomes important to make sure that the baptism is done in the right way with the right words.

Of course, when we realize that baptism is NOT required for eternal life, then thi