Thursday, April 22, 2010

The True God and Eternal Life, Part 4

In Philippians 2:12 Paul says, “therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Since Paul’s message was always salvation by grace apart from any works, what is he referring to? Sin’s power in a Christian’s life is still very real, since no good thing is in our flesh (see Romans 7:18). Our daily dependence on the Lord, via the power and presence of His Holy Spirit, grants us the victory over sin’s struggle to have its way in us. When Paul says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” he isn’t meaning we aren’t saved, or we have to work to maintain our salvation. The next verse states, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure,” (verse 13). Here is God the Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer as His temple, just as the apostle stated. What work then is God performing in us, that we should tremble that it occurs? Titus 2:11-12 states, “For the grace of God has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should liver soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” Sanctification is accomplished by our submission to the will of the Lord through His indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul also adds that Christ’s soon return should prompt a believer to want to live a godly life, and be found watching for his Master’s return, Titus 2:13; see also Matthew 24:42.

Deliverance from sin’s influence grants the ability to actually perform God’s will. Not all Christians walk circumspectly, which is exactly why Paul wrote such a passage. Truth be told, all Christians are enticed by the flesh from time to time and stray. It is God’s leading Spirit who convicts and brings an errant Christian back to their senses, and back to their God, but the Holy Spirit is only given to one who is born again, John 3:5-8. Ultimately God has even used death as discipline, when nothing else arrests His errant child's attention, see Acts 5:1-11; 1st Corinthians 11:30. Physical death was a common form of chastening in the Old Testament.

By very definition, salvation means to be saved from something (sin’s power and presence), and by God’s grace we are also saved to something (being in Christ, having an eternal inheritance, being a citizen of Heaven). God’s holiness will not permit Him to allow sinners to enter Heaven “as is”, so to speak. No, we must be washed in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 1:5). We need the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5. This washing is accomplished by hearing and believing the word of God, which Paul refers to as the washing of water by the word, Ephesians 5:26. Jesus says, “Unless one is born of water (washing of regeneration; the word of God) and the Spirit (renewing of the Holy Spirit; making you alive in Christ, Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13), he cannot enter the kingdom of God,” John 3:5. Two verses previous, Jesus rephrases the stipulation for entrance into Heaven: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3. You may argue point on this matter, but you are debating eternal salvation with its Author; the words are His, not mine.

We are eternal beings, made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27), therefore our souls shall dwell eternally someplace. The Bible does not support annihilation, or the amoral cycle of reincarnation of the soul anymore than nature testifies that when something changes, it is destroyed. Ice melts to water, and water evaporates into the air, but it is not destroyed. Snuff out a match and the flame expires; part of the match is soot, the rest smoke. Even in nature we see that substance is not annihilated, but changed. God spoke to Adam and said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” Genesis 2:17. When a man dies, he is separated from his body. When Adam’s spirit died through sin, he was separated from God. Sin is separation from our Creator, Isaiah 59:2. Later we see that fallen man is no longer begotten in the image of God, as when Adam begets Seth, in his own image, Genesis 5:3. Mankind was no longer in the image of the Triune God, for the spirit of man died in the fall, and needs spiritual re-birth through Jesus Christ. Our spirit is dead, yet our soul is eternal and must reside someplace.

This idea is revealed in the New Testament, when Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. We read, “The beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom,” Luke 16:22-23. The rich man was not destroyed or recycled. He was conscious, aware and in torment, but not destroyed. Hell is a holding cell, if you will, for unbelievers until the Judgment at the Great White Throne, when the wicked will be judged according to their works (those not saved by faith alone in Christ alone) and cast into the Lake of Fire where they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:15, 10). The Greek of that passage is “the ages of the ages.” This is testified also in Matthew’s gospel, where we read about the damned, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels,” Matthew 25:41. The same Greek word “aionios” is used for both everlasting life, and everlasting torment, meaning "perpetual or eternal". The passage about this end-times scenario concludes with, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life,” Matthew 25:46. The righteous (those saved by faith in Christ) are saved to eternal life; while those who reject Jesus are sent into eternal punishment; an everlasting fire for an everlasting soul. No one spoke more of Hell’s reality than Jesus Christ Himself. The writer of Hebrews declares: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," 9:27. One final point: when Jesus talks about degrees of punishment in Hell (Luke 12:47-48) or how the judgment of some will be more bearable than others (Matthew 11:21-24), how does this agree with the doctrine of annihilation? Is something more severely annihilated than another? Consequently Jesus died under the curse of God; was He annihilated? Eternal punishment is both logical and biblical; neither annihilation nor reincarnation makes any sense in the light of Scripture.
To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. One of the many, many problems with the doctrine of Hell is that, if you honestly believe God intends to torture billions of people, for a second, much less for all eternity, then you HAVE TO REJECT everything Jesus originally taught as false!

    All of his teachings, through his words and deeds tell us as clear as can be that there is no Hell.

    I've actually written an entire book on this topic--Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell, (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of Did Jesus Believe in Hell?, one of the most compelling chapters in my book at www.thereisnohell.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

    If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

    So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

    True, there are a few statements that made their way into the copies of copies of copies of the gospel texts which place “Hell” on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

    ReplyDelete

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