Who ends up in the lake of fire?

In my last post I hinted at the idea that the lake of fire will be relatively empty. This, of course, goes against the traditional ideas that most Christians believe, but then, so does nearly everything I write on this website, so that’s nothing new.

So who actually does end up in the lake of fire? Revelation 20 and 21 are the chapters where we learn about the lake of fire and who ends up in it, so we should take a look at what it says in order to find out, but of course we have to also remember to interpret it with the rest of Scripture in mind, which means we have to read it with the understanding that anyone who is a true believer in Christ (and has joined either the Israel of God or the body of Christ, which are two separate groups of believers) will have already been resurrected and/or vivified (made immortal) at least 1,000 years prior to the time anyone is resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement and/or cast into the lake of fire, which means that the judgement at the Great White Throne isn’t about whether one has believed either the Gospel of the Circumcision or the Gospel of the Uncircumcision or not. Instead, John tells us in Revelation that the judgement people will face at the Great White Throne will be based solely on their works (meaning they’ll be judged for the good deeds and the evil acts they performed while they lived on Earth — and it’s also important to know that they aren’t judged for their sins, since all sin was taken care of some 2,000 years ago on the cross). Of course, John then goes on to say that anyone whose name was not found in the book of life would be cast into the lake of fire. The question, then, is: Who are the people whose names won’t be found in the book of life?

Most Christians assume this refers to people who didn’t believe the Gospel and “get saved.” However, John tells us 8 verses later who, exactly, it is that will end up in the lake of fire when he says: But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

The first thing most people will say is that John mentions the “unbelieving” as the second category in the list of people who end up in the lake of fire, so it must be talking about “non-Christians” there, but it’s the fact that this is the second category of people in a list of different sorts of people who end up there that tells us John isn’t saying what most Christians assume he is (the fact that it’s only the second category in the list rather than the first is also very telling). If the people whose names are not written in the book of life simply consisted of people who didn’t believe the Gospel, the rest of the list would be entirely unnecessary. So whatever it is the “unbelieving” are failing to  believe, it can’t simply be referring to all “non-Christians.”

This is also made clear when we look at the last category on the list, where it says that “all liars” will end up in the lake of fire. Every single human who has made it to the age where they can speak has told a lie at some point in their life, but we know that not every person on Earth will end up in the lake of fire since otherwise even all believers would end up there, so it would stand to reason that this is referring to habitual liars (such as certain politicians, for example).

Basically, the fact that there’s a very specific list of people who end up in the lake of fire tells us that not everyone who is judged at the Great White Throne will end up there. I would suggest that it’s pretty much just the worst of the worst (your Adolf Hitlers and Donald Trumps and Billy Grahams) who will end up in there. Everyone else, likely including most of your loved ones, will continue on to live on the New Earth, albeit in mortal bodies (although they won’t die again since they’ll be kept alive by partaking of the fruit and leaves of the tree of life).

And, of course, we also know from what Paul taught us throughout his epistles that everyone who hasn’t been vivified yet by that point (referring to those mortal humans living on the New Earth, of course, but also to those who died a second time and had their corpses burned up in the lake of fire but who will be resurrected when Christ defeats the final enemy: death — which has to refer to the second death since it’s the only death remaining on the Earth by that time) will be vivified at the consummation of the eons.

Dialogue with an evangelical

The following is an amalgam of actual discussions I’ve had with real people, both in person and online:

I didn’t intend to stop, but the street preacher’s words caught my ear and I couldn’t help myself.

“As Jesus died on the cross, He cried out, ‘It is finished.’ He died for all of our sins, those past, present, and future. He didn’t say, ‘I did my part, the 99%, which was the only part I could do, but now you must go do your part, the last 1%, which is necessary to complete salvation for yourself.’ No, He didn’t say that because that would be salvation by works rather than by grace.”

I stopped abruptly, turned around, and congratulated him for being the only street preacher I’d ever heard who actually seemed to understand the Gospel. “I’m impressed. I’ve never heard a street evangelist actually tell the truth about what the Gospel means before. Unfortunately, most Christians believe they have their own role to play in their salvation, believing that Christ did 99% of the work to save them, but that they still have to do their 1% by choosing to put their trust in the finished work of Christ, and believing that if they don’t do their part then it turns out Christ didn’t save them through His death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection after all.”

The evangelist looked at me as though I’d grown a second head. “Well, no, that’s not what I believe,” he corrected me. “You still have to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. If you don’t do your part, you can’t be saved. I was talking about having to get baptized or take communion or go to confession or do some other form of works in order to complete salvation.”

Disappointed to find out that he was just yet another traditional street preacher who said one thing but meant another, I thought of returning to my walk, but decided I should at least give him a chance to understand the Gospel before I left. Odds are he’d never heard it explained to him before, and besides, you never know who might be among the elect. “So, are you saying that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t sufficient to save us, then? We have to do our part after all, contrary to what you first said, in order to contribute to our salvation. In other words, we have to become our own at least partial saviours in order to be saved?”

“No. Christ did all the work,” he tried to clarify. “Now He’s offering the free gift of salvation He paid for to us. But we do have to accept the gift in order to receive it.”

“If we have to ‘accept the gift’ in order to be saved, though,” I countered, “it’s we who ultimately save ourselves, because that would mean His death for our sins and subsequent resurrection didn’t do anything at all to save us on its own, since we were unsaved prior to His death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, and we remain unsaved after His death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, at least if we don’t ‘accept it,’ whatever that actually means. So without ‘accepting the gift,’ the gift of His death for our sins, and subsequent resurrection, actually accomplished nothing.”

He looked at me as one looks at a child who has somehow managed to fail kindergarten. “Don’t be ridiculous. His death and resurrection are a gift that saved everyone. But if someone doesn’t accept that gift, they can’t be saved.”

“So you’re saying His death and resurrection saved everyone, yet everyone is not actually saved?”

“Exactly. Otherwise we’d have to believe in Universalism, and we know that isn’t true.”

“Why do we know that isn’t true?” I asked.

“Well, because if Universalism were true, everyone would get the same reward.” He replied.

“A reward is something we earn,” I said. “I thought you believed salvation was a gift, not something we earn.”

“It is,” he quickly answered, “but we can’t all get the rewa… er, um, gift. That wouldn’t be fair, now, would it?”

“Who said anything about fair?” I asked. “Salvation is something none of us deserve, right?”

“Exactly,” he answered, far too quickly and confidently.

“So salvation isn’t fair to begin with, then, even for those who do ‘accept the gift.’ And if none of us actually deserve salvation, what makes you deserving of it but some sinner who didn’t ‘accept the gift’ not deserving of it?”

“That person didn’t choose to accept the gift,” he tried to clarify, “so he doesn’t deserve salvation.”

“But you do?”

“Well, nobody does, but I accepted the gift.”

I shook my head, wondering if he’d ever notice what he was saying. “So you do deserve it because you accepted the gift?”

He seemed a little uneasy now, but stood his ground. “Well, no, I don’t deserve it, per se, but I get to have it, because I accepted it.”

“So accepting the gift doesn’t make you deserving of it, but not accepting the gift makes someone else not deserving of it?”

“Right,” he said, not quite as confidently as he sounded moments ago.

“So, bottom line, neither of you deserve the gift of salvation.” I concluded.

“Right,” he repeated. “Neither of us deserve the gift of salvation.”

“So if God chose to make salvation 100% dependent on what Christ did, and simply gave it to everyone who didn’t deserve it, whether they ‘accepted it’ or not, would that be acceptable?”

“Of course not,” he said, regaining his composure. “If He gave it to people who didn’t accept it, that means that Hitler will end up in the same place as me.”

“And what’s the problem with that?” I asked.

“Well, do you think he deserves to go to heaven after everything he did?” he asked, thinking that was somehow a good trap.

“We just ascertained that nobody deserves to go to heaven, not even you, so what makes you so special that you should get to go there and he doesn’t?”

“Well, I accepted the gift and he didn’t,” he said weakly, realizing he’d backed himself into a corner, already knowing what I was about to say next.

As he expected, I asked, “So if he did accept the gift before he died, would he be saved and get to go to heaven?”

“Well, yes,” he said, not wanting to admit it.

“So it’s not about fairness after all, is it?”

He looked forlorn at first, but his face suddenly brightened. “But he wouldn’t ever do that, because he was too big of a sinner to ever do so.”

“Ah, so you’re saved because you sinned less than Hitler? Or because your sins weren’t quite as sinful as his were?” I asked. “You’re more righteous than him, so you could ‘accept the gift,’ but he was just so unrighteous that he could never do so.”

“I guess so,” he said. “What else could it be?”

“Well, I don’t see that in Scripture,” I said, “but let’s forget about Hitler for now. Let’s take my sister as an example instead. She hasn’t ‘accepted the gift,’ but she hasn’t done anything anywhere near as bad as Hitler did. In fact, she’s probably a better person than most Christians out there. Would it be okay if God saved her without her first ‘accepting the gift’?”

“No, because she doesn’t deserve to be saved if she doesn’t accept the gift.”

“We already agreed that salvation isn’t something anyone can ever deserve,” I reminded him, “even if they do choose to ‘accept the gift,’ didn’t we?”

“But if God can save people without them accepting the gift, what’s the point in Jesus’ death in the first place? It would mean He died for nothing,” He tried to counter, thinking he’d come up with an original argument.

“Christ’s death for our sins, and subsequent entombment and rousing on the third day, is why we’re saved. If He hadn’t done that, nobody would be saved,” I explained. “His death for our sins, entombment, and rousing on the third day is the Gospel Paul preached. Whether we believe it or not, that’s why we’re all going to eventually experience salvation.”

“But people still have to accept it,” he decided to continue insisting.

“And if they don’t ‘accept it,’ meaning they don’t have faith that what Christ did on the cross saved them, does that mean that what Christ did for our salvation failed to save them?” I asked, trying to get us back to my original point.

“That’s right,” he answered.

“So, to make sure I’m absolutely clear, if Christ saved us on the cross, how do you know you are saved and someone else isn’t?”

”Because I had faith that Christ saved me on the cross,” he said, “and other people don’t have that faith.”

“So the reason you believe you’re saved is because you had faith that what Christ did saved you, but the reason my sister isn’t saved is because she doesn’t have faith that what Christ did saved her?”

“Well, I can’t say for sure she isn’t saved,” he said, giving the usual response Christians usually do at this point, “since I’m not God and don’t know her heart. But if she doesn’t have faith that Christ saved her on the cross then that means she probably hasn’t been saved.”

“But if we’re supposed to believe that Christ saved us through what He did on the cross, then the fact of our salvation through what He did on the cross must remain a fact whether we have that faith or not,” I pointed out, “which means it sounds like you have faith in your faith for salvation, rather than faith in what Christ did on the cross for salvation.”

“No, I have faith that Christ saved me on the cross,” he repeated himself, not seeming to be aware that he was going in circles, “not faith in my own faith.”

Realizing he had no idea what I was getting at, and that I wasn’t going to get anywhere by repeating myself, I decided to move on to another tack. “Well, if someone can’t be saved without having faith or ‘accepting the gift,’ that brings up another question, which is why you decided to ‘accept the gift’ while others don’t. Is it that those other people who don’t accept the gift weren’t born as smart or wise or righteous or humble or lucky as you were? If so, was it your intelligence, your wisdom, your righteousness, or your humility, that saved you, or was it simply pure, dumb, random luck that you happened to make the right decision, while others weren’t fortunate enough to do so?”

He stood there for a minute, unsure of what to say, then finally simply said, “it’s simply because ‘they would not,’ as Jesus once put it.”

“That’s all well and good,” I answered, “but why ‘would you’ while ‘they would not’? If it’s because you were smart enough to do so, it’s the intelligence you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means that we’re saved by intelligence. If it’s because you were wise enough to do so, it’s the wisdom you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means we’re saved by our wisdom. If it’s because you were humble enough to do so, it’s the humility you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means that we’re saved by naturally having the right amount of humility. If it’s because you were righteous enough to do so, it’s the righteousness you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means that we’re saved by our own righteousness. And if it’s because you were simply lucky enough to happen to do so, it’s the good luck you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means that we’re saved by good luck, or simply by random chance. So, I ask again, which one is it that they don’t have that saved you?”

“It’s simply because they would not,” he repeated, not really sure what else to say that wouldn’t make him look like he’d saved himself, not realizing it was far too late for that.

“Oh, so it’s willpower we’re saved by, then,” I said in jest, although he had no idea. “You were born with the right amount of will power to choose to ‘accept the gift,’ whereas they don’t have that willpower which is necessary to make the right decision.”

“We can’t know why we accept the gift but others don’t,” he finally decided to believe as he stated it, “but we know that not everyone is saved because of all the warnings Jesus gave about hell.”

“Switching gears, are we? Okay.” I decided to let my train of reasoning go since he obviously wasn’t going to be able to come up with an answer. “Jesus never actually spoke about hell.”

“What?” He looked at me astounded. “It’s all over the Gospels. He even spoke more about hell than He did about heaven.”

“Jesus actually almost never spoke about heaven either,” I clarified. “He spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven, which refers to the kingdom when it begins on Earth, specifically in Israel, in the future. But He wasn’t talking about people going to heaven since that’s not a place His Jewish audience was looking to go to. What they wanted was to live in the kingdom when it begins on Earth.

“Likewise,” I continued, “He never spoke of hell at all. The word ‘hell’ is a mistranslation of three different Greek words that all refer to different concepts and/or places, none of which resemble the torture chamber that comes to mind when we hear the word. Sometimes He used a word that refers to the grave, or sometimes to the simple state of being dead, and sometimes He used a word that referred to a location outside Jerusalem in which Isaiah prophesied that living people on the earth would see the corpses of people, meaning dead bodies, at some point in the future. But He never spoke of a place that people suffer for eternity in.”

“What about the rich man and Lazarus?” He asked, as though I’d never heard the question before. “Do you think he’ll get to go to heaven some day?”

“No, I actually don’t, but that’s because heaven is a location only the body of Christ goes to. Everyone else will get to live on the New Earth instead. But I realize that isn’t what you’re actually asking. I assume you’re asking whether I believe he’ll be in ‘hell’ for eternity or not. Am I correct?”

“Yes, that’s right. There’s a gulf between him and Abraham, so he can’t ever leave,” he said, proud of his winning argument.

“So you believe he can never leave hell, correct?” I asked again, just to make my next point absolutely clear.

Once again, he didn’t look quite as confident as he had a moment ago, but he couldn’t figure out what my angle was, so he answered the only way he knew how: “Yes, that’s correct.”

“Okay. And if I can show you that Scripture tells us he will in fact eventually leave hell, so that he won’t be in there forever with no chance of escape, will you consider that you might be wrong about some of the other things we’ve discussed?”

He knew he was walking into a trap, but what choice did he have at this point? “Sure.”

“Well, the word that is translated as ‘hell’ in Luke 16 is the Greek word hades. Now, if we take a look at Revelation 20:13-14, we see that ‘hell,’ which is also translated from the same Greek word hades here, will be emptied of its inhabitants so that they can be judged at the Great White Throne, and is then cast into the lake of fire, and something can’t be cast into itself, so we know ‘hell’ isn’t the same thing as the lake of fire. So, even if this isn’t simply a parable meant to teach Jesus’ audience something completely unrelated to the afterlife, as I believe it likely was, that means the rich man would eventually leave the place you said he’d be trapped in forever with no chance to ever leave.”

He just stood there, stunned, then meekly asked his last possible question, “but won’t he still go into the lake of fire to suffer forever after that?”

“If he ever even existed in the first place,” I answered, “and there’s a good chance he didn’t, since Jesus spoke primarily in parables to those who weren’t His disciples, and He was talking to the Pharisees at this point, there’s no way to know whether he’d end up in the lake of fire or not. There’s good reason to believe Revelation actually teaches that relatively few people will actually end up in the lake of fire when interpreted properly, which I’d be happy to discuss with you at another time, but for now, the same words that are used to say people will be in ‘hell’ forever are also used to talk about being in the lake of fire forever, so if the ‘forever’ spent in ‘hell’ actually comes to an end, it stands to reason that the ‘forever’ spent in the lake of fire probably would as well. Especially when we consider everything we discussed at the beginning of this conversation, that salvation is a gift which is based 100% on what Christ did and 0% on what we do. I do have to go now, however,” I said, looking at my watch, “but if you want to learn more, I did write about everything we’ve discussed today in a book, which is available for free on my website. You can find it at https://christianheretic.com/nochurch if you’d like to learn more about what salvation is actually all about, as well as what all the threatening sounding warnings Jesus gave were actually talking about.”

“I doubt I’ll read it,” he said, already forgetting everything I’d said to him, as almost always seems to happen, “since you’re obviously a Universalist, which means you can’t be saved, so you can’t have anything to teach me. I’ll pray for you, though, and ask that God shows you the truth.”

“Sounds good,” I said, shaking my head and returning on the path to my previous destination.

Why do most Christians believe in everlasting torment in hell?

Pretty much no Christian Universalist starts off as a Universalist. Nearly all of us first believed in either everlasting torment in hell or in Annihilationism. It’s normally only after someone challenges us to dig deeper to see if our soteriology is actually scriptural that we come to see just how clearly Scripture teaches Universal Reconciliation, and just how badly we misunderstood the passages we assumed taught otherwise.

Now, those of us who have taken the time to dig deeper into this topic have heard time and again from Infernalists and Annihilationists that they don’t find the arguments for Universal Reconciliation convincing, but if we ask them what those arguments they don’t find convincing actually are, they can’t tell us. This is because almost none of them have ever taken the time to find out for themselves what the arguments for it actually are. So the question is, why is it that so few Christians are willing to take up that challenge to find out if what they’ve been taught is actually true or not? I believe that Carl Sagan actually answered that question:

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

I’m sure the first knee-jerk reaction of most people who read this will be to quote a verse they think defends Infernalism or Annihilationism, or to simply say that Universalism is obviously unscriptural. But I can almost guarantee you that pretty much none of them could possibly actually tell you which passages in Scripture we Universalists believe teach Universal Reconciliation and why we believe they do, or even how it is we interpret the passages they think actually prove their position, and why we interpret them the way we do. Because to be able to tell you that, they’d have to have actually done their homework and dug into the teachings of those Christians they disagree with so much, which is something they just won’t do since they might learn something they’ve always believed is true really isn’t after all.

I should add, this goes for pretty much every topic I’ve written about in my book, Nearly Everything We Learned At Church Was Wrong; it doesn’t only apply to Universalism. But Universalism definitely is the big one that most Christians refuse to even consider at all.

The only part you play in your own salvation

As I’ve explained elsewhere on this site, it’s mortality (and death, for those who die prior to Christ’s return), as well as sinfulness because of that mortality, that Christ saves us from, not “hell” or the lake of fire. As I’ve also covered, salvation under Paul’s Gospel is 100% based upon the fact that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day, and has nothing to do with anything we ourselves decide to do or believe (in fact, we can’t even believe the Gospel unless God gives us the faith to do so).

This means that the one and only thing we have to do in order to be saved is be born mortal. That’s it. If we aren’t mortal, we won’t sin, and also have nothing to be saved from, so mortality is a requirement for salvation for us humans. But the salvation itself is based entirely upon what Christ did, not what we do (or believe), otherwise we’re saying that Christ’s death for our sins, and subsequent entombment and resurrection, accomplished absolutely nothing (if we’re not saved before we “accept His death for our sins and His resurrection” — whatever that even means — but only get saved by “accepting it,” it’s our “accepting it” that ultimately saved us, somehow turning His sacrifice from apparent uselessness into something that actually accomplished something, making us our own saviours, or at least partial saviours).

Yes, if God has given you the faith to believe the Good News (Gospel) that everyone will eventually experience salvation because of what Christ did, you’ll get to experience that salvation long before most other people, but even that faith is not out of yourself, but is rather a gift of God. It just means He chose to let you believe the truth — and experience immortality and sinlessness — before everyone else. But since Christ’s death for our sins, and subsequent entombment and resurrection, had to save everyone whether they believe it or not or else we’d be our own (at least partial) saviours, everyone will eventually also be brought to a knowledge of the truth and will also eventually be made immortal and sinless.

Do people pay for their own sins?

It’s rare, but sometimes people ask the right question. Recently, a few people have asked, “if Christ died for our sins, why do some people have to pay for their own sins by going to hell?” The answer to this question is something that even some Christian Universalists get wrong.

I’ll begin by saying, this is one of the few things Calvinists actually get right. They understand that everyone for whose sins Christ died will be saved (and that they will not have to pay for their own sins in any way whatsoever, since salvation is 100% based on what Christ did and 0% based on what we do). Where they go wrong, however, is where the Arminians are actually correct: That “Christ died for our sins” means Christ died for everyone’s sins.

Where Arminians go wrong, on the other hand, is in thinking that salvation is a transaction, assuming that they have to do something to complete the salvation Christ gave them. Even if it’s something as simple as having to choose to believe the right thing, that would still be a transaction (and a work one has to accomplish in order to save themselves, or at least accomplish to participate in saving themselves). Calvinists rightly understand that salvation is 100% based on what Christ did, and not a transaction at all; they also know that faith, in fact, has to be given to someone by God (and that it’s impossible to reject the faith when God gives it to someone).

The reason both sides get confused (and the reason even some Universalists get confused, leading them to believe there’s actually a place where people will consciously suffer because of their sins, even if just as a form of temporary purgatory) is because they’re looking at passages that do seem to make salvation a transaction of sorts and which (in some translations, at least) seem to talk about a place called “hell,” and assume they’re connected in some way with the salvation that Paul talks about. What none of them realize (even many Universalists seem to miss this) is that the salvation in these passages is not talking about humanity in general, but is instead referring to Jews and other Israelites getting to live in the Kingdom of Heaven when it arrives on earth — specifically in Israel — vs other Jews who don’t accept that Jesus is their Messiah and the Son of God weeping and gnashing their teeth over being forced to live in the “outer darkness” of the rest of the world that isn’t Israel after He returns to the earth (this is what the parabolic “furnace of fire” refers to as well), or even missing out on being buried if they die as lawbreakers at that time, and instead having their corpse tossed into the valley of Hinnom (aka Gehenna, often mistranslated as “hell”) to be consumed by worms and/or burned up, which was a grave threat to Jesus’ Jewish audience who believed that everyone, even lawbreakers, should be buried rather than cremated or left exposed to the elements and animals, and none of His audience would have wanted that fate for themselves.

Because most Christians were never taught that these passages don’t even apply to them as Gentiles in the first place (unless they’re members of the Israel of God rather than the body of Christ, which most of them are not), and aren’t aware that they’re talking about very specific rewards and punishments that only apply to Jews and other Israelites (aside from the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats, but even that one isn’t talking about anything close to what most people think it is, and also takes place entirely on earth among the living), they’ve overlaid these passages that have nothing to do with the sort of salvation they’re thinking of onto Paul’s discussions of salvation, creating a hybrid mess that has nothing to do with what either Jesus or Paul were talking about.

Now, at this point you’re probably whatabouting, thinking “what about this passage” or “that passage,” and “what about the lake of fire,” and such. While I don’t have the space to get into all those questions here (this was meant to be a relatively short post), I have written about them elsewhere on this site, so if you’re curious to learn more about what Jesus was talking about exactly, and what the threatening sounding passages actually mean, as well as what Paul was talking about instead, and what the salvation that applies primarily to us Gentiles is actually all about (although Jews can experience this salvation as well, if God has elected to reveal it to them), I wrote about it in detail in the first four chapters of my eBook, which is available for free here on this website.

What is the furnace of fire?

As I’ve discussed previously, most people who read the threatening messages Jesus gave while He walked the earth completely misunderstand what He was talking about, thinking He was referring to never-ending punishment in a place called “hell” if they don’t become Christians before they die. Of course, as you already know if you’ve read much of this website, none of those passages are actually talking about anything even close to the idea that most people think of when they hear the word “hell,” but most people aren’t aware of the fact that none of Jesus’ teachings about judgement and the Kingdom of Heaven are talking about an afterlife.

I’ve discussed other parables that people mistakenly think are about hell here before, such as the Judgement of the Sheep and the Goats and why it isn’t talking about what they assume it is, but another parable that confuses so many is the parable of the tares of the field. At the end of His explanation of this parable, Jesus says the angels “shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Most people assume that is referring to non-Christians getting cast into “hell” (or maybe the lake of fire) for eternity, but just like with the parable of the sheep and the goats, they haven’t considered the context of this parable.

First of all, it’s important to remember that, while Jesus walked the Earth, He was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth (specifically to Israel, or at least with Israel at its centre — His ministry and messages were to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and not to Gentiles, as He told His disciples), not about “going to heaven” as ghosts after one dies. Similarly, the punishments He spoke about were about not getting to live in Israel when the Kingdom begins there in the future, either because they’ve been forced to live in the “outer darkness” of the rest of the world, or because they’ll be dead (in some cases because they won’t be resurrected when Jesus returns to the Earth since they aren’t a part of the Israel of God, and in some cases because they died during the Tribulation or during the Millennium and their corpses were then cast into a valley outside Jerusalem to be burned up and devoured by worms in rather than being buried as all Jews would prefer happen to their bodies after they die).

Second of all, one needs to think carefully about what Jesus actually said when He explained the parable. If the kingdom in the parable is referring to an afterlife called “Heaven” that people go to when they die, and only Christians can go to Heaven, then how can the angels “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” if they’re not already in the kingdom? To be in the kingdom (which is Heaven, according to the traditional view), they’d have to already be saved (and dead), so is this parable saying that some people will become sinners in Heaven some time after they die and then cast out of Heaven into hell? Obviously nobody believes that, but this just tells us that, similar to when they bring up the other passages that are supposedly about “hell,” they aren’t thinking things through very deeply.

What this parable is actually saying is that there will be righteous Israelites and unrighteous Israelites when Jesus returns, and similar to the “goats” of Matthew 25 (which represent Gentiles who didn’t help persecuted Jews out during the Tribulation), they will wail and gnash their teeth because they’ve been forced to live in parts of the world that aren’t Israel during the Millennium (these parts of the world are “the furnace of fire,” and is the same “fire” as the eonian fire in the parable of the sheep and the goats), unlike the righteous Jews who, similar to the “sheep” in Matthew 25 (which represent Gentiles who did help persecuted Jews during the Tribulation) will get to live in Israel during the Millennium (which is where everyone who heard Jesus when He spoke wanted to live when the Kingdom arrives on Earth in the future). It’s actually very simple to understand once you come to understand who Jesus’ audience was and what His message was all about, but when you assume He was talking about an afterlife rather than life on this planet, and think He was directing His message to everyone rather than specifically to Israelites, it’s easy to get extremely confused about all of His sayings.

Preaching a distorted gospel, part 2

A couple weeks ago I wrote about some street preachers here in Toronto who were inadvertently preaching a distorted “gospel” (I recommend reading that post first, before finishing this one). Of course, they didn’t mean to do so. They seem like very nice people, for the most part, who mean well. Unfortunately, however, not knowing how to rightly divide the word of truth will inevitably lead to this consequence, just as it does in nearly every pulpit of every Institutional Church building across the planet. Because they’ve been coming to preach here in my stomping grounds in the downtown core pretty much every Saturday recently, I’ve had an opportunity to pick up on a few more details from their messages that I didn’t think to write about in my last post, and I wanted to comment on some of those details.

One of the biggest problems was that they insisted on preaching about sin as though it was still a problem that needs to be taken care of rather than something that was already taken care of for everyone some 2,000 years ago. When Christ died for our sins, sin was dealt with entirely, and is no longer being held against us. Yes, there will still be a judgement for one’s acts at the Great White Throne Judgement (for those who end up being judged there), but that’s not about sin so much as about acts of evil (which should not be confused with sin; sin and evil are two completely different concepts), and since sin was taken care of on the cross, whether we believe it or not, it’s no longer something for any of us to concern ourselves about (other than to coming to understand that we have indeed sinned in our lives, of course). Because of Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection on the third day, Paul explained in various places in many of his epistles that everyone will eventually experience salvation (meaning immortality leading to sinlessness), and at this point (under the dispensation of the Conciliation) God is already at peace with us, and simply asks us to be conciliated to Him (meaning be at peace with Him in our minds) as well because of this fact.

Another interesting statement that many of them repeatedly made was that they weren’t calling people to be religious in order to be saved. This statement isn’t entirely accurate, however, since they were indeed asking people to turn to religion in order to be saved (although I should say that they weren’t deliberately lying so much as they were simply confused about what religion is). As Robert Farrar Capon explained so well, religion is anything — from believing to behaving to worshiping to sacrificing — that someone thinks they have to do in order to get right with God. So even though they rightfully stripped the other three types of religious requirements from their “gospel,” they left one religious requirement in: having to choose to believe something specific in order to be saved. But, as I explained in my last post, if someone has to do anything at all in order to be saved (even if that “anything at all” is something as seemingly simple as having to choose to believe the right thing), it’s ultimately salvation by works, and if it’s salvation by works, it’s also religion. I have given my website address to a number of them, so hopefully one or more of them will take the time to read my free eBook where I explain what truly religionless Christianity actually looks like, and come to believe Paul’s Gospel so they can join body of Christ. But, as we know, that will only happen if God has elected them for membership in the body of Christ, so that’s entirely in God’s hands.

Now, as for why they‘re under the mistaken impression that something is required for salvation under the Gospel of the grace of God is because certain things actually are required for certain types of salvation in Scripture. The problem is, they’re mixing and matching different types of salvation, assuming they’re all talking about the same thing each time salvation is discussed in Scripture. This chart they used, which I took a picture of yesterday, should make it clear exactly where they went wrong.

Of course, my long-time readers, and pretty much anyone who has been in the body of Christ for very long at all, can immediately see why they’re confused just by looking at that chart for a few seconds, but I will elaborate a little for everyone else. There are quite a few mistakes in that chart, but to begin with, they have two “roads” and “destinies” which they base upon whether or not one has made a good or intelligent or wise or humble or righteous decision (pick one or more options, whichever ones it is that causes someone to make the correct decision) to accept what Christ did. Aside from that obvious problem (since salvation under the Gospel of the grace of God isn’t based on us in any way whatsoever at all, but is entirely based on the fact that Christ died for our sins, and was subsequently entombed and roused on the third day, and has nothing to do with whether we accept that fact or not), you might have noticed another glaring issue on their chart, which is that most of the passages from Scripture they reference have nothing at all to do with the Gospel of the grace of God to begin with, but are instead about something else entirely.

You see, Jesus wasn’t talking about “going to heaven or hell after you die” in those passages. It’s important to remember that Jesus came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so nearly everything He said while He walked the earth was meant for Israelites, and has to be interpreted in the context of Israel and the promises (and threats) made in the Hebrew Scriptures (meaning the books of the Bible that most people mistakenly refer to as the Old Testament). Basically, the Good News He preached was the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom, which was about the Kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth (specifically to Israel, or at least with Israel as its centre) from the heavens, and the threats were primarily about missing out on getting to live in that Kingdom here on earth, either because they’d remain dead (meaning they wouldn’t be resurrected along with the rest of the righteous dead 75 days after Jesus returns to earth), would die during the Tribulation or the Millennium and have their dead bodies burned up (and possibly also be consumed by worms) in a valley in Israel called Gehenna (which is mistranslated as “hell” in many versions of the Bible), or would simply weep and gnash their teeth in anguish because they’ve been forced to live in the “outer darkness” (or “the furnace of fire”) of the rest of the world that isn’t Israel. Again, it’s important to remember that these are threats for Israelites, not for Gentiles who were never promised the Kingdom in the first place. Instead, Gentiles have another promise, one made by Paul, which is everlasting life because of Christ’s death for our sins and His subsequent entombment and resurrection on the third day (this is called Paul’s Gospel, also known as the Gospel of the Grace of God, which should never be confused with the Gospel of the Kingdom). Those whom God has elected to be given the faith to believe what the Good News in Paul’s Gospel means will experience salvation (again, meaning immortality, and sinlessness because of that immortality) early and get to go to Heaven (which just refers to outer space in Scripture; it’s not an ethereal realm dead people go to as ghosts), but everyone (even the Israelites who rejected Jesus as their Messiah) will eventually experience salvation because of what Christ did, albeit on earth instead (well, the New Earth).

The problem is that almost nobody has been taught how to rightly divide the word of truth, and hence assume that Jesus and Paul were talking about the same things. Paul’s teachings came from the same Christ, but Christ’s message to us through Paul was entirely different from the message He taught while He walked the Earth (there’s a reason Paul called these things “mysteries” or “secrets,” depending on your translation: it’s because they weren’t revealed to us by anyone else prior to his revealing of them in his messages, not even by Jesus). If one hasn’t come to an understanding of the fact that the 13 epistles signed by Paul are teaching an entirely separate message (with an entirely separate Gospel) from the one Jesus gave to Israel (and the messages that Jesus’ disciples later wrote about in their own epistles), it’s no surprise that they’re confused about what’s to come, and that they end up creating charts like the one above. They’re not intentionally misleading people, because they‘ve been inadvertently misled themselves, but it is crucial that they come to understand what the differences between the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision writings are if they don’t want to continue teaching unscriptural falsehoods. As my long-time readers already know, I go into great detail on that topic in my eBook, so if you’re new to this topic yourself, I highly recommend reading it over carefully so you don’t end up proclaiming the distorted “gospel” that Paul himself warned about in his epistle to the Galatians.

Preaching a distorted gospel

Yesterday, I watched some street preachers using speakers to proclaim their understanding of the Gospel. This post isn’t about the ear damage that many street preachers in Toronto are causing to both themselves and to random passersby with the excessive decibel level they have their speakers cranked up to, though, because these guys were among the few street preachers around here who actually use a considerate volume. No, this post is instead about them quoting certain passages from Scripture that actually mean the exact opposite of the message they were trying to get across, with no idea that they were distorting the Gospel so badly as to actually be proclaiming the false “gospel” that Paul declared would bring an anathema upon its preachers (though, to be fair, pretty much every traditional preacher in the world does this, although not on purpose but rather simply because they aren’t aware of what the actual Gospel that Paul proclaimed means). I should say, I believe they were almost certainly completely sincere in their message; they weren’t trying to proclaim a false gospel on purpose. They truly seemed to want people to avoid “going to hell for eternity” and were preaching what they thought was the truth. Unfortunately, the truth ended almost immediately after they finished quoting the passages from Scripture that they did. That said, the reason for their distorted “gospel” is understandable, because it was based on common misunderstandings of other passages in Scripture that forced them to conclude that what they were preaching was the only thing that made sense (and, honestly, if someone doesn’t understand the other passages they’re confused about, the “gospel” they concluded the Bible teaches does seem like a somewhat logical one to arrive at, even though it does still contain contradictions that should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention).

So what were some of the mixed messages they were preaching? Well, to begin with, they repeatedly said that there’s nothing you have to do, or even can do, in order to be saved. One of them even pointed out that nobody in Heaven will be able to take credit for being there in any way, or be able to say they did a single thing in order to get there; it was all because of Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent burial and resurrection, that they ended up there. If they’d stopped right then and there and not said another word, they would have succeeded in proclaiming the Gospel of the grace of God (even though I personally would have worded it slightly differently, it’s still close enough that it contains the Good News that Paul taught). Unfortunately, they then went on to add to the Gospel by telling the crowd that we do have to do something in order to be saved after all, which is choosing to accept (or receive) Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Of course, if you’ve been reading my website for very long, you already know where they went wrong there, but for those who haven’t, it’s that they contradicted themselves by saying there’s nothing you can do to be saved and that it’s 100% because of what Christ did that we’re saved, but then went on to make salvation at least partially based on ourselves, thanks to our own good or intelligent or wise or humble or righteous decision (pick one or more options, whichever ones it is you believe caused you to make the correct decision) to accept what Christ did. But if we’re required to do anything at all in order to be saved, even if it’s just making the choice to believe the right thing, it’s no longer 100% based on what Christ did. At the very least that makes it 1% what we did, helping save ourselves by making that good or intelligent or wise or humble or righteous decision to “receive Christ’s gift” (giving us cause to boast because we were better or smarter or wiser or more humble or more righteous than all those other sinners out there who didn’t choose to make the correct decision because they weren’t born with the genetic ability, and/or didn’t have the right life experiences, to be able to make that correct choice we did).

Now, if someone hasn’t studied to shew themselves approved, and isn’t familiar with what various other parts of Scripture are talking about, it makes sense that someone would conclude they had to teach this contradictory message. After all, there are passages in various parts of Bible that, at least on first glance (and if you don’t dig deeper into them to find out what they’re actually talking about), appear to say that people who don’t make the right choice will end up punished for their sins forever in a fiery location. Of course, my long-time readers already know that these threatening passages aren’t saying anything of the sort (and are actually talking about consequences that apply to a very limited number of people, and that these consequences will take place here on Earth rather than by ghosts in an ethereal afterlife dimension), but few Christians today are aware of what these passages are actually talking about and so they end up making salvation under the Gospel of the grace of God a transaction in order to be saved from an eternity in “hell” or the lake of fire rather than a gift they do absolutely nothing to receive (not even choose to receive it), and that it has absolutely nothing to do with avoiding “hell” or the lake of fire at all as well.

This is a common mistake, though, since most people are under the impression that salvation is from “hell” or the lake of fire. Few people today realize that salvation actually has nothing to do with those things in any way whatsoever (in fact many people who go to “hell” are saved [and no, the reason they go there isn’t that they’ve lost their salvation, nor am I talking about purgatory; almost all true Christians will actually “go to hell” for a time according to Scripture], and many people who avoid going to the lake of fire won’t have been saved under the Gospel of the grace of God when they do so, although all of that is a topic for another post). Perhaps somewhat ironically, one of the preachers actually quoted one of the verses that helps us understand what salvation is from, but he somehow managed to leave out the key word in that verse while quoting it, saying, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.” Again, if you’ve been reading my website for very long (or know your Scriptures), you know exactly what the mistake he made there was, but for those who don’t, he left out one of the most important words in that verse: the word “that.” The verse actually says, “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” (emphasis on the word “that” there added by me). This verse is telling us that we sin because we’re dying (or, to be precise, because we’re mortal: “for that reason all have sinned” is what Paul is getting at there), not that we die because we sin. Only Adam and Eve became mortal because they sinned; everyone else genetically inherited the wages of their sin: mortality leading to physical death (not spiritual death; there isn’t a single passage in Scripture that I’m aware of which speaks of the so-called “spiritual death” most Christians mistakenly believe in), and sinfulness because of that mortality. So while most people are under the mistaken impression that salvation is from “hell” or the lake of fire, what salvation is actually from is mortality (along with physical death for those who have died before they get to fully experience their salvation), as well as from sinfulness because of that mortality (once we’ve been vivified  — meaning made immortal — in the future, we’ll no longer sin because we’re no longer in the process of slowly dying). The truth about what salvation is from is known by next to no Christians today, though (aside from a handful of Christian Universalists), so it’s hard to blame them for not noticing that single word in the verse, or missing out on what it means, but that little word makes all the difference when it it comes to understanding what salvation is from, and the lack of understanding when it comes to this verse is causing nearly all Christians to preach the false “gospel” they do.

They also quoted Paul when he wrote that “it’s by grace we’ve been saved, through faith,” not understanding what that actually means. They did, in fact, quote the whole passage, but somehow entirely missed the fact that the salvation, grace, and faith are not out of ourselves but are instead a gift from God, as they quoted those very words. Because of their misunderstandings of the various “hell” and lake of fire passages in other parts of Scripture, they once again assumed that these places must be a threat for those who don’t make the right decision, which means that, even though Paul wrote that the grace and faith are given to us as a gift, meaning we have no actual part in our salvation ourselves since otherwise we could boast about our works (and, yes, having to choose to “accept the gift” would indeed count as a “work” since it’s something we would have to do in order to be saved, giving us something to boast in), they were forced to make that faith dependant upon us, as something we have to build up enough of within ourselves so that we can believe the Gospel (even though that faith is not out of ourselves according to Paul). Because they misunderstood Jesus’ messages to His audience that if they didn’t believe in Him they’d “perish” (along with various other threats that seem to talk about everlasting punishment in “hell”), as well as thought He was saying that if they do believe in Him they’ll go to Heaven forever, not realizing that Jesus was talking about something else entirely from the Gospel of the grace of God in those messages, these preachers went ahead and overlaid those threatening (and promising) passages onto this one, assuming they were talking about the same thing (even though doing so makes this passage contradict itself). But what they failed to realize is that if someone has been given the gift of faith written about in this passage, it means they already believe the Gospel of Grace. Basically, they’ve either been given the gift of faith and hence believe (which means they’ve been saved, at least relatively speaking) or they haven’t been given the gift of faith and hence haven’t believed (which means they have not yet been saved, again, relatively speaking). There isn’t any basis for saying someone who has been given the gift of faith still has to choose to “accept that faith,” because they’ve already got the faith that saves them if God gave them that gift, since having faith literally means believing. To put it simply, we have absolutely zero say in whether we have faith or not, and if we have faith, we’ve believed and have been saved (again, from a relative perspective; from an absolute perspective, everyone has been saved — or has been promised eventual salvation — on the basis of what Christ did, whether one believes it before they die or not, but we’re talking about relative salvation in this paragraph, which is about joining the body of Christ and getting to experience immortality early, during the next two eons, rather than the promise of eventual immortality for all humanity at the consummation of the eons that is salvation from an absolute perspective).

They also kept quoting the passage that says God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. They seemed to forget the Bible also tells us that God works all things according to the councel of His own will, which means that if God wills something, He gets it. But, again, because of the misunderstanding of Jesus’ “threats,” they assumed that God actually won’t get everything He wills, once again distorting the Gospel into a transaction one must make with God before they die, and also detracting from the absolute sovereignty of God.

There was a lot more they said that I could go on about. In fact, I don’t think they interpreted a single passage of Scripture accurately, thanks to their lack of study about what the various passages mean, leading them to bad conclusions such as that the rich man in Luke 16 would stay in “hell” forever even though they had a large chart with them that included the lake of fire as a separate place from “hell,” not seeming to realize that using the parable in Luke 16 in this way demonstrates they either don’t seem to understand that the rich man in this story would eventually leave “hell” (which means this parable is not a good example of a threat that one’s stay in “hell” will never end), or that they somehow seemed to forget that fact altogether even though it was on their chart. And they also quoted the passage in Matthew 25 about the Judgement of the Sheep and the Goats, not realizing that it has nothing to do with Heaven or “hell” either, and that everyone remains quite alive in various places here on Earth by the end of it, and that the “sheep” in that passage aren’t a reference to believers at all either (I’m not going to get into the details here, but I wrote about it previously in this blog post if you aren’t familiar with this fact). But this post has already gone on long enough, so I’ll leave it at that for now. If you aren’t one of my long-time readers when it comes to my website, though, you’re likely wondering what it is I think the various threatening passages about “hell” are actually talking about. For that I’ll point you to my free eBook, since it would take more space than I have to get into here.

Myths and misunderstandings about the snatching away, aka the rapture

There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings that come up anytime someone begins discussing “the snatching away” (which is what those of us in the body of Christ call the event generally known as “the rapture,” although, for the sake of familiarity, I’ll refer to it as the rapture for the duration of this post). Whether it’s due to simple lack of study or due to willful ignorance, I can’t say for sure, but whenever the topic comes up, somebody invariably reveals their lack of knowledge about the subject by sharing one or more of the many myths and misunderstandings I’m going to cover in this post.

  • John Nelson Darby invented the rapture.

Darby certainly helped popularize the idea of the rapture in modern times, but the doctrine predated him by many centuries. Just because most Christians had forgotten the doctrine between the time Paul taught about it and Darby’s time doesn’t mean it’s a new invention. There were plenty of doctrines that were forgotten between Paul’s time and centuries later as well, so the argument that it wasn’t popular until recently doesn’t really help.

  • Darby learned about the rapture from a prophetic vision by a teenage girl named Margaret McDonald.

Anyone who grew up in the Plymouth Brethren as I did laughs whenever they hear this because it’s obvious the one making this claim isn’t familiar with the doctrines of Darby’s denomination. First of all, the Brethren were quite sexist (and often still are), and would never accept any teaching from a female. But even if the “vision” had happened to a male, Darby would have still rejected it because the Brethren are cessationists and believe that legitimate prophetic visions ended during Paul’s time, so he would have rejected any such vision as a deception, either by the one speaking the “prophecy” or by demons giving the “prophecy” to the speaker.

Regardless, if you read the so-called prophecy, it appears that it was actually just about the post-tribulation second coming of Christ anyway, and not about the rapture at all.

  • Jesus’ statements about His second coming don’t seem to line up with the doctrine of the rapture.

This is true, and there’s a very good reason for this: He wasn’t talking about the rapture. Jesus only ever spoke about the second coming when He talked about His return. The rapture was a mystery, meaning a secret, until the apostle Paul revealed it. Until then, Jews were looking forward to the resurrection of the just which will happen “at the last day,” but anyone who does the math, comparing the numbers in the book of Daniel to the numbers in the book of Revelation, will discover that this resurrection won’t occur until 75 days after Jesus returns and touches down on the Mount of Olives. Meanwhile, Paul told us that the dead in Christ will rise first (referring to those in the body of Christ who are dead, not to be confused with the saints in the Israel of God who will be resurrected at the resurrection of the just), then they, along with those in the body of Christ who are still alive, will be caught up to be with Christ, but the gathering of the living saints to Jesus at the second coming appears to happen when Jesus fully returns to the earth, so the difference in timing shows us that these must be two separate events, with the rapture predating the second coming by at least 3 and a half years, although probably actually by 7 or more years. This is easily understood by those of us in the body of Christ because we know that we are not the same as the group of believers known as the Israel of God (these are the saints who will be raised at the resurrection of the just, as well as those who will be gathered to Jesus at His second coming). The body of Christ has a heavenly destiny, to reign among the celestials (which is why we meet Christ in the air), while the Israel of God will be ruling over the Gentile nations here on the Earth (which is why they’ll be gathered to Jesus on the Earth when He finally touches down on the physical ground).

  • NT Wright proved the rapture is a false doctrine.

NT Wright seemed to be unaware of the difference between the body of Christ and the Israel of God when he wrote his somewhat famous article on the rapture, and when you begin at the wrong starting point you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up in the wrong place as well.

I could go on, but I want to keep this post short. If you want to learn more about the rapture (or the snatching away), though, here are some good articles on the topic:

A Study on the Timing of the Snatching Away (Christ’s Coming for the Body of Christ is Distinct from Christ’s Coming with All of His Messengers)

Before the Pangs Begin: A Defense of the Imminence of the Snatching Away

The Timing of the Snatching Away in Relation to the 70th Week (part 1)

The Timing of the Snatching Away in Relation to the 70th Week (part 2)

The snatching away of the body of Christ

How to rightly divide the word of truth, and why it’s so important

[Just as a heads up to my King James Only audience members, while all of the Bible verses I link to throughout this post are from the KJV, not all the supporting articles and videos I’m linking to were created by KJV-Onlyists. However, they do still contain some excellent exegesis, and I’d highly recommend reading and viewing them as you go along. Basically, just eat the meat and spit out the bones, so to speak, as you read or watch them, and also go ahead and read any verses that are quoted from other translations in them from your own King James Bible instead, and you should be fine. And for my non-KJV-Onlyist readers, you can apply what I wrote in this post to nearly any translation of the Bible and come to the same conclusions; while I wrote this post from the perspective of what the Authorized Version says, it technically applies to pretty much all Bible translations, so even if you’re not a KJV-Onlyist, please do read this post to find out what it means to rightly divide the word of truth, and why it’s so important to do so.]

In my last four posts (which I’d recommended reading before continuing with this post, if you haven’t already, starting with this one; and while it’s not actually necessary to read them in order to understand this particular post, you should definitely still read them at some point because they’re extremely important and there are certain points that will make more sense if you are already familiar with them) I pointed out that the “orthodox” traditions known as everlasting punishment, human “free will,” the immortality of the soul, and the trinity are not only false doctrines, but that continuing to believe in them will actually disqualify people from joining from the body of Christ (although they’ll still eventually experience salvation at the end of the ages, even if they miss out on a special, earlier salvation known as “everlasting life” during the next two ages). Throughout those posts, I referred to “Paul’s Gospel” a number of times, and mentioned that there is more than one Gospel spoken of in the Bible, and I thought I should clarify as to how I can possibly claim there’s more than one Gospel in Scripture when nearly everyone is convinced that it says otherwise (of course, if you read all the other posts in this series I’ve been writing, you already know that there are all sorts of things that the Bible seems to say but that it turns out it doesn’t actually say after all, but either way, please read on to find out why this is such an important thing to understand).

In order to come to properly understand this, it helps 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. You see, 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 various Bible translations generally render as either “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. It’s important to note that Paul wasn’t simply saying Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the circumcised while he himself was called to preach that very same Gospel to the uncircumcised in this particular verse in his epistle to the Galatians any more than Matthew was saying Jesus went around preaching the Gospel to the kingdom instead of going around preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Yes, as the next two verses in Paul’s epistle point out, both God and the pillars of the circumcision church did send Paul to the Gentiles while Peter and the rest focused on the Jews, but this wasn’t him just being redundant. 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 Paul had to go see Peter, James, and John as he mentioned in this epistle 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]). Yes, some Bible versions do render the passage as “the Gospel to the Circumcision and the Gospel to the Uncircumcision,” but that doesn’t actually support the traditional presupposition that there’s only one Gospel the way many people think it does. For example, 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, while we could theoretically be giving out the same food, we wouldn’t necessarily be doing so because it could still be two different types of food being given out to two different groups of people, which is why rendering it that way still doesn’t actually prove their viewpoint. And since the truth that there is more than one Gospel mentioned in Scripture doesn’t hinge on this one verse alone anyway, it doesn’t even really matter if someone does choose to translate or interpret it that way, as the rest of this chapter will make abundantly clear based on many other passages of Scripture as well.

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 — specifically to Israel — 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 minister 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 (or Christ’s Gospel; and it’s important to note that Paul doesn’t call it Jesus Christ‘s Gospel but instead he called it Christ‘s Gospel, 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 — this might seem like an unimportant distinction, and I don’t have the space to get into it here, but Paul is the only one who ever used the words “Christ Jesus” in Scripture [as opposed to “Jesus Christ”], and he did so for a very specific reason, but I’ll have to leave that reason for you to discover for now), 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 simply asking God or Jesus to “save them,” by “following Jesus,” by “giving their life to Jesus or to God,” 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 remnant of 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 Greek [meaning 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 buried, and that He rose again the third day. 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 I made clear in my last four posts, differentiates this Gospel from the one most people preach, and perhaps even from the one you currently believe), His burial, 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 I explained in those recent posts I’ve mentioned a number of times now); 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 — not even the act of choosing to believe the right thing can save us, since that would be something we do to save ourselves — but rather we realize that only what Christ accomplished can, and indeed did, save us), asking God for salvation (He’s already saved us all, from an absolute perspective, through Christ’s death for our sins, burial, and resurrection, and those who believe this Good News have also already been saved from a relative perspective as well), 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 [or destroy] 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 (or immersion, which is what the Greek word baptisma [βάπτισμα] means) 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 [although, to be clear, no Jew living today has to repent of that particular sin since nobody alive on the earth today had anything to do with His death]) 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 in 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 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 — and if anyone disagrees and thinks the New Covenant is currently fully in effect, ask them if they see any wolves dwelling with lambs, or carnivorous predators only eating plants yet] — 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 post], 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 — and if the “heaven” passages aren’t talking about what most Christians assume they are, by the way, that’s a good indication that the “hell” passages aren’t either, as I’ve already covered in my recent posts). 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 burial, 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 prophesied beforehand), 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 tells his readers that what happened on the cross saves us while Peter taught his audience that they couldn’t be saved unless they repented of what happened on 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 sermons that were recorded in the book of Acts). 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, as another 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 learned from 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 accepted with 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).

Now all that’s not to say that somebody can’t technically be saved by whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed, or elected, 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. The important thing is that 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).

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 buried, and rose 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 (in fact, if Paul’s teachings aren’t different in meaning from the rest of Scripture it would mean the body of Christ is required to follow the Mosaic law — in spite of the fact that Paul taught that we not only aren’t required to but actually shouldn’t try to — since John taught that those saved under the Gospel he believed had to follow the commandments Jesus taught [which were all about a correct understanding and following of the Mosaic law, and are commandments that will remain relevant to believers in Israel’s Gospel until the new Earth begins in the future]), and that it’s Paul’s 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). And, just as another quick aside, some people have tried to argue that Paul wasn’t teaching how to get saved in his epistles since he was writing to people who were already believers, but while it’s true that his written audience was primarily made up of believers, he did also say in the passage where he explains his Gospel that it was A) the Gospel he preached unto them, and also B) the Gospel by which they are saved, so we know exactly what he preached unto them as how they‘re saved, which means that argument doesn’t actually help the way the skeptics might think it does. That said, it is also true that chapter 15 of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians wasn’t actually about Paul’s Gospel, but was instead about the bodily resurrection of Christ (since some of the members of the ecclesia in Corinth had stopped believing in Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead, thinking the term “resurrection” was instead a “spiritual truth” rather than an actual event), with Paul’s Gospel only being included in two verses in the chapter in order to make his point that Christ had indeed been roused from the dead (although the ultimate outcome of Paul’s Gospel is revealed farther on in the chapter, as should be clear from my last few blog posts that I hope you’ve already read [and please go back and read them if you haven’t]). And this fact about the point of this chapter is actually important to keep in mind for when someone attempts to claim that Peter and the others were preaching the same thing as Paul based on verse 11. If Paul’s Gospel was the point of that chapter, that would be a valid claim, but if you read this verse in its context with the rest of the chapter, it becomes clear that Paul is saying that both he and the others all saw the risen Christ because He was indeed roused from the dead, not that they both preached the same Gospel.

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 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 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 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 read more into this passage than it’s actually saying. 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 a literal reading of the King James Version here can make it somewhat confusing in the verses before his warning when it says “another gospel which is not another.” I’m guessing this was meant to be clever wordplay in the English translation, but if one isn’t aware of that, it can be confusing to modern readers. This is a case where it also helps a lot to know that Paul actually used two distinct Greek words rather than one in this passage in his original writings, and that the figure of speech the translators were presumably going for does need to be interpreted as talking about “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. You see, in the original Greek (apologies to my KJV-Onlyist audience members for getting into the Greek here, but this passage isn’t particularly easy to understand if one isn’t aware of this fact), Paul was 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. Besides all this, Scripture tells us about other Gospels (or proclamations of Glad Tidings or Good Tidings — these are all translated from the same Greek word [euaggelion], and all mean the same thing: “Glad Tidings,” “Well Message,” or “Good News,” even if the Gospels aren’t always the same message each time the word euaggelion was used in Scripture) than just Paul’s Gospel and the different “gospel” he’s warning about anyway, and even though only two of the “Well Messages” are connected directly to how one is saved (the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision which, as we’ve already determined, are entirely different messages that don’t discuss the same topic at all, one being about the Kingdom of the Heaven being at hand and the other being about the death of Christ for our sins, as well as His subsequent burial and resurrection), there’s no way Paul could be saying there’s only one message allowed to be called the Gospel in existence or else we’d have to remove those verses discussing the other Glad Tidings from the Bible altogether.

Another 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 who don’t understand the difference between future events and already fulfilled prophecies seem to 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 accepting preexisting doctrinal bias as truth). This assumption reveals first and foremost that they don’t understand God’s purpose for creating “the body of Christ, the church (or “ecclesia”) any more than they understand God’s prophetic purpose for Israel (or understand the difference between the “mysteries” [meaning secrets] of the dispensation [or administration] of Grace and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all), and that being a part of said church 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. 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 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.

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 “grace” 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 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 occurred yet, at least not as of the time this was written], 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 age 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 reconciliation, 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 Israel (and a very small number of Gentiles, relatively speaking, at the end of the tribulation) and 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 (other than, perhaps, certain clergy who make money off it). 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), 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. 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), to come to realize that this might not be true, 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; an 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 merely inherit the Earth), while those saved (relatively speaking) under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision will instead sit together in heavenly places — the former will have an earthly or terrestrial glory while the latter will have a celestial glory in the ages 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, 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 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 in 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 for a time and the Gospel of the Circumcision becomes the only Evangel to be proclaimed on Earth once again because the dispensation of Grace has ended on Earth and Israel has been saved and has 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 just as Paul was, and can in fact currently help other Gentiles come to God even if we’re not Jews. Just as the church called the body of Christ is not Israel and those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision also aren’t the bride of Christ (and, in fact, the term “the bride of Christ” isn’t even a biblical one), those under the Gospel of the Circumcision weren’t and aren’t a part of the body of Christ either. 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), 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.

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 generally 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 post 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 (the KJV calls it “freed from sin,” but it’s the same meaning) 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 (or freed) from sin, since everyone is said to have died in Christ (at the very least, from a proleptic perspective). 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 reconciled to God in their own minds yet, most won’t come to a realization of this truth until the very end of the ages (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), or at least not until the Great White Throne Judgement, 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 inheriting the kingdom of God. This is referring, by the way, to a special inheritance, specifically reigning with Christ, and not to 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, and if you aren’t accused of being a “hyper-grace” teacher or an antinomian, you probably aren’t either). The problem is that, while nearly everything most Christians think is sinful actually isn’t anyway (thanks to other misinterpreted passages in Scripture; the passages I’ve already discussed in my last few posts aren’t the only ones 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. The various so-called “sins” that most Christians think they’re supposed to avoid are a great example of how many religious leaders like to add rules to the Bible that were never mentioned in there to begin with, or twist teachings that are in there to try to make them say things they never actually meant (sometimes because they misunderstand the meaning of the passage that supposedly tells us to “avoid the appearance of evil,” sometimes because they actually, albeit mistakenly, think these things really are sinful, and sometimes because they don’t know what “worldly” or “not being of the world” really means (hint: “the world” at the time the Scriptures were written was very religious and conservative, particularly “the world” that Jesus was speaking against; Jesus didn’t spend His time condemning those the religious thought were sinners, but rather those religious conservatives who were doing the condemning of everyone who wasn’t living up to their so-called standards of righteousness, which should make it pretty obvious what “the world” He was against referred to). Besides, judgementalism is even worse when it involves judging the world anyway; 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 to 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 while members of the body of Christ are aliens here on this planet since our citizenship is in the heavens and the politics of Earth really aren’t meant for us, 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). And even if most Christians were correct about what is right and wrong (which they rarely are), 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 Christendom). As for those who are walking according to spirit, on the other hand, and who know that it is for freedom that we have been set free (it wasn’t so we would put ourselves back under religious bondage) and are trusting that Christ will live the life He wants us to live through us, He 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 just as sinful since it’s lying about what God wants (and Scripture gives us a good list of things God hates anyway, and there’s nothing at all about most of the things the morality police dislike on that list, including some of the biggest hangups religious conservatives have, although there are a number of things on that list which many of them do seem to enjoy).

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 Sodom because 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 scratched?).

Bottom line, never trust a teacher who tells you to avoid the appearance of 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 as a generalization.

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 as I’ve already discussed in one of my previous recent posts, and he was simply referring to 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 the last few posts 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 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 very misinterpreted, even if they don’t follow this understanding through to its logical conclusion). These lies, along with the other errors that seem to keep the majority of humanity (including most Christians) from experiencing “everlasting life,” not to mention a multitude of other false doctrines and unscriptural commandments, have made the Christian religion the most nefarious cult there is (yes, that’s what the Christian religion really is: an idolatrous cult of hypocrisy, false expressions, guilt, and ultimately deception leading to destruction). 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 these posts 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 the things I’ve covered in them, this means you are indeed a member of the body of Christ, and you’re also ready to 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.