I believe there is a great deal of truth in this article. It was a good reminder that if we are not careful, all we may end up doing with our children is turning them away from Christ instead of pointing them to Christ. I recommend all true believing parents to read the blogpost found here by Jennifer Phillips.
I would like to reveal and exegete more Scriptures that conditionalists use to affirm their position of annihilationism, but let’s cut to the chase. There’s an even bigger topic at hand. And it is in the area of atonement. Because whenever you change the nature/definition of eternal punishment or eternal life, you inevitably change your view of the atonement. And even though conditionalist claim to say that their view of hell doesn’t change their outlook on the atonement (in a heretical way at least), it seems that when the contributors write or speak on their podcasts, they betray themselves. And this issue is hard to tackle in writing seeing that those within the conditionalist camp are not only varied in their opinion concerning what happens in the intermediate state (between death and the resurrection), and the nature of Hell (whether it is retributive and/or restorative), but because of their hermeneutics and also some of their different applications of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA). But I contest that this position is indeed not only a gateway doctrine to heresy, but it seems to accommodate heretical company. And hopefully, the concerns below will make this more clear.
Despite the above, there is one unifying doctrine within conditionalism – Death IS the punishment for sin. In other words, the act of Jesus Christ dying on the cross (when life left His body) is when sin was paid/atoned for and the punishment was satisfied. They say this in response to those of us who say that the wrath of God poured out on Christ was satisfied while He was still alive. But I don’t holistically disagree with death being a necessary component of the punishment, and neither should you reader. But their main challenge is that if the wrath of God that Jesus bore Himself was payment for sin, then why did He die? Great question! But this is, once again, making a distinction without making a difference. The challenge can easily be reversed in that if death IS the punishment, then why would Jesus endure such a brutal and tortuous beating from His creation, and bear God’s wrath while on the cross? Since death is the punishment, then Jesus could have just endured a slit throat like the lambs of old, and died for our sin (see this article I wrote that helps us to understand how what Jesus endured was more than what we are going to endure in hell because of who He was). Of course, in reading this, conditionalists may make up a ready response. They always do. But their leaders don’t want their responses challenged in a public dialogue (i.e. conversation) with me where their views can be scrutinized and critiqued for consistency. They would rather have the safety of timed debates, and social media platforms to defend their views. Where they can say their peace without being probed in dialogue by someone who has found extreme reason to doubt the veracity of their position, who also has taken the time to digest their position from the inside and can detect and call out the subtle linguistic shifts in their argument. Yes, I am saying that most of their published information does not address their specific challenges head on as I am doing. But I digress. I still offer my open invitation for public dialogue here even though they continually reject my appeal on emotional grounds.
Before I deal with the atonement, let me explain why I have concerns and why I believe that this theology is a gateway doctrine to heresy. If we were simply discussing the nature of hell, then a secondary conversation could possibly be had without any consequence to salvific implications (maybe), IF the person is simply inconsistent by believing this position, or if they are not a popular teacher saying our view is closer to heresy, like Chris Date says (you’ll see below). This is the type of conversation conditionalist strive for. They want to treat this as merely a secondary issue. This is the proverbial “seat at the table” Chris Date and the Rethinking Hell contributors beg for. And this would be all fine and dandy if it were not for the fact that having alternate views of the afterlife affects your view of the atonement.* And, if it weren’t for the issues below. Continue reading
One of the things I am passionate about is closing the gap between Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers within the body of Christ. We have become so segregated in our roles that it is almost as if they never overlap. The Pastor is in charge of the sheep, and the Evangelist is in charge of bringing the lost sheep into the fold. My dear readers, this is wrong! Just as equally wrong is the idea that the Evangelist is incapable of preaching on any other topic other than evangelism, that the burden of biblical counseling should only be left upon the head Pastor, or that Eldership belongs only to the pastors or teachers of the congregation. In accordance with Ephesians 4:11-15, I would encourage all of us to view the roles/gifts these kind of men bring to our local congregations and the universal body of Christ.
I remember an illustration a famous preacher gave one time about how the sheepdog is like the Evangelist that barks at the sheep and the sheep run into the sheepfold. Meanwhile, the sheep are taken care of by the pastor(s) of the flock. I submit to you that I have a better illustration. The Evangelist and the Pastors and Teachers are all sheepdogs. And whether they hold to the office of Elder within a particular church or not, they are going to be called by God to gather the lost sheep, rally the sheep, guide the sheep, discipline the sheep, and keep the sheep bonded in the unity and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. But you know what, they do it all underneath the command of The Shepherd! Don’t miss this point. The Shepherd guides and gives commands to the sheepdogs as to what He wants, in accordance with His will. Let me further explain what I mean.
When I visited a farm in Washington, they were having a Scottish Border Collie demonstration. They showed how these dogs rally the sheep and guide them into the sheepfold underneath the command of the shepherd. The shepherd would whistle and call out commands that would inform the dog to run, lie down, or walk at a specific pace or in a certain direction. It is really a sight to see. I wanted to upload the video I captured, but my phone crashed before I could. So I could only find this video to give some visual illustration of what I am talking about. If you watched the video, you will notice that even though the dog may have some natural instinct on what to do, the sheepdog, nevertheless, must still be underneath the guidance and direction of the shepherd. And this is where Ephesians 4:11-16 comes in.
In the work of the ministry, all those who are gifts to the body as Ephesians says overlap in some way concerning their work among the sheep. I hope to write a book about how the Evangelist needs to be reclaimed and reintegrated back into our local churches, but for now, understand that true Evangelists are not lone wolves. They are sheepdogs, just like the pastors and teachers, among the body that listen to the voice of The Good Shepherd, my Lord Jesus. Although there can be street preachers who may not necessarily be Evangelists in accordance with Ephesians 4 (which isn’t a bad thing), and there may be some who claim to be Evangelists but preach a false gospel and disdain the body of Christ (which is a bad thing), an Evangelist called by God will fulfill their ministry not just by calling the lost to repentance and bringing people into the fold, but by building up the body, perfecting the saints, teaching sound doctrine, and many other things that seem to be only “the pastors job.”
If you think about this, this is one of the reasons why the plurality of Elders is not just biblical, but essential wisdom. I strongly assert that Evangelists are an essential piece on God’s chess board. Even if it was just one man in a small congregation, he should nevertheless do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5). Also, even though an Evangelist may be typified by church planting, missionary work (local or overseas), and/or proclaiming the gospel among the heathen in the local area, the pastors and teachers among us should be doing some of the very same things! And if you’re thinking consistently about the Great Commission, every Christian is called to do their part in the work of making disciples. But regarding our ministerial duty to the body, as sheepdogs, we are called as a team that heeds the voice of our Shepherd to do the joyous labor of serving the body while we endeavor in the very same mission. And whether it is building up the body by adding to the church, or by edifying and perfecting those already added, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers must rally together more than ever underneath the sound of Jesus’ voice to protect, guide, unify, and edify His sheep.
I am pleading with those of you who are leaders to stop putting Evangelists in the evangelistic sand box to play outside the church as if that is their sole domain. We can do better than this! There are many Evangelists who are fit to lead and exegete the Scriptures and can provide relief to their fellow sheepdogs. Their heart may lie in a passion for lost souls, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a passion for God’s people either. We may differ in personalities, strengths, and abilities, but so do the many of pastors and teachers in our congregations. Evangelists are no different. We desire to train and build up and lead the sheep just as much as any of the others who are called to the work.
One thing I remember about my time at that farm was all the sheepdogs on the sidelines, chained to the fence, aching to get in the field and work among the sheep. They were zealous, eager, knowledgeable, and would jump up and down while they watched their fellow sheepdogs do the work they were also bred for. But when they were let loose, they all attentively obeyed the voice of the Shepherd. And if either them stepped out of line, or did not obey, they would be disciplined just as much as the sheep. And this applies to all sheepdogs! Some of us have been standing on the sidelines waiting for our local congregations to let us join in on the work for too long. Although anyone called by God will fulfill their calling whether blind leaders recognize it or not, they nevertheless desire to work hand in hand with other sheepdogs. The problem is, we have too many wolves in the pulpits who desire to devour the sheep and not obey the voice of the Shepherd. And unfortunately, there are too many goats that don’t mind serving themselves up on their plate every Sunday.
But that aside, if you are reading this, and you are a leader/elder/pastor among your congregation, I plead with you to join arms with your fellow sheepdog, the Evangelist. I’d love to help you on how you can best approach this. You can contact me here, and we can correspond through email. Or if you are reading this and you feel like you are called as an Evangelist, I would love to help you to study thoroughly what that means and equip you to know how you can support and approach your local church. You can also contact me here. Keep in mind, though, that in some churches, their ecclesiastical government may require that you submit underneath the Eldership. In other congregations, the Evangelist may be appointed as one of the Elders. But whatever government your church may have, one thing remains true – there are sheepdogs that are eager and called to do the work of the ministry within the body of Christ. Some are already obeying the voice of their Heavenly Shepherd. As a church, as leader, as a Christian, will you do the same?
-Until we go home
There are certain denominations that don’t believe in the eternal conscious torment of the sinner, even among professing evangelical circles. I will deal with this in future articles, but they often bring up the inequality of punishment that Christ receives as a substitution for sinners. Someone like me who believes that hell is eternal conscious torment is often accused of not seeing the cross in just terms because Christ didn’t suffer eternally. There are some opponents who are inevitably annihilationist that will admit, however, that Jesus also was not annihilated. So in either case, Jesus’ punishment does not equally demonstrate the punishment of the wicked. Yet some within this camp further affirm that Jesus dying was the punishment. In other words, because Jesus died, that is how He was able to equally take our punishment because we die. And He rose again, defeating death on our behalf so that the righteous can have immortality. In essence, the moment that Jesus died is when Jesus took the punishment and only in dying, therefore, can we justly say He took our place, since death is the punishment.
While I do not holistically disagree with the conclusion, I also do not fully agree with the premise. Jesus’ experienced God’s wrath for us on the cross. The punishment was not solely death, but suffering God’s wrath because sin was laid upon Him. Death is the result of sin, and Jesus should have died long before He hung on that cross because of the way He was beaten. But because He was sinless, and had not yet had sin placed upon Him (which was a picture of the day of atonement), the body He had was not yet ready to die. It was only after sin was laid upon Him, and God’s wrath poured upon Him that He could cry, “It is finished!” This is penal substitution which some who reject eternal conscious torment love to also subtly (and boldly) deny. They also do this by not explicitly affirming it with plain speech. They rather affirm some type of substitution, but not penal substitution. But I digress. The point is how do we reconcile the fact that Jesus was able to endure sufficiently and efficaciously God’s wrath that He will forever pour out on sinners? If the annihilationist position is true, why would Jesus have to experience the Father’s wrath if the punishment is truly realized in His death as some teach?
These are questions that seem weighty, but can be answered easily. Let’s make this plain. Jesus did not suffer punishment the same way that we will suffer punishment. Whether you believe annihilationism (in any form) or eternal conscious torment, one truth about Christ’s atonement will remain the same. Jesus suffered more for sinners than any sinner will ever suffer for their own sin. Why? Because of who He was! Listen, we are not just talking about a regular Joe Schmoe. We are talking about the precious Lamb of God! God of very God. The Holiest of Holies. The High and Mighty Son. The Prince of Peace. He humbled Himself, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was ridiculed, mocked, and beaten by His own creation who He could have crushed like grasshoppers. Yet, He endured suffering in obedience to the Father to fulfill all that was written concerning Him. In one sense, He did not need to hang for hours. He didn’t need to continue bearing with the mocking and jeering that He did on behalf of sinners. But He chose to. And whether God chose to do it with a paper cut, or He chose to do with all of His eternal might, because of who Jesus was, just one tiny drop of blood spilled from an open wound inflicted upon Him would have been sufficient to save infinite legions of depraved sinners. But because dying is a part of the punishment, He could have just had His throat slit like the lambs of the Old Testament. He could have had a swifter execution. But instead He chose one of the most excruciating and humiliating ways to die. And endured God’s wrath as He bore it all!
I pray you don’t miss this. The punishment of Jesus will never match the punishment we receive because Jesus should not have been punished. If it were not for the grace of God, the punishment of Jesus would never have happened. If it were not for the justice of God, the punishment of Jesus would not be necessary. So in one sense, I agree with those who are opponents of eternal conscious torment that the punishment on Jesus doesn’t seem fair and equal. Because it wasn’t! What’s fair is that >>>> I <<<< should have been slaughtered! I should have experienced God’s wrath for all eternity without mercy and grace. Jesus enduring even a millisecond of God’s wrath on my behalf and in my place is infinitely more grace than I will EVER deserve. So when I hear from certain circles concerning their rejection of penal substitution and eternal conscious torment on how it seems cruel, I agree. Jesus should have wiped us all out! It’s seems cruel that it took the matchless, priceless, and spotless God-Man in order for wicked and depraved sinners like us to be free. That Jesus, in His willingness and obedience, stepped into time, clothed Himself in sinless flesh, and subjected Himself to something worse than an everyday criminal’s death. It was one of the most tortuously notorious executions invented by man. A punishment reserved for the worse of the worst. Yet He suffered more than just a criminal’s death so that criminals like me can be saved. Why would He do such a thing?! It is more than cruel, it should not have happened! God would have been perfectly justified in giving us what we deserve, and never thinking twice about it. And in light of what the Father did to Jesus, eternal conscious punishment in Hell seems like an act of mercy in comparison to what Jesus endured for us. But the Triune God, by His mercy and grace, had an eternally bigger plan to save sinners from their sin, and to separate a people unto Himself, so that they can enjoy the greatest blessing ever to receive –Himself.
Jesus was more than a substitute. He was THE Surpassing Substitute. He was more than what you could expect a substitute to ever be. Sacrifices in the Old Testament typified substitution, but Jesus outshines them all! But Jesus wasn’t just a substitute, He was THE Perfect Penal Substitute. He didn’t just suffer a little of God’s wrath, but endured as much as was necessary to appease and satisfy His justice as a propitiation for our sins. And this was still infinitely more than He deserved. He endure more suffering, more pain, more sorrow, more agony not because of how long He was on the cross, but because He was on the cross! I cannot stress this enough.
Jesus is more valuable and more beautiful than any being in the universe because He was God. He gave Himself for our sins. The punishment was not exactly what we should have received in its duration. But it was way more than we’ll ever experience, because He was innocent. This finite duration of punishment was of infinite value. If we can grasp this, when we look at Jesus on the cross, we should no longer wonder how He could sufficiently endure God’s eternal wrath in such a finite amount of time, but wonder why He was on the cross in the first place. We should no longer ponder how does the punishment match the crime, but the fact that He had to be punished in the first place. We should be more offended at Christ having to take such a punishment than the eternal conscious torment of the wicked. Because if we value Jesus as He should be valued, it should be no surprise that God would eternally pour out His wrath on those that choose their sin over Him.
Jesus’ punishment is by far a greater offense than sinners suffering in Hell forever (although paradoxically, it is a glorious grace because of Him who regenerated me because of it). I am more humbled and broken about my sin when I see the Lamb of God crushed by the Father, than by millions of souls weeping and gnashing in Hell. Jesus shouldn’t have suffered and died on that cross. But praise God He did. For it was the only way I would see Jesus as preciously and magnificently as I do today (and it grows daily). And even still, this article falls miserably short in comparison to the glory and majesty of who He is and what He has accomplished for those of us who have repented and believed His glorious gospel.
One final word. While I get what people say when they sing or read that “it should have been us upon that cross,” I can no longer say that this is fully the case for me. I don’t seek to undo thousands of pages that say something to this effect, because, for the most part, I don’t disagree. I should have experienced my punishment for my own sin. And it is from this sentiment that this understanding springs forth. So when people say this, I don’t fret. But I have recently come to appreciate the crucifixion of Christ in a way that has become exceptionally humbling for me, and I sought to share it with all. I pray that this article brings you to the same place it has brought me. To a place of deeper reverence, worship, obedience, and understanding concerning what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.
-Until we go home
At DefCon, we holistically support men who support their families. Men who make discipleship and love a priority for the home. The home is one of the central building blocks for a society, and the marriage is the sun by which everything in the home orbits. Having said this, there are many priorities that pastors, open air preachers, and everyday christian men have that may sometimes burden us. We can become anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed with the multiple obligations that we are to tend to. And yes, wives are included in this list of feelings. And the one thing that is not helpful are Christian cliches like, “Your wife is your first ministry.” It has a nice ring to it, and for the most part it is well meaning, but it does not properly convey the responsibilities and obligations a Christian may face on a day to day basis. It has also been abused by certain preachers that wish to exclude certain men from ministry.
I have attached a blogtalk episode that I and a pastor friend of mine recorded about this topic. My hope is that we would all take into consideration the biblical model of men not just in ministry, but just being men in general. All the material discussed in this episode may or may not reflect all the views of contributing bloggers here at DefCon. Here is the narrative and link of the episode below.
“On this exciting episode of G220 radio, George will be joined by Pastor Tom Shuck from Pilgrim Bible Church. Pastor Shuck is a graduate of Master’s Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary and was a missionary to India for 12 years. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) and a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin.). He has been a pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church for 4 years and helped start a seminary in India as well as planted a church there. He enjoys sports, music, family trips, and George’s personal favorite, linguistics. He has evangelized in cities like Oakland, Orlando, Mumbai, Pune training believers how to evangelize, preach the gospel, and make disciples. His wife is Lisa Shuck and two children.”
“This episode we’ll explore the cliche “Your wife is your first ministry.” Is it Scriptural? Are there other primary biblical responsibilities? Can you make ministry your idol or mistress? What should a man who is called to preach do with this kind of cliche? What about missionaries and evangelists of old that we look up to that sacrificed much, even their marriages, for the gospel? What about Matthew 22:35-40, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 3:5?”
-Until we go home
If you have followed DefCon or any other site that affirms gospel-centered theology, you have already run across mounds upon mounds of reasons why lifestyle evangelism is unbiblical. We’ve expounded, extrapolated, and exegeted this to death in order to reveal why trying to win souls by simply just living your life before the unsaved is plainly unbiblical. But the one thing we have failed to do is teach how to engage a person that believes we should simply let our good works shine before men, and then be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within you when they ask you.
I like to keep the target of an article directly in my gaze. Therefore I will not exhaustively offer my insights as to why I think this strategy of evangelism is good or bad depending on the context. But here is a mock conversation that will reveal the most devastating question you can ask someone that believes in lifestyle evangelism, which will allow the drill of the gospel to penetrate the problem at its core and root out this man-centered method.
(Background: You are walking down the street and you see someone with a sign by a booth that says “FREE HUGS.” You notice it also has Jesus’ name on some of the other signs, so you walk over to investigate)
Lifestyle Evangelist (LE): Would you like a free hug today?
You: Sure. What’s it for?
LE: We just want to demonstrate the love of Christ and show that we love you?
You: Ah. I see. Do you preach the gospel when you get people who are interested?
LE: We are showing the gospel by sharing the love of Christ through hugs.
You: So what is the greatest demonstration of God’s love to mankind?
LE: Jesus Christ dying for our sins.
You: So how do your hugs measure up?
Did you catch the point? The last two questions really expose the root problem of merely “demonstrating” the love of Christ without opening your mouth about the gospel. And the previous to last question really sets up the penetrating question at hand.
If someone feels that they are being more effective (which is pragmatism by the way) by sharing the gospel through their lifestyle and neglect to share the good news of Christ, by asking them, “What is the greatest demonstration of God’s love?” you will bypass any defense and shoot right to the source of why Christians should even bother to spread the gospel in the first place. The sacrifice of Christ for sin! Even more so, when you ask them “How does their (insert good work here) measure up?” it pinches the nerve of this pragmatic error and hopefully causes the hearer to question their means of “spreading” the gospel. Or, in their minds, letting their good works shine. Because it causes the person to take notice that they are basically saying their good work, whatever that may be, is a proper or better demonstration than Christ’s sacrifice for sin.
If it is true that Christ died for our sin, and that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us, if this gruesome act is what God had to undergo in order to save men from sin, death, and hell, how in the world could any of our good works ever measure up!? Sure we do good works because we are saved, and yes, as a byproduct of our preaching our good works compliment our message, but there is nothing (and I mean nothing) that we can do (ever) that will be a better demonstration of God’s love other than what He has already done! Let’s read that one more time. This is extremely important. There is nothing we can do to demonstrate the love of God in such a way that would project the glory of the gospel than what God has already done. That should be one of the greatest assurances for fearlessly speaking the gospel. But oftentimes, it’s not. Forgive us Lord for our unbelief.
I’m not saying taking up your cross is not a powerful testimony. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t give to the poor. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t show kindness, goodness, meekness, humility, love, self control, gentleness, and the like. But it’s not the gospel. I am not saying that your works amount to absolutely nothing when trying to be a witness in the world. But it’s not the gospel! All these things are types and shadows that should point to the gospel message. And even if they do demonstrate the power and love of Christ in some measure, none of our good works should be held to such a high regard that we think it measures up to the love of Christ efficaciously demonstrated to us on the cross. Tell the old, old story of He who paid an eternal price for our sin and gave Himself for us to make us free from sin’s power!
Remember that the above conversation is only an example. Each conversation is unique and can flow in different directions. However, don’t lose sight of the main point. It might take a little persuasion to reveal what you are trying to say, but as long as you keep the last question in sight (really the last two questions), you should be able to drive home the single, most important point of how the gospel should be shared – that we should tell someone what is the gospel, not just show them! To do otherwise is to essentially say that what we are doing is a better demonstration than what God has done.
-Until we go home
Post taken from the Christo Linguist facebook page.
I think it’s humorous that the headlines say that governors and mayors are banning “non-essential” travel to Mississippi. Does anyone know why? Because they can’t legally stop anyone from traveling there! That’s not within their jurisdiction. Saying that you’re banning non-essential travel is the same as demanding that someone not to do something even though, in reality, I can’t stop you. Don’t be fooled by media’s linguistic tricks. These “bannings” do not accomplish anything but to trick the linguistically and legally ignorant person into thinking that what these people are doing is significant.
If someone can do a better job at defining what they mean by “non-essential” then a conversation can be had. Here is a quick, but not authoritative, media clip that will help shed some light on the subject.
Pass this on!