The Saviour of all Mankind — Why Paul’s Gospel is both unique and 100% Good News

I’m including most of my scriptural references in the links throughout this article, and they also contain extended exegesis that I couldn’t fit into the article, so please be sure to click all the supporting links in order to get the full picture. Please also keep in mind, however, that just because I link to specific articles or videos doesn’t mean I agree with everything their creators believe and/or teach. Sometimes it’s just that they happen to have better supporting material on a specific point than anybody else does.

While studying the Bible you’ll come across scary statements Jesus appears to have made, as well as apparent threats in the writings of some of His disciples, hinting at the idea that some people might suffer forever in a fiery location (although you’ll also find verses seeming to suggest the eventual destruction or complete annihilation of some people instead). And yet when you get to Paul’s epistles you’ll discover passages appearing to indicate that everyone who is dying thanks to Adam will also experience salvation thanks to Christ and will eventually be made alive to live with God forever. This has led to no end of arguments over which of these viewpoints is the right one (as well as which of the verses the apparently contrary ones should be interpreted in light of), and how one insists on understanding each of these seemingly contradictory passages tends to come down to which viewpoint they already hold to when they read them, causing them to read their preexisting soteriological perspective into verses that might otherwise mean something completely different to them if they already believed the opposite.

I myself once insisted that there is only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, and that it was actually mostly bad news (although I wouldn’t have said it in those exact words) because it taught that all non-Christians are going to be tormented forever in a place called “hell” if they don’t convert before they die. However, about 20 years ago I was encouraged to dig deeper into this topic and was eventually forced to conclude that Scripture reveals Paul not only had a unique Gospel (and that most of the rest of his teachings were quite different from those in the non-Pauline books of the Bible as well), but that his Gospel truly is 100% Good News because God really is the Saviour of all humanity and because He won’t be disappointed since He actually will see His will for everyone to be saved fulfilled (although, because the idea of everlasting torment in hell was so engrained in me, it took some time for me to be convinced that I might have misunderstood the various passages I assumed implied the opposite, so it’s understandable that most people who hear about Universal Reconciliation don’t just automatically accept it as truth without deeper study). Hopefully by the time you finish reading this article you’ll have discovered that a literal and concordant interpretation of Scripture (from a Sola scriptura perspective), particularly in its original languages, does indeed reveal Paul taught the salvation of all as well.

So why did Paul seem to come to such different conclusions about salvation, the Gospel, heaven, and “hell” (among various other doctrines) than Jesus and His disciples appeared to? The reason is simply because he did have different teachings than the ones Jesus presented while He walked the Earth and that His disciples wrote about later (although Paul’s doctrines were still the doctrines of the same Christ; it’s just that the glorified Christ, after His resurrection and ascension into heaven, gave new information to Paul that He hadn’t ever revealed to anyone else prior to Paul learning it). In order to truly understand this, however, one needs to first learn what it means to “rightly divide the word of truth,” since without knowing how to do this it’s basically impossible to understand what sort of teachings the body of Christ is supposed to believe, follow, and proclaim. It’s extremely common for people to believe that certain things in Scripture which were meant only for specific people in specific times apply to everyone always, causing them to think they have to follow commandments that don’t apply to them, and to try to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results). In order to do this “rightly,” it’s important to first understand that when you read the term “the word of truth” in the Greek Scriptures (meaning the books in the Bible that are generally referred to as the New Testament) it isn’t just yet another synonym for Scripture, so this isn’t simply referring to dividing the Bible into the two sections that are traditionally called the Old Testament and the New Testament (although dividing Scripture rightly will be a valid side effect of this since, while every Scripture inspired by God was written for all of us, not every part of the Bible was written to or about all of us). If you look up each time the term is used in the Greek Scriptures, you’ll discover that it actually appears to refer to the Gospel rather than the Bible itself. When one comes to this understanding, it becomes clear that the Good News (which is what “Gospel” means; the Greek word euaggelion [εὐαγγέλιον], which we translate as “Evangel” or “Gospel” in English, literally means “Well Message,” “Glad Tidings,” or “Good News”) has to be properly divided, and the apostle Paul tells us exactly what it means to rightly divide the Good News.

To put it simply, there is more than one Gospel in Scripture that the word of truth must be rightly divided into, two of which are known as the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (there are other Gospels [or Evangels, or proclamations of Good News — these are all translated from the same Greek word] than just these two mentioned in Scripture, but these are the only two “Glad Tidings” or “Well Messages” that are connected directly to how one is saved). It’s important to note that Paul wasn’t simply saying that Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the Circumcised while he himself was called to preach the same Gospel to the Uncircumcised in this particular verse in his epistle to the Galatians any more than Matthew said that Jesus went around preaching the Gospel to the Kingdom instead of going around preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom(this verse in Matthew uses the same “possessive” genitive case in the Greek for the word Kingdom that the verse in Galatians uses for Circumcision and Uncircumcision). Yes, as the next two verses in Paul’s epistle point out, both God and the pillars of the circumcision ecclesia did send Paul to the Gentiles while Peter and the rest focused on the Jews, but this wasn’t him just being redundant (“ecclesia,” by the way, is another word for “church,” and I prefer to use it because it doesn’t imply the idea of a building the way the word “church” often does, which can lead to other misunderstandings). Instead, this was Paul expanding on his previous statement by telling us who the primary audiences of each of the two separate Gospels are (he wasn’t simply recapitulating what he’d just written; he was giving us new information about what he’d just told us), just like the verse in Matthew told us that the audience Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to were the people of the cities and villages of Israel. And, in fact, the whole reason he went to see Peter, James, and John in the first place was because he had to communicate to them what his specific Gospel to the Gentiles was since it wasn’t the same one they were preaching (if it were, he certainly wouldn’t have had to explain what the Gospel that he preached among the nations was, and there wouldn’t have been a dispute over it that Peter would have to resolve [this is almost certainly the whole reason the book of Acts records God sending Peter to Cornelius and his family: so that he’d be able to defend Paul]). Despite how some translations might render it, seeming to ignore the difference between the genitive and dative cases in Greek (as previously mentioned, Circumcision and Uncircumcision are both in the genitive casehere, so the possessive “of” is the best translation, and “of” doesn’t mean “to” as some seem to think it does. If I were to serve the food of the Greeks and you were to serve the food of the Jews we’d both be serving different sorts of food [even though what both of us were providing would still be called food, and might very well have overlapping ingredients, we’d still end up with two different types of meals], whereas if I were to serve food to the Greeks and you were to serve food to the Jews we could very well be giving out the same food [although not necessarily the same food since it could still be two different types of food being given out to two different groups of people; those who disagree with this teaching have no choice but to translate, or at least interpret, it as “the Gospel to the Circumcision and the Gospel to the Uncircumcision” in order to defend their preexisting belief that there is only one Gospel, but the truth that there is more than one Gospel in Scripture doesn’t hinge on this one verse alone, and in fact still works just fine even if it was translated that way]), these were two separate Gospels meant for two separate groups of people, as I intend to make abundantly clear based on many other passages of Scripture as well (even if anybody can technically be saved by whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed to follow — Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision just as Jews can be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; these are just titles and have nothing to do with whether one has surgery done to one’s genitals or not — as long as they don’t try to combine the two of them [Paul says they shouldn’t switch between the two of them either, but rather stick with the one they’re called to]).

Basically, the terrestrial Jesus and His disciples taught the first Gospel specifically to Israel. While heralding the Good News of the impending arrival of the New Covenant, Jesus had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under the Old Covenant and was only a minister of the circumcision while He walked the Earth (meaning He was sent only unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel — and it’s important to note that this assertion was made by Jesus in regards to His disciples’ request to help a Gentile, so people who believe it doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means have to explain how it can instead mean His earthly ministry was directed to everyone instead of specifically to Jews when the entire context of the verse is Jesus at first refusing to help a Gentile woman [yes, He did eventually relent and help her, as well as a couple other Gentiles on other occasions, but the Bible makes it clear how unusual this was, just as it does on the one occasion Peter spoke with Gentiles in the book of Acts]). Despite making a couple exceptions for very specific reasons, His earthly ministry (aside from His death and resurrection, of course) was not directed towards the Gentiles, and His teachings were about the Kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth rather than the body of Christ going to the heavens (as the later teachings of the celestial Christ through the apostle Paul were). In fact, He made it very clear to His disciples when He sent them to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry that they should not go to the Gentiles or even to the Samaritans, which seems strange if this Gospel was meant for everyone (especially if this particular Gospel had anything to do with escaping “everlasting torment in hell” as most people mistakenly assume it does; you’d think it would be urgent to get the message out to as many people in the area as possible if that was the message).

Paul, on the other hand, became the dispenser of the second Gospel when he was singled out by the glorified Christ (the same Christ who walked the Earth and died for our sins, but now in a new role and with a new message for a new audience) to teach this Gospel to the rest of the world (which means a Christian ignoring or rejecting Paul’s special Gospel, not to mention his other unique teachings and ministry, could be said to ultimately be ignoring or rejecting Christ), and it’s this second Gospel that is meant for the body of Christ today (although it should be noted that Paul actually did teach the first one for a time as well, at the beginning of his ministry, at least when preaching to Jews). The rest of the Bible is important for context, among other things, but it’s only Paul’s epistles that were written specifically to the body of Christ (and, in fact, only Paul himself ever used the label “the body of Christ” anywhere in Scripture, which should tell us something). As useful as the rest of the Bible is, anything other than the 13 epistles signed by Paul was primarily intended for Israelites (Hebrews, regardless of who wrote it, was meant for them too, which should come as no surprise to anyone who happens to notice the title of the book), and we can’t forget that fact when studying Scripture if we want to come to the correct conclusions.

So what is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, also known as the Gospel of the grace of God (a title that is often shortened by believers and simply called the Gospel of Grace; and while this label isn’t actually used in Scripture, it’s a shorthand that does still seem accurate enough), the Gospel of Christ (it’s important to note that Paul doesn’t call it the Gospel of Jesus Christ but instead he called it the Gospel of Christ, which is because it wasn’t the Gospel the terrestrial Jesus was teaching when He walked the Earth but was rather the Gospel the glorified Christ later entrusted to Paul), as well as the glorious Gospel of the blessed God which was committed to Paul’s trust, or sometimes just called “my Gospel” by Paul (who would have been ridiculously arrogant, and would really be the Bible’s biggest egotist, for calling it that rather than just “the Gospel” if this wasn’t a distinct Gospel given only to him — which we know it was since it was committed specifically to his trust — not to mention the fact that one doesn’t call something theirs unless they’re trying to differentiate it from something that belongs to someone else, or at least point out that it doesn’t belong to someone else), and how does it teach we are saved? Before answering that, it’s important to know what it isn’t. The Gospel of the Uncircumcision isn’t that one can be saved by confessing and repenting of (or turning from) sin (repentance is still important, but it’s not trying to stop sinning that saves someone under this Gospel), by asking God to forgive them for their sins, by “following Jesus,” by trying to have “a personal relationship with Jesus,” by “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour,” by making Jesus “the Lord of their life,” by “asking Jesus into their heart” or “into their life,” by being a good person (or by “doing good works”), and/or by being baptized in water, as are common ways many religious leaders mistakenly share their “gospel.” If one or more of those things are all one has done, they probably haven’t really been saved yet, relatively speaking (at least not under this Gospel; some Christians have very possibly unknowingly been saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, however — God always kept a remnantof believing Israelites for Himself [although, of course, Gentiles could also become included in this remnant, and there’s no reason to believe this is no longer the case], and we know the remnant can’t refer to those Jews who are saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and brought into the body of Christ because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, so this must refer to those Jews and proselytes who were [and the remnant of Jews and proselytes who currently are] saved by another Gospel). Rather, this Good News is simply a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead after three days. While they think they actually do, very few Christians truly believe this Gospel because they lack an understanding what Christ’s death for our sins(those three little words make all the difference, and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and likely even from the one you currently believe), His entombment, and His resurrection on the third day really accomplished. But if you’re someone who does understand the full meaning of this Good News, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking, meaning you’re now a member of the body of Christ; everyone is reconciled, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, whether they believe it or not, which is what this Gospel is actually proclaiming). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel from an absolute perspective than what is stated in that Well Message (not even belief in this Gospel; believing this Good News only means you get to experience salvation earlier than everyone else because it means you’re in the body of Christ, as will be explained further on); no confessing or repenting of/turning from sin (repentance for those in the body of Christ means to change our mind about who we are and what Christ did for us, meaning we come to realize our sinfulness and that there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves at all, but rather we realize that only what Christ did can save us), doing good works, “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” (which is a completely meaningless, not to mention unscriptural, expression) is needed, nor is asking God to forgive you for your sins required, and water baptism is definitely not something you have to do to be saved under this Gospel. And on that note, while most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized with water, although those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do need to be baptized in water, this isn’t actually the case for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. Yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly. That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized, and the baptism we’ve been immersed in could even be said to be necessary for our salvation from a certain perspective. It’s just that we’re not baptized in water (nor are we baptized with the Holy Spirit, even though we are baptized by the Holy Spirit). Water baptism manifested Christ to Israel, and was actually connected to the law of Moses and the two covenants that God made with Israel, and those under this Gospel are not under the Mosaic law in any way (no, not even the Ten Commandments; some like to divide the law into “the moral law” and “the ceremonial law,” claiming that only the latter has been abolished while the moral law [including the Ten Commandments, or at least most of them] has not, but they are simply making this idea up to suit their own pre-existing doctrines — nowhere in the Scriptures does it instruct us to divide the law this way. In fact, the Scriptures say, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (so those who do try to follow any of it are then obligated to follow all of it, according to Paul), and Jesus even told His audience that He didn’t come to abolish the law at all), or a part of either of God’s covenants with Israel (and, as with their two covenants, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway; Gentiles never were to begin with). Instead of being baptized in water, we are baptized into the body of Christ, and since there’s only one baptism for us, it can only be that baptism into the body (along with what Christ experienced in His body for us, including His death) rather than the various other sorts of baptism mentioned in Scripture.

The Gospel of the Circumcision, on the other hand, was the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, meaning not only was it ready to begin on Earth but that it was indeed already in their midst in the person of its Anointed One (Messiah/Christ and King), which is why it’s also called the Gospel of the Kingdom, and to be saved under this Gospel (meaning, to live in that kingdom when it finally arrives on Earth; this particular Gospel has nothing at all to do with going to heaven after one dies) one had to repent(of sin in general, and later of killing Jesus in particular) and believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, followed up by being baptized in water in the name of the Lord (meaning being baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ rather being baptized [immersed] into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is a whole different baptism that won’t even become fully relevant until the Kingdom of Heaven truly begins on Earth), following the commandments Jesus taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, confessing one’s sins when one slips up (then also forgiving others who sinned against them), and enduring to the end (of one’s life or of the period commonly known as the tribulation, whichever comes first). While works on their own never saved anyone, in order to maintain salvation under this Gospel they’re still quite required to be performed: works that include water baptism, confessing sins, enduring to the end, and following Jesus’ commandments (which includes following the law of Moses, since it doesn’t pass away [although parts of it have been fulfilled and other parts have possibly been temporarily paused] for those under this Gospel until the new heaven and the new Earth begin after the Millennium ends; don’t confuse the end of the Old Covenant — or even the beginning of the New Covenant, which hasn’t actually begun in earnest yet[while the New Covenant got its start by Christ’s death, the results of that covenant haven’t fully come into effect yet since it went temporarily on hold when Israel as a whole rejected Jesus as the Messiah] — with the end of the Mosaic law, which happens at the conclusion of the Millennium one thousand years later, after the current heavens and Earth are destroyed). Still, at its simplest, followers of this Gospel just have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in order to be saved in the first place, and enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven when it arrives on Earth (which is what salvation under this Gospel entails — it has nothing to do with “going to heaven” in a spiritual state after one dies [or to do with the Kingdom spiritually residing within oneself while still alive; while there is a spiritual element to the Kingdom, few seem to know much about the physical side of it, so I’m focusing mostly on that in this article], and everything to do with the kingdom coming to them physically on Earth from the heavens, either while they’re still alive or after they’ve been resurrected after the tribulation period). While faith is ultimately the basis of both Gospels, nowhere was Israel told by Jesus or His disciples to trust in His death for our sins, His entombment, or His resurrection for justification or salvation. You won’t find the Gospel of Grace explained anywhere in the books traditionally called the four Gospels, not even in the famous John 3:16 passage that evangelists quote so frequently. Yes, Jesus did tell His disciples about His impending death and resurrection (and His death was even prophesiedbeforehand), but not only did they not understand what He was telling them (which should really be all the proof one needs in order to see that they weren’t preaching His death for our sins when they were sharing their Gospel prior to His death, which means they weren’t preaching the same Gospel as Paul was since that’s what he preached as his Gospel), He also didn’t explain it as being for our sins or as something they had to trust in to enter the impending Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. And while Peter did mention that Jesus died and was resurrected in his sermons in the book of Acts, it was only brought up as an accusation against those who killed Him(the cross was Bad News for those who heard him rather than the Good News that it happens to be for the recipients of Paul’s message; when it comes to the crucifixion, Paul essentially tells his readers that the cross saves us while Peter taught his audience that they couldn’t be saved unless they repented of the cross), and as proof that He is the Messiah and that He is still able to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth since He’s no longer dead; it wasn’t explained as the method of salvation to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision in these sermons either (just believing that Jesus died and was resurrected isn’t enough to actually be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision — the people who had Jesus killed, for example, obviously knew He died, but that knowledge on its own couldn’t help them — the difference between an atheist who believes that Jesus died [or even a member of a cult who believes He died and then came back from the dead] and a member of the body of Christ is that those in the body of Christ also believe that His death was for our sins, and Peter didn’t preach that fact about Christ’s death anywhere in his Acts sermons). Similarly, Stephen didn’t preach the cross for salvation either. Rather, he simply accused those who were about to kill him of murdering Jesus as well (as it was with Peter’s messages in Acts, this was very Bad News for his listeners too; not Good News for them at all). Simply put, nobody prior to Paul had ever proclaimed the cross as anything other than Bad News, and if it’s Bad News in those messages then it isn’t Good News/the Gospel in those messages, which means the “message of the cross” that Peter and others preached isn’t the same “message of the cross” that Paul preached, since in his Gospel the cross was only Good News for his audience. As an example of someone getting saved by believing a Gospel prior to Paul, the statement of faith made by the Ethiopian eunuch to Philip before his baptism had nothing to do with faith in Christ’s death for our sins at all, but was instead that he simply believed Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God (and, just as a quick but related aside, the Ethiopian eunuch was almost certainly Jewish himself — of the diaspora — since not only was he visiting Jerusalem to worship like those a few chapters earlier in Acts 2 were, but also because no mention of his being a Gentile was made even though just two chapters later such a big deal is made of Peter talking to Gentiles [and Peter even had to defend himself for doing so to the rest of the apostles, which Philip didn’t have to do], and even afterwards those who were scattered abroad preached only to Jews — which, just as a quick aside, shows us they didn’t seem to take the so-called “Great Commission” to go make disciples of all nations too seriously if it was meant for their time, although the real reason for this is because it isn’t meant to go fully into effect until the Millennial Kingdom begins on Earth in the future — so it seems very probable that preaching to Gentiles was only done one time prior to Paul doing so [and the Gospel preached then wasn’t the same Gospel Paul preached either], very likely for the purpose of Peter being able to later help defend Paul). Yes, the eunuch learned that Jesus died, (just as Cornelius later learnedfrom Peter), but like those before him (and like Cornelius after him), he wasn’t taught that it was for our sins (similarly, Cornelius was told by Peter that, in every nation, he who is fearing God and acting righteously [or worketh righteousness] is acceptable to God, while Paul said that God saves the body of Christ and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts or works, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, showing us that Gentiles who were preached to by Peter were given an entirely different message from the one Paul gave the Gentiles he taught). So faith, under the Gospel of the Circumcision, is in the identity of Jesus, while faith, under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, is in the work of Jesus. Likewise, the cross means (and meant) something very different to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision than it does to those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision(it wasn’t something anyone was looking forward to, nor was it something anyone understood prior to Paul outside of the context of the New Covenant and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth).

As should be obvious at this point, these Gospels aren’t even remotely similar to each other, so how anybody ever concludes that they’re one and the same is quite perplexing (if someone thinks the message that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is the exact same message as “Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day,” just worded differently, or that Jesus and His disciples were teaching the latter, they really need to explain how these very different sounding messages are actually saying the same thing, as well as how the disciples could have possibly been preaching Christ’s death for our sins when they didn’t even understand that He was going to die), but somehow the vast majority of people have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a mistake that even some in the body of Christ have made recently. The fact that if one were to remove the epistles of Paul from the Bible they’d completely lose the doctrines of “salvation by grace through faith apart from any works” and “justification apart from the law,” however, should really make it clear that Paul was teaching something different, and that it’s his teachings the body of Christ should be following (and arguing that there’s only one Gospel but that this one Gospel has only been gradually revealed to us through progressive revelation, as some have attempted to do, doesn’t make any sense at all when one stops to really think about it. Those who make this argument generally still believe that one must believe in Christ’s death and His resurrection to be saved, so even if there somehow was only one progressively revealed Gospel, nobody prior to Paul believed in Christ’s death for our sins, so that would have made the Gospel being preached prior to Paul pretty useless unless people prior to Paul could be saved without believing that part of the Gospel, but that just takes us right back to the fact that we would have to divide the Gospel into two different messages of Good News [perhaps we could call this idea “rightly dividing the word of truth”], one preached prior to Paul and one that Paul first taught, taking us full circle to what I’ve basically been getting at all along here).

Of course, anyone who believes that Paul was later preaching the exact same Gospel to the Uncircumcision that Peter was preaching (I say later because the messages Paul is recorded as having preached in the book of Acts were primarily connected with the Gospel of the Circumcision) also has to explain how Paul could possibly have never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting Christians during the time he went by the name Saul. And yet, based on what he told the Galatians, he didn’t hear the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles from any mortal humans, but rather learned it directly from Christ. It’s extremely difficult to believe that he somehow wasn’t aware of the most important teaching of those he was persecuting — one would be hard-pressed to answer the question of why he was persecuting them in the first place if he didn’t know what they believed — and we know that he wasn’t told it by Jesus on the road to Damascus, yet he immediately preached the Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the Good News he later preached to the Gentiles — the Gospel of the glory of the happy God (blessed literally means happy in the original Greek), which, as Paul wrote, was entrusted specifically to him (and not entrusted to anyone who came before him) — wasn’t the same Good News that Peter preached to Israel and the proselytes (and that Paul himself preached at the beginning of his ministry, and not only in Damascus but also in Jerusalem three years later as well, where the apostles and Jesus’ brother James became acquainted with him for a couple weeks and would have also gotten to known the Gospel he was preaching while there, which means that he wouldn’t have had to return a decade or so later to explain what the Gospel he was later preaching among the Gentiles was if it was the same one he’d preached there before since Peter and James and the rest of the apostles would have already have been familiar with it from his previous visit), but was rather given to him later by revelation, perhaps while in Arabia, after he’d already preached Peter’s Gospel in Damascus.

One possible reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel in Scripture is that Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, and they then go on to make a major assumption: that every Jew who believes in Christ is brought into the body of Christ (and that every first-century Jew who believed in Christ became a member of His body prior to Paul’s revealing of the body to the world). But if that were the case, this would mean they would all lose the standing above the Gentile nations that Israel was promised to be given by God one day (they don’t have it now, but they certainly will in the future, despite what some believe), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israel (this is also a result of confusing the new birth, which Paul never wrote about, with the new creature or creation, which only Paul ever wrote about — the idea that these two concepts are just synonyms for one another is a major, and entirely unfounded, presupposition that is actually never stated in Scripture, which means there’s no reason to believe they are outside of preexisting doctrinal bias). This assumption reveals first and foremost that they don’t understand God’s purpose for creating “the body of Christ, the ecclesia” any more than they understand God’s prophetic purpose for Israel (or understand the difference between the “mysteries” [or “secrets,” which is a better translation] of the dispensation [or administration] of Grace and Conciliation and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all), and that being a part of said ecclesia was never meant for every believer in Christ throughout history. The body of Christ has a future job to do in the heavens (among the celestials), and our true citizenship is in those heavens rather than here on Earth (in fact, another translation of that verse tells us that our realm is inherent in the heavens, as opposed to our realm being inherent down here on Earth). That can’t be said about Israel however, at least not the faithful Israel known as the Israel of God. Unlike the body of Christ, who will be out there working in the heavens (the heavens, or “Heaven,” just refers to everything “above” the Earth, including our sky and atmosphere, where the birds and clouds are, but more importantly, to outer space where the sun and the moon and other heavenly bodies are — “in beginning [the word “the” is not there in the Hebrew text], God created the heavens and the Earth” — [albeit in deep space, likely beyond the reach of our current telescopes, but still in our physical universe], out among the stars and planets where most of the celestials reside [even if perhaps partially in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow invisibly living on our plane of existence] and is actually a place you wouldn’t want to go without either a space suit or a vivified [immortal] body that could survive and thrive out there; it isn’t the wonderful, perfect place most people think it is, at least not now [nor is it a place that anybody who is dead goes to; only the living can go to Heaven, at least in a conscious state], although it will be pretty great for the body of Christ when we have our new bodies that can enjoy it out there with our Lord as we fulfill our impending ministry to the celestials there [this also means that the term “the Kingdom of “Heaven,” or “the Kingdom of the heavens,” might actually be better translated as “the Kingdom of outer space”]), the Israel of God will remain here on Earth and maintain their earthly (Jewish) identity and citizenship throughout the Millennium, and will rule over the Gentile nations throughout the 1,000 years (this is also when the “Great Commission” to disciple all these nations is finally supposed to take place). Since only Jews who “are saved” (those known as “the Israel of God”) are among this group, if “being saved” means they’re no longer identified as Jewish and that they are going to rule far off in the heavens (which would be the case if they were brought into the body of Christ), how are they going to also be Jews (which they apparently no longer are since there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ) reigning on Earth? This confusion is easily cleared up as soon as one comes to realize the difference between the body of Christ and the Israel of God, and how each of these two groups are saved (and what each of their salvations entail). Of course, it also helps to realize that Paul was the first to be saved (relatively speaking) under his Gospel and join the body of Christ (not to mention the first to preach his Gospel), so no Jewish believer prior to him could have been a member of Christ’s body yet anyway. Yes, it’s true that there is only “one body” for us, but this is because the body of Christ is supposed to be without schism, not because other “bodies” that aren’t the body of Christ don’t exist (while all the provinces and territories of Canada make up one country, there’s still more than one country in the world [unless one believes the 50 states that make up the United States of America, along with all the other parts of the world, are a part of Canada too], and this same chapter also says that there is only “one baptism,” yet there are multiple types of baptisms mentioned throughout Scripture, so this verse isn’t saying that there’s only one body [or baptism] in existence in the world, but rather that those in the body of Christ should not be divided into different denominations just as they should not participate in any baptisms other than the one they’ve already experienced). So, even as Paul wrote these truths, another group of men lived for whom the truth “neither Jew nor Gentile” did not apply, and those men were the 12 apostles (or at least those of the 12 who were still alive by this point). Paul had forfeited his Israelite identity, but the rest of Jesus’ disciples never did — and neither were they supposed to. Jesus told His disciples that they would sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel, a promise that did not apply to the apostle Paul (who, along with the rest of the body of Christ, would instead judge angels — hopefully the pattern of the difference between the terrestrial and celestial destinies of these two different groups of Christians is becoming clear by now). So while the body of Christ is indeed one body, it can be said that the Israel of God, too, is one body.

Another possible reason for the lack of realization of the existence of two Gospels in Scripture is confusion about the warning Paul gave in his epistle to the Galatians about preaching any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they’d already received. Unfortunately, most people not only read more into this passage than it’s actually saying, they also don’t pay close attention to the specific wording of the passage either, leading them to believe a whole doctrine that wasn’t what Paul was getting at there at all. Paul wasn’t saying there is only one true Gospel there, or that nobody could ever preach a Gospel to someone other than the one he taught the body of Christ. What most people who base their assumption on this passage aren’t aware of (likely because they’ve only read translations of Scripture that mistakenly say meaningless things like “another gospel which is not another” [which is it? Is it another Gospel or is it not another Gospel? It can’t be both] in the verses before his warning) is that he actually used two distinct Greek words rather than one (which means the passage should be rendered more along the lines of “a different gospel which is not another”) in order to differentiate between a legitimate Gospel that wasn’t his but was still perfectly okay to be taught to certain people and an illegitimate “gospel” that shouldn’t be taught by anyone at all, speaking of both a “different” (heteros [ἕτερος]) gospel and “another” (allos [ἄλλος]) Gospel. “Heteros” basically means “other of a differing sort” while “allos” means “other of the same sort,” so one was “another/allos” (fully legitimate, just like Paul’s) Gospel being preached by Peter, and one was a “different/heteros” gospel, that wasn’t even “another/allos” actual Gospel at all like Peter’s was, but was rather a bastardized mix of Peter’s Gospel and Paul’s Gospel that couldn’t save anyone. Likewise, Paul wasn’t saying people who taught that there were other Gospels were under a curse, since he did so himself just 24 verses later; he was only teaching that those who would preach any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they had already received as something they should follow were, but Peter and the rest of the apostles could preach their particular Gospel as something to be followed to anyone that they wanted to without fear as long as it wasn’t to members of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, most so-called evangelists today aren’t even proclaiming that one, but instead are the very people who are guilty of preaching the adulterated “different/heteros” Gospel that isn’t even “another/allos” legitimate Gospel at all like Peter’s was, bringing the curse Paul warned about upon themselves. And on the off chance that anyone ever tries to claim that “different” and “another” actually mean the same thing, here are some sentences to consider: 1) “the word ‘different’ is different from the word ‘another,’” 2) “the word ‘another’ is another from the word ‘different,’” 3) “the word ‘another’ is different from the word ‘another,’” and 4) “the word ‘different’ is another from the word ‘different.’” Read those, then ask yourself if those sentences all mean the same thing, or if the last three even make any sense at all. And to really drive the point home, if the two words truly did mean the same thing, the verse could also be translated as “a different Gospel which is not different,” but that might be the most nonsensical one of them all.

So, while Abraham is the father of us all (the fact that Paul often quoted the law and prophets does not mean said law and prophets as a whole apply to everyone, nor does it detract from his unique Gospel), and both groups can be said to be “in Christ” (which is one of those trans-administrational terms[such as “baptism” or “light” or “mystery” or “Gospel” or “kingdom,” to name just a few of many examples] that is used by both but can mean something slightly different to each; as A. E. Knoch put it, “Israel came first in time, and the divine vocabulary is based largely on God’s dealings with them. Even if our blessing does not now come through them, it can often be best expressed by borrowing their terms”), those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Testament (or New Covenant) during the period of time known as the renascence (or the regeneration), the times of refreshing, or the restitution of all things (as you can see, this period of time goes by many different names, including other names that don’t start with the letter “R” as well, such as the Kingdom of Heaven [or the Kingdom of the heavens, which is a subset of the much larger Kingdom of God], the Day of the Lord [also known as the Lord’s Day, which doesn’t refer to Sunday or to the sabbath but is instead an event that hasn’t happened yet, at least not as of the time this was written] — or perhaps better put as the Day of Yahweh — the 1,000 years, the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom, and is something that has not happened or even really begun yet) that was promised to Israel long ago (it should probably also be clarified that while the Day of the Lord includes both the 7 year period commonly known as the tribulation as well as the Millennium, the time on Earth known as the Kingdom of Heaven includes both the period known as the Millennium as well as the later eon when the “new heaven and new Earth” come into existence), while those saved (relatively speaking) under Paul’s Gospel are promised spiritual blessings and are destined for far greater things (at least at first) out there in the heavens, and are no more under the New Testament (or any covenants for that matter, nor would they want to be if they truly understood what that would mean for them) than they are able to be born again like Israel needs to be, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even the kingdom of priests that Israel as a whole will finally be one day (and, just as a quick warning, one should be cautious about claiming this title since appropriating the role of a priest without actually being anointed and appointed as one by God can be somewhat dangerous, although perhaps less risky under the current administration of the Conciliation, but wisdom is still called for), because the body of Christ has been circumcised of the body of the sins of the flesh rather than circumcised of the foreskin of the heart (the latter being a spiritual circumcision which, like the physical circumcision of the male genitals, is only meant for Israel). Basically, Christians need to stop stealing the covenants, commandments, prophecies, and promises (not to mention punishments) that were meant only for Israeland trying to give them to the body of Christ and the rest of the world (and, likewise, stop trying to take the blessings given to the body of Christ and trying to apply them to the Israel of God).

Unfortunately, if one doesn’t come to understand the difference between the Gospels, they’ll assume that many commandments in the Bible are meant to be followed by believers in the body of Christ today that actually aren’t (while also conveniently ignoring certain parts that aren’t meant for them simply because they don’t like them rather than because they actually understand right dividing), they won’t understand which church they’re a part of (or when it actually began), and they can even come to completely misunderstand what the Gospel the body of Christ is saved by actually is, causing Christians to present a convoluted “gospel” message to the world that doesn’t actually help anyone. Many people don’t like the idea that not everything in the Greek Scriptures was meant for everyone to follow, but it’s literally impossible to follow everything in them when even within the four books commonly referred to as “the Gospels” you have Jesus giving instructions in one place that contradict instructions that He Himself had previously given (on purpose, of course), so those who teach that everything in the Greek Scriptures is meant for everyone to always follow really aren’t paying attention.

The lack of understanding regarding the many differences between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace, as well as what parts of Scripture are written to Israel and what parts are written specifically to the body of Christ under the current dispensation of Grace (not to mention the lack of understanding that the Scripture written to Israel has to be rightly divided as well, as Jesus Himself demonstrated), is also a major cause of the disagreements one finds between the many denominations within Christendom (although it should be noted that there are really only two legitimate “denominations” within Christianity [the body of Christ and the Israel of God]; the other so-called “denominations” [such as Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Plymouth Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.] are parts of the Christian religion rather than of scriptural Christianity), whereas right dividing resolves a lot of the confusion and apparent contradictions that seem to be prevalent in the Bible, especially between Paul’s epistles and the rest of the Greek Scriptures, particularly the book of Revelation and the letter that James wrote (which, despite the efforts of many well meaning but confused theologians to fit a square peg into a round hole — not to mention their adamant and repeated denials of this fact — does not line up with the teachings of Paul), but really all of the rest of them as well (although using a better translation also helps in other cases). Of course, the fact that the apostle Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles means that the 12 apostles (not to be confused with those apostles who weren’t among the 12, such as Barnabas, who did teach the same as Paul, and who were among the last group of people to be appointed as apostles ever) weren’t apostles of the Gentiles, and the fact that Paul was the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles means that Peter and James and John (and even Jude) weren’t ministers of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (at least not yet, outside of that one exception involving Cornelius and his household), making it extra clear that their epistles and teachings weren’t meant for Gentiles in the body of Christ, but were instead primarily meant for those who were not Gentiles.

I admit that it can be difficult for those who have been brought up to believe that the entire Bible, including all of the teachings and instructions found therein, must apply to everybody always, or at the very least that the Greek Scriptures must (even I had difficulty accepting this idea when I was first introduced to it), but if one is able to consider the possibility that the tradition they’ve been taught might not be scriptural and that it might not all be applicable to everyone throughout history, they can then notice some of the significant differences between the teachings and exhortations of Paul and the teachings and commandments found within the Circumcision writings (referring to the Hebrew Scriptures — which Christians normally, and mistakenly, call the Old Testament [the Old and New Testaments refer to covenants, not to books or to collections of writings — in fact, much of what we know about the impending New Testament or New Covenant is found in the part of the Bible most call the Old Testament — a better way to refer to these sections in the Bible is to simply call them the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures, based on the languages they were written in] — as well as the rest of the Greek Scriptures that weren’t signed by Paul; although a second, equally valid way to divide the Bible is between the 13 epistles signed by the apostle Paul and the rest of Scripture since Paul came to bring Gentiles the Gospel of the Uncircumcision while nearly all of the rest of the Bible [aside from parts of Acts] proclaims [or at least builds up to] the Gospel of the Circumcision, so a good way to label this division in the Bible is the Circumcision writings and the Uncircumcision writings). Some of the differences that might begin to stand out to those who realize the truth include the fact that those who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision will reign on Earth (the meek inherit the Earth[or, more accurately, will enjoy an allotment of the land]), while those saved (relatively speaking) under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision will instead sit together in heavenly places (or, better put, will reign among the celestials in the heavens) — the former will have an earthly or terrestrial glory while the latter will have a celestial glory in the eons to come. Or the fact that those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were only said to be known from the foundation of the world (or the “disruption of the world,” depending on your translation, which would be the event that made the Earth become a chaos and vacant [or become without form and void] in Genesis), and were in fact first called and then chosen, while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision were said to be known before the foundation or disruption of the world, and were instead first chosen and then called. Likewise, the former will keep the law (and, indeed, must perform works or their faith will prove to be dead and useless and they won’t be said to be justified when Christ returns), while the latter aren’t under the law at all (and will still be justified even if all they have is faith without works). As an example, the former must forgive others or they won’t be forgiven themselves, while the latter deals graciously with others simply because God has already forgiven them, which is why the former is currently only hoping for grace (which will be brought to them when Jesus returns if they managed to endure to the end) while the latter is already standing in grace.

Now these aren’t just minor variations in terminology; these are completely different messages for two completely different groups of people. Unfortunately, if one isn’t being honest with Scripture and insists on trying to make these major differences between Paul’s teachings and the teachings in the Circumcision writings say the same thing because their preconceived doctrines force them to have to believe they mean the same thing, they’re just not ready to interpret the rest of Scripture. In fact, not only is this concept so extremely important for believers to grasp, it’s also so central to understanding what the Bible is saying that one can’t properly interpret much of Scripture at all without beginning from this perspective. Even something like evangelism will be a confusing task for those who don’t understand that “the Great Commission” (a label that isn’t actually even found in the Bible) wasn’t meant for the body of Christ at all. Instead, rather than discipling all nations to be observing what Jesus commanded His disciples and baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (which, as has already been discussed, is a whole different baptism from the one that Peter did with water, since the baptism he’s recorded as having performed in Scripture was specifically “in the name of Jesus Christ”) as the Israel of God will be called to do in the future (when the final Gentile meant to enter the body of Christ does so and God’s focus returns to Israel and the Gospel of the Circumcision becomes the only Evangel to be proclaimed on Earth once again because the dispensation of Grace has ended and Israel has been saved and finally begun their ministry to be a light to the Gentiles and salvation unto the ends of the earth as they were long ago prophesied to one day be, and when Gentiles will in fact only come to know God by following the Jews), we have a greater “commission”and “one baptism” in spirit into the body of Christ, and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began(including the Mystery of the Gospel, which is a secret almost nobody knows anymore) just as Paul was, and can in fact currently help other Gentiles come to God even if we’re not Jews. Which is why it’s imperative to truly understand this important topic if we’re going to properly understand what the various salvation and judgement passages are referring to.

Of course, to truly understand the verses about salvation and judgement, it’s important to start at the beginning, which in this case means to understand why humans actually sin in the first place (other than Adam and Eve; they had a different reason that we don’t have time to get into here but which is explained in at least one of the supporting links farther on in the article), and why Jesus didn’t (and, before getting into it, I should point out that people who claim the reason He didn’t sin is simply because He is God and that only God in the flesh could avoid sinning are also telling us [even if they don’t realize they’re basically claiming] that we humans can never be free of sin, not even after our resurrection, since we aren’t going to become God, so that wasn’t it). The reason humans sin is because we’re mortal/dying, and we’re dying because Adam sinned (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” — missing a single word, such as the word “that” in this case, when reading a passage in Scripture can change everything and make you completely miss the point of the passage). Contrary to what most people have been taught, we ourselves don’t die because we sin. Only Adam and Eve died because they sinned — or, rather, began to die/became mortal because they sinned: “in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying” is a more literal translation of what God said in the Hebrew Scriptures about the “forbidden fruit” — it wasn’t that they “died spiritually,” as most Christians assume (yet which you won’t find taught in Scripture, probably because it’s actually a completely meaningless expression); it was just that they were paid the wages of sin: to die they began dying, meaning they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death. So, instead of dying because we sin (Paul didn’t simply say “for all have sinned” in this passage like he did in a previous one, which would mean “because all have sinned” if he had left out the word “that” here), we actually sin because we’re dying (“for that reason all have sinned,” or “because of that mortality all have sinned,” is what Paul meant in this passage in Romans 5; again, the word “that” is extremely important in this verse, making mortality the cause and sin the effect for humanity at large in this passage rather than the other way around) and don’t have abundant life in us (nor do we have the Spirit without measure) the way Jesus did (because of this, while He wasn’t yet immortal [meaning incapable of dying as He is now], Jesus wasn’t in a state of slowly dying like we are and couldn’t actually die until He willingly gave His life up and God took His Spirit from Jesus) to keep us from sinning the way He avoided it (although we also eventually will, at our resurrection and/or vivification [when we’re made immortal]), and we’re dying because we genetically inherited the wages of the first Adam’s sin: mortality. And, just as a quick but related aside, please don’t confuse “death” with “judgement.” Death (which, yes, can technically be a punishment for certain sins, such as in the instances of capital punishment in the Mosaic law) is really just a natural genetic effect of being born into the line of Adam; in general it isn’t actually a punishment (not outside of specific “legal” cases anyway) or judgement in and of itself (at least not for anyone who isn’t Adam or Eve), or else babies would never die. Judgement, on the other hand, will be experienced by those who are not saved (relatively speaking) when they appear before the Great White Throne, and by members of the body of Christ at the dais of Christ(sometimes also referred to as the judgement seat of Christ).

However, “just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (or, perhaps better put, since not everyone will actually die, “even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified”). It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “so also shall all in Christ be made alive.” If it had, one might be able to assume that it only applied to a specific group of people (only those “in Christ”). Thankfully, that’s not how it was worded. Instead, Paul was using a parallelism there to tell us that everyone affected by the action of the first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. Just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects (mortality and, in most cases, physical death, as well as sinfulness because of that mortality) of the first Adam’s action, they also have no say in experiencing the effects (eventual immortality and sinlessness) of the last Adam’s action, and just as condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one (and not because of their own offences or disobedience), justification will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one (and not because of their own obedience). Most Christians mistakenly believe that only those “in Christ” will be made alive (completely missing the significance of the order of the wording in this verse), but the whole point of the parallelism in this passage is to make it clear that Christ has at least the exact same level of effect on humanity that Adam had, meaning Christ’s action changes the exact same “all” that Adam’s action did (a paraphrase of this verse that should make the meaning of the passage more clear would be, “just as because of what Adam did every human is mortal, because of what Christ did every human will also eventually be made immortal”). Likewise, Paul also told us that Christ Jesus gave himself a correspondent ransom for all — although the testimony of each is in its own eras or times— and when a ransom is fully paid, all those who are held captive are saved (unless the one paying the ransom has been lied to). As A. B. Screws once wrote, “Christ’s death is the exact equivalent of the need of the human family. And that need is more than to simply be restored to the Adamic ‘purity.’ We need the grace that superabounds — not grace that puts us back in Adam’s condition. Everything that is needed to affect the salvation of all mankind, (I Tim. 2:4), is supplied in Christ. It is in this sense that He is ‘the One giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all.’ Nor would it be amiss to consider the meaning of ransom. It will secure the release of the person for whom it is paid, unless the one accepting the ransom intends to deceive the one paying it. If Christ gives Himself a correspondent Ransom for all, and any part of the human family is not subsequently released, then God has deceived His Son. In other words, since Christ gives Himself a correspondent ransom for all, all must be saved, or else God stands eternally discredited as dishonest. Perish the thought! No one can read I Tim. 2:3–6, and believe every word of it, without believing in the salvation of all humanity.”

To break it down, as Aaron Welch did:

“1. Anyone for whom Christ gave himself ‘a correspondent Ransom’ will be ransomed as a result.

2. Anyone ransomed as a result of Christ’s death will be saved.

3. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom in 1 Timothy 2:6 will be saved.

4. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom includes all mankind (1 Tim. 2:4–5).

5. All mankind will be saved.

This conclusion is in accord with 1 Tim. 4:10, where we’re told that God ‘is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.’ This verse presupposes that those among ‘all mankind’ who die in unbelief will eventually be saved. If God was unable or unwilling to save those who died in unbelief, then he would not be ‘the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.’ He would instead be the Savior of believers exclusively. But this, of course, would contradict the first part of this verse. Since God is ‘the Savior of all mankind’ (and not of believers only), it follows that all mankind — including all who die in unbelief — will, in fact, be saved from the condemnation to which sin leads, and ‘shall be constituted just’ (Rom. 5:18–19). This means that one does not have to be a believer in this lifetime in order to benefit from what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf.”

But while Paul tells us that everyone who experiences mortality because of what Adam did will also eventually experience immortality because of what Christ did, he also tells us that there’s an order to when each person will be made fully alive (meaning, made immortal). Basically, there are three different orders, groups, or classes of humans to be made fully alive, and these three orders combined consist of all humanity (even though each order will be made alive in its own eras or times).

The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which I believe refers to the body of Christ (meaning Jesus Himself, of course, but also His entire body) vivified (zōopoieō [ζῳοποιέω] in the Greek, meaning brought beyond the reach of death/made fully alive [made immortal] — not to be confused with resurrection [anastasis {ἀνάστασις} in the Greek], which only the dead experience; both the resurrected dead and the still living in the body of Christ will experience vivification [the dead first, then the remaining living], and will no longer sin because they’re no longer in the process of dying) at the snatching away (which is the actual version of the event often called the rapture that many Christians mistakenly believe will eventually happen to them, and which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), when God withdraws His ambassadors (as one does before declaring war), who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ among the celestials.

The second order is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring, I believe, to those vivified at the time of the former resurrection (also known as the resurrection of the just) near the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, 75 days after Jesus returns to Earth and the tribulation period has concluded (people such as “Old Testament” saints, for example, and those who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision [the resurrected dead saved under that Gospel, as well as those saved under that Gospel who are still living at the end of the tribulation]. While some group the body of Christ in with this order as well and say it applies to everyone saved under both Gospels — even if some are vivified three-and-a-half or more [likely more; in fact, almost certainly more than seven] years apart from each other — and believe the first is just speaking of Christ Himself, I tend to think placing the body of Christ in the first order rather than the second makes the most sense, but since by the end of this second order everyone saved [relatively speaking] under both Gospels will have been vivified anyway, it doesn’t really make a huge difference to the rest of my point, so I’ll just leave it at that).

Now, most people assume “they that are Christ’s at his coming” in verse 23 is the final group of resurrections and vivifications mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, but if Paul isn’t referring to the “telos” or consummation of humanity — meaning a final group of humans being resurrected and vivified — when he says, “then cometh the end” (or, “thereafter the consummation,” eita to telos [εἶτα τὸ τέλος] in Greek) in the next verse (although this does have a double meaning, referring also to the consummation of the eons [or the end of the ages] when this final vivification occurs, something that the body of Christ has already attainedin spirit and will have also attained physically at their own vivification long before the actual final eon or age ends), it would have to mean “the end of the world” or “the end of the eon (or eons)” or something similar instead. But since Paul then goes on to explain that this “consummation” exists at the time when Christ has nullified all sovereignties and all authorities and powers (referring to rulership by spiritual, celestial beings in the heavens, including by evil ones) and gives up the kingdom to His God and Father, and that it occurs when all His enemies are finally put under His feet, and the final enemy — death — is finally abolished altogether, it would make no sense to be referring to the time of the last Christian being resurrected and vivified (which he’d have to be talking about if this wasn’t referring to a third group of people) since we know from the rest of Scripture that there will still be enemies of Christ, as well much more death happening, after that (and that there is well over 1,000 years to go [a lot more, in fact] between the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming” and “the end” at the time when Christ does defeat all enemies and turns over the kingdom to His Father, since, at the very least, there is still a final [even if somewhat one-sided] battle between Him and those who consider Him to be their enemy [including both humans and Satan] a whole millennia after that). And it can’t be referring to the supposed “spiritual death” that most Christians believe in (and which some of them also mistakenly assume the death in verse 22 is referring to) either because verse 24 tells us that his enemies and death are defeated at a point in time after the last Christian has been vivified, not that they are defeated by the last Christian being vivified (and remember, death is the last enemy to be defeated, yet there will still be more death and enemies after the final Christian’s vivification), so if this part of the chapter is just talking about a so-called “spiritual death” (whatever that means) rather than physical death, and it’s only talking about Christians being given some sort of “spiritual life” (or “going to heaven” after they die), the same problem applies since it tells us that the end of “death” doesn’t occur until after both the last Christian is given life and all the rest of Christ’s enemies have been defeated as well. So, unless someone has a better explanation of what these verses are referring to (and so far one hasn’t been forthcoming), it would seem this would have to mean the final group, or the rest of humanity (including both those who are dead [meaning those whose bodies have been burned up in the lake of fire, which is the second death], as well as those who are still living [thanks to having partaken of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life to keep from dying] but not yet vivified, referring to those whose names were written in the book of life at the Great White Throne Judgement after their resurrection for said judgement who hadn’t already been vivified previously, as well as those, and the descendants of those, still mortal humans who didn’t join Satan and die during his final rebellion at the end of the fourth eon), fully vivified after the fifth and final eon (known as the eon of the eons) is consummated or completed and Jesus’ reign over the Kingdom comes to an end because He’s defeated all enemies (including death) and turns all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father.

This means, by the way, that people who use passages that seem to tell us Jesus will reign forever to prove that “everlasting torment” in “hell” (or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation) also lasts forever because those passages use the same Greek words are actually basing their argument on an obvious mistranslation since Paul is clear that He won’t reign forever but rather for the eons (or the ages) or for the eons of the eons(or the ages of the ages, meaning He reigns for the final two, and greatest, eons — we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most wicked or evil, eon — but stops reigning after they’re over). It also demonstrates just how few are aware that A) all of the passages that are translated as “everlasting” or “forever” in the popular versions of the Bible must be mistranslations based on this fact and the fact that Paul was clear everyone will eventually be vivified, as well as that B) Paul saw much farther into the future than John did in the book generally called Revelation (John only saw into the beginning of the fifth eon, whereas Paul saw all the way to the end of the eons). And since they often make a similar mistake when they try to insist that “if ‘eternal damnation’ (whether that damnation involves consciousness or not) isn’t actually forever then ‘eternal life’ wouldn’t be forever either,” I’m forced to point out that they really aren’t thinking things through when they make this assertion. Properly translated Scripture speaks of believers having eonian life rather than “eternal life” or “everlasting life,” but it also tells us we’ll be made immortal. So we know that when the eons come to an end we’ll still be alive forever, not because of any passage that speaks of “eternal life” but rather because of passages that speak about our impending immortality. Similarly, the claim that when Paul called God “the eonian God” in his epistle to the Romans he was actually calling God “the everlasting God” because otherwise God would die is just as misguided. As Martin Zender explained, “This verse isn’t trying to tell anyone that God lives forever. Everyone already knows God lives forever. Psalm 102:27 testified long ago that ‘His years shall have no end.’ It’s old news. The vital question is: Does God sit on high, removed from our struggles in time, or does He care what happens during the eons? He cares. Thus, He is the eonian God. This does not limit Him to the eons any more than ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ limits Him to those patriarchs.”

But in case anybody is still skeptical, as already mentioned, Paul later confirmed the salvation of all humanity beyond any shadow of a doubt when he outright wrote that God is the Saviour of all people (it doesn’t get any clearer than this), even if those who believe this Good News have a special, earlier (eonian) salvation than everybody else does. If a teacher were to say at the end of the school year, “I’ve given everyone a passing grade this year, especially Lisa who got an A+,” we’d know that while nobody else got an A+, they still all passed, since “especially” doesn’t mean “only” or “exclusively” (or “specifically,” as some claim; those who think so should look up each time the Greek word translated “especially” here — malista [μάλιστα] — is used in Scripture in a concordance to see for themselves). In fact, if the word did mean “exclusively” or “specifically,” then the part of the verse that tells us God is the Saviour of all people would be a lie (since it didn’t say “God is the potential Saviour of all people, but really only of those who believe,” but instead plainly tells us that He actually is the Saviour of all people), which means this passage once again verifies that the soteriology of Paul throughout his epistles is indeed that every human who is affected by the curse will also be equally (if not more so) affected by the cross, even if it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time (only those predestined by God for eonian life, meaning those in the first two orders, will live through the eons to come while also experiencing vivification during those eons).

That said, they aren’t the only people who will live through said eons (they’re just the only ones who will have vivified bodies during these eons). Those born during the next eon will also live through them as well (if they don’t die during the next eon, of course, since they will have to live in mortal bodies for the duration of those eons), as will the “sheep” of Matthew 25 (the resurrected dead at the Great White Throne Judgement whose names happen to be written in the book of life will also live for the final eon). Everyone else will go through eonian judgement first instead (which doesn’t necessarily always involve death or “hell” for everyone; sometimes it just refers to a judgement while remaining alive on Earth, the “goats” of Matthew 25 being a good example of this, as will be touched on shortly, so, again, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that “death” and “judgement” refer to the same thing). But even among those who do die, by the end of it all, God justifies, vivifies, saves, and reconciles all, even if they have to go through judgement first (and when Scripture says “all” on this topic, it means “all,” and not just all humans but all spiritual beings as well; just as he used a parallelism in his epistle to the Romans and in his first epistle to the Corinthians to demonstrate that all humans will be reconciled, Paul also used a similar sort of parallelism in his epistle to the Colossians to tell his readers that all of the rest of creation will be reconciled as well, not just humans).

What this judgement actually is, however, is a point that few people today ever come to understand. Some (the Annihilationists) believe it refers to being completely burned up and destroyed in the lake of fire so that their consciousness completely ceases to exist forever. These people are closer to the truth about what the lake of fire is than most people are, but they’re still so far from understanding its purpose or what comes afterwards that they’ve basically called God a failure, and they themselves also fail to understand what salvation is.

Others think it just means eternal separation from God in a place called “hell” (although this spiritualization of “hell” is clearly impossible since in him we live and move and are; we can’t even exist apart from God, and if anyone were separated from Him for even a moment [if that were even actually possible, which it isn’t] they’d cease to exist. And even in versions of the Bible where the word “hell” is used, God is said to be there, so this obviously isn’t what the judgement is).

But most people think it refers to “everlasting punishment” or “everlasting torment” in a conscious state in a place of fire. However, this is a doctrine that didn’t exist among the first believers in Christ (and you won’t find it in the Scriptures Israel accepted either, which is strange since you’d think God’s chosen people would have been warned about something so terrible). Everlasting torment in “hell” is a great example of a pre-existing belief that caused many translators to mistranslate Scripture from its original languages, in this case causing them to translate the Hebrew word `owlam(or olam [עוֹלָם]) and Greek words such as aión (αἰών), “aiónas” (αἰῶνας), and aiónios (αἰώνιος), all of which refer to a set period of time with a definite end, even if that end date is unknown (so aión should literally be transliterated as “eon,” which just means “a long period of time,” the word “aiónas” [or “aiónan” {αἰῶναν}] should be tranliterated as “eons,” which just means “more than one eon” since it’s the plural form of the noun “aión,” and the adjective aiónios [or aiónion {αἰώνιον}] should simply be transliterated as “eonian,” which just means “pertaining to an eon or eons”), into words that mean “never ending” (or into redundant phrases like “forever and ever” which, aside from the fact that this is a meaningless term, makes no sense whatsoever if one looks at the actual grammar of the Greek sentences this “translation” is based on — as usual, too many Christians misunderstand the meaning of the word “of” and this time mistranslated it as “and” instead, even though the Greek word for “and” [kai {καί}] isn’t found inbetween the words mistranslated as “forever” and “ever” at all, which is why the actual translations should be “eon of the eon,” “eon of the eons,” and “eons of the eons” [the fact that some of these words are singular and some are plural in different verses also seemed to go unnoticed by some so-called “translators,” but these different forms of the word aión are very important, and rendering all of them the same way — as the singular “forever” — causes one to entirely miss the different points that each instance is making]). They also mistranslated the word aión as “world” in places as well — even though there was already a Greek word (kosmos [κόσμος]) for “world” (at one point they even “translated” both aión and kosmos as “world” in the same verse, showing just how ridiculous this translation is).

That said, even if we were to translate these words as “everlasting” or “forever” in some places, we’d still have to interpret the words based on the context of the rest of Scripture, and aside from the fact that Scripture tells us everyone eventually will be saved, there are also plenty of things in the Bible that seem to be said to be everlasting (if one translates it that way) that it also says will eventually end, and Scripture even talks about a past fire that was said to never be quenched (just like the fires of “hell” are supposed to be, depending on your translation) but that is no longer burning today, so good exegesis is imperative here if you’re going to translate it that way for some reason (which means that if one did “translate” these Hebrew and Greek words into words that mean “everlasting” in English, the reader would then be required to interpret them figuratively so as to not end up making Scripture completely contradict itself, which also means a KJV-Onlyist could still technically [and, to be consistent with the rest of Scripture, would realistically have to] believe in Universal Reconciliation). That said, for those of us who haven’t been indoctrinated into KJV-Onlyism, translating these words concordantly does make a lot more sense, and means we can actually interpret the passages literally rather than being forced to interpret them figuratively just so we can remain consistent.

In fact, somewhat ironically, certain passages that are used to try to prove everlasting punishment, specifically those talking about the supposedly “unforgivable” or “unpardonable sin,” actually help prove that aiónios really means “pertaining to an eon or eons” (meaning a set period of time with a definite end) rather than “everlasting.” If one compares Jesus’ statement about this particular sin as recorded in the book of Mark to His statement about it as recorded in the book of Matthew, they’ll see that the passages are talking about the same thing, which tells us that when one passage refers to an “eonian penalty” (some Bible versions say something like “eternal sin” or “eternal damnation” thanks to their translators’ misunderstanding [or dislike of the true meaning] of the word “aiónios” in this verse in the original Greek) while the other says “it shall not be pardoned him, neither in this eon nor in that which is impending” (or “it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” or “it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” depending on the translation, although, as already discussed, “world” is a horrible rendering of the Greek word “aion,” especially here since it talks about a “world to come” when the same version also mistakenly says our current world is a “world without end” [it should actually say “for all the generations of the eon of the eons”], which is a contradiction if the world actually is going to end, as we know it will), it means that an “eonian penalty” (or “eternal damnation,” depending on one’s translation) means the same thing as not being pardoned in the eon that we’re currently living in (the third eon) or the next eon (the fourth eon, also knows as Millennial Kingdom, after the tribulation ends), but since we also know that there will be at least two eons to come after the one we’re in now (Ephesians 2:7 talks about “oncoming eons,” plural [or “ages to come,” plural], not “the oncoming eon,” singular [or “the age to come,” singular], so this tells us that there are at least two more eons impending, at least as of the time this was written), while they might not be pardoned in the third or fourth eon (“neither in this eon nor in that which is impending”), they will be pardoned for this particular sin 1,000 or so years later in the fifth eon when the new heavens and new Earth begin after the Great White Throne Judgement.

In addition to all this, while I don’t agree with all of his theology, J. W. Hanson also did a good job of demonstrating from extra-biblical writings that these words generally didn’t mean “forever” or “everlasting” outside of Scripture back then, so there’s no reason to believe they do in Scripture either (outside of preconceived doctrinal bias, of course).

Because of these presuppositions and bad translations or interpretations (as well as a lack of basic logical analysis of Scripture), most Christians are under the impression that, while God tried to save everyone through Christ’s sacrifice, He will ultimately miss the mark when it comes to 99% of humanity since He just isn’t powerful enough to convince them to choose the right religion, probably because He didn’t make most people smart enough or wise enough to come to the right decision in the first place. Those who believe this aren’t aware that God’s purpose for the eons was never about hoping people will choose the right religion so they can be among the lucky few who escape never-ending torture (or avoid ceasing to exist forever), but rather that He saves those who are helpless to save (or even participate in saving) themselves (although, again, each in their own order, or in their own times).

Aside from being completely unscriptural, the horrible doctrine of everlasting torment in hell is also probably the biggest cause of religious evil. How so? First, it’s caused millennia of psychological torture for children (and even adults). Somehow, religious parents (hoping that it will keep them from sinning, as if the threat of “hell” has ever kept anyone from sinning) have rationalized the idea that instilling the fear of this mythological torture chamber into their children is a good thing, but all it does is cause sleepless nights for millions of kids who are terrified they or their loved ones will suffer horrific agony for eternity with no chance of escape if the wrong decision or action is made (“end times” doctrines should also probably never be taught to young people for similar reasons; based on the testimony of so many, my own included, I would recommend that parents not let their offspring dig too deeply into the topic of eschatology until their very late teens if they value the mental wellbeing of their children), and ultimately also causes many of these children to reject God when they get older since many of them still have a conscience and know just how wrong unending torture would be if it actually happened. Perhaps worse, though, is the fact that once this doctrine has been completely absorbed into the psyche it makes emotional empathy an extremely difficult thing to possess, causing many religious people to think it’s okay to reject and even eject family members (sometimes from their own homes) who believe differently from them, and discriminate against or even be violent towards people who don’t follow their religion or who might not think certain actions are actually wrong (“if God is going to torture people forever in the afterlife for even the smallest infraction, what’s a little temporary violence in this life?” is what it seems many religious people believe).

Aside from the fact that anybody who sat down to actually think about it would realize that no sin or crime could ever warrant torture that lasted forever, however (some people claim that “a sin against an infinite God requires an infinite punishment,” but you won’t find that assertion made anywhere in Scripture so they have no basis for making it), the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, not never-ending torture (okay, “wages” is not necessarily the best translation of opsōnion [ὀψώνιον] here, but I’m using the common rendering of the passage to demonstrate that even the traditional translation doesn’t work with the traditional doctrine), and that said wages come from the sin of Adam, not from our own sins, as has already been discussed. And while most Christians believe that the “death” spoken of in these judgement passages is simply a euphemism for “everlasting punishment,” you won’t find any passage anywhere in Scripture that says as much. In fact, if most Christians are correct when they read their preexisting assumption that everlasting torment is a fact into the passages that speak of “death” instead of taking the words “death” and “die” in the popular translations literally, it would mean that all Christians would actually have to suffer forever in “hell” (or be annihilated forever) before they could go to heaven since in the KJV Paul is recorded as having said “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” not “for as in Adam all might die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (technically Paul said “even as, in Adam, all are dying” [referring simply to having mortal bodies], but that’s not how the popular versions render it, so I’m basing this argument off of those translations), so if death in Scripture means to suffer everlasting punishment, all the people made alive in Christ would have to “die” (meaning “suffer everlasting punishment”) first or that translation would be a lie. Of course, if the payment for sin really was nonstop pain that never ends (which is taught nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures — the absolute worst penalty for breaking the Mosaic law was execution; no Israelite was ever threatened with perpetual torture after they died as a result of sinning in the law of Moses — and there’s nothing in the Greek text to suggest that this changed when Jesus or Paul talked about sin either), then Jesus would have to still be suffering for our sins and would need to continue doing so forever as well (okay, maybe only under the penal substitution model of salvation, which I don’t actually believe is Scriptural, but since most do, the point stands for those who believe it is).

Fortunately, there isn’t anything in the original Hebrew or Greek that implies that “hell” (which itself is a bad translation of multiple words that actually refer to different places and concepts from each other, which means those Christians who like to say that “Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible” or “Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven” are wrong since He actually never spoke about it even once in the original Greek) lasts forever anyway, nor that the lake of fire (which is different from the words mistranslated as “hell”) does either when properly interpreted.

What few people seem to understand is that, when Jesus spoke about the future and about judgement, He wasn’t talking about non-corporeal, spiritual, afterlife “states” in other dimensions called heaven and hell (the reason I mention only Jesus here, even though Paul is our apostle, is because Paul never once threatened anyone with any of the words that some versions translate as “hell” anywhere in his recorded words in the book of Acts or in any of his written epistles [and even in the one instance that he used the word hades — one of the words mistranslated as “hell” in some Bible versions, and which will be discussed in more depth shortly — even the KJV translated it as “grave” rather than “hell”], which brings up all sorts of questions if those of us in the body of Christ are supposed to model ourselves specifically after his example and after his teachings yet he was never once recorded as having taught that anybody will suffer forever). Rather, everything Jesus said in person when speaking about the future takes place on a planet called Earth in the physical universe (albeit on two different Earths; some taking place on our current planet, and some on the new Earth, or third Earth, after this one has been destroyed).

First of all, He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, which begins as an actual, physical 1,000-yearlong kingdom here on Earth (not in a supposed afterlife dimension), specifically in Israel (or at least with Israel at its centre), that is sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom, which comes into being after the tribulation period at the end of the third eon ends and the fourth eon begins.

He also spoke of paradise (paradeisos [παράδεισος] in Greek), which would be a reference to Earth as well since the tree of life is there and there would be no need to eat from the tree of life (which we know will be on Earth in the future anyway) in an ethereal afterlife dimension.

As far as the negative future He talked about goes, it was in this universe as well. His primary threat was Gehenna (Geenna [γέεννα] in Greek), also known as the Valley of Hinnom, which was an actual, physical garbage dump in a valley in Israel (again, not in another dimension one enters after death) — although it’s actually quite pleasant at the moment — that Jesus’ Jewish audience would have immediately recognized as a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy about the place the corpses of lawbreakers during the Millennial Kingdom would be burned up and devoured by worms in. The reference to the worm that “dieth not” there isn’t talking about human souls not dying, or to some sort of magical worms that never die either. The Greek word for worm there is skōlēx (σκώληξ), which refers to regular maggots, not to human souls or even to mystical, immortal worms that chomp on the souls of sinners for eternity. To put it simply, it’s talking about actual living creatures who consume actual dead (unconscious) bodies. Jesus and Isaiah were just saying that any dead body that will be thrown into the valley will be totally consumed, either by maggots or by fire. And while it is technically true that the “worms” won’t die, that’s just because maggots are simply larval flies which go through a process known as pupation and grow into adult flies, so they won’t die while still in their larval, “worm” form but will instead grow up and lay eggs so that there are then more “worms” to consume more of the bodies in the valley. That said, the idea that something or someone “would not die” is used in various other parts of Scripture as well, but they did still eventually die, so it’s important to realize that this phrase doesn’t mean the thing said to “not die” never will; it just won’t die before it’s supposed to. Likewise, the fire isn’t quenched either (meaning it’s not deliberately put out), but will instead burn for as long as there is fuel (dead bodies) to keep it burning. But, just like the fire on the altar in Leviticus that was said to never be quenched but is no longer burning (among other things Scripture says will not be quenched but eventually stop burning), it will also eventually go out once it’s done its job and there are no more carcasses to consume. Thanks to mistranslations of Scripture, Gehenna has been thought by most Christians to be referring to a place all non-Christians will go to suffer forever in after they die, when it really only applies to a very specific (and relatively small) set of people living in a very specific period of time that hasn’t even occurred yet (at least not as of the time this was written), and nobody will even be conscious in it, much less actually suffering. It should probably also be pointed out that Gehenna isn’t a reference to the lake of fire either. Bodies are burned in Gehenna during the Millennial Kingdom, whereas nobody is burned in the lake of fire until the Millennium is over, after all the bodies burned in Gehenna have been resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement.

In addition, He sometimes also referred to hades ([ᾅδης], which is simply “the unseen,” and is the Greek equivalent of the word sheol [שְׁאוֹל] used in the Hebrew Scriptures for “the grave” [although sheol doesn’t literally mean “grave” but rather likely means “ask,” being used in reference to something that is unseen]), which is just speaking of the state of no longer being conscious because one is dead (when it’s not being used figuratively in parable form). Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the fact that the immortality of the soul is not only an unscriptural concept, but that it’s an entirely pagan idea that was likely adopted by the Pharisees due to confusion about the state of the dead learned during the Babylonian captivity, and was later carried into much of Christendom as well due to misunderstandings of Scripture, such as Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross about being with Him in paradise (when Jesus promised the thief on the cross [actually, more likely a pole or a stake, but for the sake of familiarity I do call it a cross throughout this article] that he’d be with Him in paradise, He was referring to a future resurrection on Earth rather than to an afterlife state immediately after they both died; as we’ve already covered, paradise is a reference to a future [and physical] state of the Earth where the tree of life will be and not to an ethereal afterlife realm, so this passage would have to be translated more along the lines of, “Verily, to you am I saying today, with Me shall you be in paradise,” if we want it to avoid contradicting the rest of Scripture), or the parable of the rich man and Lazarus which can be interpreted in a number of possible different ways, but which almost nobody seems to understand is not describing an actual event or the geography of an afterlife dimension (unless one believes that Lazarus was literally sitting inside Abraham’s chest, that there’s actual physical water in the spirit realm, or that someone who is on fire could actually participate in a coherent conversation [or even make any sounds at all other than screaming in pain], not to mention that if we took it literally we’d have to believe that the rich all go to “hell” while the poor all get saved. It’s funny how things pertaining to “hell” are literal until they’re not when it comes to this topic; see also the lack of bodily mutilation and the general avoidance of helping the needy among Christians who don’t understand right dividing [and don’t know the true identity of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25, or what their actual “outcomes” refer to; nobody “goes to heaven” or “goes to hell” during this judgement — the rewards and punishments in this prophecy take place entirely on Earth among the still living, as will be discussed shortly] as similar examples).

“Ye shall not surely die” might be the first recorded lie the devil told, but today it’s being taught by many leaders in the Christian religion who are trying to convince us that death isn’t actually death at all, but is rather just a change in our state of consciousness (and, in fact, that death is really life), seemingly unaware that the Hebrew Scriptures tell us the dead know nothing (meaning they aren’t conscious at all). Even in the Greek Scriptures, death is compared to sleep; it isn’t compared to being awake in an afterlife existence at all (Scripture says that David and others fell asleep— referring to their actual persons being asleep or unconscious in death — not that just their bodies, which are referred to separately as having decayed, fell asleep while they remained conscious) outside of that one parable which seems to confuse so many (although that was the purpose of Jesus’ parables — they weren’t told to make things obvious to the religious — so I suppose it’s doing its job there). As E. W. Bullinger explained, “when the Holy Spirit uses one thing to describe or explain another, He does not choose the opposite word or expression. If He speaks of night, He does not use the word light. If He speaks of daylight, He does not use the word night. He does not put ‘sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet’ (Isaiah 5:20). He uses adultery to illustrate idolatry; He does not use virtue. Thus, if He uses the word ‘sleep‘ of death, it is because sleep illustrates to us what the condition of death is like. If Tradition be the truth, He ought to have used the word ‘awake,’ or ‘wakefulness’ — but the Lord first uses a Figure, and says ‘Lazarus sleepeth,’ and afterwards, when He speaks ‘plainly’ He says ‘Lazarus is dead.’ Why? Because, sleep expresses and describes the condition of the ‘unclothed’ state. In normal sleep, there is no consciousness. For the Lord, therefore, to have used this word ‘sleep’ to represent the very opposite condition of conscious wakefulness would have been indeed to mislead us. Yet all of His words are perfect, and are used for the purpose of teaching us, not for leading us astray.”

Anyway, we know that consciousness, at least for humans, can cease to exist, since one can be rendered unconscious by either going to sleep or fainting or by being knocked out. So if consciousness can cease to exist under those common circumstances, the soul isn’t in an eternal state of consciousness (which means the soul could technically be said to cease to exist each time we go to sleep since the soul itself actually is our awareness or consciousness — the word translated as “soul” is psychē [ψυχή] in the original Greek, which should be enough explanation in and of itself for those people who recognize the word that our English word “psyche” is based on), and if we can lose our consciousness, with it ceasing to exist while we’re alive, there’s no reason to believe it goes on after we die without an active and awake brain to keep it going. For example, let’s say that somebody was sleeping and hence had no consciousness existing at that point (and before someone brings up REM sleep and dreaming, the “subconscious” processes of a physical, living brain aren’t the same thing as true consciousness, nor can these physical processes occur without a living brain). If they were to suddenly die in their sleep right then, would their consciousness just snap back into existence at the point of their death? There’s absolutely no reason to think it would, and the idea that death can recreate a consciousness that had stopped existing really makes no sense at all.

In fact, resurrection is likewise compared to waking up from sleep in Scripture. The first time most of us in the body of Christ will meet the Lord is said to be in the air in our newly vivified bodies at the snatching away (or at the resurrection of the just, 75 days after the Second Coming, for those in the Israel of God), which is the point from when we’re said to finally “always be together with the Lord” (and not from a previous point such as our physical death, which would be when we actually began to “always be together with the Lord” if the immortality of the soul were true). Of course, Paul also makes it quite clear that the immortality of the soul can’t be true when he said, “and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” as well as when he talked about all dangers he faced to spread his Gospel and pointed out that there would be no reason for him to do so if there were no resurrection from the dead since otherwise nobody could be saved, in which case he might as well just go live life without worrying about evangelizing. This wouldn’t be true if those who are saved go to another dimension called Heaven when they die. The fact that we don’t is why he could make that claim, because without the physical resurrection we would have no hope at all and would cease to exist forever (we wouldn’t even have the hope of existing in another dimension called Heaven with God since we would have “perished”), which was basically the entire reason Paul wrote that chapter in his first epistle to the Corinthians to begin with. This is also backed up a little further on in the chapter when he said that “this mortal must put on immortality,” which tells us that we don’t inherently have immortality, but only gain it when our bodies are vivified, which is not until after the resurrection of those in the body of Christ who have died, not from the time they died (or really from the time they were born if the “immortality of the soul” were true). In addition, we know that not only has David himself not gone to Heaven, at least not as of the time Peter made that speech recorded in the book of Acts (which was after Christ’s resurrection), but that nobody other than Christ Himself had either at the time John wrote his commentary in the book called the Gospel according to John (Jesus’ “red letters” quoteshould really end at verse 12 based on the fact that verse 13 says the Son of Mankind was in Heaven at that point, which we know Jesus wasn’t at the time He had that discussion with Nicodemus, so everything from verse 13 to 21 had to have been John’s personal commentary, written after Jesus had left the Earth — it’s important to remember that the book of John was a theology book rather than a history book and, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, only used historical quotes of Jesus to prove theological points instead of being a historical record in and of itself as the three other “Gospels” were, so the idea that this was a theological point by John isn’t unusual at all since he did that throughout the book), so it seems pretty obvious that Heaven is only for those who have been vivified (aside from people who fly in aircraft, and certain astronauts who visit it for a short period of time in their space shuttles, but they all return to Earth relatively quickly) and isn’t for those who are currently dead. In fact, if people were to remain conscious after death, God would cease to be their God while they waited for their physical resurrection, since He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (even though, to Him, all are considered alive from a proleptic perspective, which was the point of this statement), which would make things strange for Christians in the supposed afterlife if they no longer had a God (although, if the immortality of the soul were true, that would be a good explanation as to why the dead do not praise God, or even remember that He exists, since He’d no longer be their God while they were still dead — the real reason the dead don’t praise or thank or remember Him, though, of course, being simply that they’re unconscious and can’t do anything while dead), so it seems safe to say that nobody remains conscious while dead (strangely enough, some people actually try to use this passage to support their view that the dead remain conscious, misapprehending the statement to mean that the dead aren’t actually dead, but if they took the time to examine the context of the preceding verses they’d discover that it was really about the Sadducees [who didn’t believe in a physical resurrection in the future] trying to trip Jesus up with a question about whether the resurrected dead during the impending Millennial Kingdom in the next eon or age here on Earth would still be married or not [and wasn’t about ghosts in an afterlife dimension and whether they’d still be married in that imaginary realm; it wasn’t the concept of an ethereal afterlife state that the Sadducees were trying to trip Jesus up on but rather the future physical resurrection] in order to make the idea of a physical resurrection seem ridiculous, but Jesus turned it around on them by using the fact that the Lord could not legitimately claim the title of “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” as Moses revealed Him to be if the dead weren’t going to be physically resurrected someday because He’s not the God of the dead but of the living [which is where the figure of speech known as prolepsis comes in; prolepsis in Scripture is where God calls what is not yet as though it already were — when God makes a statement that tells us something is going to be, it’s already as good as done — so Jesus was using prolepsis there to tell us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will definitely be resurrected someday since otherwise that statement about them would have been a lie]).

So, rather than going to afterlife realms called heaven or “hell” after we die, Scripture instead tells us that death is a return. The body returns to the soilor earth, the soul returns to hades/the unseen (meaning back to non-existence/unconsciousness), and the spirit returns to God who created it (although not as a conscious entity, since our spirits aren’t conscious on their own without a body: soul [or feeling and consciousness] is an emergent property of combining a spirit with a body, just like combining the colours yellow and blue creates the colour green — the spirit is our “breath of life” as well as our “essense,” so to speak, which would include the memories that make us who we are, but it doesn’t experience consciousness until it’s united with a physical body). This presents quite a dilemma for the traditional view, of course. If the soul of a dead person is existing consciously in an actual place called hades and the spirit is with God, does the soul of an unsaved person suffer in a fiery “hell” while the spirit enjoys being with God? Remember, Scripture doesn’t discriminate between “saved” and “unsaved” spirits when it says they return to God upon death. And what does that say about us if our spirit and soul can go to separate “places” but are both conscious (are we made up of two conscious beings that can be split up when we die, yet only one will be punished for sin in “hell” while the other is in heaven with God)? This is just one more reason why the traditional view makes no sense. Instead, it’s better to believe what Scripture actually says: that souls can actually die. On top of that, if those who are saved (relatively speaking) “go to heaven” as soon as they die, then death isn’t really an enemy to be defeated at all, as Paul told us it is (although this doesn’t find its ultimate fulfilment until the end of the fifth eon), but is instead a friend finally bringing us to God, with our eventual resurrection just being icing on the cake rather than being the actual cake itself that it’s supposed to be (the resurrection and vivification of our human bodies has become nothing more than a small side-note in most of Christendom, when it’s what we’re actually supposed to be looking forward to).

Of course, nobody mentioned in the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures was ever recorded as looking forward to an ethereal afterlife state anyway, nor had any Scripture prior to the figurative figments of the rich man and Lazarus story ever suggested people would go to one while dead either. What they were looking forward to was a physical, bodily resurrection in the distant future, so parabolic passages such as that one, and symbolic statementssuch as those in the book of Revelation have to be interpreted in light of that (although it should probably also be noted that, as symbolic as parts of the book of Revelation [or the Unveiling of Jesus Christ, as it should actually be called] can be, it still has to be interpreted as literally as possible if we want to actually understand it). Luke 16 wasn’t a new revelation to replace the Scriptural doctrine of unconscious death until resurrection, so one has to figure out what it means without creating an entirely new theology that hadn’t ever even been hinted at prior to it. Of course, even if we did ignore what the rest of Scripture says about the state of the dead and pretended that Luke 16 wasn’t a parable, John and Paul both tell us that the rich man wouldn’t have stayed in hades forever anyway — John in Revelation when he tells us hades is “emptied” (and, along with death, is then cast into the lake of fire itself) so the dead in it can be resurrected in order to be judged at the Great White Throne before the fifth eon begins, and Paul in 1st Corinthians when he tells us how everyone will be vivified at the end of the fifth and final eon as previously discussed — which means that taking this parable literally doesn’t actually help the traditionalist view of everlasting torment in “hell” anyway, since the rich man wouldn’t stay in hell/hades forever regardless. In fact, this verse in Revelation singlehandedly dismantles the concepts of both everlasting torment and annihilation all on its own. If all of the verses in Scripture that have the word “hell” in it are referring to the same place (as most Christians believe they are, particularly every KJV-Onlyist I’ve ever spoken with), including the passages that indicate that time spent in “hell” never ends, then we know for a fact that they’re being translated and interpreted incorrectly because of this verse in Revelation which tells us that one’s time spent in “hell” does come to an end when everyone in it is set free from it and resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement. Not only does this completely destroy the concepts of everlasting torment or destruction in “hell,” since we know for a fact that nobody stays in there forever based on this verse, it destroys the concept of everlasting torment or destruction in the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgement as well, since the Greek words that are used to say that the time spent in the lake of fire is forever in the “translations” that say it is are the same Greek words used to say that time spent in “hell” is forever (and if the so-called “forever” spent in “hell” isn’t actually forever, there’s no basis for claiming the “forever” in the lake of fire is forever either).

Aside from Gehenna and hades, Jesus also used parables to warn of things such as outer darkness, a furnace of fire, and eonian fire (which most Bibles mistranslate as “eternal fire” or “everlasting fire,” but the word rendered along the lines of “eternal” in those versions is actually “eonian” as previously discussed). When one considers the fact that the reward Jesus was promising His audience was to live in the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth rather than in some ethereal afterlife realm, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the outer darkness and other such negative judgements were also just referring to places and experiences here on Earth as well, specifically parts of the planet other than Israel. Since Israel is where the Kingdom of Heaven will be centred when it arrives on Earth, those parts of the world far from the light of the kingdom will be in “outer darkness,” which is a grave punishment indeed for any Israelite who hoped to finally live in that kingdom when it comes to Earth. The eonian fire of Matthew 25 might seem a little trickier, but it isn’t referring to the lake of fire as most Christians assume either. Nearly everyone has been taught that the sheep in that parable are those who believe and are saved (relatively speaking), while the goats are the non-Christians who will be cast into the lake of fire, yet pretty much every Christian also agrees that no true believer will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgement (which is the judgement that takes place immediately prior to anyone ending up in the lake of fire), so the sheep can’t possibly be who most Christians have assumed they are, which also means that this parable can’t be talking about the Great White Throne Judgement (which in turn means that the fire in this parable isn’t referring to the lake of fire). I don’t have room to get into all the details here, but Aaron Welch wrote a great study on the topic (which I highly recommend reading in full) where he explains that the eonian fire (as well as the furnace of fire in an earlier parable) is actually the exact same thing as the outer darkness. Simply put, it refers to being punished by being forced to reside in “darkness,” far from Israel, during the Millennial Kingdom (and it should also be noted that it isn’t the fire in that parable that is made ready for the devil and his angels as most Christians have thought, but rather it’s those who are sent into the figurative “fire” who are made ready for the devil and his messengers, since people living in those parts of the world will eventually give in to temptation by Satan to rise up against Israel one last time at the end of the 1,000 years). This judgement takes place almost immediately after the tribulation ends and Christ returns to Earth, at least 1,000 years prior to the Great White Throne Judgement (quite possibly before He resurrects and vivifies “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” since that doesn’t happen until 75 days after He returns to the Earth, which is another good indicator that the “sheep” in this prophetic parable aren’t a reference to Christians), and if everybody was going to be judged and sent to heaven or the lake of fire at this point, aside from the fact that this would make the Great White Throne Judgement somewhat redundant, there would also be no mortals left to populate the Earth with new children during the Millennium (which we know from the Hebrew Scriptures will happen), no mortals left to be kept alive and healthy by partaking of the fruit and leaves of the tree of life at a later time on the new Earth, no “unsaved” people left for Israel to finally be a light to the nations to and fulfill the “Great Commission” to, and there would be no nations left to be tempted by Satan to rise up against Israel at the end of the Millennium either, since everybody would either be immortal in heaven or burning in the lake of fire if the traditional interpretation of these parables is correct.

And finally, while Jesus Himself never spoke of it during His time on Earth, we all know there is the threat of the lake of fire written about in the book of Revelation. But, aside from everything else I’ve already said about it so far that demonstrates it isn’t a place that people will suffer forever in, there’s one more reason that’s impossible, and that’s the aforementioned order of vivifications written about by Paul. Remember, people are resurrected in physical, human bodies for the Great White Throne Judgement prior to being cast into the lake of fire (if their name happens to not be written in the book of life), but Scripture tells us that only Christians have been vivified (resurrected to immortality) at this point, and that there aren’t any more resurrections to immortality until the consummation of the eons at a much later time (and that the final vivification is to live with God forever, not to suffer forever, particularly since it doesn’t happen until the time that death is abolished), so those who will be resurrected from the dead only to be cast into the lake of fire shortly thereafter will just be regular mortal humans, or at least there’s nothing in Scripture to indicate that anybody other than those who are saved are ever given immortal bodies, so there’s absolutely no reason to believe that any of them could possibly continue to live while in the lake of fire (besides, the only passage in Scripture that even talks about anyone other than the adversary [Satan], the wild beast, and the false prophet being cast into the lake of fire doesn’t actually say they’ll be conscious or tormented forever in there anyway, just that they’ll be cast into it; what happens to them afterwards has to be determined based on a proper interpretation of the rest of Scripture, and we’ve already determined that Scripture says everyone is eventually going to be resurrected and vivified), which lines up perfectly with it being the second death, meaning just more of the same as the first death for regular humans (non-existence until one’s next resurrection, and this time also vivification to enjoy God forever).

So no, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual, ethereal realm called heaven for the righteous when He spoke (nor did He ever offer anybody everlasting or eternal life either, since eventual everlasting life for everyone is already a given thanks to His death for our sins and subsequent resurrection, which is what the Good News that is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is actually proclaiming), nor was He warning about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners (or even just nonexistence for sinners). Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy eonian life on Earth (primarily in Israel, which is where the Kingdom of Heaven will be centred) during the next eon or two in the messages He gave while on Earth, and teaching those elected for the body of Christ about the fullness of salvation — including eonian life in the heavens among the celestials during the next two eons — in the messages He gave Paul after He physically left the Earth (while everyone eventually gets everlasting life, only a relatively small number of people will experience eonian life), and B) warning the people of Israel how to avoid weeping and gnashing their teeth because they’ve been forced to live in the “outer darkness” (meaning they’re not allowed to live in Israel during the Millennium, possibly having to live as far away as the other side of the planet), or even how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having their dead bodies displayed and destroyed in public in Gehenna (also on Earth), not to mention missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom (and quite possibly the next eon after that as well) because they’d either be living outside of Israel or even be dead for the remaining eons (which would be what eonian extermination [or “destruction age-during”] refers to — and the fact that their extermination is only eonian tells us that, when the eons are concluded, so will their extermination be also, which reveals that the Annihilationists who believe that the extermination of the “unsaved” will last forever are just as wrong about judgement as traditional Christians are).

And, again, since the Hebrew Scriptures never threatened never-ending torture while dead as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law, or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes (there is one passage in the book of Daniel that certain Bibles mistranslate as saying some will be resurrected to “everlasting contempt” but, aside from the fact that contempt and torture are two very different things, A) the Hebrew word mistakenly rendered as “everlasting” here is “olam” which, as we’ve already discovered, is a word that refers to a period of time with a temporary duration, B) as we’ve also already covered, there’d never been a threat of a never-ending conscious punishment before this passage so there’s no good reason to assume it’s suddenly being proclaimed here centuries after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before [for that matter, nobody prior to Israel was warned about it either; not even Adam and Eve were warned about it, much less anyone who lived from their time to the time Daniel was supposedly warned about it] and it isn’t even explaining who would be experiencing such a thing or why [or how to avoid it], and C) the passage is talking about physical resurrection on Earth anyway, not to spiritual existence in an afterlife realm while dead; the negative part of this passage is referring to those resurrected to life at the Great White Throne judgement before they’re killed again [which is why it’s called the second death] when their bodies are tossed into the lake of fire to be burned up) — but did speak of the earthly Gehenna as a place where the physical (not spiritual) bodies of the dead lawbreakers would be burned during the Millennial Kingdom, and since Jesus didn’t ever correct these beliefs Himself when He spoke of judgement and Gehenna when read properly in the original Greek (when read without a preconceived bias, it’s completely clear that He was teaching the exact same thing the Hebrew Scriptures said about the topic), there’s literally zero reason to interpret (or translate) these things the way most Christians (and Bible versions) have. To put it simply, most Christians are assigning the earthly rewards and punishments that Jesus taught are meant for Israelites (and for those who bless them or don’t bless them during the tribulation) to a supposed afterlife state meant for everyone, attempting to spiritualize physical and geographical places and events on Earth when there’s absolutely no good reason to do so (even the Great White Throne Judgement — which does apply to people other than Israel — and any of its resulting sufferings will likely happen on Earth [at the very least, it happens to those who are physically alive in this universe, having just been resurrected, and not to ghosts in an afterlife dimension] prior to the bodies of those who don’t enter the new Earth at its beginning being physically [not spiritually] cast into the lake of fire [likely an actual body of water on Earth, quite possibly referring to the Dead Sea] just like the dead bodies of previous sinners were physically cast into Gehenna on Earth). These facts, combined with the fact that Paul is quite clear that everyone eventually will experience reconciliation and immortality, makes it pretty obvious that the only reason to continue believing in a demonic doctrine like everlasting torment (or even everlasting annihilation) after learning these truths is because one wants to believe it (and continuing to believe and teach it tells the rest of us just how hardened one’s heart is and how cauterized their conscience is, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the eons and dispensations). Sadly, most Christians only seem to want Good News as long it’s not too good (really, their basic doctrine is Bad News since one could hardly call the teachings that “sin wasn’t actually completely taken care of by Christ some 2,000 years ago” and that “the majority of people throughout history [probably most of your family members and friends included] are almost certainly going to be tormented, or at least destroyed, for eternity” to be anything even remotely resembling Good News. Some like to say that it’s necessary to be taught the bad news first so that their “good news” has context, but everybody is already completely familiar with the actual bad news as Scripture defines it — that everyone is mortal and has failed to be perfect — so it’s really not something that anybody needs to be reminded of. And the so-called “good news” they’re teaching isn’t Good News at all either, since their supposed “gospel” is that your friends and family members can be saved, but only if they happen to be moral enough or wise enough or lucky enough to happen to believe and/or do the right things before they die [or if they happen to be among those few whom God has elected to avoid eternal damnation if the Calvinists are correct], which really can’t be called Good News, either for those who weren’t born righteous enough or smart enough to make the right choices [or lucky enough to be elected for eternal salvation if Calvinism is correct], or for those of us who are going to miss them if they don’t).

So, while everyone will eventually enjoy immortality (giving them everlasting life), those who aren’t predestined for eonian life will first go through judgement (not to be confused with punishment or with death), and some will even experience the second death. However, at the consummation of the eons (after the final eon is over), “the grave” or “the unseen” (which is all that “hell” really refers to as far as anyone in the dispensation of Grace is concerned) will have no victory and death (all death) will have no sting because it will have been destroyed (and anyone still dead will have to be made alive for death to be truly destroyed), and God will be “All in all” (yes, in all; not just in a lucky few — If Paul had not pointed out that the “all” he was writing about doesn’t include God, people could then turn around and say that “all” doesn’t actually mean “all” because it obviously couldn’t include God so it could then also exclude people who die as non-believers as well if it doesn’t actually mean “all,” but because Paul does point out that God isn’t included in the “all” but doesn’t mention anyone else as being excluded from the group, we know that everyone other than God is included in the “all,” even those who die as non-believers). This Good News is unknown to most, but if this weren’t the case (if most of humanity were to suffer consciously in the lake of fire forever), all this judgement would do is torture the majority of people who ever existed nonstop, which would serve no purpose at all other than to stand as an everlasting reminder that Satan, death, and “the grave” won the ultimate victory after all (a Pyrrhic victory though it might be for Satan, a defeat of God in the battle over souls it would remain nonetheless — and the same goes for if Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality is true as well, by the way; it would mean God still lost to Satan, death, and “the grave” in the struggle for souls), and that God was a failure in ridding all creation of evil, ultimately making Him and Jesus A) monsters (only the most horrific of monsters could force, or even allow, someone to be tortured forever; the worst person to ever live could never do anything like that, but many religious Christians want to accuse God of doing something that would make Hitler look like a saint in comparison, or at least make God out to be no better than Hitler if one is an Annihilationist because they believe He’ll permanently kill the majority of humanity a second time in the largest holocaust ever known, which would be even more horrific than it already is [and not only for them but for those of us who care about them as well and would be missing them for all of eternity] if He didn’t eventually resurrect them again and make things right for all of them), and B) the biggest sinners of all for “missing the mark” (chata’ [חָטָא] in Hebrew, and hamartia [ἁμαρτία] in Greek, which we translate as “sin” in English, is a word that means “to miss the mark” [for example, to not hit the bullseye on a target with an arrow or a target with a stone thrown from a sling — the book of Judges mentioned 700 lefthanded men who could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss, with the word “miss” there being the same Hebrew word that is translated as “sin” in other verses]) by failing to accomplish their goals. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Most Christians think the best plan God could possibly come up with is everlasting incarceration and torture (or everlasting destruction in the case of the Annihilationists), locking the majority of His creation up to suffer forever, but this just shows us that the religious don’t think very highly of God and His abilities to make things right (or accomplish His ultimate intentions), which is what judgement really means (again, judgement shouldn’t be confused with punishment — the ultimate end result of judgement is righteousness). Rather than failing, as most Christians insist He will, in the end God will succeed in destroying evil, sin, “hell,” and death (again, all death, which would have to mean even the second death) completely because He actually is God and is fully capable of doing so.

While understanding the above should be more than enough to convince anyone with an open mind that everyone will eventually experience reconciliation, understanding the character of God is also important. In fact, teaching everlasting torment in “hell” seriously slanders God and Christ, and not only because it accuses them of being the world’s biggest sinners since it would mean they’ve failed to achieve their goals, not to mention their purpose for the eons (a missing of the mark on God’s part that Annihilationism also teaches). God has many attributes, but perhaps the most important way to understand God is to remember that while the Bible tells us that God has wrath, it also tells us that God is love (and not the other way around). Most Christians will claim to agree with this statement, of course, but they completely fail to understand what love is (among all the other things that Paul tells us love is, he tells us that love always perseveres and never fails), and will insist that the God who is love Himself will fail to save the majority of those people He loves. Paul also tells us that love is kind in the same passage, but while few people could actually do something as unkind as torture someone (or simply let someone be tortured) for even a few minutes, much less forever, many Christians insist that God is far less kind (which would mean He’s not loving) than us mere humans who would never do such a horrible thing to anyone. Yes, those whom God loves He chastens, but the purpose of this is to help, not hurt; it isn’t simply an end in itself. And since He loves the whole world, He’ll chasten the whole world, even if in different ways at different times for different people (the case of how God treats the inhabitants of Sodom, both in the past and in the future, is a great example of this). The important thing to remember here is that God’s attributes, such as justice, can never conflict with His essence, which is love. If love is His very essence, everything He does must ultimately be beneficial for (and work out in the best interests of) those He loves in the long run, which means His love can’t ever take a back seat to an attribute like His justice, but rather His justice will always have to be influenced by His love (which always perseveres and never fails) for all of His creation. And since allowing any of His creation to suffer forever in a lake of fire with no hope of escape could not be said to be an expression of His love for said creation (except in the most horrifically twisted and morally depraved religious minds), we know that His justice could not allow this to happen since it would conflict with His love towards all of His creation (and, just as a quick aside, some will try to claim that God might define words such as love differently than we do since “His ways are higher than ours,” but A) Scripture already defines love for us in the aforementioned passage, and B) if we aren’t using words in a way that we can actually all understand them, there’s no point in using these words at all in the first place and we might as well just stop studying Scripture altogether).

Of course, what these people always forget is that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, so if one wants to truly understand the character of God, all one has to do is look at what we’re told about His Son. For instance, Jesus often kept His teachings a secret from those who weren’t meant to understand them at that time (those who were not among the elect), speaking in parables so that “seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand,” which tells us that not all of God’s truths are intended for everyone to understand just yet (not even most of the religious Christians who are reading this, many of whom have already rejected everything I’ve written here because God has made sure they aren’t able to see the truth). But even with His truth hidden from most, we also see that Jesus insisted on extreme forgiveness (seventy times seven, and even forgave those who killed Him), and ultimately sacrificed Himself to save the world. When you want to interpret Scripture, you have to do so using a hermeneutic that begins with Christology. If you don’t do that, it’s easy to misunderstand the passages about judgement, and just as easy to forget that everything in Scripture needs to be read with Christ’s character and His purpose in mind. If you really want to understand God’s character, you don’t go looking to the Hebrew Scriptures. You’ll find bits and pieces of information about His character there (and you’ll certainly learn about His power and sovereignty there), but to truly understand who God is and what He’s actually like, you have to look at His Son and who He is.

All that being said, as I’ve mentioned a few times already, it’s important to also know that only those few people God has elected (chosen) for eonian life will be given faith and be reconciled (from a relative perspective; again, everyone is reconciled, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death and resurrection — it’s important to always recognize the difference between the relative and the absolute if we don’t want to come to ridiculously confused conclusions) and saved in this lifetime; they will get to live through all of the eons to come in vivified bodies (both those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and those under the Gospel of the Circumcision, even though these two groups will experience the next eon differently from one another: some in the heavens and some on Earth).

To put it simply, faith is not something one can just decide to have. Peter told his written audience that it is “by Him” (Christ) that one believes in God and not “by ourselves,” which is something he’d been proclaiming (that faith was “by Him”) from the very beginning of his ministry, although this is no surprise since he’d been taught firsthand by Jesus Himself that one can’t choose to believe without God first choosing them, and that he himself (along with the rest of the disciples) indeed didn’t choose Jesus of his own “free will” at all, but rather Jesus chose him (and the rest of the disciples) instead (although it couldn’t be any other way, since becoming sons of God by believing on His name is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God). And just like Jesus and Peter, Paul (who didn’t choose to become an apostle himself but, as he said in the beginning of five of his epistles, was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God rather than by his own will) also taught that faith is not of oneself, but rather that both the grace and faith that lead to salvation are a gift of God (as is the salvation itself, from both an absolute and relative perspective) to certain chosen people who have been granted by God to be believing, and who are predestined for eonian life for a specific purpose (for those of us in the body of Christ, God not only chose us but prefers us from the beginning for [relative] salvation [some translations render the word “prefers” as “chosen” in this passage, which still works for my point, but the word haireō {αἱρέω} used here has a stronger feeling of preference than simple choice as the word eklegomai {ἐκλέγομαι} has in the other passages already mentioned where it is used instead]).

Of course, most Christians believe that they can “choose Christ” on their own, and in fact believe that one’s sovereign choice determines where they will spend eternity, but to teach this idea is to teach salvation by works or salvation by self, and is really nothing more than humanism dressed up in religious garb.

The idea that “choosing Christ on one’s own in order to be saved is actually salvation by works or salvation by self” goes against what most religious leaders have taught, but if you need to stop sinning and decide to choose Jesus as your lord and saviour in order to be be saved, how could it be anything else? The first part of that should be obvious enough, since forcing yourself to stop sinning in order to be saved is obviously a works-based salvation, but even having to choose to believe is a work. If you don’t agree with me, try choosing right now to truly believe in Thor as your lord and saviour. Can’t do it, can you? Forcing oneself to believe something that one hasn’t already organically come to believe is one of the biggest mental works a person could do, and it seems unlikely that anybody is actually capable of it, and if one has come to believe the truth then they already believe and have already been saved (not that the belief itself saves them —it’s not our own faith but rather the faith of Jesus Christ that we’re justified by — but it’s only given to those whom God has saved, relatively speaking). This is a very binary concept with no middle ground; one either truly believes (which means they have been given the gift of faith by God to believe the Good News) and is saved, or they don’t (which means God hasn’t given them the faith necessary to believe the Good News) and aren’t (one might try to argue that there isn’t compelling evidence to believe that Thor is our saviour, but pretty much all non-Christians would argue that they don’t see compelling evidence to believe that Jesus is either [for that matter, most Christians don’t believe He is our Saviour either, but instead believe He’s only our potential Saviour, and only becomes our Saviour if we choose to let Him save us, which means they haven’t believed Paul’s Gospel yet either], and we have to believe they’re telling the truth because if they were lying and actually did see the evidence then they’d have already believed the truth about Christ and salvation which would mean they were already saved). Regardless, even if someone could somehow brainwash themselves into believing something they really didn’t previously believe, it would still be an action (even if just a mental action) they had to accomplish to save themselves (or accomplish to participate in saving themselves). Pretty much every denomination and cult out there teaches salvation by a combination of Christ’s sacrifice plus our own “free will” (aside from some Calvinist denominations, who at least sort of understand God’s sovereignty and sometimes know better than to believe in “free will,” even if they’re fatally confused about nearly every other doctrine), but if salvation is by grace plus something else, it’s not by grace alone.

Basically, most Christians actually reject the free gift of salvation (despite mistakenly calling their so-called “gospel” a free gift) because they don’t truly believe that it’s what Christ did that saves us (since otherwise they’d have to admit that everyone will be saved) or that salvation really is a free gift given to all, but rather most believe that Jesus saved absolutely nobody through His death for our sins and resurrection. Instead, they believe that salvation is an offer rather than an already existing fact (and that Paul’s Gospel is a proposition rather than simply a proclamation of that fact). They think that He only made it possible for people to save themselves by making the right choice with what He did there (although they’d feign humility by claiming to still give the credit to God and Christ somehow, pretending to believe that salvation is no merit of their own, all the while condemningothers to “hell” for being too unmeritorious to choose to become Christians), and that it’s actually one’s acceptance of the gift of potential salvation that saves them (if they happen to be smart enough or wise enough to make the right decision, of course — people who believe in “free will” ultimately believe that salvation depends on human intelligence or wisdom to make the right choice; only those people who are good enough, meaning smart or wise enough, not to mention humble enough, to reject their previous wrong choices and now make the right choice or choices are able to be saved according to most of Christendom, ultimately making salvation a moral accomplishment we do for ourselves, completing our salvation through our own righteous decision to seek after God after we understand the truth and “accept Christ,” with Christ Himself merely accomplishing step one of our salvation). If they instead accepted that it was entirely, 100% what Christ did that saved them rather than their own good and wise and humble choice, they’d also have to accept that Christ’s death for our sins and resurrection saves everyone regardless of whether everyone chooses to believe it or not, which is just unacceptable to most of those in the Christian religion. To be fair, yes, you do need to “accept that Jesus is our saviour” (please note that I didn’t just say “your saviour”) if you want to experience eonian life during the next two eons (which is limited to those who actually do accept the existence of the free gift, and believe the Good News that everybody will eventually experience said gift, at least for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision). However, accepting Jesus as our saviour doesn’t mean choosing to allow Him to save you (which would mean you would have a role in your own salvation, even if just the small role of making the right decision). Rather, it’s accepting that He has already saved you (and everyone else) after you’ve been given the gift of faith to believe the Good News of your (and everyone’s) already existing reconciliation because of His death for our (meaning everybody’s) sins and His subsequent entombment and resurrection. Basically, most Christians put the cart before the horse, thinking they first had faith and were then saved because of this faith. Believers in “free will” might not realize it, but they ultimately believe it’s their faith that saves them rather than God’s grace when it’s actually by grace we are saved through faith, not by faith we are saved if we accept grace. These people, in fact, have faith in their own faith for their salvation rather than simply having faith that it’s what Christ did for all of humanity that actually saves us all (our faith on its own can’t take away our sins or save us; grace is the horse and faith is the cart). So it’s actually that they were first saved and (if they were also elected for eonian life under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision) were then given faith by God to believe the Good News of everybody’s already promised salvation and impending everlasting life (which is what salvation is from an absolute perspective), and are also given eonian life (which is what salvation is from a relative perspective).

As should be obvious at this point, most of Christendom actually teaches that God and Jesus don’t really save anyone, but instead teach that it’s up to us to save ourselves, despite using Christian-sounding language to disguise this fact (trying to make it look like they’re actually giving the credit to God and Christ, often even lying to themselves about it), making salvation — from both an absolute and relative perspective — rely on us rather than on God. But in order for one to be saved from a relative perspective, one has to already be saved from an absolute perspective, and entirely apart from any action on their part (at least under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; under the Gospel of the Circumcision, salvation is more of a joint effort, with works indeed being required or else one’s faith would prove to be dead and useless, but we’re not talking about this sort of salvation here), including the act of believing, otherwise their salvation wouldn’t be real to begin with, and it would be their faith bringing a non-existent salvation into being rather than what Christ did that brings salvation. So if everybody isn’t already saved from an absolute perspective, “what is the use, then,” as Martin Zender asked, “of belief and confession? These things make an already-wrought salvation practical in the lives of those graced by God to believe and confess. Such believers latch onto facts, not fantasies. For instance, what is the use of me asking someone to believe that I deposited a small fortune into his or her bank account if I haven’t actually done it? Would the person’s affirmative confession add money to an empty account? Neither God nor Christ would ever ask unjust God-avoiders to believe a fairy tale, let alone insist that such belief could change fairy tales into realities. In fact, why ask unjust God-avoiders to believe anything unless You were prepared to provide the necessary faith Yourself? This is just what God does: ‘[He] imparts to each the measure of faith’ (Romans 12:3). It’s the only way that anyone can believe. Is salvation real, or isn’t it? Or is it not real until human belief makes it so? But how can human faith make an unreality real simply by the act of believing? I may believe with all my heart that the moon is made of cheese, but it doesn’t make it so. This is madness. Only just people can do something so noble as seek God, but no one is just, not one. Thus, all avoid Him. These are Paul’s words under the inspiration of the holy spirit. Unjust God-avoiders believe and confess nothing concerning God, and even if they could, why pitch them a fable? The question then arises — Did Jesus save me, or didn’t He? If He didn’t, then what am I supposed to believe, even if I could believe? Am I supposed to believe that Jesus didn’t save me? What would be the use of believing a falsehood? If Jesus did save me, then I’m already saved and my subsequent belief — however it comes — affirms a truth, not a fable. Because honestly — who affirms a fable? Lies are to be denied, not affirmed. You Christians laud Jesus Christ in all your colorful brochures, heralding His death and resurrection as though it actually accomplished something — up until the time I must ‘believe or burn,’ at which time salvation turns from a done-deal wrought by a spectacular Savior into a job-op proposed by a Wanna-Be Hero. Jesus didn’t save me after all; it was false advertising. What you mean to tell me is that Jesus merely provided me the opportunity to save myself if I could somehow break through a God-enforced, Adamic stubbornness. Is that the exercise? Then present salvation as an exercise, not a grace. You misrepresent it. You’re hypocrites. You idiots really ought to make up your minds about salvation: is it real or a put-on? If it’s real, then present it that way. Stay true to your spectacular Savior brochures. Tell me what Jesus Christ did, and not what He hopes to do if only I can cooperate with Him. Tell me that I’m saved, and mean it. Do that, and my belief will become the caboose on the train of salvation that it truly is, rather than the engine. Jesus Christ on the cross is the engine, is He not? Unless, of course, I’m really not saved. If I’m not saved, then quit telling lies such as ‘Jesus saves.’ Jesus doesn’t save squat if I’m in the same position after the cross as before it. Before the cross I’m doomed, and after the cross — according to you — I’m still doomed. What the hell did Jesus actually do on the cross then? At best, Calvary is a proposition. If it’s merely that, then quit saying, ‘Jesus saves.’ Say instead, ‘Jesus tried.’ If I am saved, then tell me I’m saved and I’ll believe it, because why would I deny a fact? It’s not my habit. I’m into truth, not pretense, and certainly not duplicities. Give it to me straight, you deceitful people who say one thing and mean another.”

So everybody has to already be saved from an absolute perspective, but if one isn’t among the elect, then judgement is still a part of God’s sovereign plan for that person, and they couldn’t possibly believe either Gospel before they die and experience eonian life no matter how hard one tries to get them to (yes, the light that is Christ might illuminate all men [note the word “might” there since this is a circumcision passage that is technically probably only talking about “all men” who are born as Israelites; however, there’s a decent chance the principle applies to everyone in general, and the next point definitely does, so I’m still using it here], but all will fail to perceive that light unless God opens their eyes since their minds have been blinded to it [this passage does apply to everyone, at least everyone who hasn’t been elected for eonian life]). One can’t simply build up true faith on their own to believe the actual Good News while their minds have been blinded to the truth (and if God has given them the faith to believe the Good News then they’ve already been saved, relatively speaking, because if they have the faith that the Good News is true then they already believe the Good News and hence have already been saved). Everything we have, including our faith, we ultimately received from God (otherwise we could boast about our good decision to believe the Gospel, when the truth is that the moment we are given faith to believe the Good News, we have already been saved from both an absolute and a relative perspective). This doesn’t mean that those who don’t believe the Good News haven’t been saved from an absolute perspective, however, of course. They’ll still be given everlasting life at some point in the future thanks to what Christ did for them some 2,000 years ago. They just won’t also get eonian life the way those God chose to give faith to will, and so they’ll miss out on some things that the few who are saved from a relative perspective will get to enjoy because God, in His sovereign will, decided to let certain people experience salvation earlier than others.

The complete sovereignty of God and His purposes for creation from before it all began might be one of the most important factors in the Bible, and is taught throughout it (and while most Christians would claim to believe in His sovereignty, not many actually do), yet very few people are aware that He has a reason for everything that has happened in creation, and has had very specific plans for the eons (and those in each eon) from the beginning. In fact, thanks to bad translations of Scripture, most Christians aren’t aware of the concept of the eons at all (or they confuse the eons with dispensations, which are something else altogether; an eon is a specific period of time that can contain multiple dispensations, sometimes with more than one of these dispensations occurring at the exact same time as each other). Instead of knowing (and glorifying) God as God (the Hebrew word for “God” is El [{אֵל} meaning “Subjector”] and the Greek word is Theos [{θεός} meaning “Placer”], which means He is completely in control, placing everything where He intends it to be and subjecting all to His will), most Christians believe that God really hoped humanity wouldn’t sin, but is now on Plan B because we did. They just don’t believe Paul when he said that God works all things after the counsel of his own will and not just somethings. But the fact is that He really does, which means that everything about creation, be it good and evil, righteousness and sin, pleasure and suffering, faith and unbelief, even the Devil and the crucifixion, was all intended by God from before the beginning of creation (God is not only able to see the future, He declares what is going to be done from the beginning, and what He desires to be done will be done).

Yes, from a relative perspective, God does ask people to accept the truth, but one has to recognize the fact that God is still 100% in control from an absolute perspective and that Scripture is using a figure of speech called “Condescension” in places that appear to make it look like things are ultimately up to us. Not recognizing the difference between the absolute and relative will of God (or, perhaps better put in this case, the difference between His public will [or commandments] and His hidden intentions) also leads Christians to believe that God never intended for people to disobey Him in the first place, when the truth is that He secretly intended for people to rebel against His commandments all along. Perhaps the best example of this is in His commandment against murder. God made murder a sin, yet He had the murder of Christ planned from the foundation (or disruption) of the world, knowing full well when He gave the commandment against murder to Moses that without murder there would be no salvation for anyone. A less obvious, yet no less helpful, example would be His order to Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When one considers the facts, that while He told them not to eat of it, He all the while placed it right in the centre of the garden with nothing to make it difficult to get at (when He didn’t have to place it in the garden, or even anywhere on Earth, at all if He really didn’t want anyone to sin), and made it look like good food and pleasant to the eyes and to be desired to make one wise, and even placed the serpent right there to tempt them (remember, God means “placer” in Greek; nothing and nobody is anywhere that God didn’t specifically place them), not to mention the fact that without eating of it humanity would not only not understand evil but would never truly understand good either, it becomes obvious that God actually intended for them to disobey Him so that death could enter the world so His Son could die (since He had already intended to have His Son killed prior to this, which would be a strange plan if He didn’t also intend for sin and death to exist [God doesn’t make contingency plans; each plan He makes is something that He fully intends to take place and that will indeed happen, so the death of His Son wasn’t just something He had in mind to do if humanity happened to sin but was instead a plan He fully intended to implement long before Adam ever sinned]). And, of course, the entire reason He even gave Israel the Mosaic law at all was so that they would sin all the more. It might seem hard to believe, and some even try to deny it by making the assertion — one that is not only found nowhere in Scripture but that is actually contradicted by it — that “God is not the author of sin,” but the Bible actually tells us that God has not only purposely locked up His human creation in unbelief, but that He has also purposely locked us up in sin, locked us up in vanity, and locked us up in corruption(meaning in decay, humiliation, and death), all in order that He can later set us all free (He can’t free us if we aren’t first locked up). So, while sin is still sinful, it’s not something that surprised God or that He didn’t actually secretly intend to come into existence in the first place (for the purpose of revealing grace — without evil we could never truly understand goodness and without sin we could never truly understand grace — contrast is often necessary to truly understand things, and knowing this helps us come to understand that sin was actually necessary for God to complete His purposes). Remembering that the word “sin” means “to miss the mark” might help make this seem a little less blasphemous to those who are still horrified by the idea of the necessity of sin, however. Yes, Adam missed the mark by failing to avoid eating the forbidden fruit, but God hit the bullseye when Adam sinned because that was His plan for Adam all along, which means that even though He’s responsible for it from an absolute perspective, God didn’t sin by ultimately being behind it all because He didn’t miss the mark since sin and death entering the world through Adam was His intended “mark” all along (this also means that if Adam hadn’t sinned then God would have been the sinner instead because it would mean He had failed to accomplish His intended goal — and for those who want to insist that God’s intended goal was a world where humanity never sinned, that would also make God a sinner because Adam did sin, which means that God would have missed the mark if that sin-free world was actually His intended goal [and if His plan was simply to give Adam “free will” and to then sit back and watch what happens, as some seem to believe, having no goal at all for the world and the death of Christ simply being His plan to use if Adam did happen to sin, that would make God an extremely irresponsible deity and not much of a Placer or Subjector at all, meaning His sovereignty would be a lie, as would be all the passages of Scripture that tell us He’s completely in control]).

Of course, because of their soteriology, many people dislike the idea of predestination since it would mean God decides that certain (indeed most) people will suffer forever in a literal lake of fire (or at least decides that most people will be burned up and cease to exist forever). It’s only when one realizes that God has a specific reason for electing only certain people to be saved in this lifetime and for choosing others to miss out on eonian life, and that nobody stays in “hell” forever (not to mention that both “hell” and the lake of fire aren’t what most people think they are), but rather that God actually had a plan all along that works out for everyone in the end, that one might come to understand that predestination is ultimately in our best interests. Of course, if we don’t accept that predestination is a fact, we’re giving the responsibility for not “accepting Jesus” to those who don’t, which also means we’re giving the credit for “accepting Jesus” to those who do, again, making them their own (at least partial) saviours and giving them reason to boast about their good decision. But that aside, the Bible tells us that God takes credit for both the good and the evil (and, from an absolute perspective, even the sin) that exists in the world anyway (even Satan was created the way he is for a specific purpose), as well as for who ultimately experiences reconciliation first and who has to wait until later, so we should really give Him all of the credit rather than boasting in our so-called “free will” and righteous acts (even if it’s just one righteous act consisting of a righteous decision) for our salvation.

Others dislike the idea that God might “coerce” people into salvation, claiming that God is a gentleman and that He would never force people to spend eternity with Him against their wishes, saying things like, “God won’t drag anyone kicking and screaming into heaven,” not seeming to realize that absolutely nobody actually believes this is something He’ll do (and also seeming to ignore the fact that their so-called “gospel” is far more coercivethan the straw man they’re arguing against, with its threat of never-ending torture if one doesn’t choose be with God). These people seem to have forgotten the conversion experience of someone named Saul who was entirely opposed to the true God, and was in fact on the road to Damascus to kill those who did want to spend eternity with Him when God overwhelmed him with grace and showed him mercy so that he could become a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life eonian, or life age-during (this pattern including the fact that those who are saved, relatively speaking, are made to believe [or are given belief] rather than choosing to believe, even if it isn’t always as obvious in our cases as it was for the man who became our apostle). When God saves a person (relatively speaking) and gives them the faith necessary to believe the Good News, this isn’t forcing that person to be with Him against their will (especially since they’re still alive here on Earth when it happens) but is rather giving them the will to actually want to be with Him in the future. And nobody is going to complain at the consummation of the eons that God dragged them out of death kicking and screaming. By that point everyone will be happy to no longer be dead, and will be quite willing to enjoy their newly vivified bodies with Him on the new Earth.

Still, many who are uncomfortable with the idea of predestination like to say things along the lines of, “God doesn’t want robots,” and teach that God gave us something called “free will” (even if that “free will” is perhaps somewhat limited, not realizing that “limited free will” is a contradiction in terms) to choose Him for ourselves (not quite grasping the irony of their belief that God won’t force anybody at all to bow the knee to Christ and confess Him as Lord in this lifetime, yet will supposedly force everyone who doesn’t choose to worship Him now to do so in the future as they claim He will [since they don’t like the idea that Paul’s prophecy that everyone eventually will do so will be voluntary and done out of love and thanksgiving, but rather that this obeisance will be forced out of them against their supposed “free will,” even though just two verses later Paul said that it was God working in them to even will to do anything good at all], and likewise their belief that He won’t force anyone to go to heaven even though He will apparently force these very same people to go to “hell” if they don’t make the right decision before they die, not considering the question of why “free will” only matters while one is alive when it comes to avoiding “hell” [unless one believes anybody would actually choose to be tortured in literal fire and want to continue to remain there forever, or even just choose to be burned up in actual fire in order to cease to exist, which seems highly unlikely to anyone who has ever burned themselves even for a fraction of a second. Of course, if you really want to test the resolve of someone who claims that respecting “free will” is paramount, ask them if they believe whichever “sin” they happen to dislike the most should be legal — it will almost invariably be a supposed sin that’s connected to sexuality in some way — and whether the supposed “free will” of the one who wants to commit said “sin” should be respected]? And that old “faith in something one can’t see is required for salvation” canard isn’t a valid answer since there will be plenty of people born during the Millennium who will see the truth of God’s and Christ’s existence firsthand and hence not need blind faith in their existence to be saved). These people don’t understand that, aside from being unscriptural, “free will” is also a complete impossibility from a purely logical and scientific perspective and can’t actually exist in reality. That said, most people don’t know what the term “free will” even means. What it doesn’t mean is the ability to choose. We can definitely choose things; it’s just that those choices are all predetermined, either by our nurture and nature (meaning life experiences and genetics), or by influences outside the sphere of the physical universe (such as by God). Yes, we do all have a will; it’s just that it’s not free (particularly before we’re saved — can a slave to sin be said to be free?). Even though it might feel like our choices are purely our own conscious decisions, we have to remember that events always either have a cause or they don’t; there’s no way for an event (even an event such as a decision or choice) to be anything other than caused or uncaused. If it’s caused, it’s predetermined; if it’s uncaused, it’s random (which no Christian would think is better than being predetermined). Nobody has ever been able to give a third option that works within the limits of reality, which means it’s time to throw the idea of free will away and accept that God is fully in control, even when it comes to salvation and judgement, and that we have no say in the matter whatsoeverwhen it comes to God’s grace. And don’t worry, this doctrine doesn’t mean we’re robots. Because, honestly, that would actually give us too much credit.

As for those who still have trouble with the idea that God truly is the Saviour of everyone as Paul told us He is, I have one more thought for you to consider. I once asked a scholar of Koine Greek (one who knows far more about the language than I can claim to) who did not believe in Universal Reconciliation, but rather believed that most of humanity would be tormented forever in the lake of fire, to tell me what he thought the writers of Scripture would (or, really, what God would have inspired said writers to) have written differently than they actually did if my conclusions about Universal Reconciliation (from eonian salvation and judgement, to avoiding having one’s dead body burned in Gehenna and/or the lake of fire, to everything else about the topic) were correct, and his response was that it wouldn’t have been recorded any differently at all because the Greek text could technically mean everything I’ve written so far without any contradictions (even though he personally believed it meant what most Christians traditionally think it does), which tells me that belief in everlasting torment for non-Christians really is just a matter of wanting it to be true.

While everlasting torment in “hell” (as well as Annihilationism, among those Christians who have enough of a conscience to reject the idea of never-ending torture but still can’t see the full truth) and human “free will”are two of the various “orthodox” traditions that Satan made sure were taught in the Christian religion to keep one from eonian life under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (if someone believes that anybody at all is still “dead” [be it actually dead or only figuratively dead] at the consummation of the eons, they don’t truly believe Jesus actually died for our sins [which is referring to the sins of everyone, not just the sins of Christians], taking care of them Himself some 2,000 years ago, but rather believe that we still have to do something about our sins ourselves today, and if we have to do something about our own sins, even something as supposedly simple as making the right decision, it was us who finally dealt with our sins at the end of it all rather than Christ taking care of it all through His death and resurrection. He only performed the first step; we had to complete the final step ourselves by making the right choice, making us our own saviours, or at least partial saviours), they weren’t the only traditions he made sure were taught. He also tried his best to convince those in Christendom of the immortality of the soul, but if the soul is immortal then that means Jesus didn’t truly die, only His body did, which would mean we are still in our sins and have no hope since the Gospel of the Uncircumcision which tells us that Christ died for our sins would not actually be true.

Of course, coming to understand that Jesus actually fully died brings one to the realization that, in addition to misunderstanding the character of God, most Christians have also misunderstood “the nature of God” (for lack of a better term), thinking that Scripture teaches God to be three people rather than one. Within Christendom it’s incredibly common to assume that one can’t be a true Christian without believing in the “orthodox” tradition known as the trinity, which is ironic since, in addition to the fact that it’s a tradition that is completely contradicted by Scripture (the Bible teaches that, while there are many gods out there in the universe [it would be difficult for the Father to be the God of gods if there were no other gods out there to be the God of], there is only one Almighty God [who created all the other gods], who has no equals or co-equals, and while it now [post resurrection/vivification of Christ] might be technically accurate to call Jesus a god, as far as those in the body of Christ are concerned we have only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, but not in all men is there this knowledge — in fact, practically not in all of Christendom is there this knowledge), it seems one can’t even join the body of Christ while truly believing in this doctrine (since, again, it means they don’t believe Christ actually fully died for our sins, but that only His body did; God can’t die, so if one believes that Jesus is God, they can’t believe that Jesus truly died), so I would posit that the reason it’s become one of the most important ideas in the Christian religion is because Satan wanted to make sure as few people as possible could become a part of the body of Christ and take his reign from him during the future eons. In addition, belief in the trinity might keep those under the Gospel of the Circumcision from eonian life as well, since belief that Jesus is the Son of God is required for salvation under that Gospel, and the trinity teaches that Jesus is “God the Son” (really nothing more than a title for a certain part of God) rather than the actual Son (offspring) of God (Jesus can’t be both God and the Son of God at the same time since that would make Him the Son of Himself). Scripture speaks of the Son of God and the Spirit of God, but never “God the Son” or “God the Spirit.” Sadly, the true deity of God, and what this actually means, is a doctrine that has been lost to most of Christendom for centuries now, as has the definition of the word “of,” or so it seems (just as it does in so many other cases when it comes to this word, most Christians seems to have serious trouble with what this word means here too). It’s important to remember that Scripture puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and on how one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (particularly those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision), so much so that claiming He has an identity not found in Scripture — “God the Son” — is teaching another Jesus. Of course, some like to claim that the trinity is “a mystery” that isn’t meant for us to understand, but nowhere in Scripture do we find this teaching, so they have no foundation on which to lay this claim (before moving on, I should quickly say that the Oneness doctrine is equally incorrect for basically the same reasons listed above that trinitarianism is wrong).

Ultimately, belief in any of these traditional “orthodox” doctrines seems to mean one hasn’t fully believed Paul’s Gospel and hence has not joined the body of Christ. Basically, if something is an important teaching or practice (or is considered to be an “orthodox” tradition) among the majority of the followers of the Christian religion, it’s generally safe to assume it’s a doctrine of demons and that the opposite is true instead. When it comes right down to it, there’s relatively little that organized religion gets right about God or Scripture. Although some denominations do occasionally stumble upon parts of certain truths seemingly accidentally, it’s extremely rare, and no one denomination ever seems to get more than a few things at most somewhat right — and even then, they rarely understand even a small portion of the full implications of the parts they sort of appear to grasp (it’s questionable whether one single member of the Institutional Church could ever give a satisfying, or even remotely biblical, explanation as to why God created humanity and allowed [or, really, arranged for] sin and evil to enter creation [when one studies the Scriptures concordantly, they discover that sin and evil didn’t derail God’s original intentions for the universe at all but are actually 100% necessary for the completion of His purposes, and that this is, in fact, exactly how God always operates]). It seems (from a relative perspective, at least) that Satan works hard to keep people in these denominations from joining the body of Christ, and also to use these churches to keep the rest of the world from learning spiritual truth as well (Paul’s remonstration against Israel in his epistle to the Romans, that because of them “the name of God is being blasphemed among the nations,” is today almost better applied to those in the Christian religion who give the world contradictory messages about God that keep people who think about these things from believing in such an apparently confused deity, telling people that God loves everyone unconditionally, as long as they meet the condition of loving Him back; that you are saved by grace alone and not by any actions of your own, as long as you act now and choose to become a member of the Christian religion before you die; and that God is the Saviour of all humanity, yet will fail to save most of the humanity He’s supposedly the Saviour of, who will actually be tormented in hell forever [or will at least be burned up and cease to exist forever if the Annihilationists are correct] rather than be saved. Thanks to these false expressions, those who are able to recognize the hypocrisy hear these things and think, “the god of the Christian religion says one thing but apparently means something else altogether, so why would we want anything to do with this seemingly dishonest deity?”).

That’s not to say that all Christians who believe in “free will” or everlasting punishment (or even Annihilationism) will definitely miss out on eonian life, however (although a pretty large number of people who call themselves Christians very likely will). Some Christians outside the body of Christ will quite possibly still experience the next eon. It’s just that, due to their ignorance, those Christians are unknowingly under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead of the Uncircumcision. So, while most Christians aren’t a part of the body of Christ and will miss out on celestial blessings in the next eon (and even in this eon), some of them might still get to enjoy the impending eon here on Earth if they follow the requirements of their particular Gospel (and don’t try to mix their Gospel with Paul’s Gospel; it’s either one or the other. Just as the ecclesia is not Israel and still future events are not already fulfilled prophecies, those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision aren’t the bride of Christ [and, in fact, the term “the bride of Christ” isn’t even a biblical one] and those under the Gospel of the Circumcision weren’t and aren’t a part of the body of Christ. The justification of those in the body of Christ is quite different in nature from the justification of those the “circumcision letters” were written to is as well). As Cornelius demonstrated in the book of Acts, even Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision (no, he wasn’t saved under Paul’s Gospel, contrary to the assumptions that many who still don’t truly understand how to rightly divide mistakenly hold to, although it’s sometimes easy to understand why some might be confused). However, they might not experience the full blessings that Israelites saved under it will, so if they are able to believe the Gospel given to us by Paul instead, they’ll be much better off (and can stop trying to base their theology and churches on the circumcision teachings). But as far as those of you who have now learned how to rightly divide the word of truth go, and now know what salvation actually is (both sorts of salvation), you’re ready to also dig deeper into the rest of Scripture with a framework that will make it that much more clear what else the leaders of the Institutional Church might not have taught you thanks to their pre-existing assumptions about what Scripture says.

And, just as a quick aside, when it comes to rightly dividing the word of truth, there is a group of writers I link to in places in this article that I should mention who sometimes teach a different error from the traditional Acts 2 Dispensationalism most evangelicals hold to, one known as Acts 28 Ultradispensationalism. This teaching has caused no end of confusion among the body of Christ, and has also stolen the blessed hope of the snatching away from many, so it’s important to recognize it when we see it and realize that the dividing line is indeed mid-Acts (the correct view being known as Mid-Acts Hyperdispensationalism) rather than Acts 28 (or Acts 2, as most dispensationalists mistakenly believe).

Understanding everything I’ve discussed in this article also helps put an end to the debate about whether “once saved, always saved” is true or not as well, by the way. Scripture seems to be pretty contradictory on this topic until one discovers that the answer to whether one can lose their salvation is both yes and no, and that it all depends on which Gospel one is referring to. If someone is saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision then they do have to be careful to avoid rejecting what they’ve believed and falling back into sin so as to not “lose their salvation,” so to speak, or they’ll miss out on the Millennial Kingdom, if not more. But as far as those of us in the body of Christ go, while we might not all get to reign, we are safe, as far as our salvation (from a relative perspective) goes, regardless of what we do, because we’ve been justified from Sin rather than just forgiven of our sins(which isn’t to say that we aren’t necessarily also “forgiven,” but our “forgiveness” or “pardon,” just like our justification, isn’t conditional the way it is for those in the Israel of God, so it can never be lost) In fact, from an absolute perspective, it can be said that everyone — Christian or otherwise — has been justified from sin, since everyone is said to have died in Christ (at the very least from a proleptic perspective, if not in actuality at present, which it might be). And since Christ died for our (meaning everybody’s) sins, we know that sin has been taken care of for everybody already anyway, but since not everyone has been conciliated to God in their own minds yet, most won’t come a realization of this truth until the very end of the eons (and judgement for one’s works or actions can still occur, of course, with “payment” for each act or work performed, but this is referring to “payment” for evil rather than “payment” for sin — one should never make the mistake of thinking sin and evil are the same thing — since sin has already been “paid for” by Christ), but everyone eventually will, so salvation from an absolute perspective can’t be lost by anyone either. So don’t confuse “losing one’s salvation” (as can happen to those in the Israel of God as far as their particular form of salvation goes) with missing out on the allotment of the kingdom of God. The allotment is a special inheritance, specifically reigning with Christ, but it isn’t salvation (at least for those in the body of Christ) since salvation isn’t based on our actions — even if we stop believing in Him for some reason, He’ll remain faithful to us from a salvation perspective since He can’t disown (or deny) Himself (and the body of Christ is now a part of Himself).

And on that note, please don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to think I’m telling you that you should go out and commit sins here just because you can’t lose your salvation (at least not actual sins; I’m not talking about the innocent actions that many Christians confuse for sins), or that you shouldn’t walk worthy of the Lord (although it’s imperative to remember that the pace at which we walk is entirely in God’s hands). I’m the last person who would want to encourage anyone to actually sin (although, if you aren’t accused of encouraging people to sin, you probably aren’t teaching the same things Paul taught about sin and grace, since this false accusation was also levelled against him). The problem is that, while nearly everything conservative Christians think is sinful actually isn’t anyway (thanks to other mistranslated and misinterpreted passages in Scripture; it isn’t only the salvation and judgement passages they misunderstand), almost all of the actions and attitudes that they live by are extremely wrong (and often quite evil, all the while calling their actions and teachings righteous and good). As anyone looking in from the outside could tell you, greed, fear, paranoia, hunger for power, peer pressure, envy, hypocrisy, arrogance, prejudice, intolerance, anti-intellectualism, malice, spite, and all manner of other actual sins are the hallmarks of most of Christendom, and few within her church buildings are walking according to spirit and not according to flesh. Those who are walking according to spirit are trusting that Christ will live the life He wants us to live through us and will end up doing the things God wants us to do and avoiding the things God wants us to avoid Himself through us. It’s only when we start walking according to flesh, meaning we start worrying about religion and trying to follow rules and prohibitions, that we begin doing the very things that God doesn’t want us to do since trying to follow the (Mosaic) law only leads to more sin, and insisting that God wants us to follow rules that aren’t even in Scripture is even more sinful yet.

That said, where sin increases, grace superexceeds, so even conservative Christians can technically experience God’s grace (but as far as those who don’t embrace His grace go, I really wouldn’t want to be a conservative religious leader at the final judgement, and those who willingly follow these leaders are in for a world of sorrow at that time as well [yes, it’s likely that most Christians will actually end up at the Great White Throne Judgement due to their believing a false gospel]. If the citizens of the cities that rejected Jesus’ disciples are going to be judged more harshly than those of Sodombecause they had the light revealed to them, how much more severely are those in Christendom who have the completed Scriptures going to be judged for ignoring, and even rejecting, the truth found therein, following the myths of their religious leaders instead because they prefer to have their self-righteous ears tickled?).

Bottom line, never trust a teacher who tells you to avoid the appearance of evil, or that the “natural man” is evil. And if you hear someone espousing “traditional family values” or telling you to follow the Mosaic law in any way in order to be saved (at least if you’re in the body of Christ), don’t walk; run! It means that they are very likely a wolf in sheep’s clothing, trying to lure you into their religious trap. At the very least, they are extremely confused and likely have nothing useful to teach you (at least from a spiritual perspective). Remember that, while not all things are a good idea, all things are technically permitted, and also that to the pure all things are pure (but those unbelievers in Paul’s Gospel who are pretending to be believers [likely lying even to themselves about their faith, telling themselves that there’s really only one Gospel while also completely failing to understand what Paul’s Gospel actually means in the first place] have a defiled mind and conscience that causes them to consider pretty much nothing to be pure). Yes, if someone doesn’t have faith that something is allowed, then it would be a sin against their own conscience to do it (although not because the action itself is necessarily actually sinful in and of itself), but the corollary of this verse must be true too: if that which is not out of faith is sin, then that which is out of faith is not sin. It is true that Paul used food and holy days as specific examples, but the principle still applies to everything.

Remember also that we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, which means that sin has no more power over us, and to reckon isn’t to try make something a fact, meaning to try to avoid sinning in this case, but rather it means to simply recognize that it’s already a fact and stop letting sin reign over you by trying to avoid it or by trying to “crucify your flesh,” which is something that’s already been done once and for all time for the body of Christ rather than something that has to be done again and again (when Paul said, “I die daily,” he didn’t mean he died to sin daily — which would be a ridiculous thing for him to be implying since he’s told us to recognize that we’re already dead to sin — the context of that passage was physical death and resurrection, and was simply speaking of how he risked physical death regularly thanks to the various persecutions and perils he faced in his ministry), just as Jesus’ command to “take up one’s cross daily” doesn’t refer to this either (aside from the fact that this was directed specifically to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead of to the body of Christ, even if it could be considered a trans-administrational truth, it wasn’t talking about avoiding sin but rather about being willing to face death like He was about to do). So worrying about sin and trying to please God is just as unnecessary for those in the body of Christ as worrying about whether we might lose our salvation is. For us (and, really, for everyone, even if they don’t all realize it yet), it was all taken care of some 2,000 years ago.

Now, nearly everything in this article should really be considered “Christianity 101” that every believer should already be completely familiar with. However, I suspect that most of what I’ve written here is brand new for many who are reading it for the first time. Thanks to bad translations and even worse interpretations, Satan’s false apostles, deceitful workers, and “ministers of righteousness” within Christendom (aka the vain talkers and deceivers who are leading and teaching the followers of the Christian religion) have hijacked the Bible, convincing billions into thinking that God is capable of allowing never-ending torture to occur, or is at least willing to leave the majority of humans to remain dead forever thanks to those who teach Annihilationism (with both false teachings causing people to reject God altogether thanks to the monstrous false image of God we’ve been told is the real God, although at least Annihilationists are capable of understanding that words like “hell” and “everlasting” are mistranslations, even if they don’t follow this understanding to its logical conclusion). These lies, along with the other errors that seem to keep the majority of humanity (including most Christians) from experiencing eonian life, not to mention a multitude of other false doctrines and unscriptural commandments, have made the Christian religion the most nefarious cult (which is what the Christian religion really is: an idolatrous cult of hypocrisy, false expressions, guilt, and ultimately deception leading to destruction) there is (you might now be asking, “what is the alternative to the Christian religion?” To that I would reply: Scriptural, religionless Christianity, because the Christianity which the body of Christ is supposed to concern itself with is not a religion at all. Instead, as Robert Farrar Capon once wrote, “it is the announcement of the end of religion. Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle of Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever succeed (see the Epistle of Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, then, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical, and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.’ It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.”). The truths of scriptural Christianity set people completely free, but the “orthodox” teachings of the Christian religion only enslave people through its unscriptural rules, unnecessary shame, unloving discrimination, and threats of unending punishment (although it’s important to also keep in mind that, at least from an absolute perspective, it’s not ultimately the fault of those people who are leading the Christian religion that this is so), which is why I recommend avoiding the Institutional Church like the plague.

Unfortunately, most people who have made it all the way through this article will not be sure what to believe (or will think it’s so foreign to what they were taught growing up, or simply seems to be too heretical, that they’ll just reject it out of hand, which could just mean that God hasn’t chosen them to be a member of the body of Christ, or at least hasn’t called them yet). But if you are one of the chosen few who have been given the faith to believe these things, this means you are indeed a member of the body of Christ. It also means that you’ve come to an understanding of what Martin Zender refers to as “the Five Pillars of Truth” (although the list here is slightly reworded from the one he originally wrote, they’re still the same points):

1) That Paul’s Gospel is to be segregated from the Gospel to Israel as heralded by the terrestrial Jesus and His disciples.

2) That God is working out His purpose through a series of finite time periods known as eons or ages.

3) That God is completely sovereign, and that human “free will” does not exist.

4) That Death is non-existence, and that Jesus Christ, in fact, died.

5) That, through the cross of Christ, God will reconcile all things to Himself.

And if you‘re able to understand and believe the truth of those points, you’re now ready to dig deeper into Scripture with a better likelihood of grasping what the rest of it really means, which means that, if you haven’t already, it’s time to pull out your Bibles (preferably a good literal translation, such as the Concordant Literal Version, for example; if you’re going to really study Scripture in depth, don’t use a translation as badly flawed as the King James Version — although I believe God did arrange for various bad translations of Scripture to be made in order to reveal to us who actually cares about the truth, and so we can be rewarded for digging beneath the surface for the gold of that truth, it doesn’t mean they’re particularly useful for deeper study), concordances, and Hebrew and Koine Greek dictionaries, fire up your search engines, and start studying to “shew thyself approved.” Be warned, however, that if you have come to the same conclusions as me, you’ll likely be called a heretic by the “orthodox” members of the Christian religion, and even shunned (if not worse) by many of them. But to that threat I simply repeat the words of A. E. Knoch: “Heretic” is the highest earthly title which can be bestowed at this time.

Should you go to church?

This post is a slightly edited version of chapter 7 and the Conclusion of my eBook about traditions taught in church that aren’t actually mentioned in Scripture. I wanted a blog post I could point people to in order to discuss the topic of what Scripture teaches about the ecclesia (another word for “church”), so I’ve created this post for that reason. Please be sure to click the links for the Scripture references, as well as for supporting articles that go more into depth on the topic:

As you almost certainly already know, religious leaders don’t only tell us that certain things are forbidden. They also try to convince us that certain things are required. If you do attend traditional church services and become a member of a particular assembly, you’ll likely sit through a number of sermons meant to make you feel guilty if you don’t give them a percentage of your money on a regular basis, sermons that completely ignore the fact that the tithe was meant solely for followers of the Mosaic law. Christians in the body of Christ (Jewish or otherwise) are not supposed to follow the law of Moses, and those who do try to follow any of it are under a curse of being obligated to follow all of it, according to Paul (that means no more bacon or shrimp, or clothes with mixed fabrics, or doing chores or running errands on Saturday).

Of course, a true biblical tithe is actually in the form of food, drink, or livestock, and only goes to the Levitical priests and to the poor (with the exception of the tithe that wasn’t given away at all, but was rather consumed by the tithers themselves). Unless your pastors are Levites who perform animal sacrifices, they have no scriptural basis for demanding it from anyone (no, not even Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek helps their case, unless perhaps one’s pastor is the king of Salem and they’re tithing of the spoils they took from their enemies in battle). There’s absolutely nothing in the Bible about the body of Christ having to give a tenth (or any amount) of their money to their religious leaders or organizations.

While tithing isn’t a biblical idea for today’s believers, what is recorded as having apparently happened among the body of Christ is people giving financial gifts to those in financial need. They didn’t, however, just give money to pastors who simply wanted to live off church members’ hard-earned money or keep the power running in a church building.

Those church buildings and pastors themselves, by the way, are also a big problem, since modern church services and the buildings they take place in don’t have any biblical justification for existing in the first place. The early church didn’t gather in chapels or temples specifically meant for Christian meetings. Instead, they met in homes. And a gathering wasn’t a few songs and then a sermon by a pastor. There might have been songs, and even a speech or two, but the early church gatherings apparently included a meal and discussions, not just a bite of bread, a sip of wine (or grape juice), and a sermon.

“The Lord’s Supper” for example, appears to have been a part of a real dinner meant to demonstrate the communion or unity of the body of Christ; it wasn’t just a little snack. To quote Aaron Welch, “there is no indication that Paul considered this an ordinance that had to be kept, a ‘sacrament’ that had to be ‘administered,’ or a ceremonial ritual that had to be periodically observed by the saints to whom he wrote.” This should be obvious since our administration has no elements or ordinances because we are complete in Christ, who is the end of all religion for those in His body, and returning to the shadows and types of rituals and rites in any way whatsoever would rob us of the full enjoyment of both our possessions and freedom in Christ. In fact, very few members of the body of Christ actually do partake of this meal anymore, partly due to the fact that many actually believe (for reasons that I won’t get into right here) that it was meant to end around the time of Paul’s imprisonment, and partly due to the fact that there are so few members of the body of Christ alive today that it’s difficult to actually gather together in person anymore anyway. Still, while practicing the Lord’s Supper as a ceremony would not be at all scriptural, choosing to share a meal together in a manner that demonstrates our communion with one another (so long as it isn’t a practice that’s enforced upon us, and we’re actually sharing the meal with everyone in the ecclesia rather than selfishly consuming it all before everyone has arrived) seems like the exact opposite of a religious ritual to me, and I see no problem with doing just that when gathering as a local ecclesia in one’s home (if one is able to find such an ecclesia) if the group so desires.

As far as the rest of the “church service” goes, it appears they had actual conversations and dialogue rather than just a monologue by one preacher. That’s not to say the occasional lesson or presentation isn’t helpful sometimes, but it isn’t the point of the gathering and can easily be done without.

Just remember that church buildings and the current structure of the Institutional Church’s weekend “services” didn’t exist until quite some time later, when Christianity became more formal and institutional rather than relational. To be fair, though, it’s not the buildings themselves that are the real problem; it’s the “organization” and lack of real, spontaneous, Spirit-led fellowship. Yes, you will almost certainly hear the word “fellowship” in most traditional church meetings, but you also almost as certainly won’t experience much (if any) there, despite how much so many pastors seem to love the word (it’s hard to fellowship with the back of someone’s head while sitting in pews listening to a sermon). But you can technically meet in a home and still be an Institutional Church, or rent a room in a building other than a home and be a relational, Open Church (as church gatherings that follow the pattern of the first assemblies are sometimes called). As nice as a home gathering is, it’s really the openness and fellowship that are the important factors. That said, if a local assembly owns a whole building that they meet in — even if they just call it a chapel or a hall — you should probably stay far away. Perhaps there’s a slim possibility of the rare exception existing, but in general, owning a building for worship and sermons seems to be a good litmus test for a local church, demonstrating that they likely know extremely little about biblical theology and what Scripture actually says. In fact, you’d be much better off spiritually (and even physically) in a strip club than in a so-called “house of God” (as many mistakenly call these buildings). At least in a strip club nobody is deceiving you about what Scripture teaches when they try to take a percentage of your money.

Speaking of teaching, the idea of a pastor or priest or any professional preacher who rules over a church (a word which simply refers to the “group” or “assembly” of believers in an area, by the way; it never referred to a building) isn’t in the Bible either. Local churches were overseen by a group of unpaid elders or overseers (or “bishops,” depending on your translation), not run by one paid man (that’s not to say that evangelists shouldn’t be paid to evangelize, but elders and evangelists aren’t necessarily always the same people). If you have one person leading (and basically performing the entire ministry in) a local gathering of believers, I would suggest not having much of anything to do with their gatherings if you value your spiritual wellbeing (and while not all clergy are dangerous or are con-artists [many are just confused], I’d suggest you do play it safe and be cautious when interacting with them, just in case, since a lot still are).

Also, just as a quick aside on the topic of spiritual things, the “charismatic” spiritual gifts that some pastors say one should have really aren’t meant for those in the dispensation of Grace today either (meaning for those in the body of Christ; they might still be active for some saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, since they were basically meant as a sign for Jews anyway — even those in the body of Christ were mostly “speaking in tongues,” for example, as a sign for unbelieving Jews [who often required a sign to accept Jesus as their Messiah] — but for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, they appear to have come to an end as Israel as a whole fully rejected the Messiah, quite possibly around the time recorded in Acts 28 [although, for the record, I should state here that I’m a Mid-Acts Hyperdispensationalist, not an Acts 28 Ultradispensationalist], as evidenced by the fact that even Paul, whose simple handkerchiefs could heal those who touched them at one time, could no longer heal people by the time he wrote the final book of the Bible, and even suggested that Timothy take some wine for his stomach and other ailments rather than seek the gift of healing as those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were instructed to do). That’s not to say God can’t or doesn’t ever do miracles anymore (and it definitely doesn’t mean that God doesn’t still guide us through His Spirit), just that they’re the exception rather than the rule while the reason for the sign gifts has been temporarily paused (so, until the final Gentile meant to enter the body of Christ does so and God’s focus returns to Israel and the Gospel of the Circumcision becomes the preeminent [and, eventually, only] Evangel to be proclaimed on Earth once again [which means that if you’re reading this after the snatching away has occurred and the final heptad — meaning the seven year period often called the tribulation — has begun, then Paul’s epistles weren’t written to you and it’s time to focus on the circumcision writings instead]).

Aside from tithing (and “speaking in tongues,” depending on one’s denomination), there’s one more unbiblical tradition that religious leaders will condemn you for if you don’t do it on a regular basis, and that is regularly attending their gatherings, particularly on the day they believe to be the Sabbath.

Almost anybody who has ever stopped “going to church” for any length of time has been given a guilt trip and has been told that we aren’t supposed to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, completely misrepresenting the meaning of the passage in Hebrews they use for this purpose (while also ignoring the fact that this book wasn’t written to the body of Christ anyway). The word translated as “assembling” (episynagōgē [ἐπισυναγωγή] in Greek) here, just like its cognate (episynagō [ἐπισυνάγω] in Greek) in other passages, are never used to refer to “gathering” in the sense one would use when speaking of “going to church.” The only other place in Scripture where episynagōgē is used is when Paul was talking about the gathering of the saints to Christ at the snatching away when he wrote his second epistle to the Thessalonians. Combine that fact with the actual context of the rest of that chapter in Hebrews, and it’s clear that the writer is warning against losing out on the hope of being assembled together to Christ after He returns, and wasn’t speaking of “going to church” at all (although gathering with like minded believers, if you can find them, is still extremely beneficial, so please don’t think I’m saying that one shouldn’t gather with the body if one can find other members nearby), be it on the Sabbath or on any other day.

As far as what day the Sabbath is goes, this is one where various sabbatarian denominations are partially correct, while also being quite wrong about it at the same time. The Sabbath is indeed Saturday as they claim; it was never changed to Sunday (and Sunday is not the Lord’s Day either; the Lord’s Day, also known as the Day of the Lord, is an event that hasn’t happened yet, at least not as of the time this was written). But since those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision are not under the Mosaic law in any way whatsoever, it doesn’t really matter to them what day the Sabbath is. In the very beginning of the church, believers didn’t pick one specific day to gather together when they did get together for fellowship; they could meet any day of the week (possibly doing so more than one day a week, and very likely often happening later in the afternoon or evening after work rather than first thing in the morning based on the fact that some were eating all the food and getting drunk before the poor could arrive at their gatherings). That said, there’s nothing technically wrong with meeting on a Sunday. In fact it’s often the most convenient day to do so on at this point in history since the Institutional Church has managed to convince most people that it is the new Sabbath thanks to the influence it’s had over our society, but it’s really not any different from any other day of the week so don’t feel any obligation to treat it like a special day.

And on the topic of esteeming certain days above others, be they new holidays invented by (or pagan holidays that were “Christianized” by) the Institutional Church (such as Lent, such as Easter, and such as Christmas, to name just three) or days that are observed by Jewish followers of the Mosaic law, while it might not always be a great idea, it’s not necessarily wrong to celebrate a specific day if it’s something one enjoys doing just for the fun of it (or if it’s something one who is weak in faith still feels they need to do). Just realize that none of these days are required for the body of Christ any more than the Sabbath is, and that nobody should be looked down upon for not participating in these “holy days.” And, of course, please be aware of the fact that Jesus didn’t actually die on a Friday, wasn’t resurrected on the day we call Easter on our modern calendars (which should be more obvious than it seems to be to most since it’s on a different day each year), and wasn’t born on December 25th either (while it doesn’t really matter when He was born since we aren’t told to celebrate His birthday in Scripture, there’s good reason to believe it was actually in September or October on our modern calendar). That said, if you’re going to celebrate Christmas or Easter, consider doing so mostly from a secular perspective, focusing on the chocolates and eggs and gifts and such. To do otherwise (meaning, to celebrate them as remembrances of Jesus’ birth and death) is to know Christ after the flesh, which is something the body of Christ is called to move past.

If you happen to be one of the chosen few who have accepted the truths of Paul’s Gospel and have realized that you need to reject organized religion and the teachings and practices of Churchianity, you’ll be left wondering what you should do instead. Well, first of all, it means that you get to sleep in on Sunday (or Saturday) mornings if you want to. Beyond that, however, if you can find a nearby ecclesia that actually believes what Scripture says, it might be a good group to check out. That said, many, if not most, of the members of the body of Christ have to go it fairly alone, or at least without a regular ecclesia to fellowship with, since it seems there are very few members of the body of Christ in any particular area. I should say that this is not a new problem; the ecclesia made up of the body of Christ has been extremely small from almost the beginning, and I’d be surprised to see this change before the snatching away occurs (it fell into apostasy and people separated from it very early on — some of these divisions and separations from Paul’s Gospel and the actual body of Christ becoming the so-called Orthodox and Catholic denominations we know today [a number of the so-called “Early Church Fathers” of these denominations, Polycarp and Irenaeus for example, were from the very province that Paul said “all” had turned away from him in during his imprisonment, which makes any of their teachings, and then any of the later teachings by those who accepted their teachings, suspect to begin with] — and it seems to have never regained its original size). So, if you can’t find any fellow members to fellowship with where you live, just keep studying the Scriptures. You’re far better off not participating in any church gathering than you are participating in Churchianity, so I’d suggest leaving the Institutional Church behind completely. Yes, it’s beneficial to fellowship with likeminded believers if you can find them, but you won’t find many of them in the traditional denominations, at least not if you happen to agree with the conclusions I’ve come to.

What does Scripture really reach about sexuality?

This post is an edited excerpt from chapter 5 of my eBook about traditions taught in church that aren’t actually mentioned in Scripture. I wanted a blog post I could point people to in order to discuss the topic of sexuality in morality specifically, so I’ve created this post for that reason. Please be sure to click the links for the Scripture references, as well as for supporting articles that go more into depth on the topic:

Perhaps the best example of an unscriptural tradition when it comes to sin is the twin topic of sex and lust. You’ve almost certainly been taught that premarital sex is a sin, and the primary reason that most religious Christians are so against premarital sex is one little word: fornication. Depending on your English translation, you’ll find fornication criticized as a very bad thing that one should flee, and if you look fornication up in an English dictionary you will indeed find that it means sexual intercourse between unmarried partners. The problem is, the word translated as “fornication” in some translations of the Bible is the Greek word porneia (πορνεία), which does not literally translate to “premarital sex” as many Christians believe it does. Of course, some modern versions of the Bible now use the term “sexual immorality” to render the word porneia, which is somewhat better than “fornication” as a translation, but it’s still quite problematic since it’s just a broad and general term that doesn’t tell us anything on its own about what sexual acts would actually be considered to be immoral. Some of the better translations of the word are “prostitution,” “harlotry,” or “whoredom,” but even there one has to be careful not to confuse this with consensual sex work as these English words would currently be used, since the Greek word actually had to do with sex that women who were basically slaves would be forced to do, not with the voluntary trading of sex for favours (which had a different Greek word that one would use when referring to that concept: hetaira [ἑταίρα]). Whatever translation of this word one uses, though, the most important thing to ask is what the word means, and the best Bible scholars (see Vine, Thayer, Knoch, etc.) agree that the English meaning of porneia is closer to “illicit sexual intercourse” (or “unlawful intercourse between the sexes”) than anything else.

If we take the term “illicit sexual intercourse” literally, it means sexual intercourse that breaks the law. Generally, here in the western world, premarital sex doesn’t break the law, and it certainly wasn’t against the law among the Gentiles Paul wrote to when he told believers to avoid porneia either. And if one digs into the Mosaic Law, they’ll see that it also wasn’t ever spelled out as being illegal there. While there were sometimes civil consequences for premarital sex among Israelites back in Bible times without first getting the permission of (and likely paying a brideprice to) a woman’s father (sadly, women were considered to be property in ancient cultures including that of Israel, and were often basically sold from one “owner,” her father, to a new “owner,” her husband, through marriage), and deceiving someone into thinking a woman was a virgin when she wasn’t could also result in harsh penalties, premarital sex on its own was never specifically forbidden or called sinful in the Hebrew Scriptures. Of course, premarital sex (or sex outside of marriage) technically could fall under the broad label of porneia in some parts of the world (and still can today), but it could (and can) only legitimately do so in regions where this actually was or is considered to be illegal (such as in parts of the Middle East today, for example). Outside of those more conservative regions of the planet, however, it wouldn’t be considered to be wrong by the law and hence wouldn’t be a sin to do so since it wouldn’t be a crime.

So what sexual acts would be considered illicit (or immoral) when the word porneia was used in Scripture? Well, it would, of course, cover the specific sexual prohibitions that actually were mentioned in the Mosaic Law (at least it would for those who were required to follow said law). But it primarily spoke of sexual idolatry, referring to sleeping with temple prostitutes (Paul would presumably have also been speaking against the rape of the women forced to participate in prostitution when he spoke against porneia, not just the idolatry aspect of it, but the connection to idolatry was a large, if not the largest, part of it) who did so as a part of worshiping other gods (in Bible times, Satan used sex to lure people into idolatry; today, now that temple prostitution is no longer a thing, he uses it instead as the new circumcision), although it could also be used in reference to sexual practices that actually were considered illicit by the culture in question, practices such as incest, for example. This particular instance of porneia actually demonstrates quite conclusively that premarital sex was not considered to be a sin. If it were, the Corinthian believers would never have even considered letting things go this far; they would have stopped long before accepting, and seemingly even taking pride in, this relationship happening among their church members if Paul or anyone else had previously taught them that sex outside of marriage fell under the category of porneia-based sins, and he also apparently forgot to tell them it was a sin in this epistle as well when he was telling them to avoid such porneia, so one who claims it is sinful is just eisegeting their own preconceived moralistic bias into their interpretation of the word porneia in this and other parts of Scripture.

Of course, some try to argue that Paul did tell them to avoid premarital sex a couple chapters later when he apparently tells them, “and because of the whoredom let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her proper husband,” supposedly telling them to get married rather than have premarital sex, but that’s not what he’s actually trying to get at there at all. It would take a much longer study to get all the way into the full meaning of this chapter, but along with actually taking the context of the passage into consideration, there are also idioms in the original Greek text that aren’t obvious if you’re not aware of them (for instance, the phrase “not to touch” was a figure of speech that literally meant “not to have sex with,” only perhaps somewhat cruder [it should probably actually be translated with a four-letter verb]), so a more informative paraphrase of the first couple verses of that passage, that is more in line with the actual meaning of these verses, would be, “Now, about what you wrote to me, you said: ‘It is ideal for a man to avoid having sex with a woman.’ Whether or not that’s true, in order to avoid the temptation that would almost certainly arise to have sex with temple prostitutes instead, let every man continue having sex with his own wife, and let every woman continue having sex with her own husband.” Basically, this passage is talking about Corinthian Christians who had come to the conclusion that it would be more righteous or holy to avoid sexual intercourse with their spouses altogether (perhaps because of outside Gnostic influences, although we don’t know the reason for certain), but Paul warned them that they should not stop sleeping with their already existing spouses or they could end up inadvertently committing idolatry as their biology would very likely lead the men to sleep with temple prostitutes instead (because they were the easiest people to find sex with aside from with one’s spouse, since people generally didn’t have romantic relationships back then as we do today; marriage was more of a business arrangement until very recently, so outside of marriage and adultery, the easiest and most common way for a man to have sex in that time and place was with a temple prostitute), and the women could even end up committing adultery. Yes, celibacy is honourable if one can handle it (the reason for this isn’t because sex is somehow dirty or less than righteous and something that should be avoided in general, however; it’s because it helps one hold lightly to the things of this Earth so one can focus solely on the things of God instead of the concerns of one’s spouse, since the easiest way for one to have sex while avoiding idolatry was through marriage when Paul wrote that), but as the writer of Hebrews put it (even if this is a Circumcision writing, this is one of those trans-administrational truths that applies to those under both Gospels), marriage (and sex in marriage) is just as honourable, and one shouldn’t defile their marriage bed by sleeping with temple prostitutes or by committing adultery (both of which would be temptations if a married couple stopped sleeping with each other). Contrary to what most have been taught, Paul wasn’t telling single people to find marriage partners rather than commit the supposed sin of having premarital sex in this passage (they generally didn’t have boyfriends and girlfriends like we do today anyway, so the idea of unmarried, romantic “couples” having sex probably wouldn’t have even crossed Paul’s mind); the context of this chapter and the previous chapter makes it pretty clear in the original Greek that he was talking to the already married in the first seven verses, telling them that the husbands risked going to temple prostitutes if married couples stopped sleeping with each other, which would be tantamount to idolatry because sex with temple prostitutes would necessarily involve worshipping other gods in the process. As for those who were once married and wished to remarry (the word “unmarried” in this passage almost certainly refers to widowers, based on the patterns through this chapter in the original Greek text, although it’s still perfectly valid advice for those who haven’t been married yet either), while he’d prefer for them to remain unmarried like him so they can focus on pleasing the Lord rather than a spouse, he does still say that getting married is better than burning with the desire to be married if they can’t control their desire for marriage (it’s unlikely that he was talking about burning with sexual desire here; based on the context of the topic of marriage in general throughout this part of the chapter, and the fact that he was saying it would be good for them to remain unmarried like him, it seems far more likely that he would have simply been referring to the desire to be married, particularly since sex outside of marriage hadn’t actually been condemned anywhere else in Scripture prior to his writing this, at least as long as it wasn’t illegal or idolatrous). And as far as those of us in this day and age go, at least here in the western world, there are other ways for unmarried people to have sex without resorting to visiting temple prostitutes, although if they are “burning” to get married, they certainly should.

In addition to these more literal interpretations of porneia, there was also a figurative meaning to the word (and its Hebrew equivalents in the Hebrew Scriptures), having nothing to do with physical sex at all, but simply being a metaphor referring to outright idolatry.

The one thing it never meant, however, is premarital sex, or at least by now it should be obvious that there’s zero reason to believe it did, despite the fact that your parents and pastor would probably prefer you believed it did. Of course, they likely only think they want you to. If they understood just how many STIs and unwanted pregnancies this teaching is responsible for, they might change their minds (unless they’re the vindictive sort who want those they consider to be sinners to be punished physically for defying their rules; there are religious Christians out there with this mentality). The idea that premarital sex is sinful causes many parents to actively make sure their kids don’t learn about protection and birth control, but since pretty much an equal number of Christians have premarital sex as non-Christians (the religious can’t fight nature and biology any more than the rest of the world can), only without any knowledge of how to minimize the potential risks, young people in conservative areas or with religious parents tend to end up with more diseases and unwanted pregnancies than those who don’t, and if you’re going to judge a doctrine or religious teacher by its or their fruit, it’s easy to see that the traditional “Christian” view on sexuality is rotten to the core.

Even with all that being said, many religious Christians will try to defend their indefensible claims about premarital sex based on Jesus’ comment about “lust” and “committing adultery in one’s heart,” attempting to convince us that this makes premarital sex sinful by default since you wouldn’t have sex without sexual desire (they like to use this argument to condemn masturbation and pornography too). However, because so few understand right division, not to mention what Scripture says in its original languages, they don’t realize that He was actually speaking about something else altogether in that passage from what most people assume. In fact, when you discover what “lust” really refers to in Scripture you’ll realize that it is actually often encouraged, and that it’s also time to reconsider your thoughts on porn as well (and, really, anyone who cares about women at all should actually be encouraging the spread and consumption of pornography because [contrary to the claims of the morality police who, as it turns out, appear to be wrong about basically all of their assertions about sexuality] when porn usage increases, sexual assault decreases, unless they don’t care about reducing sexual assault, which would be quite sad).

To put it plainly, to “lust” in Scripture, in its original languages (chamad [חָמַד] in Hebrew, with epithymeō [ἐπιθυμέω] being the verb form of the word in Greek, and epithymia [ἐπιθυμία] being the noun), doesn’t simply mean to have sexual attraction to someone, but rather it just means to “covet” or “desire” something or someone, and sometimes lusting/desiring is a good thing (the Lord’s statutes and judgements are to be lusted for/desired more than gold, and even Jesus “lusted/desired” according to the Bible. In fact Paul himself encouraged epithymia at times as well). What Scripture does condemn when it comes to epithymeō is coveting something that already “belongs” (so to speak) to someone else, such as someone else’s property (or wife, since, again, women were considered to be property back then, unfortunately), which is what the 10th Commandment is all about. But to enjoy the way someone looks, or even to fantasize sexually about someone, isn’t what is being criticized when epithymeō actually is spoken against in Scripture; intent to take someone else’s “property” without permission also needs to be there for the coveting to be wrong (otherwise, accepting something you desire as a gift, or even finding your own spouse sexually appealing, would also technically be wrong). So for epithymia over a woman to be considered “committing adultery in one’s heart,” in addition to needing to have intent to actually possess her, she would have to also belong to someone else already, which is, thankfully, not possible in the western world today since women are no longer considered to be property. And, of course, that passage only applied to Israelites, and even then only to some of them (it was a part of the Sermon on the Mount, which was all about elaborating upon the Mosaic law, something that never applied to Gentiles, and doesn’t apply to Jews saved under Paul’s Gospel either, so even if Jesus did mean what most Christians assume He did here, it wouldn’t apply to most people anyway). But even if those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision did somehow fall under this particular point in Jesus’ sermon (which they don’t), the word “adultery” in that passage really tells us everything we need to know about the context of the passage; a man (even a married man) couldn’t commit adultery with a woman who wasn’t married (or at least betrothed) back then, since adultery in Bible times wasn’t defined the same way we do so today (adultery was a property violation back then, not a purity violation, which is why Jesus didn’t condemn women for desiring men, since a woman couldn’t own a man through marriage — a wife was always the property of a husband and never the other way around at that time), and it’s extremely important to interpret a passage of Scripture using the definitions of the time rather than basing our interpretations on modern definitions of English words (using modern definitions rather than the definition of a word at the time it was written is how we end up with all sorts of confused and unscriptural doctrines). It’s also important to note that nowhere prior to this sermon had sexual attraction or fantasy, or sexual desire in general, ever been condemned anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (or anywhere else in the Greek Scriptures either, for that matter). When one realizes all this, it becomes apparent that Jesus wasn’t creating a new law for Israel to follow, but was simply expanding on one His audience was already familiar with (the 10th Commandment), pointing out that for a Jewish male to covet his neighbour’s wife with the intention of having her would basically be the equivalent of breaking the 7th Commandment as well, but He wasn’t even hinting that finding other people sexually appealing, or admiring their bodies (or even fantasizing about them) was at all wrong. In fact, those who do try to force sexual desire out of their (and others’) lives are actually demonstrating a symptom of a far more pernicious form of lust than any mentioned already, one which affects (and infects) Churchianity to a fatal degree. This, of course, would be the religious lust of self-righteousness, so if a religious leader tries to convince others that simple sexual attraction and desire (or even premarital sex) is sinful, it would be wise to question any of their teachings since they’re demonstating how little they likely know about Scripture, and there’s a good chance they haven’t even been saved yet (relatively speaking, of course), since they likely don’t understand what it means to rightly divide the word of truth. Of course, another reason that religious conservatives are so opposed to “lust” (and anything even related to premarital sex) is simply basic erotophobia. Thanks to the horribly harmful purity culture that conservative Christianity has inflicted upon the world, too many people grow up with the idea that sexuality (anything from simple sexual desire to any form of sexual activity itself) is inherently dirty and shameful. Most Christians will deny this and claim that sexual thoughts and acts are only “dirty” or sinful when they’re outside the context of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage, but they themselves don’t realize just how deeply the effects of purity culture have rooted into their subconscious, eventually blossoming into full-blown erotophobia, which in turn forces them to have to believe that mistranslated and misinterpreted Scripture is true because anything else could allow the sexuality they so fear to enter their lives.

There is a lot more that can be said about this complex topic (which has admittedly been simplified a great deal here), but the bottom line is that modern religious Christians are following in the footsteps of the fourth century Institutional Church (who gave us many false doctrines that Churchianity never recovered from; so many of the errors of the Christian religion find their roots in that time period) and are making the same mistake of reading their own biases into the original text just as those so-called “Early Church Fathers” did, although it’s even worse today since so much time has passed and most Christians are now unaware that, in the first century, sex among the people Paul taught almost never took place between people who were considered equals, and this included sex within marriage. As already mentioned, the idea of a boyfriend and girlfriend, as we understand them today, in love with each other and sleeping with each other probably wouldn’t have ever entered into Paul’s mind since that wasn’t how relationships between the sexes generally worked back then, but there’s literally no reason to think he’d have a problem with consensual sexual relations between a couple in love today as long as no worship of other gods was involved, and it wasn’t actually illegal where they lived.

Premarital sex isn’t the only thing religious leaders have insisted that people shouldn’t participate in, however. There are so many other traditional religious ideas that aren’t in the Bible but that you’ve no doubt been told you must abstain from as well. For example:

Homosexuality is forbidden. Like the topic of porneia, this is a tricky topic, but whatever Scripture does say about homosexuality, at most one could argue that it might forbid anal sex between males outside the context of rape and/or idolatrous prostitution (which is always wrong, and quite possibly what it’s actually forbidding according to many scholars). Regardless of whether it does, however, it doesn’t say anything about love, romantic relationships, or other forms of sexuality between males, and it definitely never says anything about love, romantic relationships, or sexuality between females (the passage in Paul’s epistle to the Romans about idolatry that some mistakenly use to argue against homosexuality does not actually condemn women lying with women as many believe, and may in fact be talking about women lying with animals [an action that actually was forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures] when the context of worshipping the creature in that passage is taken into consideration, although it could also be argued that it instead refers to women participating in a certain sort of shrine prostitution. Either way, the idea of women lying with women had never previously been forbidden in Scripture, so there’s no reason to assume it was all of a sudden being forbidden at that point — and, of course, there’s also the fact that the actions mentioned here were actually “punishments,” so to speak, themselves; Paul’s point in this passage wasn’t that he was telling people to avoid certain sexual sins, but rather that the sin of idolatry would lead people to certain negative consequences). As far as males go, there are some who make persuasive arguments that it’s only idolatrous prostitution and rape between males that’s forbidden (much like the “porneia” issue between men and women), but I haven’t studied this issue enough myself to be dogmatic about it either way. What I will say, however, is that Scripture is very clear that it’s the anti-gay conservatives who are actually guilty of “the sin of Sodom” (which had nothing to do with homosexuality at all) today, and I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of these religious conservatives at the final judgement. Even if only indirectly, homophobic (and transphobic) conservatives are responsible for many homeless youth, as well as for numerous suicides, not to mention all the assaults against and even murders of people who are different from them when it comes to their sexuality and gender identity, and pretty much each and every conservative (whether they’re religious or not) is going to have to answer for their culpability in these horrors when they’re standing at the Great White Throne Judgement. Because even if they’re only indirectly responsible, they all still have a responsibility for all of this suffering nonetheless.

Abortion is condemned by the Bible as murder. Regardless of one’s feelings on abortion (and whether it happens to actually be wrong or not, which I’m not taking a side on either way in this section), it isn’t ever mentioned in the Bible; and since murder is a legal term, it can’t legitimately be defined as murder in places where it’s not illegal (abortion might involve killing, but killing can only be classified as murder if the killing is unlawful under one’s human government, or capital punishment and the killing of enemy combatants in war would also have to be called murder). Most Christians today also aren’t aware that abortion (at least if performed during much of the first two trimesters) was not actually considered to be wrong by most Christians throughout much of history (at least among Christians who hold to Sola scriptura). It’s only extremely recently that certain conservative Christians (mostly of the Roman Catholic variety) gained enough political power to sway nearly everyone to suddenly assume it was always thought to be a sin (not that we should base our theology on what religious Christians have historically considered to fall under the purview of “orthodoxy” or “orthopraxy,” of course, but it is still something interesting that anti-abortion Christians should be aware of), primarily because they wanted to punish women for enjoying sex and to ensure that they suffer long-lasting consequences for their actions (they’ll argue that it’s actually because they think abortion is immoral and that they believe in “the sanctity of life,” but the way they treat those who have been born reveals the real truth about them to the rest of us: that they don’t actually believe in “the sanctity of life,” in good morals, or in ethical practices at all).

Monogamy is the only acceptable form of romantic relationship. Honestly, nearly every Christian is likely aware of the fact that polygamy and other forms of non-monogamy were considered to be an acceptable practice for people by God in the Bible, with the possible exception of local church overseers and deacons (depending on how one translates/interprets those particular passages; there’s good reason to believe they’re actually just saying that an elder or deacon should have at least one wife, meaning they should not be single), but you’d never know it to hear them talk about it. God even told David that if he wanted more wives, rather than taking someone else’s wife all he had to do was ask God for more. So basically, those conservatives who claim they’re fighting to promote “traditional marriage” really aren’t (if they were, they’d be promoting polygamy at the very least), and if monogamy was actually natural, cheating wouldn’t be so common in so many relationships (yes, even in Christian relationships).

Religion Can’t Get You to Heaven

While I wrote an entire book that goes into great detail about the topic, I figure it might be helpful to summarize what Scripture actually teaches about salvation and the Gospel. The following is from a Gospel tract I wrote that I like to hand out around Toronto:

Religion teaches that God will only look kindly upon us if we believe and/or do the right things before we die. The Good News of the Uncircumcision (Galatians 2:7), on the other hand, is not a religion at all, but is instead the announcement of the end of religion (it’s a proclamation, not a proposition). Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing) the religious think they have to do to get right with God, but no action or belief on our part can ever take away our sins or make us immortal. Thankfully, everything necessary for salvation from sin and death has already been done, once and for all, by Christ. The Good News (or Gospel) is that Christ died (actually died, including ceasing to exist consciously) for our (meaning everybody’s) sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This means that sin has been completely dealt with by Christ for everybody and, because of this, everyone (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) will eventually experience salvation and be resurrected (if they’re dead) and vivified (be made immortal) by the consummation (or end) of the eons (“God is the Saviour of all mankind…”); and if God has elected to give you the gift of faith to believe this Good News now, you’ve now joined the body of Christ and will experience a special, earlier salvation known as eonian life (“…especially of believers.” 1 Timothy 4:10), meaning you’ll have immortal life in heaven (or “the heavens,” which is really just outer space — Genesis 1:1) in a glorified body like Christ’s, where you’ll help reconcile celestial beings to God during the next two eons before the rest of humanity is also vivified.

If you’d like to learn more, please check out my free eBook at https://christianheretic.com/nochurch/ where I go into much more detail on the topics of salvation and rightly dividing the word of truth.

Wrongly Dividing

When talking about the Bible, most people divide it up into two sections that they call the New Testament and the Old Testament. There are correct ways to divide the Scriptures, but this isn’t one of them.

First of all, the Old and New Testaments refer to covenants, not to books or to collections of writings (in fact, much of what we know about the New Testament or New Covenant is found in the part of the Bible most call the Old Testament). A better way to refer to these sections in the Bible are the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures, based on the languages they were written in.

A second, equally valid way to divide the Bible, a way that few seem to be familiar with anymore, is between the 13 epistles written by the apostle Paul and the rest of Scripture. Paul came to bring Gentiles the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, while nearly all of the rest of the Bible (aside from parts of Acts) proclaims (or at least builds up to) the Gospel of the Circumcision, so a good way to label this division in the Bible is the Circumcision writings and the Uncircumcision writings. If you’re not familiar with this particular division, I write about it in depth in chapter 1 of my book titled Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more.

I should also add that calling the Hebrew Scriptures the Old Testament is also somewhat antisemitic. Among other things, it implies that both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Mosaic law are not important or even still relevant. While the Old Testament or Covenant won’t remain relevant forever (both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures tell us that the New Covenant will eventually come fully into effect), and is even now ready to vanish, the Old Covenant and the Mosaic law are still in effect for Israel right now. And the Mosaic law itself (which is what most people think of when they think of the term “the Old Testament”) won’t end for at least 1,000 years after the Old Covenant fully fades away and the New Covenant begins in earnest (at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom). Yes, at the end of the Millennium, when the heavens and Earth pass away and a new heavens and Earth are created, the Mosaic law will have served its purpose, but at this point in time both the Mosaic law and Old Covenant are still both here, at least for Israel.

Some More Questions

I recently shared some questions I like to ask people to determine whether they actually know much about Scripture or not, and whether they’re likely to have anything useful to teach me from a spiritual perspective.

I have a few additional questions, however, that are important for all Christians to ask themselves:

  • Can the Gospel of Grace be found in the books called Matthew, Mark, Luke, orJohn, in the book of Hebrews, or anywhere in the book of Acts prior to Paul’s coming to salvation?
  • Should one be baptized in water after they come to believe the Gospel of Grace?
  • Does God want the body of Christ to recognize either the Sabbath or Sunday as a special day?
  • Does following the Mosaic law help you live a more spiritual life after you have been saved, or make you a better Christian?
  • Do you have to give a percentage of your income to a pastor or religious organization?
  • Does “the ecclesia (or church), the body of Christ” fulfill any covenants, prophecies, or promises given to Israel?
  • Do people go to a place called heaven or hell immediately after they die?
  • Does anybody suffer forever in a fiery place called hell?
  • Is God made up of three persons?
  • Are all cases of premarital (or extramarital) sex and lust condemned as being sinful in Scripture?

If your answer to any of these questions was “yes,” and if you didn’t know the answers to my previous list of questions, it means it’s time for you to do some studying into what Scripture actually teaches (particularly in its original languages).

Missing Out

Thanks to bad translations (and even worse interpretations) of Scripture, there are many spiritual concepts that those in the Christian religion (and most of those outside of it) miss out on. There are so many important terms and concepts in properly translated Scripture that almost no Christian I’ve met is familiar with, terms and concepts that, when actually understood, reveal just how different the Christian religion is from Scriptural Christianity. Not only that, lack of knowledge of these things also keeps them from truly experiencing salvation itself, at least at first.

When I meet new people who call themselves Christians and who want to try to teach me something from the Bible (quite often these people are standing on the street in front of the mall, talking into microphones and/or handing out religious literature), I’ve reached a point where I now have to start asking them certain questions to determine whether they have the first clue about what Scripture actually teaches or whether they’re just wasting both of our time. If they don’t know the answers to at least most these questions, it’s invariably turned out that they also aren’t members of the body of Christ and don’t have much to tell me. That’s not to say that esoteric knowledge is required for salvation, but these are basic words and concepts in Scripture that very few members of the Christian religion are actually familiar with at all, while most people who have actually been members of the body of Christ for a few years tend to know about them.

I’m sure you’re wondering what the questions I have to ask these so-called teachers who are generally trying to get me to join their ranks are, so I present them to you now:

  • What does the term “the word of truth” refer to in Scripture? (Hint: it doesn’t refer to either the Bible or Jesus)
  • What’s the difference between the Evangel of the Uncircumcision and the Evangel of the Circumcision? (Yes, there is a difference)
  • What’s the difference between forgiveness (or pardon) and justification?
  • What is an eon, and how many of them does Scripture say there will be total?
  • What is the eon of the eons, and when does it occur?
  • What’s the difference between an eon and a dispensation?
  • What’s the difference between eonian life and everlasting life?
  • What was the disruption of the world, and when did it take place?
  • What is the consummation of the eons, and when will it take place?
  • What’s the difference between reconciliation and conciliation?
  • What is the dispensation of the Conciliation, and when will it end?
  • What is vivification, and how many groups of people still have to experience it in the future, and when will each of these groups experience it?
  • What is “the unseen?”
  • What, and where, is Gehenna, and who specifically ends up there as a punishment?
  • At death, the body, the soul, and the spirit each return to one of three separate “locations” (one to each). What are they?
  • What do the Greek words porneia and epithymia actually mean, and are they both always sinful?

If someone can’t answer at least most of these questions off the top of their head right now, there’s a good chance they haven’t studied the Scriptures in depth enough to actually be worthy of listening to.

If you don’t know the answers to these questions yourself, and would like to find out what they are, they’re discussed in depth in my free Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more book (and in the supporting links throughout that book).

Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more – Conclusion

Previous chapter: Church

Conclusion

I could go on and on about the multitude of ideas that those within the Christian religion are confused about thanks to the flawed assumptions they begin with, and a lack of desire to actually take the time to pick up a concordance and dig into what the Bible really says, taking their pastor’s word for it instead, but that should be more than enough to explain why I couldn’t ever return to a modern Evangelical or Protestant congregation. Of course, at this point the real question isn’t why I couldn’t return to a traditional church, but why you yourself might still consider having anything to do with such an unscriptural, not to mention harmful, institution (and why you would risk your soul within its “sanctuaries”).

Nearly everything in this book should really be considered “Christianity 101” that every believer should already be completely familiar with. However, I suspect that most of what I’ve written here is brand new for many who are reading it for the first time. Thanks to bad translations and even worse interpretations, Satan’s false apostles, deceitful workers, and ministers of righteousness within Churchianity (aka the vain talkers and deceivers who are leading and teaching the followers of the Christian religion) have hijacked the Bible, convincing billions that Scripture is actually a much more conservative set of documents than it really is, and have also managed to deceive billions into thinking that God is capable of allowing never-ending torture to occur, or is at least willing to leave the majority of humans to remain dead forever thanks to those who teach Annihilationism (with both false teachings causing people to reject God altogether thanks to the monstrous false image of God we’ve been told is the real God, although at least Annihilationists are capable of understanding that words like “hell” and “everlasting” are mistranslations, even if they don’t follow this understanding to its obvious conclusion). These lies, along with the other errors that seem to keep the majority of humanity (including many Christians) from experiencing eonian life, make the Christian religion the most nefarious cult (which, ultimately, is what the failure known as the Christian religion really is: an idolatrous cult of confusion, hypocrisy, false expressions, guilt, and erotophobia [which might be somewhat ironic considering the fact that this religion is in a constant state of porneia with evil spirits itself]) there is. The truths of actual scriptural Christianity sets people completely free, but the conservative, “orthodox” teachings of traditional “Christianity” only enslaves people into the bondage of religion through its rules, discrimination, and shame (although it’s important to also keep in mind that, at least from an absolute perspective, it’s not ultimately the fault of those people who are leading the Christian religion that this is so).

Unfortunately, this means that most who have made it all the way through this book will not be sure what to believe (or will think it’s so foreign to what they were taught growing up that they’ll just reject it out of hand, which could just mean that God hasn’t chosen them to be a member of the body of Christ, or at least hasn’t called them yet). However, for those chosen few of you who do dig deeper and then realize that you need to reject organized religion and the teachings and practices of Churchianity, you’ll be left wondering what you should do instead. Well, first of all, it means that you get to sleep in on Sunday (or Saturday) mornings if you want to. Beyond that, however, if you can find a nearby ecclesia that actually believes what Scripture says, it might be a good group to check out. That said, many, if not most, of the members of the body of Christ have to go it fairly alone, or at least without a regular ecclesia to fellowship with, since it seems there are very few members of the body of Christ in any particular area. I should say that this is not a new problem; the ecclesia made up of the body of Christ has been extremely small from almost the beginning, and I’d be surprised to see this change before the snatching away occurs (it fell into apostasy and people separated from it very early on — some of these divisions and separations from Paul’s Gospel and the actual body of Christ becoming the so-called Orthodox and Catholic denominations we know today [a number of the so-called “Early Church Fathers” of these denominations, Polycarp and Irenaeus for example, were from the very province that Paul said “all” had turned away from him in during his imprisonment, which makes any of their teachings, and then any of the later teachings by those who accepted their teachings, suspect to begin with] — and it seems to have never regained its original size). So, if you can’t find any fellow members to fellowship with where you live, just keep studying the Scriptures. You’re far better off not participating in any church gathering than you are participating in Churchianity, so I’d suggest leaving the Institutional Church behind completely. Yes, it’s beneficial to fellowship with likeminded believers if you can find them, but you won’t find many of them in the traditional denominations, at least not if you happen to agree with what I’ve written in this book.

Bottom line, to those of you who are inspired to do so, pull out your Bibles (preferably a good literal translation [such as the Concordant Literal Version, for example]; if you’re going to really study Scripture in depth, don’t use a translation as badly flawed as the King James Version — although I believe God did arrange for various bad translations of Scripture to be made in order to reveal to us who actually cares about the truth, and so we can be rewarded for digging beneath the surface for the gold of that truth, it doesn’t mean they’re particularly useful for deeper study), concordances, and Hebrew and Koine Greek dictionaries, fire up your search engines, and start studying to “shew thyself approved.” Be warned, however, that if you do come to the conclusions I have about Scripture, you’ll likely be called a heretic by the “orthodox” members of Churchianity, and even shunned (if not worse) by many of them. But to that threat I simply repeat the words of A. E. Knoch: “Heretic” is the highest earthly title which can be bestowed at this time.

[Postscript

If you’ve been clicking the supporting links, you’ve probably noticed that I link to Grace Ambassadors quite a bit throughout this book, and with that in mind I should probably point out that I don’t necessarily agree with absolutely everything that everyone I link to believes. While the Grace Ambassadors website (and their pastor, Justin Johnson) has some great teachings on many Scriptural topics, and recognizes that there are two Gospels taught in the Bible, they unfortunately haven’t yet come to understand the full implications of Paul’s Gospel (they still believe in the Roman traditions of human “free will,” everlasting torment in “hell,” the immortality of the soul, and the trinity) so my belief is that they’re not actually in the body of Christ themselves. That said, their site had some of the best articles available online to introduce people to the topic of the two Gospels (along with various other related topics), so I still decided to link to their articles very liberally. Whether that’s for the best, I leave to God to judge, but I do pray that Justin Johnson and his assembly will come to understand the fullness of the Gospel of the Uncircumcision soon, not only because it might make them one of the strongest assemblies teaching the full truth of Scripture out there, but also simply for their own sakes (so they can experience eonian life themselves). In the meantime, please do be careful to keep in mind what Martin Zender (whose website and videos I also link to quite often, and whose teachings I do highly recommend, even if I don’t always agree with him 100% of the time either) refers to as “the Five Pillars of Truth” when reading anything on their site, so you yourself do fully understand the full Gospel of the Uncircumcision:

“1) a recognition that Paul’s gospel is to be segregated from the gospel to Israel as heralded by the terrestrial Jesus, and Peter

2) a knowledge that God is working out His purpose through a series of time periods known as eons

3) belief in the sovereignty of God, which requires a disbelief in Human Free Will

4) an understanding that death is non-existence, and that Jesus Christ, in fact, died

5) belief that, through the cross of Christ, God will reconcile all things to Himself”

If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be able to understand how one is actually saved (both from a relative and absolute perspective), and who the actual members of the body of Christ are when reading that and other Mid-Acts Hyperdispensationalist websites I’ve linked to (such as the “For What Saith the Scriptures?” site by Shawn Brasseaux and the “Wielding the Sword of the Spirit” site by Matthew McGee) in this post where the writers understand some of the basics of Paul’s Gospel but don’t yet believe it fully (I suspect a major reason for this on some of these sites is that the authors are KJV-Onlyists, a mistake that keeps many from seeing some of the deeper truths in Scripture, although another reason is simply a refusal to fully let go of all the traditions and practices of Rome just as so many other Protestants and Evangelicals have also declined to do).

While their viewpoint won’t keep one from eonian life the way the views of those who reject all “Five Pillars of Truth” listed above will, there is a second group of writers I link to in places who sometimes teach a different error, one known as Acts 28 Ultradispensationalism. This teaching has caused no end of confusion among the body of Christ, and has also stolen the blessed hope of the snatching away from many, so it’s important to recognize it when we see it and realize that the dividing line is indeed mid-Acts rather than Acts 28 (or Acts 2, as most dispensationalists mistakenly believe).]

Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more – Chapter Seven

Previous chapter: Politics

Church

As you almost certainly already know, religious leaders don’t only tell us that certain things are forbidden. They also try to convince us that certain things are required. If you do attend traditional church services and become a member of a particular assembly, you’ll likely sit through a number of sermons meant to make you feel guilty if you don’t give them a percentage of your money on a regular basis, sermons that completely ignore the fact that the tithe was meant solely for followers of the Mosaic law. Christians in the body of Christ (Jewish or otherwise) are not supposed to follow the law of Moses, and those who do try to follow any of it are under a curse of being obligated to follow all of it, according to Paul (that means no more bacon or shrimp, or clothes with mixed fabrics, or doing chores or running errands on Saturday).

Of course, a true biblical tithe is actually in the form of food, drink, or livestock, and only goes to the Levitical priests and to the poor (with the exception of the tithe that wasn’t given away at all, but was rather consumed by the tithers themselves). Unless your pastors are Levites who perform animal sacrifices, they have no scriptural basis for demanding it from anyone (no, not even Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek helps their case, unless perhaps one’s pastor is the king of Salem and they’re tithing of the spoils they took from their enemies in battle). There’s absolutely nothing in the Bible about the body of Christ having to give a tenth (or any amount) of their money to their religious leaders or organizations.

While tithing isn’t a biblical idea for today’s believers, what is recorded as having apparently happened among the body of Christ is people giving financial gifts to those in financial need. They didn’t, however, just give money to pastors who simply wanted to live off church members’ hard-earned money or keep the power running in a church building.

Those church buildings and pastors themselves, by the way, are also a big problem, since modern church services and the buildings they take place in don’t have any biblical justification for existing in the first place. The early church didn’t gather in chapels or temples specifically meant for Christian meetings. Instead, they met in homes. And a gathering wasn’t a few songs and then a sermon by a pastor. There might have been songs, and even a speech or two, but the early church gatherings apparently included a meal and discussions, not just a bite of bread, a sip of wine (or grape juice), and a sermon.

“The Lord’s Supper” for example, appears to have been a part of a real dinner meant to demonstrate the communion or unity of the body of Christ; it wasn’t just a little snack. To quote Aaron Welch, “there is no indication that Paul considered this an ordinance that had to be kept, a ‘sacrament’ that had to be ‘administered,’ or a ceremonial ritual that had to be periodically observed by the saints to whom he wrote.” This should be obvious since our administration has no elements or ordinances because we are complete in Christ, who is the end of all religion for those in His body, and returning to the shadows and types of rituals and rites in any way whatsoever would rob us of the full enjoyment of both our possessions and freedom in Christ. In fact, very few members of the body of Christ actually do partake of this meal anymore, partly due to the fact that many actually believe (for reasons that I won’t get into right here) that it was meant to end around the time of Paul’s imprisonment, and partly due to the fact that there are so few members of the body of Christ alive today that it’s difficult to actually gather together in person anymore anyway. Still, while practicing the Lord’s Supper as a ceremony would not be at all scriptural, choosing to share a meal together in a manner that demonstrates our communion with one another (so long as it isn’t a practice that’s enforced upon us, and we’re actually sharing the meal with everyone in the ecclesia rather than selfishly consuming it all before everyone has arrived) seems like the exact opposite of a religious ritual to me, and I see no problem with doing just that when gathering as a local ecclesia in one’s home (if one is able to find such an ecclesia) if the group so desires.

As far as the rest of the “church service” goes, it appears they had actual conversations and dialogue rather than just a monologue by one preacher. That’s not to say the occasional lesson or presentation isn’t helpful sometimes, but it isn’t the point of the gathering and can easily be done without.

Just remember that church buildings and the current structure of the Institutional Church’s weekend “services” didn’t exist until quite some time later, when Christianity became more formal and institutional rather than relational. To be fair, though, it’s not the buildings themselves that are the real problem; it’s the “organization” and lack of real, spontaneous, Spirit-led fellowship. Yes, you will almost certainly hear the word “fellowship” in most traditional church meetings, but you also almost as certainly won’t experience much (if any) there, despite how much so many pastors seem to love the word (it’s hard to fellowship with the back of someone’s head while sitting in pews listening to a sermon). But you can technically meet in a home and still be an Institutional Church, or rent a room in a building other than a home and be a relational, Open Church (as church gatherings that follow the pattern of the first assemblies are sometimes called). As nice as a home gathering is, it’s really the openness and fellowship that are the important factors. That said, if a local assembly owns a whole building that they meet in — even if they just call it a chapel or a hall — you should probably stay far away. Perhaps there’s a slim possibility of the rare exception existing, but in general, owning a building for worship and sermons seems to be a good litmus test for a local church, demonstrating that they likely know extremely little about biblical theology and what Scripture actually says. In fact, you’d be much better off spiritually (and even physically) in a strip club than in a so-called “house of God” (as many mistakenly call these buildings). At least in a strip club nobody is deceiving you about what Scripture teaches when they try to take a percentage of your money.

Speaking of teaching, the idea of a pastor or priest or any professional preacher who rules over a church (a word which simply refers to the “group” or “assembly” of believers in an area, by the way; it never referred to a building) isn’t in the Bible either. Local churches were overseen by a group of unpaid elders or overseers (or “bishops,” depending on your translation), not run by one paid man (that’s not to say that evangelists shouldn’t be paid to evangelize, but elders and evangelists aren’t necessarily always the same people). If you have one person leading (and basically performing the entire ministry in) a local gathering of believers, I would suggest not having much of anything to do with their gatherings if you value your spiritual wellbeing (and while not all clergy are dangerous or are con-artists [many are just confused], I’d suggest you do play it safe and be cautious when interacting with them, just in case, since a lot still are).

Also, just as a quick aside on the topic of spiritual things, the “charismatic” spiritual gifts that some pastors say one should have really aren’t meant for those in the dispensation of Grace today either (meaning for those in the body of Christ; they might still be active for some saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, since they were basically meant as a sign for Jews anyway — even those in the body of Christ were mostly “speaking in tongues,” for example, as a sign for unbelieving Jews [who often required a sign to accept Jesus as their Messiah] — but for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, they appear to have come to an end as Israel as a whole fully rejected the Messiah, quite possibly around the time recorded in Acts 28 [although, for the record, I should state here that I’m not an Acts 28 Ultradispensationalist], as evidenced by the fact that even Paul, whose simple handkerchiefs could heal those who touched them at one time, could no longer heal people by the time he wrote the final book of the Bible, and even suggested that Timothy take some wine for his stomach and other ailments rather than seek the gift of healing as those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were instructed to do). That’s not to say God can’t or doesn’t ever do miracles anymore (and it definitely doesn’t mean that God doesn’t still guide us through His Spirit), just that they’re the exception rather than the rule while the reason for the sign gifts has been temporarily paused (so, until the final Gentile meant to enter the body of Christ does so and God’s focus returns to Israel and the Gospel of the Circumcision becomes the preeminent [and, eventually, only] Evangel to be proclaimed on Earth once again [which means that if you’re reading this after the snatching away has occurred and the final heptad — meaning the seven year period often called the tribulation — has begun, then Paul’s epistles weren’t written to you and it’s time to focus on the circumcision writings instead]).

Aside from tithing (and “speaking in tongues,” depending on one’s denomination), there’s one more unbiblical tradition that religious leaders will condemn you for if you don’t do it on a regular basis, and that is regularly attending their gatherings, particularly on the day they believe to be the Sabbath.

Almost anybody who has ever stopped “going to church” for any length of time has been given a guilt trip and has been told that we aren’t supposed to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, completely misrepresenting the meaning of the passage in Hebrews they use for this purpose (while also ignoring the fact that this book wasn’t written to the body of Christ anyway). The word translated as “assembling” (episynagōgē [ἐπισυναγωγή] in Greek) here, just like its cognate (episynagō [ἐπισυνάγω] in Greek) in other passages, are never used to refer to “gathering” in the sense one would use when speaking of “going to church.” The only other place in Scripture where episynagōgē is used is when Paul was talking about the gathering of the saints to Christ at the snatching away when he wrote his second epistle to the Thessalonians. Combine that fact with the actual context of the rest of that chapter in Hebrews, and it’s clear that the writer is warning against losing out on the hope of being assembled together to Christ after He returns, and wasn’t speaking of “going to church” at all (although gathering with like minded believers, if you can find them, is still extremely beneficial, so please don’t think I’m saying that one shouldn’t gather with the body if one can find other members nearby), be it on the Sabbath or on any other day.

As far as what day the Sabbath is goes, this is one where various sabbatarian denominations are partially correct, while also being quite wrong about it at the same time. The Sabbath is indeed Saturday as they claim; it was never changed to Sunday (and Sunday is not the Lord’s Day either; the Lord’s Day, also known as the Day of the Lord, is an event that hasn’t happened yet, at least not as of the time this was written). But since those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision are not under the Mosaic law in any way whatsoever, it doesn’t really matter to them what day the Sabbath is. In the very beginning of the church, believers didn’t pick one specific day to gather together when they did get together for fellowship; they could meet any day of the week (possibly doing so more than one day a week, and very likely often happening later in the afternoon or evening after work rather than first thing in the morning based on the fact that some were eating all the food and getting drunk before the poor could arrive at their gatherings). That said, there’s nothing technically wrong with meeting on a Sunday. In fact it’s often the most convenient day to do so on at this point in history since the Institutional Church has managed to convince most people that it is the new Sabbath thanks to the influence it’s had over our society, but it’s really not any different from any other day of the week so don’t feel any obligation to treat it like a special day.

And on the topic of esteeming certain days above others, be they new holidays invented by (or pagan holidays that were “Christianized” by) the Institutional Church (such as Lent, such as Easter, and such as Christmas, to name just three) or days that are observed by Jewish followers of the Mosaic law, while it might not always be a great idea, it’s not necessarily wrong to celebrate a specific day if it’s something one enjoys doing just for the fun of it (or if it’s something one who is weak in faith still feels they need to do). Just realize that none of these days are required for the body of Christ any more than the Sabbath is, and that nobody should be looked down upon for not participating in these “holy days.” And, of course, please be aware of the fact that Jesus didn’t actually die on a Friday, wasn’t resurrected on the day we call Easter on our modern calendars (which should be more obvious than it seems to be to most since it’s on a different day each year), and wasn’t born on December 25th either (while it doesn’t really matter when He was born since we aren’t told to celebrate His birthday in Scripture, there’s good reason to believe it was actually in September or October on our modern calendar). That said, if you’re going to celebrate Christmas or Easter, consider doing so mostly from a secular perspective, focusing on the chocolates and eggs and gifts and such. To do otherwise (meaning, to celebrate them as remembrances of Jesus’ birth and death) is to know Christ after the flesh, which is something the body of Christ is called to move past.

Next chapter: Conclusion

Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more – Chapter Six

Previous chapter: Morality

Politics

Regardless of one’s views here, however, whatever the Bible might actually say about morality within the body of Christ, it’s limited to the body of Christ, contrary to what so many in the Institutional Church seem to believe. Trying to force those who are not a part of the body of Christ to live a supposedly “Christian life,” by legal means or otherwise, is not even slightly justifiable. Nowhere in the Bible is it even hinted at that the body of Christ is called to influence (or force) our cultures to be more conservative or follow religious laws. In fact, the only thing we’re asked to do regarding the government is to obey the secular laws and to pay our taxes (even when these laws harm us and should not exist in the first place [slavery is a good example of this. It’s not that Paul was supporting slavery; it’s simply that he was exhorting believers to obey the law even when it’s extremely unpleasant — although those who are not members of the body of Christ should certainly do what they can to make the world a better place where possible, including fighting to completely eliminate slavery], and when the authorities making said laws are ungodly). Yes, in a democracy we the people technically help determine the secular laws to a certain extent, but there’s still zero excuse for trying to create laws based on religious morality (especially when we consider the fact that most religious morality isn’t at all biblical, as already discussed), or for trying to turn one’s nation into a theocracy (the world will be a theocracy in the future, but not until Jesus returns to the Earth). And culturally, there also isn’t any reason to go around putting down non-believers for doing things that go against one’s moralistic sensibilities (particularly, again, since most of the things the religious think are sinful aren’t actually even slightly sinful to begin with), for trying to pressure the rest of the world into acting the way conservatives want them to, or for any number of the cruel or unnecessary actions that too many of the religious seem to feel obligated to perform against those in their communities and countries. Actions such as trying to get people fired, kicking people out of their homes, or not being willing to sell things to people, all based simply on who they happen to be attracted to or what gender they identify as, for example; or actions such as trying to enforce prohibitions against consuming certain beverages or plants, or at least enforcing prohibitions against purchasing such things on certain days of the week (to name just a few of many examples). Any attempt to legislate religious morality, or to pressure the rest of the world into following one’s conservative leanings, will do nothing but drive people even further away from the faith one no doubt wants them to embrace, and will also continue to cause everyone to misunderstand what Christianity is actually about (hint: it’s not about trying to be as big of an asshole as possible towards those who don’t believe and act the way you do, as so many conservative “Christians” act like they think it is).

This is an important factor for parents to keep in mind too, by the way. Raising your kids to be good citizens who live loving, quiet, respectful, and peaceable lives is important, and they should certainly be brought up with the training and instruction of the Lord so that they’ll understand what they need to know about God and Scripture, but trying to force people to live “godly lives” misses the entire point of Paul’s teachings. You can’t stuff the Holy Spirit into somebody (and if God hasn’t predestined your child for eonian life, you aren’t going to be able to convince them to “get saved” anyway), and trying to make people (children or grown adults) live according to religious rules will only cause them to sin and rebel all the more, as Paul makes quite clear (that was the whole purpose of the existence of the Mosaic law, after all). And even if Churchianity was correct about what is right and wrong (which they definitely aren’t), getting people who aren’t already Christians to live “righteous” lives and stop sinning isn’t going to get them saved, or make them any less lost, unless you believe that salvation actually is by works, so it just doesn’t make any sense to begin with to try to force the rest of the world to live by religious standards since it won’t help them in the long run anyway (at least not according to the most common soteriology of Churchianity).

History is very clear about all of this as well, of course. When religious “morality” gains control of government, people suffer. There’s almost nothing scarier, or more antithetical to freedom, than a theocracy or theonomy run by humans (remember, it is for freedom that we have been set free; it wasn’t so we would put ourselves back under religious bondage). When religious conservatives run governments without a liberal and secular hand to restrain them, people are censored, fired, expelled from their homes, imprisoned, tortured, and even executed simply for their beliefs (or lack thereof), as well as for the most innocent of actions. If someone challenges the religious status quo or does things considered sinful in a theocratic society, religious conservatives become extremely evil towards such heretics and infidels (and even today in more secular countries you find religious conservatives trying to take or keep civil rights away from people who might live differently from them for no reason other than the fact that these differences might not line up with their religious beliefs). This is one reason I like to stay far away from religious conservatives in general (or at least only meet with them in public places). Perjury, assault, torture, theft, and killing are a major part of the heritage of nearly all conservative religions, including the Christian religion, and I have no doubt that many of them would bring that legacy back into practice if they could. That’s not to say all religious conservatives would do this if they had the opportunity, but I still wouldn’t want to take that chance. And regardless of their propensity towards violence, I have no doubt that most of them would definitely (and happily) fight against freedoms and civil rights for people who are different from them in various ways, particularly when it comes to sexuality, and I see no good reason to have much to do with people who would be so heartless and cruel.

Religious conservatives sometimes talk about a culture war, and they are right, there is one happening. The problem is, they’re on the wrong side of this battle, having exchanged the truth for an attempt at holding political power (although Daniel warned us that the conservative Christian religion [along with all of the world’s other false religions, although it seems that some of the other religions will actually outlast the Christian religion somewhat based on Daniel’s prophecy], will be utterly destroyed eventually, and that God will kill many within this religion during the great tribulation, so they do this at their own peril). Conservatism is basically about greed, hunger for power, paranoia, racism, sexism, homophobia (among other forms of erotophobia), and just having a lack of empathy towards one’s neighbours in general. All of this ultimately leads to people trying to control the lives and actions of those who might be a little different from what they consider to be “the norm,” and religion only makes conservatism worse since it leads people to believe their harmful mindsets and actions are sanctioned (or even commanded) by God. So if you’ve ever wondered why some people remain wary of religious conservatives (“Christian” or otherwise), it should be pretty obvious at this point.

All that being said, I should add that I’m not claiming liberalism will save the world (or even your country). Scripture is quite clear that no human government can ever do that. Still, liberalism is actually about compassion, empathy, and taking care of those in need (basically, the exact opposite of what conservatism is about), and those living under truly liberal governments (and not just liberal governments in name only) tend to have much better lives in general than those living under more conservative governments do, so I’d much rather be in a more liberal part of the world (which, thankfully, I am) any day of the week. At the end of the day, however, members of the body of Christ are aliens here on this planet, since our citizenship is in the heavens, so the politics of Earth really aren’t meant for us.

Next chapter: Church