From his sermon, “The Holy Spirit in the Covenant,” preached on a Lord’s Day morning, 1856
What a vain pretense it is to profess to honor God by a doctrine that makes salvation depend on the will of man! If it were true, you might say to God, “We thank thee, O Lord, for what thou hast done; thou hast given us a great many things, and we offer thee thy meed* of praise, which is justly due to thy name; but we think we deserve more, for the deciding point was in our free will.” Beloved, do not any of you swerve from the free grace of God, for the babblings about man’s free agency are neither more nor less than lies, right contrary to the truth of Christ, and the teachings of the Spirit.
How certain, then, is the salvation of every elect soul! It does not depend on the will of man; he is “made willing” in the day of God’s power. He shall be called at the set time, and his heart shall be effectually changed, that he may become a trophy of the Redeemer’s power. That he was unwilling before, is no hindrance; for God giveth him the will, so that he is then of a willing mind. Thus, every heir of heaven must be saved, because the Spirit is put within him, and thereby his disposition and affections are molded according to the will of God.
*Meed = reward, fitting return, recompense
More of Spurgeon on God’s Sovereignty
Brethren, if God does not rule everywhere, then something rules where he does not, and so he is not omnipresently supreme. If God does not have his will, someone else does, and so far that someone is a rival to God. I never deny the free agency of man, or diminish his responsibility, but I dare never invest the free will of man with omnipotence, for this were to make man into a sort of God, an idolatry to be loathed. Moreover, admit chance anywhere, and you have admitted chance everywhere, for all events are related and act on one another. One cog of the wheel of providence disarranged or left to Satan, or man’s absolute freedom apart from God, would spoil the whole machinery. I dare not believe even sin itself to be exempted from the control of providence, or from the overruling dominion of the Judge of all the earth. Without providence we were unhappy beings, without the universality of the divine power providence would be imperfect, and in some points we might be left unprotected and exposed to those evils which are, by this theory, supposed to be beyond divine control. Happy are we that it is true, “the Lord doeth as he wills in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”
Spurgeon, Charles, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 16, (Albany, OR: Ages Software) 1998.
Continued from Part 1.
So now what? We have a world full of glamorous milk-toast men and bull-headed angry women. And it’s not getting better, I can assure you.
A time will come, with a few more generations under our belts, where the masculine man will be the oddity and the “gay” looking man will be the norm. People will point and snicker at the likes of men like me. My “type” will be looked at as someone to feel sorry for. The men of the world who stand for truth and Christ will be forced underground or treated for a mental condition. The delicate effeminate man will be the norm who will look at us with disdain and disgust.
I look at my children and feel sorry for them somewhat. They are growing up in a world where the walls of discretion have fallen. Society, at one point, had rules, written and unwritten to live by. Men were men, and women were women. Children were children. Families were families. Divorce was a blemish. Homosexuality was something no one talked about. It was practiced behind closed doors and was never celebrated. But unfortunately, it is a symptom of failing parents. We as parents have been blessed and entrusted with the greatest of treasures. Our children are worth immeasurable value. They are our future. Period. But if we are teaching them to be something they are not, then how does this affect society?
The church of Jesus Christ has a mandate. That mandate is to proclaim the Gospel to the world. The church also has rules it must abide by. We see it throughout the New Testament. We have standards we must govern our lives and families by. These standards have been put in place for our good and for the good of society. Take away these standards and something will take their place. Hence the mess we find our world in today. Ruled by the worship of self and relativism.
At one point if you went to church it was because you were either saved or desired to be so. Now the church is a place where no matter who you are, are welcomed with open arms. Regardless of your faith or belief system, as long as you can get along and bring your tithes, you are welcomed.
Leonard Ravenhill said it well:
“The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising.”
Well said. We allow the congregation to live the lifestyle they want. Men and women can live together and not be judged. Muslims and Catholics can call a so-called Christian church home. The LGBTQ+ group can and usually feel quite safe and comfortable in most churches today. Why? Because the Gospel has been replaced by a message that has had its corners rounded over and its edges covered by the protective foam of non-judgmentalism. Repentance and revival are things that most churches know nothing about. Many modern churches today don’t even know who Jesus is. Oh, they have heard about Him here and there, but they don’t KNOW Him.
Between the family and the church, no wonder the world is in the mess its in. No one wants to discipline and correct anymore. No one wants to touch the hot potatoes anymore because they know that the consequences of standing for the truth are dire. So the men who once stood strong and kept the sin and compromise out of the church have been shut down and shut up by the feminists who have been trained by their aggressive and non-submissive mothers to take charge and not let any man stand in their way. Over the course of a few generations of men being pushed around and degraded, we now have “men” who naturally won’t confront and stand against evil. It doesn’t even occur to them to do so. It’s become natural for men to be non-confrontational and non-judgmental. It has also become natural for women to be the ones who crack the whip and make decisions. The whole dynamic has been flipped. Men are seeking out relationships and women are leading.
Where does this leave the children? God help them.
How can the church spread the Gospel and do the Lord’s bidding if they are so messed up? They can’t.
What’s the answer to all this? The Bible gives us a clear warning to those who refuse to stand for the truth and do the right thing.
“But as for cowards and the unfaithful, and the polluted, and murderers, fornicators, and those who practise magic or worship idols, and all liars–the portion allotted to them shall be in the Lake which burns with fire and sulphur. This is the Second Death.”
This is the point. If we are Christians then we MUST follow the Bible and conform ourselves to what it teaches. This is vital if we want to change the world. Unless we follow the commandments of God, then we will fall into sin and deception and won’t be worth our salt (Matt. 5).
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
If the Bible says homosexuality is wrong then don’t practice it. Don’t allow it into your church. Don’t allow it into your home. Don’t embrace it for anything. Look upon it as God does. An abomination (Romans 1, Lev. 18).
The Bible commands us to run from fornication and all that that definition implies. It also commands us to separate ourselves from the unclean thing.
J.C. Ryle says: “The standard of the world, and the standard of the Lord Jesus–are indeed widely different. They are more than different–they are flatly contradictory one to the other. Never be satisfied with the world’s standard of Christianity!
A crucified Savior will never be content to have a self-pleasing, self-indulging, worldly-minded people!”
These are simple commands yet the church has allowed the world to dictate what she should believe and that’s the reason why the church is weak and powerless.
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4
The family needs to get back to its roots. There needs to be a mom and a dad. Not two moms or two dads or three of this and five of that. Your children need a real old-fashioned mom and a real old-fashioned dad. Not only is this important but our children need parents who think of them more than they do of their jobs and careers. How many hours do you spend with your children a week? Actual quality time. One on one time. “Oh I can’t do that, I’m working too much”.
Do your children accept that? Do you think your children want the money or you? My wife and I have made adjustments to our lifestyle in order to be there for our children. Yes, it means trimming the fat and tightening the belts, but they know that we are always there for them, spending quality time with each every day.
If you walked through my home on a daily basis, you would see me playing Nerf wars or doing something in the workshop with my boys. Or you would see me sitting with my daughter listening to her endless adventures about her rabbits. You would see me conducting Bible studies and training my children in the right way to deal with people and problems in a humble and God-fearing manner.
You will see my wife spending her days homeschooling, teaching piano and taking care of the house as a wife should. You would see her nurturing and loving and teaching and guiding in the ways of God.
Yes, I work but I made sure I had a job that gave me the freedom to either include my children in my job and/or make sure I was home to help train and guide them.
If my work gets in the way of training my children then something’s got to change. If I’m not there to lead my family, then someone else will. Many women have been pushed into living both roles and most fail miserably because they are not made to be both parents. My wife has been sick from time to time, and when the whole burden of the household fell on me, I was beside myself with the tasks. I realized that my amazing wife did more than I thought. She kept the house running, kept the meals on schedule and kept things moving at an even keel.
When I’m on the shelf with an injury or sickness, my wife realizes how hard my job is and appreciates all I do. You see, it’s a balance. A dance, if you will. A choreographed ballet of talents and skills and I couldn’t do it without her.
This is how you train good, healthy children who will one day contribute to society and make it better.
Otherwise, we have children who have no identity, no worth, falling into gangs and lifestyles that only damage and destroy.
Parents, your first mission field is your family. Get your family in order and then you can go out into the world and clean it up.
In this society where all hell is breaking loose, we, as Christians must stand up and place that candle in our windows, showing the world that there is hope. A warm, inviting light in the darkness will inevitably draw the lost, as a candle draws the moth. God will draw them to you, but how can He if there is no difference between you and the world? Why should the world change if they look at the church and see carbon copies? Divorce rates are the same, so-called Christian men view pornography just as much as the world, there are even Christian atheists taking up pew space. And we expect the world to come to Jesus when we are His ambassadors?!
In closing, I think a Grace Gem by Horatius Bonar is quite fitting.
There is much worldliness among the saints! There is worldliness in their motives and actions; worldliness in their domestic life and in their interaction with society; there is worldliness in the arrangements of their households and in the education of their families; there is worldliness in their expenditure, so much being laid out for self, so little for God; there is worldliness in their religious schemes, and movements, and societies; there is worldliness in their reading, and in their conversation. There is, in short, too much of the spirit of fervent worldliness about their whole deportment, and little of calm, happy superiority to the things of earth.
They are fretted, disturbed, bustled just like the world. They grudge labor, or fatigue, or expense, or annoyance in the cause of Christ, or in serving their fellow men. They have much of earth, little of Heaven about them.
They are not large-hearted or openhanded; not willing to spend and be spent, unmoved and unruffled, as those whose eye is ever set on the incorruptible inheritance on which they so soon shall enter. They are low and unaspiring in the things of God.
Perhaps there are few things against which we require to be more warned than against this spirit of worldliness. The Church is very prone to forget her pilgrim character in this present evil world and to live as a citizen of earth. Her dignity as the eternally chosen of the Father is lost sight of; her hope as the inheritor of the glory and the kingdom of the Son is obscured.
God’s cure for worldliness is the bringing before us of another, eternal world, more glorious than that which He calls on us to forsake. There is no thorough cure for worldliness but this. It is lack of faith in eternal realities, that makes us worldlings! When the believing eye gets fixed on the world to come, then we learn to set our affections on things above.
So long, however, as all here in our present sphere of existence is bright, we are content with this world. We allow ourselves to sink down and settle quietly among the things of earth. Why should we whose home and treasure are above, ever again seek our home or our treasure here on this poor earth?
Why should we stoop from our heavenly elevation to mingle again with the company which we have forsaken? Are we ashamed of our pilgrim staff and our pilgrim road? Surely not. To be a pilgrim on earth is to be divided from sin and sinful appetites, from the seducing vanities and worthless mockeries of the world, from the fascinating beauty and perilous splendor of this decaying scene. To be a pilgrim on earth is to be a friend of God, a member of the heavenly household, an expectant of the kingdom, an heir of the crown of glory.
The opposite of worldliness is heavenly mindedness or spiritual mindedness. This, the new relish which the Holy Spirit imparts at conversion, in some measure produces. But it is feeble. It easily gives way. It is not strong enough to withstand much temptation. God’s wish is to impart a keener relish for eternal things, and to destroy the relish for the things of time.
This He effects by blighting all objects in which there was earthly sweetness, so that by being deprived of objects to “mind” on earth, it may of necessity be led to “mind” the things above. He dries up all the “nether springs” of earthly joy, that we may betake ourselves to the “upper springs” which can never fail.
When God unroofs our dwelling, or tears up its foundation by an earthquake, then we are forced to look upward and seek a better and more enduring portion! Many such shocks, however, are often needed before our souls are broken off from their cleaving to the dust.
What are this world’s allurements to us? What to us are the sights and sounds of earth, who “shall see the king in his beauty,” and hear His voice, into whose lips grace is poured? What to us is the green fertility of earth, who shall enter into the possession of the new earth? What to us is the gay glory of a city’s wealth and pomp, who shall be made citizens of the New Jerusalem, where dwells the glory of God and of the Lamb, whose foundations are of precious stones, whose walls are of jasper, whose gates are of pearl, whose streets and pavements are of transparent gold?
Be zealous and repent and do your first works. Come out, be separate, touch not the unclean thing! Put off the works of darkness! Put on the armor of light. Be done with wavering, indecision, and compromise.
Church of the living God! Be warned. Live for Jesus, not for yourself, for Him, not for the world. Walk worthy of your name and calling, worthy of Him who bought you as His bride, worthy of your everlasting inheritance. Consider the LAMB and walk in His steps!
Men? Be men. Be courageous, strong and stand for what is right. You will have a battle on your hands and you will come up against the feminist juggernaut in your struggles. But stand anyway. You owe it to your family, the church and to the world.
Women? Don’t allow the lure of power to turn your head for it is a deceptive enemy. Embrace the calling of being a wife and mother. This is your greatest and most rewarding job. You also will be met with all sorts of trouble and resistance from an enemy who wants nothing more than to destroy you and your beloved family.
Parents, stand firm as a team. Two awesome people linked arm in arm, hand in hand, heart in heart, mind in mind against a common foe. Stand against the flow of society and perhaps a few generations of children who have been trained, disciplined and loved properly can right this ship before it sinks beneath the waves of compromise and modernism.
While many would long claim that Max Lucado has relinquished his stand on Biblical Christianity years ago, others still find encouragement in the poignant words that he has written down through the years.
However, in the shadows of what has happened with former Christian leaders like Ray Boltz and Joshua Harris, there is a serious question that true followers of Christ must ask themselves and those with whom they choose to fellowship.
At what cost am I willing to compromise?
In November 1605, an anonymous letter alerted authorities to the dangers of a man named Guy Fawkes. This man fully intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, England, and kill King James the First. The plan was to remove the Protestant king and place a Roman Catholic king on the throne again. Thankfully, the plan was foiled and Guy Fawkes paid the ultimate penalty for his treason.
Over 400 years later, there are still those who seek to warn true believers of the dangers that are being faced within evangelical Christianity.
One of these is Alisa Childers.
Alisa Childers writes in her article dated January 13, 2020, about Max Lucado’s glowing endorsement of Jen Hatmaker, who openly endorses the LGBTQ lifestyle as being acceptable along with same-sex marriage. She also affirms the false teaching of men like Richard Rohr.
I highly recommend reading the entire article found at this link.
But we are not encountering anything new. Every generation of Christians has been tasked with the command to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Alisa then continues with the following paragraph from Al Mohler. Read these words carefully.
In a recent briefing, Al Mohler noted that when we look at the history of the mainline denominations being lost to liberal theology, it wasn’t because the liberals outnumbered everyone else. Rather, “In almost every case it’s the muddy middle that ends up ensuring the liberal future of the church, because those moderates are unwilling to draw clear doctrinal and moral boundaries and to make them stick. They are far more concerned with holding the denomination, the institution, or the congregation together than they are with keeping a very clear commitment to the historic Christian faith and to its central doctrines and moral teachings.” (emphasis mine)
To conclude, it is imperative that we stand for truth no matter what others may think. In fact, it is right and Biblical that we stand even when others who supposedly claim the name of Christ are willing to back away from historical Christianity and the truths found only in the pages of Scripture.
The Man in Romans 7
In order to rightly understand what Paul taught in the latter part of Romans 7, we need to understand how he described two groups of people earlier in this epistle.
In Rom 3 & 4, Paul is teaching his kinsmen of the flesh why being Jewish is not enough, how children of promise are true Jews. In Rom 5:1-5 he is teaching – again – how those Jewish Christians were reconciled to God: righteous in faith, rejoicing in Christ and our afflictions, grounded in love, and possessed by the Holy Spirit.
In what follows in chapter 5 is an ongoing contrast between unconverted Jews and converted Jews, with an abbreviated history of sin – contrasting the first and last Adams. Throughout this chapter, the redeemed are described as righteous, justified, full of grace, saved from wrath, reconciled to God, having eternal life. The unconverted are described as helpless, ungodly, enemies of God, dead in sin, under judgment, condemned. Quite a difference – worth noting.
Chapter 6 is a continuation of Paul’s argument from the previous chapters, where he encourages the redeemed Jews (this is still his primary audience) are exhorted to walk in grace, not sin. These people are called dead to sin, joined with Christ, crucified with Christ, free from sin, alive to God, under grace, slaves of obedience and righteousness. He tells them – and us – not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies, for, he says, “sin will not rule over you because you are not under law but under grace.” (vs 14) We have new fruit resulting in sanctification and eternal life; we have a new master, grace – no longer slaves to master sin.
The unconverted man in Romans 6 has everything in common with his counterpart in chapter 5; he is in bondage and domination of sin, a slave to sin, ruled by death, obedient to sin, unrighteous, and ruled by sin; under law. This man is obedient to sin, under law not grace, a slave to sin – leading to death, weak in the flesh, morally impure, lawless, producing the fruit of death. Sin is his master, not grace.
The contrast between the unconverted sinner and the redeemed sinner is striking and it’s consistent: the one man is fleshly and full of sin, under the law and breaking the law; the other man is full of the Holy Spirit, rejoicing in all things, dead to sin and the law, producing good fruit unto eternal life.
A couple of observations: contextually, Paul has been describing his kinsmen of the flesh. The man in Romans 7 is a Jew, even though all people can identify with the spiritual struggle portrayed. The pious Jew would see God’s law, instructions, Scriptures as good and holy even while he would be unable to comply with them.
When we then read about the man in Romans 7:13-24, who does he sound like? Let’s look at a list:
vs 13: dead, sinful
vs 14: of flesh, sold into sin’s power
vs 15 & 16: double minded
vs 17: full of sin
vs 18: no ability to do good
vs 19 -21: captive to evil
vs 22: he agrees, he knows the law of God is good
vs 23: he is a prisoner of sin
vs 24: he is a wretched man
While you and I see some of our Christian life in what Paul wrote about in this passage, it’s clear that this man has nothing in common with the redeemed man Paul described in chapter 5 & 6; but he has everything in common with the unconverted man in those chapters. The context of the epistle indicates Paul is describing a Jew, not a Gentile, and a Jew that is struggling under a law he knows is good but without the ability to obey from the heart and produce good fruit unto eternal life. The man in Romans 7 does not have the Holy Spirit, but he is of the flesh, captive to evil, a slave to sin, producing fruit unto death.
The change to present tense does not mandate the view that Paul has changed course and began talking about himself as a Christian. It may very well be nothing more than a literary device to make the plight of the man all the more gripping. He is in a very dangerous condition! Present tense does not mandate the view that this man is Paul as a Christian. The description of the man and the larger context of the epistle provide a more sure guide to interpret this passage.
As with all Scripture, we learn from this passage. But we have no more reason to insert ourselves into this passage than we do with Jeremiah 29:11.
John MacArthur has started a new series from Ezekiel 18 entitled, “Social Justice and the Gospel.” He is very thorough and rightly concludes from Scripture that “social justice” is NOT part of the Gospel. Too many, even in evangelicalism, are being taken in by a society that thinks it is entitled. In doing so, pastors are failing their congregations by adding to the truth of God’s Word. I encourage you to listen to this series.
a book review by Stuart Brogden
Fellow Christian, do you doubt the fact that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead? Truth be told, nobody who has been born of the Spirit of God should doubt this fact. Reality is, many who deny God do. How do you and I respond when a well-educated reprobate throw up man’s wisdom that appears to crumble the foundation of our faith? If we well versed and studied up in what the Bible says about the centerpiece of its theme – the propitiating death of the Son of Man and His resurrection from the dead – we will be on firm footing. Understanding the arguments that will be thrown up against us is of benefit, and that’s the reason for this book.
The Resurrection Fact – Responding to Modern Critics, is a compendium detailing the elements and weaknesses of the enemy’s assaults and the reasoning that gives thinking Christians more confidence in this core aspect of our theology. The 8 chapters first examine the importance of the resurrection of Christ and facts recorded about it, followed by a helpful rehearsal of the impotence of the scientific method regarding historical events. The last 6 chapters review various attacks by people – some claim to be inside the camp of Christ, some deny there is reason for a camp.
Chapter 3 takes a look at an apostate Roman Catholic – but I repeat myself. One former apologist for Rome, John Dominic Crossan, has gone further off the reservation by embracing what the editors of this book call “progressive Christianity.” Typical of this movement is the idea that Christ Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual only, not physical. The editor for this chapter (John Bombaro) call this “unbelief masquerading as “faith.”” (page 61) In a platonic scheme of dismissing the physical for the spiritual, these progressives write off the physical as unimportant, obscuring the meaning, often embracing the gnostic gospels for support. “Progressive Christianity believes it can skirt the pitfall of establishing the historicity of the resurrection because “the truth of a parable – of a parabolic narrative – is not dependent on its factuality.”” (page 66 & 67)
When facts are not important to one’s religion, any collection of stories will suffice. And that’s why spurious documents no one takes seriously are held up as authoritarian by these new style heretics. Contrary to what Crossan and his fellow-travelers claim, “God redeems the totality of a human being according to a Hebraic (not Platonic) anthropology.” (page 69) The result of the progressives’ view is the lack of eschatological hope – if Christ be not raised from the dead, bodily, neither will we be! “Crossan makes the parable primary and the person and work of Jesus secondary. This distinction is akin to the difference in importance between Jesus showing the way and Jesus being the way.” (page 69) This is related to the error many evangelicals make in reducing the life of Christ to an example for us to follow. It is that – and much more! If Jesus had not lived without sin, compliant to the law of the Old Covenant, if He had not submitted Himself to take our place under the wrath of God, propitiating that so we would be judged righteous, then all the good examples in the universe would be nothing more than a cruel hoax.
Bombaro closes out this chapter observing that, “while Crossan may claim that it is the meaning that matters, that meaning has ceased to be exegetically derived and has become altogether eisegetical. There is no Christ risen from the dead, not really, not historically. … Crossan, it turns out, is really that cynic he makes Jesus out to be.”
You can have all the riches in the world, just give me Jesus – the biblical Jesus. None other will do ruined sinners good.
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
I read someone asking a conditionalist in a Facebook thread concerning how they define death. Then one of them responded with, “It depends on how you define life.” I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, this is an area that Chris Date and some within Rethinking Hell sorely deviate from. In a debate with Len Pettis during a Striving for Eternity Conference in September of 2016, Chris Date stated that Jesus does not define eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son just as He taught in John 17:3. Chris then wrongly exegetes this Scripture by comparing the translation of the Greek word “is” with other Scriptures that contain the same word. He neglects to make a linguistic and contextual interpretation of John 17:3 by failing to see the other words which Jesus used that explicitly define eternal life. It is presented below in English and in Greek so that you can see why Jesus defines eternal life as knowing (having intimate fellowship with) God. And please don’t run. As I did in Part 2a, you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand what I’m about to show you.
- (English – ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
- (Greek – MGNT) αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν
Now, if you noticed, I highlighted the words that Chris used to make his case in blue. The Greek word ἐστιν is the conjugated form of the word “eimi” that he mentions in the video link above. It is this word that Chris wrongly interprets in this context. But since conditionalists tend to define death in hyper-literal terms, it is no wonder that they look at Scriptures like this and have to make it fit their own annihilationistic hermeneutic. Nevertheless, Chris explicitly states that “is” does not “equate” eternal life with knowing God the Father and the Son. But let’s look at the other words within this context to help us to understand the semantic function of “is” in this context.
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
In this continuation of Part 4a, we will look at different chapters of Irenaeus’ work that reveal that he really believed in the wicked who continue in eternal punishment, not annihilation. I worded it that way on purpose because those within the Rethinking Hell network believe that this Church Father (and others) simply used “biblical language” to talk about hell, not meaning that the wicked would reside there forever. In the future, I will show why that is simply not true depending on who you mention. You should read the article I’m referring to here if you have not read it already.
Although, I will not elevate the writing of the Church Fathers above Sola Scriptura, I am only taking the time to write about this simply because a claim is made, and being familiar enough with the Church Fathers’ writing, wanted to re-investigate these claims. And predictably, they are out of context. The principles of textual analysis that I will incorporate here in understanding Irenaeus can easily be applied to other writings if need be. One of them being, systematic study of the whole of their writings. Or at the very least, a good chunk of it.
Below is a list of chapters I will reference so that you can click on each of them and read them at your leisure. They will be numbered, and I will quote from them so that you know which link I am referring to.
1. Regarding Book V, Chapter 27, Irenaeus recognizes that not only will there be a greater punishment awaiting the wicked than those of Sodom and Gomorrah (a city Chris affirms is an example of annihilation), Irenaeus goes on to say:
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
On an article posted for RethinkingHell.com, there is a misquoted and misguided reference to Irenaeus, a 2nd Century Church Father, that wrongfully places him as supporting a conditionalist/annihilationist position. You can find the article here. I do not put much stock into the Church Fathers as I do the authority of Sola Scriptura, but I do hope to show how it doesn’t seem like those at the Rethinking Hell ministry take the time to read the other chapters of Irenaeus’ work. They conveniently only quote (out of context) parts of Book 2 Chapter 34. Chris Date, the author, states:
- “Contrary to the claims of traditionalists (those that believe in eternal conscious torment), however, [Irenaeus’] work is one of the earliest explicit affirmations outside of scriptures of the final annihilation of the wicked.”
Open the link to Chris Date’s article above in another tab or window, and compare what I am going to say in light of what he says. Excuse the swiftness of what I write as I am trying to be brief and clear.
After you’ve read the whole article, if you focus your attention on the sub-heading that says “Existence and Continuance” you will notice that Chris only quotes pieces of the Irenaeus’ work in this whole chapter. If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here is the main portion of Irenaeus work that Chris quotes from :
- For as the heaven which is above us, the firmament, the sun, the moon, the rest of the stars, and all their grandeur, although they had no previous existence, were called into being, and continue throughout a long course of time according to the will of God, so also any one who thinks thus respecting souls and spirits, and, in fact, respecting all created things, will not by any means go far astray, inasmuch as all things that have been made had a beginning when they were formed, but endure as long as God wills that they should have an existence and continuance. (underline mine)
Now, before we show the parts he doesn’t quote, if you read the previous chapter of Irenaeus’ work, Chapter 33, you’ll find that he is opposing those who believe that the souls of people can transmigrate from body to body, and that those souls have no previous knowledge of their prior existence. He even goes on to point out how just as those that rise to eternal life will go into that life with soul and body, so will those that go to punishment, having body and soul. But Chris would predictably respond that this chapter does not say that people in hell will suffer eternally. A point that will soon be refuted.
Now that you know the background, Here is the whole of chapter 34 here, with the bolded areas revealing what was left out from his article, as well as numbered markers in between to reference my explanations afterward.
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
I was recently told that I have not made any coherent arguments in my previous articles and podcast, and that my position against conditionalism (conditional immortality) was hard to follow. Here are some points to chew on, plain and simple (although what I am about to say will not be an exhaustive argument).
If the fire is unquenchable in that it can’t be “put out” as conditionalists say, and that it will not be put out until the work is finished. Then, when the work is finished, and the wicked are annihilated, will the fire be done doing its work? In other words, will it no longer burn? If a conditionalists says yes, that it will no longer burn when it has finished its work, then the fire must not be eternal. It would follow, then, that it either does die out, or it goes away somehow. So making the distinction between put out vs die out is unnecessary and linguisitically deceptive. Furthermore, in Matthew 25, the fire is described as being in and of itself eternal and is not exactly equivocal in nature to the fire coming down from God (Sodom), nor indicative of exclusively being God’s glory or holy presence somehow. Such attempts are trying to explain away the obvious. It is a categorically different fire. It is the fire of God’s eternal wrath. It is a fire of judgment that is permanent and perpetual. If you have a wrathful fire burning against sinners, which is the purpose of the fire, and the fire is supposed to be forever burning, how do you have a fiery wrath burning against an enemy that will eventually no longer be there? Some conditionalist will retort that the fire can be in and of itself eternal, but those that are in it are not (and they say I am proposing some kind of “eternal fuel” theory when I am not). But that still doesn’t solve the problem. Because the fire is still indicative of God’s wrath against sinners. So why will His wrathful anger still burn? If the people are consumed, the fire should cease. But it will not.
But also, another thing that is pointed out by Conditionalists is that the worm will not die. They make a distinction to say that the Bible doesn’t say it will “never” die (although linguistically there is proof that it implies that), but simply that it does “not” die. In other words, it will not die until it is done doing the work that it was set out to do, just as the the Rethinking Hell ministry has affirmed many times. The worm’s purpose is eating the corpses of the dead bodies that they say Isaiah 66 illustrates. So if the fire and worm exist to accomplish what it was meant to accomplish, what happens when the worm dies? Wouldn’t the fire die out as well since both are an illustration of God’s judgment? That is what the contributors at Rethinking Hell are implying. And if the fire stops too, why does Matthew describe the fire as eternal?
What you have here is a huge inconsistency that basically makes the future punishment of unquenchable, eternal fire as Jesus explains it in the New Testament being a complete equivalent to the nature of the Old Testament fire that destroys its adversaries (which eventually went out when the work was finished). Even though Jesus used Old Testament language to describe God’s wrath and burning judgment against wicked, Jesus further expounds upon the nature of the future judgment in the New Testament. In Matthew 25’s case, it is eternal. And, it is explaining what happens after you die. Not the first time you die like in many Scriptures used to substantiate annihilationism. So either the fire is truly temporal and not eternal, or the worms and fire are eternal thus making the punishment eternal. It’s not hard to understand. But of course, Jude 7 is used, again, to substantiate their claim that the fire can be eternal. But this is categorical and semantical mistake. I will exegetic Jude 7 for you all in the future, but just know this for now. The eternal fire spoken of by Jude 7 is teaching us that the wicked are suffering NOW in torment.
But let’s add Jude into the mix for a second. If we use Jude 7 to interpret how the eternal fire can still be eternal because it is God’s glory, or is coming from God’s holy presence down from heaven as some conditionalists say, and it doesn’t have to burn forever, then why does Matthew’s grammatical construction (see part 2a-b) make eternal fire categorically different from other fires? Also, Matthew refers to the location of those thrown into eternal fire as a separate “place” 6 times in his writings (Mathew 8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30), “prepared” for Satan and his angels, where there is outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Keep this in mind that this place is still a place of wrath, anger, fire, judgment. If conditionalist wish to make the fire that Matthew describes like that of Sodom, which they wrongly assume Jude means – a fire that comes down from God upon Sodom and Gomorrah and burns for a period of time only to kill and annihilate – if God already dished out the punishment with eternal fire, then why is He resurrecting them to do the same thing again? In other words, He already “annihilated” them with “eternal fire” in Sodom. That was their punishment, right? I’ve asked this question before in Part 3 of this series. And if this is the case, why would Jesus say that it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:14-15; 11:22-24) on the day of judgement than for those that reject the gospel if the same kind of death-by-fire (or should we say annihilation-by-fire) punishment is coming? It doesn’t add up. Oh, and by the way. The example in 2 Peter 2:6 is not describing annihilation after death, but is illustrating that God will preserve the righteous and judge the wicked. Not that Sodom serves as a direct parallel describing annihilation. Context is key.
Lastly, the rebuttal and arguments to make the eternal fire in Matthew something other than an instrument of wrath located in a place that is categorically different is plain ludicrous. The fact that this fire will never go out, be put out, or die out (whichever wording you choose) implies that God’s wrath will abide there forever. And if God’s wrath abides there forever, on whom is it abiding against when the wicked will sooner or later be annihilated? This isn’t eternal fuel. This is eternal punishment. The fire existed prior to them begin thrown in their because it is a place “prepared” and a place that endures forever for those that are not born again. I wish I could be more plain, but I’m not sure how. If this isn’t good enough for conditionalists I’m not sure what is. Nevertheless, I will continue to write and extend an open invitation for conditionalists to come on a podcast with me to discuss what they believe and why. So far, they have declined for emotional reasons.
Tune in to part 4 coming within the next week about how the Church Father, Irenaeus, believed some of the very same things about the punishment and fire enduring eternally, even though the ministry of Rethinking Hell take him out of context.
-Until we go home
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
The distance that certain conditionalists will go to deny the obvious linguistic nature of eternal conscious torment is very disturbing. While I have already revealed in Part 2a why the fire is categorically different and in and of itself eternal, AND how it is semantically linked as the instrument and reason why those that are in it will continually endure eternal punishment (since it is indicative of God’s wrath, read Part 2b), the twisting of Scripture continues. The basic premise is that eternal punishment is not an eternal “punishING” but one of eternal “punishMENT.” In essence, what is proposed is that the eternal punishment that Jesus speaks of in Matthew does not refer to the process of being punished for an eternity, but that Jesus’ administration of the punishment (in their case the punishment is death/annihilation brought about by fire) is what is meant by eternal punishment. Therefore, that punishment which He administers lasts forever.
There are several personal observations that I must bring to the forefront before I address the linguistic/scriptural issue of this argument. 1) Language is messy business. It is one thing that I learned from studying linguistics is that many of what we take for granted everyday can often be arbitrary and ambiguous. Many of the points conditionalists make, from a linguistic standpoint, are notable nuances, but too often are exploited for their benefit. In other words, they capitalize on the ambiguities of language. This is to not say that I or anyone else is not guilty of doing such a thing, but they do it so often with clearly understandable texts like Matthew 25 that I have no choice but to assume deception (which is once again, what we are accused of). 2). A dictionary is not meant to regulate language. I know it is a habit for some to use dictionary definitions of words because it is an easy reference, but this wonderful tool simply records how the language can be used in any given context, not regulate how is should be used. In other words, it describes not prescribes. It tells you how words have been used and are conventionally used (that means by agreement) depending on the kind of dictionary you have. But they do not always capture every nuance. However, internet is changing that. So whenever we go to our dictionaries, remember that it is good to have an general understanding of what a word entails, but syntax, grammatical structuring, discourse structuring, and even idioms can break the “rules.” Therefore we are to be cautious how we bring dictionaries to make our points. Look up lexicography if you care to know more. It really is a fascinating field of linguistics. Now, unto my arguments.
Here is the first problem I see. In my last post, I mentioned how conditionalists believe that the result of the punishment is eternal. I wrote it this way because whether it is Chris Date in his podcasts/debates, or recently William Tinksley (a contributing author to Rethinking Hell), I am told something along the lines that this is not what they believe. Their correction to my statement is that they too believe in “eternal punishment,” and I am apparently wrong for saying that they believe in the results of the punishment. But then they go on to say (perhaps not all of them) that the punishment is the result of Jesus’ punishing action, or it is the duration of the punishment inflicted once which is eternal (the example given is capital punishment). So what we have here is an example of saying the same thing, just differently. By asserting that eternal punishment refers to “the result of Jesus’ punishing action” is to say, in essence, that you believe that eternal punishment in Matt 25 is implying the result, not the process. So to be corrected by saying that conditionalists do not believe that the results of the punishment is eternal is being semantically illusive. They are very good at making distinctions without making any difference, as well as proving their point without proving their position (which I’m sure I will be accused of doing).
Here’s the second problem. In order to prove their point, conditionalist compare the words redemption (using Hebrews 9:12 as an example) and punishment. Since redemption can refer to a one time act, or can refer to the results (there’s that word again) of an act, they say that this is a comparable example to the punishment administered by Christ in Matt 25. From a linguistic perspective, this is a notable nuance in any given context. Even though conditionalists are correct that punishment and redemption both can refer to a single act or a result of an act, they overlooked the very same Scripture tells us what exactly that punishment is (eternal fire), and they assume we will be burned up. But they also don’t realize that the suffixes of both punishment and redemption can imply a state or condition. Before I go to Matt 25, here is a quick breakdown of suffix usage.
The suffix -ment can refer to a state or condition. It is a way to “noun” a verb (notice I just verbed the word noun because how I placed it in the sentence. This kind of syntax is key when having these sorts of discussions. Not just how words are defined, but how they are used in any given utterance or text). For the word redemption, the suffix -tion does the same. In both words, the suffix can imply a state or condition. In Jesus’ case, He went into the Holy place to obtain eternal redemption for us. In this case, eternal punishment refers to the state or condition of being punished. In other words, while Jesus’s obtaining the state of condition of eternal redemption for us is accomplished by the one time act of enduring the wrath of God and death, we experience the state or condition of punishment by being in eternal torment by the one time act of being thrown there (we I will explain below). But also in this case, if you are given a punishment, depending on the punishment, it can be temporary or eternal based off of how or by what means it is being administered. The effects can last even after the infliction has has passed (just like the death penalty), or you can remain in a state of condition of being punished (like a lifetime in prison). The downfall in our case is that any punishment that is meant to endure can only endure in our lifetime. And, if it does endure throughout our lifetime, it can be a punishment that is consistently being administered or undergone by an instrument or agent, or it can simply leave a lasting result (sort of like a physical scar, although emotional “scaring” is not outside the realm of semantics). In Matthew 25, eternal punishment into eternal fire is a state or condition that the wicked find themselves in forever, eternal punishment being another way of appositionally (see Part 2b again to remember what I’m talking about here) describing that state.
Now, lest you think this can also sway in the conditionalist favor, one must understand that verbal nouns like punishment keep some semantic value of the verbal form, although they do not function as a verb. I can get pretty technical at this point, but I will save that for other posts or conversations that I may have with conditionalists. For now, punishment always has the sufferer in mind. That is, whatever the means, whatever the outcome, punishment always has the person receiving it as its focus. Seeing that the fire mentioned earlier in Matthew is eternal, and is the instrument that will forever administer the punishment, and since that fire is indicative of God’s wrath and judgment, if the fire is eternal, then the one who is experiencing that fire is in that state or condition for an eternity.
It is clear that any punishment administered in this life that is administered by man or by God, even physical death, is not eternal. The first death we experience is not forever. We will one day be resurrected. Jesus came to save us from the power of the first death (Rev 20:6; 1 cor 15:54), which by natural consequence saves us from second death. But the first death is not like the second in nature. And Scripture clearly demonstrates, at the very least in Matthew 25, as making the day of judgement and final judgment different by saying that out of all the punishments, this one will last forever. If death is the punishment as conditionalists make it out to be, then why would God have to resurrect them to only do the same thing again? This question cannot be redirected at us who believe in eternal conscious torment because while we may die, we have yet to face the wrath of God that Jesus took upon Himself on the cross before He died. And we can’t, because we would die in our current state. And if conditionalists continue to assert that the eternal fire in Jude 7 is equivalent to the eternal fire in Matthew 25 (in the sense of how they use it) then if Sodom and Gomorrah suffered punishment by eternal fire, why resurrect them and do it all over again? Eternal conscious torment is consistent in that the only thing that the wicked have not yet faced is God’s full wrath in the body. This is something Jesus did. And He doesn’t need to suffer eternally like we do to do it. Which is the reason why we need a resurrected body designed for such an occasion. Because if we use the Old Testament as an example, which Sodom and Gomorrah is just a taste of, then there is a reason why that body would have to be a body fit for eternal punishment. Because the current one we have will whittle away.
But guess what, in one sense, the conditionalists are right! When you read verses 41 and 46 of Matthew 25 which reveal that the wicked “go away into” eternal punishment while the righteous to eternal life, it is a one time act of sending them to their respective locations. And when they arrive, they will experience the bliss or the pain of what God has in store for them there, and they will experience that state or condition for an eternity. So to say that the punishment can be a one time act, or the result of the act really makes no difference seeing that the punished will experience their state of punishment eternally, just as the natural understanding of the text is to be interpreted. So even if this is what it means to be punished, this one time act of being thrown into the fire indeed has an eternity behind it, and those that are there will be in a state of eternal punishment. In other words, how conditionalists argue their points still doesn’t prove their position, nor does it prove that those that are thrown into the fire will be eventually annihilated.
But what of the words “eternal destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and the parts in Scripture where Jesus uses parables to describe what happens to the wicked when they are judged? Like in Luke 13:40 where the Greek word katakiaw is used to illustrate the wicked being “burned up”? What about those? Those will be dealt with later on in upcoming articles. For now, remember to take all these article as a collective whole. What I mean is, each article is designed to build off of one another. It may be difficult to process all this, but I know many of you reading the New Testament understand the implications of eternal fire and punishment and that it lasts forever. It is something our Church Fathers understood (something I will prove as well), and it is something that has been easily understood by many generations, except for those that have an agenda (whether they realize it or not) to prove otherwise.
-Until we go home
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
Since I have written part 2a, there has been an attempt to dilute the argument concerning the article-noun-article-adjective construction (called the second attributive) in Matthew 25. But the attempt is, once again, a linguistic game that seems to be the trend amongst conditionalists. In essence, what is being stated is that there is no special emphasis placed upon this kind of construction in Greek, and that the other kinds of constructions, that are like this one, are used just as much, if not more, in the New Testament, and they too have the same attributive meaning. In other words, there are other grammatical constructions that are used in the New Testament with adjectives that can express the same kind of attribution, but doesn’t give the special emphasis that I claim it makes.
For instance, if you remember from my previous article, “the fire, the eternal one” would be the somewhat literal but awkward translation of this fire. Now, whether the Greek uses another type of adjectival construction (first or third attributive as they are called) to describe eternal fire or not, is something that can be debated. But it doesn’t do away with the fact that the Greek language makes the fire categorically different from all other fires. This is something I mentioned in 2a of this series. Since the Scripture references this fire as a separate location also makes a significant difference. But, what is being rebutted is the fact that the construction I pointed out is no more significant than any other construction. And then, an appeal to multiple resources that point out that there isn’t any difference is how the diffusion is attempted (don’t be fooled). To this I will say a few things before we move forward.
1. There are at least three resources that show the construction I pointed out in 2a are significant. Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, A.T. Robertson’s, GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT (which Wallace draws from), and Deeper Greek. These resources come from scholars who have practically spent their whole lives studying the Greek Language. However, the other respected scholars affirm that there are no differences in meaning. But it is no surprise to me that linguists would emphasis or not emphasis certain nuances within a language. Language is often complex, fluid, and nuanced. So even if there is a disagreement (which we can’t be sure if the authors are even aware that there is even a contention) concerning the kind of emphasis the word “eternal” places on the fire in Matt 25, there is one thing that is for sure – the adjective describes the fire in and of itself as eternal. An inescapable truth that is still being twisted.
2. Making a case that there are no differences in meaning between the types of constructions ignores the most fundamental thing that adjectives do to nouns. In language, adjectives describe, limit, modify or expound upon the noun and can attribute special characteristics depending on the context. It is clear, even in the English, that the noun (fire) is modified by the adjective (eternal), making the fire in and of itself eternal. This is especially significant since, as I said in 2a, that the fire is indicative of God’s wrath. So if you have a fiery wrath that burns forever, but no one is there to burn against it since they are consumed, you have a huge (perhaps heretical) problem. And yes, the fire exists because the wicked exist. One attempt was made to say that because no one is in the fire even while it is burning means that the fire does not need people to burn against. Once again, this is an attempt to deflect the obvious.
3. There is one other thing about these Greek constructions with adjectives that most people who do not study linguistics may not know about that other languages demonstrate. It is called apposition. What apposition is is a phrase, word, or description that further expounds upon another word, phrase, or description. A simple way of explaining this would be like saying, “Ricky, the tall dude over there, likes to eat…” The emphasized portion is the apposition. In our case of eternal fire, the way the Greek is constructed, even if one disagrees with the significance of grammar, the fact that the fire is appositionally described as “eternal” further makes the case that this fire is indeed categorically different than other fires. Therefore, if even some linguists of Greek see no difference in meaning between constructions, at base level, they are appositional. In laymans terms, eternal fire means that it will burn forever.
The next thing to point out is the attempt to say that the fire is eternal in the sense that it is from God. Since God is a consuming fire, then the eternal fire is just another way to point out that it is God doing the punishment of annihilation or consumption of the wicked. There may be nuances as to how this is argued, but the general attempt is to sweep away the obvious. The fire in which Satan, his angels, and the wicked are thrown into is going to be a fire that burns forever. And in Matt 25:46, the fire is semantically linked to eternal punishment (as well as unquenchable fire). This punishment is going to be eternal because, quite simply, the fire is eternal. If an attempt is made to say that the fire is only simply God, of God, or from God (something I wouldn’t holistically disagree with), that is ignoring the fact that the language portrays that this fire is still categorically different. It is created and located somewhere for a specific purpose. And, if it is God who is partaking of this burning, yet the wicked are eventually consumed, then who is He burning against if they are supposed to be eventually annihilated?
There is more to this, and this series will go on for quite some time I assume. But the main gist to grasp from this is that the language is clear in that it makes a distinction that eternal fire is just that, eternal. I only made this article less technical in the attempts to reach mass amounts of readers. There are more linguistic evidences and arguments that could be made. The only word of advice to the reader I have at this time is this. If you think that the wicked are not going to face eternal conscious torment, whether you realize it or not, it will affect your view of the atonement. This is something I plan to address in detail in the future, but for now, please know that some in the conditionalist camps have defended abhorrent theology like Evangelical Universalism, and there are others that seemingly reject the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. As you read further articles, I pray more connections would be made plain.
-Until we go home
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
It can be difficult for some people to digest large chucks of complex information. It is even harder for people to pick up on subtle nuances that certain teachers use in order to make their case. What’s even more difficult is the fact that not many Christians read the New Testament with a systematic and linguistic lens that is trained to detect and digest all these subtle nuances that certain teachers use to deceive them. But I have good news! You do not need to know all of how Greek works to understand what I am about to show you. As hopefully some of my readers already know, I like getting to the point. So in this particular article, I will challenge the idea from certain conditionalists that believe hell’s fires are only temporary. Or, to be accurate, the fire is only eternal in the fact that the effect of the punishment they provide the wicked endures forever. If you haven’t picked up on that subtle nuance already, some who believe in conditional immortality believe that the fires of hell are meant to eventually “consume” the person. They contend that this is what Jesus meant by “unquenchable.” That is, the fire cannot be “put out” rather than “die out,” and that it will not stop until the adversaries are totally consumed (or in their case annihilated).
Before I show from Scripture why this isn’t the case, here is the only difficulty I have, or anyone has, who wishes to make a case in writing. This isn’t conversation. In conversation you can investigate and probe in ways that writing cannot. In live debate and cross-examination, you can publically show why a person’s position in a particular area is in error. In blog posts, all people do is write in response to opposing blog posts, and will carefully pick and choose what they will or will not respond to, or write something in such a way that seems like a legitimate response, but it is not. Of course, anyone can use my previous sentence against me, and I should expect that. But the reason I went through all the trouble to write this paragraph is so that the reader is aware that what I am about to deal with in this article is so specific and easy to understand, it would take a linguistic twisting so incredible, that it would have to deny how certain grammars of Greek work. And while some opponents of eternal conscious torment believe this is “insignificant” in comparison to the stacks of evidence that seems to support conditional immortality (CI) or annihilationism, this is just one of the many semantic proofs that will be the proverbial snow ball that rolls down the mountain.
One of the text used by CI folks is Matthew 25:46 when Jesus says:
“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I will deal with how the words “eternal punishment” does not mean that the results of the punishment lasts forever as CI presents it. But for now, let’s look at this Scripture in context. The first thing we have to see is that this whole chapter deals with Jesus and His judgment on the wicked at His return. Starting in verse 31 of chapter 25, He begins a discourse about those who will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and those that are wicked will be cast into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Other than the fact that some CI and annihilationists think that Satan and his angels will also be “consumed” by this fire, some others insist that this “eternal fire” is eternal in the sense that it is from God (because He is eternal), or that its punishment upon the wicked has eternal consequence, but not the fire itself. Don’t run, here comes the easy-to-understand-Greek-grammar that I mentioned earlier.
In Greek, you will sometimes have an article-noun-article-adjective construction. Don’t run. If I lost you, you will get it in a second. It would like literally writing, in Matt 25:41, “the fire, the eternal one.” Adjectives describe or limit nouns. If I say I have a house. That’s the noun. If I have a yellow house. That adjective describes the noun. If I further mention that my house is eternal, then I have added another element to the noun, but it still describes or limits the noun in some way. If I say, “Hey, look at that house.” And you ask “which one?” It is probably because there is more than one house around and you seek to know which one I am looking at. If I reply, “The yellow one” I am implying that not only is the yellow house significantly different than all the other houses around it, but I am also saying that this one is a certain kind of house in context of all the other houses. In this Scripture, starting in verse 41, Jesus turns to the wicked and says:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
This is what it looks like in Greek. I will highlight the words you need to pay attention to in order to understand my illustration above.
ότε ἐρεῖ καὶ τοῖς ἐξ εὐωνύμων πορεύεσθε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ οἱ κατηραμένοι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον τὸ ἡτοιμασμένον τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ
Notice that εἰς means “into” and τὸ (article) πῦρ (noun), which means “the fire.” But not just any fire, but τὸ (article) αἰώνιον (adjective) – “the eternal one.” In essence, what this Scripture is making clear is that unlike all the fires that die out and/or are eventually put out, this fire that the wicked will be cast into, with the Devil and his angels, is itself eternal. This is not dealing with the consequences or results. The fire itself is of an eternal nature meant to burn for eternity. Despite what some opponents may say about this, this carries huge implications. Because what Jesus is saying that we will be cast into the fire, the eternal one, when we are judged. And here is the kicker. The eternal punishment mentioned in verse 46 sits within the context of this eternal fire that awaits us. This means that the fire that burns forever dictates how eternal punishment in this context is to be understood. No linguistic tricks attached. Even though the word “punishment” by itself can ambiguously represent the result of it dished out, in this particular text, it clearly illustrates that the punishment will be itself eternal. And that the fire, which burns eternally, will be the instrument used to carry out the sentence.
But wait there’s more!
In Matthew 18:8, Jesus uses this same Greek construction (article-noun-article-adjective) to illustrate our reaction toward sin. He says:
“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.”
This is what it looks like in the Greek.
εἰ δὲ ἡ χείρ σου ἢ ὁ πούς σου σκανδαλίζει σε ἔκκοψον αὐτὸν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ καλόν σοί ἐστιν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν κυλλὸν ἢ χωλόν ἢ δύο χεῖρας ἢ δύο πόδας ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον
Look familiar? It should. It is as Matthew 25 says, “the fire, the eternal one.” And Jesus not only says that the fire is itself eternal, but he parallels this with the next verse by saying:
“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
Another way to put this verse is fiery hell. The word hell used here is “Gehenna” which is the book of Revelation equivalent to the lake of fire. And Jesus spoke about Gehenna differently throughout the gospels then He did about Hades, which just generally meant the place of the dead. But CI and annihilationists want you to believe that this fire is not going to burn those in it forever, but that they will eventually be consumed. However, in this Scripture, Jesus semantically links the two – Gehenna and “the fire, the eternal one” – equally to make His point about what will happen to those who don’t take sin seriously and are not born again.
Hang in there, although I can go on, there is only one more thing I want to show you.
Just like in Matthew 18 where Jesus parabolically encourages you to slice your hand off in comparison to being thrown in hell, Mark 9:43 provides a parallel passage that describes the same teaching. But notice how the eternal fire is mentioned here.
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”
Here is how it looks in the Greek:
kαὶ ἐὰν σκανδαλίζῃ σε ἡ χείρ σου ἀπόκοψον αὐτήν καλόν ἐστίν σε κυλλὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν ἢ τὰς δύο χεῖρας ἔχοντα ἀπελθεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ ἄσβεστον
Do you notice something familiar about this verse? I bolded it for you so you can recognize it. Do you recognize the grammar/construction? You should. It is the art-noun-art-adj construction we’ve been talking about. Except we have a new word introduced. It is ἄσβεστον (asbeston) which means to be “unquenchable” in English. And it is only used three times in the New Testament (Matt. 3:12; Mark 9:43; Luke 3:17). It literally means that it cannot be extinguished, put out, or die out. In essence, what this verse is saying is people will go “into Gehenna, into the fire, the unquenchable (inextinguishable) one.” It’s a bit awkward sounding in English, but Gehenna, fire, and eternal burning are all interconnected ideas.
The proponents of CI like to say that unquenchable means that the fire can’t be “put out,” not that it won’t “die out.” This is a subtle nuance, and I find it manipulative and trite. But it is a nuance nevertheless. The difference is illustrated by knowing when I light a fire, it will either die out on its own, or I can snuff it out, extinguish it, or quench it with my fingers, water, blowing it out, etc. This isn’t an entirely bad case to make, because God’s eternal wrath cannot be quenched against those who are His enemies (except by atonement). The difference is that conditionalists believe that this only means that the fire will not be quenched until it has entirely consumed the wicked. In other words, it can’t be put out until it has finished consuming. But as we already learned from these other passages above, the fire itself is indeed eternal. So whether it cannot be extinguished or put out or die out, really makes no difference seeing that the fire will burn perpetually. Even if it meant that it can’t be “put out,” the point is the fire will not stop burning, ever! But perhaps the Scripture means what it has always meant for the majority who read it, and the Greek scholars who interpret it. That is, the fire burns forever because those in that place of punishment, as Matthew 25 implies, are there forever. Unquenchable means it can’t be put out, extinguished, or die out because God is the only one who can do it! And even if it is taken from Isaiah 66, and various other passages in the Old Testament that have similar semantic value, it does not negate Jesus’ exegesis that the fire will remain and so will those who are in it.
Although more could be said, for the sake of brevity, I will close with this. In a future article, I will deal with “unquenchable” fire and arguments that proponents of CI and annihilationists make to justify their reasoning as to why the fire is a “consuming” fire and not an eternal one. But for now, ponder the grammatical construction and think about how the fire could burn for eternity, and yet there will be nothing left to burn? A predictable rebuttal will be that God Himself is a (or The) consuming fire. I agree. But that is not what the Greek is implying. This fire resides within the “place” where the Devil, his angels, and all those who are wicked will go. It is its own fire. It is categorically different than other fires that burn. That is what the grammar reveals. Of course, it is a fire that comes from God, is kindled by God, and can only be put out by God. And, It is God administering the punishment, and it is God who is present within the fire. But if the persons are eventually consumed, why would the wrathful anger of God burn forever against an enemy that no longer remains? Therefore, the fire cannot be simply from God, because the implications are not as simple to deal with, and the grammar doesn’t point in that direction.
-Until we go home
*For more information on Greek grammar, I recommend getting a copy of Dan Wallace’s book “Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics” which verifies this grammar and many other constructions.
(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)
The subject of hell for many is very uncomfortable. Even trying to deal with this subject as a topic of apologetics seems very shallow. After all, if there is any kind of punishment after death, since it is from God, it will be terrible regardless of how we try to magnify or mitigate the sentence. Whether we are annihilated immediately after we are resurrected, suffer conscious torment in the intermediate state only to be resurrected and continue in that state of suffering, or we suffer for a time and then are annihilated, why should it matter? Does it matter? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that if we are going to look at what happens to people who are not saved and their punishment, we inevitably will view the atonement and God through a particular lens. No, in the sense that if a person believes only that hell is not eternal conscious torment, and this is their only variation, they aren’t fundamentally saying something that could be considered damnably heretical. However, they certainly do raise eyebrows of concern, especially in the area of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Because one thing you must always be aware of is that every major doctrine is interconnected. Hell and Heaven are major because they inevitably affect one’s view of what the atonement accomplishes. Alter the state of either destination, you must inevitably shift your view, however subtle, concerning the cross of Christ. Some shifts are damnably heretical (or at least can lead there). Meanwhile other shifts are inconsistent and concerning, but may not be.
For the ministry of Rethinkinghell.com, there are a number of contributors that propose the idea that immortality is not for the wicked, but only reserved for the saved. That is, immortality is conditional upon salvation in Jesus Christ (the doctrine of conditional immortality – CI). As for the wicked, they do not receive immortality as the righteous do. They are doomed for punishment that is eternal, but it is not the process of being punished that is eternal, but the results of the punishment that is eternal. The Scriptures that mention eternal punishment, eternal fire, eternal destruction, according to this position, are semantically pointing to the eternal result of annihilation (or “death” as they put it) that comes from God, not the fact that the punishment or the fire itself will last forever.
In the future posts, I will deal will various arguments that some of the contributors of Rethinking Hell make. I will seek to also clarify and strengthen why I believe the experience of the wicked in hell will be eternal conscious torment. I don’t want to be petty and trite when I discuss this seeing that I view this doctrine as major. However, what needs to be stated is that while I strongly disagree with those that believe this doctrine, I cannot confidently affirm at this time that such a doctrine is damnably heretical. At first I did. I have throttled back some. Seeking to err on the side of caution. I still have a wide suspicion, though, about this doctrine not only because of some of the contributors’ position on penal substitution, but also the theological implication this has on the atonement of Christ (even though the contributors of CI say there are none). Nevertheless, there is proof that this doctrine is indeed a gateway doctrine to heresy and heretical company. And that will be made apparent as well.
These points will be discussed in later posts in detail. But for now, just know that the doctrine of conditional immortality is gaining much notoriety among certain evangelical circles, and everyone within Christendom will have to deal with the subject sooner than later. I have been following Rethinking Hell for about 3-4 years now, and have seen notable attention. This is not to start a theological mob, but to create awareness that discussion is now necessary, and there will be many who will divide, yet again, over something like this. As you read the following parts to this series, remember that while some people say this is not a major doctrine, I believe that it is. To what degree that this will affect/change fundamental truths of Christianity is too soon to be seen. But there are major concerns that I hope people will notice and address as it grows. If you are not familiar with the ministry, you can go to Rethinkinghell.com and read for yourself some of the articles and podcasts put forth by this ministry.
-Until we go home